Sunday Sermon: The State of WWE Raw Wilson, Brian Damage, Chris Flackett & Jamie Lithgow

After a very good Wrestlemania and an eventful Raw the following night, WWE has now settled into it’s notoriously ‘quiet spell’ before heading towards ‘Money in the Bank’ and ‘Summerslam’. Before this ‘quiet spell’ begins however, WWE embark upon their annual bi-annual European tour, usual headlined by an episode of Raw from over this side of the Atlantic. These shows are usually wildly exciting, in no small part due to the fans in attendance. However, Raw from London on Monday night was met with a lukewarm reaction from most of RTDB team. Let’s see what they have to say about this, and the general state of WWE’s flagship show…

Craig: A week isn’t just a long time in politics, it’s a long time in wrestling too. Wrestlemania 31 and the subsequent episode of Raw gave me renewed optimism in the WWE’s product. It wasn’t a perfect product by any stretch of the imagination but it was getting there.

Fast forward a week and we get an episode of Raw that was absolute dirge. No other word can be used to describe it. I’m not even talking about things being wrong on a fantasy booking “My favourite superstar should be champion” level. I’m talking about not even getting the basics right.

Ahead of Bad News Barrett’s IC title rematch he is jobbed out to Cena when the WWE should have booked him strong going into Extreme Rules.

What’s point in having the tag team champions lose to one man? Way to go to make them look credible and, honest to good, who, besides the WWE, still cares about Kane in 2015? The WWE used Kane to make their champion look ridiculous. 12 days out from his first PPV as champion. Let that sink in for a minute.

When Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols at the height of their fame he walked off the stage after asking “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” I’m starting to feel that way about the WWE product.

Randy Orton en route to defeating the WWE Tag Team Champions in a handicap match

Randy Orton en route to defeating the WWE Tag Team Champions in a handicap match

Jamie: I tore into the Raw prior to Wrestlemania a few weeks ago in ‘This Week in Wrestling’, but this week’s episode may have trumped it. The Raw before ‘Mania was mind numbingly boring, but this week it just didn’t make sense. The crowd seemed to start hot, but lost interest the longer the show went on. This can happen on Raw, but when was the last time a UK crowd was not red hot throughout? It must have been bad.

My major gripe was the tag Champions  being jobbed out. Poor Cesaro lost his singles match and then lost his handicap match. Solution one would have been to book the damaged beyond repair Ascension in this spot, with Viktor handling the initial singles match. Much easier though would have been to just book Orton to beat Cesaro in a longer match. A tag wrestler going down swinging (no pun intended) in a singles match against a top contender is not bad booking; it might have even helped Cesaro especially on front of a European crowd. Jobbing the company’s premier team out to one man is bad booking though.

Craig: Exactly, have Cesaro go toe to toe with Orton in a ten minute TV match would make him long strong and allow the announce team to big up Cesaro and Kidd. Alas, no.

I don’t think you can blame any group of fans for losing interest in Raw. Raw itself is 3 hours but when you factor in the stuff for Superstars etc it’s a long night. Jamie, you’ll remember taking in the doubt Impact tapings in Glasgow in 2013, that was a bloody long night and was nothing like the length that an evening at Raw would be.

You don’t get left with the feeling of wanting more and looking ahead to next week, instead you are desperate for it to finish. I don’t think I’d watch Raw if it wasn’t for being able to fast forward through the dross.

Jamie: I love that while Sky Sports do broadcast the live version of Raw, the replays they show are shortened to two hours, yet with no noticeable omissions. I assume this is the Hulu version, with commercials added?

I honestly cannot imagine sitting through a WWE taping, especially such a poor one. The show closing segment was an announcement from Rollins and then Orton. Fuck yeah! Tell the taxi driver to forget it, I gotta see this! I suppose they are saving the obligatory contract signing for next week?

Of course the way to tell WWE that their show sucks is not to watch it. All well and good for me to say, because I am as guilty as the next WWE fan for complaining yet still going back for more. However, these days I can honestly say that the only reason I watch Raw is because I like contributing to this blog. At two hours, watching a below par episode of Raw was force of habit, but at three it is nothing short of a tiresome chore.

Chris: Raw is Snore, anyone? In terms of the booking in the last episode, I don’t get what WWE gets by using people like Kane and Big Show in the way they are. Both men are certainly past their prime, and any good will they had from the fans has long since evaporated. The idea that Reigns and Rollins will gain any prestige by defeating these well established ‘monsters’ is laughable; people ceased to care about Kane and Show years ago.

(On a side note, watching Kane these days is like pulling teeth arf arf – see what I did there?)

Interestingly, I’ve been watching through the early Nitro’s on the network and they do bring to light two key areas (amongst others) where Raw is currently failing – length and layout of the show.

For months when it first started Nitro was one hour long. Often the show would have three to four matches of PPV calibre (if not always quality) and would pack interviews, promos and angles into the mix too. Wow! Compare that with Raw, where the opening segment is usually 20 minutes long alone!

Kane is still being used as a central character. The year is 2015, by the way

Kane is still being used as a central character. The year is 2015, by the way

You might say that Nitro sounds like it was often a messy rush with that much going on in 60 minutes. And yes, occasionally it was (although the mess was usually anything that involved Hulk Hogan). But most of the time it worked really well. The opening matches were usually fast paced to kick things off with an exciting bang. The more talented members of the locker room were usually given longer than the less talented (e.g. Guerrero and Beniot tended to get longer than Shark or *shudder* Renegade). And the promos were rarely longer than 5 minutes and quickly got to the point (until the NWO showed up). This meant that you got a well paced, exciting show where not a lot outstayed its welcome. You really got a lot in a little.

What helped to make it exciting was that it was unpredictable. I’m not referring to the usual stuff, great as they are; Luger appearing out of nowhere, Medusa putting the WWF women’s belt in the bin, the outsiders etc. It was that the layout of the show leant itself to this unpredictability. Sometimes there would be an interview or angle to start things off, sometimes it was a match straight away (this is wrestling, lest we forget) and sometimes a heavily promoted heavyweight title match was the first bout of the evening! I really like the title thing especially; it leads one to think that if they’re pushing the champion out  first, what are they going to do later in the show to top it?

Conversely, I know exactly what I’ll get with Raw: a long drawn out opening segment which is always a promo and confrontation and never a match. The usually dross in the middle with the odd exception as the likes of Bryan, Ziggler, Ambrose, Wyatt and Cesaro try their best. Then we get a overhyped main event which is near guaranteed to end with a run in and a 50/50 chance of someone being driven through the announce table. Yawn. Thank god for NXT.

We all know the current WWE programming is far from its best. This week’s Raw only emphasised the point. Maybe Vince should actually sit down with the network and watch his old rivals. He might learn there’s nore he can do with WCW than make Sting look a fool at Wrestlemania…

Brian: I finally got to see Raw on Thursday Night and I have to say….while not totally great…wasn’t all that awful either. I think us as wrestling fans expect too much instead of just living in the moment. Naomi turning heel was a smart move, Kane’s starting to go crazy and become a monster again and the Big Show destroying Roman Reigns made sense and looked good.  Neville while losing to Dolph Ziggler…looked fantastic and strong. I will agree three hours is just too long of a show…but I think as a whole us as wrestling fans are too critical and jaded about certain things.

Jamie: A very good point. To us, Kane and Big Show are stale and boring but I’d like to know how younger fans perceive them? If WWE are aiming Raw directly at us, the long term fans, then I would have to disagree with Brian and say that this past week’s effort was piss poor. However, some of the stuff they churn out will be new to other generations of fans and viewers. That said, I just find it hard to imagine Kane being draw to any demographic of people as a main character in 2015.

Brian and Chris have mentioned something that Craig and myself merely alluded to; the three hour duration. For me this is the root of the problem. It’s not the only problem, and on occasion WWE jam pack a three hour Raw, but it’s a long time for a weekly, story driven show to last…. especially one aimed at, although not exclusive to, children. Given that we have banged this drum so often on the blog I shall cut myself short in discussing the benefits of cutting Raw’s duration. So, here’s a different question; from an entertainment – rather than financial – standpoint, does anyone prefer Raw at three hours?

Brian: The problem with a 3 hour Raw is that by the end of it…you are done…possibly even burnt out. That’s not the way a show should be. A show should have its audience captivated until the end and make you want to see more. Shortening Raw to 2 hours makes sense…I just don’t think the WWE agrees with that analogy.

Craig: I watched Smackdown last night and have to say it’s a much better show. Much of the filler that takes up so much time on Raw is removed. My problem with Raw isn’t necessarily the length of it, it’s that it’s filled with nothing interviews and segments. I know every show has padding but if Hulu can cut out an hour or so, isn’t that quite telling?

Chris: Do you think, though, if they cut an hour of Raw out then WWE would be forced to cut out the filler? It does strike that a lot of the padding and filler is there because they know they don’t have as big a roster as they used to and so have to fill the time up some other way.

Thinking about it, Raw is the equivilant of trying to present a PPV weekly on television. Wow. The amount of work, money and people needed to achieve this boggles the mind.

2 hours would certainly allow for punchier (no pun intended), more action packed show.

Let me ask this: if WWE are insistent in keeping a 3 hour Raw, would bolstering the roster with the more over wrestlers from NXT help to achieve a better  quality show? Would WWE have the desire to replace some of the more filler elements with developing and slowly building up people at the bottom of the card? 3 hours would give them the time to do it. But would then do NXT out of a job?

Brian: I think the problem with bolstering the roster is that many of the guys and girls will start to get lost in the shuffle. I know the creative writing team gets a lot of flack, but they are on call 24/7 and are constantly having ideas changed, rewritten etc. Having a couple of talents debut in a year is probably good enough, I think they need to condense their shows to two hours a piece.

Craig: Or they could use what they have more efficiently rather than calling up more guys that would, as Brian said, perhaps get lost in the shuffle. Raw screams resting on laurels. They don’t need to try that hard and more often than not don’t. The poor end product is the result of that.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.


One thought on “Sunday Sermon: The State of WWE Raw

  1. I knew that things after WrestleMania and the RAW after WrestleMania were going to return to normal but not in a good way as I wasn’t surprised into how bad things are. I think the Reigns-Show feud is already a lock for worst feud of 2015. What is to gain from this? The Big Chode is just an old fart who has past his prime and beating him doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore. Reigns turns out to be nothing but hype as he’s back where he was when the Shield broke up and he doesn’t look strong at all.


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