When I was in college, one of my professors gave me some of the best advice that I had ever heard. He said that if you have 100 people asking the same question, you’re only going to learn one thing. However, if one of those people asks something different, you will know twice as much. That’s good advice for a way of thinking, but it’s also good advice if you twist it around a little bit and apply it to wrestling.
When you think about it, WWE has a completely ridiculous amount of television. Just counting their three main shows, you have seven hours of broadcasting in non pay per view weeks. If you work a forty hour week, WWE is asking you to spend almost a full day of work just watching their three main television shows. That is rather insane and WWE does not exactly go about it in the best of ways.
There are all kinds of complaints about WWE, and one of the biggest is that it feels like they are out of ideas. Consider this week’s Monday Night Raw. You had the following:
Two open challenges
A rematch from the pay per view the night before
R-Truth winning the 24/7 Title for the 41st time
Another chapter in the Mysterios vs. Seth Rollins/Murphy (almost five months now)
The Hurt Business vs. Ricochet N Pals
Randy Orton attacking legends so Drew McIntyre will give him a title shot (as in the same thing that set up Summerslam)
Those are SIX ideas or stories that have been presented either earlier in the year, over the last few months, or even in the past 24 hours. That can make what is already a long three hours feel even longer and that is the case almost every single week. It is understandable that WWE has to do the same thing so many times as three hours a week for Monday Night Raw alone is WAY too much, but there are other ways to fill in the time. One way they use was missing this week and it was noticeable.
You might have seen this before:
Back in August, WWE debuted a concept called Raw Underground, which saw Shane McMahon running an underground fight club featuring WWE stars. In a word, it was really weird and there was no reason for it to exist in kayfabe terms. Later on it would get even more confusing given how the show moved to a different building but everything still seemed to be in the same place and it seemed to take all of five minutes to get from the Amway Center to the Performance Center. It has been around for nearly two months now, but it wasn’t around this week. That was notable and not in a good way.
I know Raw Underground might not be for everyone (I’m not entirely wild on it myself) but it does offer one important thing: a change of pace. Raw Underground is not like anything else that takes place on Monday Night Raw and WWE has done a good job of presenting it. In addition to offering some of the WWE roster something new to do (Dolph Ziggler springs to mind), the segments rarely take more than ten to fifteen minutes combined in any given week.
That might not sound like much time but the little spans that Raw Underground take up offer a nice break on any given Monday Night Raw. There are only so many ways that you can present the same people over and over and sometimes it can get a little annoying to watch. Throwing in something else like that offers a nice breather and that is something WWE could use a lot more of every single week.
For you older fans, think back to the days of Monday Nitro. You would get a little bit of everything on the show, including brawling, cruiserweights, lucha libre, technical wrestling and soap operas. It felt like you needed to watch every single minute of the show because you didn’t know what you were going to miss. That’s a nice feeling and it’s something that you don’t get to see very often on Monday Night Raw. The wrestlers are mainly from the same trainers in the same developmental system and they can start to run together in a hurry.
Yeah this worked:
It doesn’t even have to be Raw Underground or some other big new concept like that. Sometimes it’s something as simple as putting on a different way of advancing a story. Take the video on the Anoa’i Family from last week’s SmackDown. The idea was to make you want to care about Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso in a match that should not be the most interesting in the world, at least on paper. WWE managed to pull a story out of a family tree though and it worked out very well, mainly because it was a different way of presenting things.
You also have to do something that makes sense or still resembles wrestling. For you old school fans, you’ve probably heard of the AWA Team Challenge Series. This is one of the all time bad ideas, as the roster was divided up into teams and then competed in a series of matches for points, with the winners receiving a cash prize. That sounds good in theory, but the problem was in the details.
The matches wound up being more like the kinds of competitions you would see on a game show, including a “match” with what looked like hockey goals set up in different corners and having to get a ball into them. That isn’t wrestling, and while it is one thing to do it every now and then, eventually it becomes something so different from the original idea that it stops mattering because fans have lost interest (see also a lot of the Attitude Era, especially once Russo took over WCW).
Of course it all needs to come back to wrestling, but how do you present that? Again, it can all be better by shaking things up. Steve Austin tells a story about his time in Memphis when he would watch the show from behind a curtain. He would keep track of what body parts the wrestlers had been working on and make sure to not do the same thing. Three matches have involved working the arm? Go after the lower back. Two leg based matches? Soften up the neck. See how easy this is?
Yeah this was bad:
WWE is trying to make things a little different and they have to. Even something as big as the Women’s Revolution offered a little change of pace as now you have a completely different group of wrestlers to present and offer something fresh. It might not be the biggest part of the show, but it lets you get away from the main story for a bit and give the fans something fresh. It’s still wrestling though, and that’s what matters.
At the end of the day, it’s still a wrestling show. People are going to get in the ring and try to win a match against each other through a variety of methods. If you can get fans to watch and preferably pay to see it, you’ve done your job. Getting them to sit for three hours a week is a difficult trick to pull off and WWE does not have an easy task in the slightest. It can be done though and a lot of it comes down to variety. Mixing in things like Raw Underground can be very necessary, because if you don’t change things up a bit, all you have is a variety of excuses for why no one is watching anymore.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!