If you watch something enough over the years, you can start seeing various tropes coming up over and over again. Some of these aren’t the most entertaining and one that can get annoying in television and film is opening with a short scene and then cutting to “X hours/days/weeks earlier”. It tips off the audience about where things are going and you know how this whole thing is going to end. I’m not sure what the point is in doing something like this over and over again, but WWE is guilty of this as well.
WWE offers a lot of television every single week. At the moment, and not counting every show that the company presents, WWE offers more than triple the programming it showed in the summer of 1998 (2020: three hours of Monday Night Raw, two hours of SmackDown, two hours of NXT. 1998: two hours of Monday Night Raw only). As a result, they need some ways to fill up some of the time. That can become a problem when they do something similar twice in a row on back to back shows.
Last week’s SmackDown featured a main event of a six team gauntlet match, with the winners moving on to be the final entrants in the Elimination Chamber. The match quality was fine enough, but WWE made it about as clear as possible that they were recreating Kofi Kingston’s gauntlet match run from the previous year with Heavy Machinery. That’s all well and good, but as soon as you could see the Kingston connection, it was pretty clear that Heavy Machinery would come up short, which is exactly what happened.
This week’s Monday night Raw was a bit different with a main event of Seth Rollins, Murphy and the AOP defeating the Viking Raiders and the Street Profits. The match was put together on the fly after Rollins lost to Aleister Black via DQ when Murphy interfered. Combined, these matches took up over thirty minutes of ring time and over forty minutes counting intros, commercials and the post match situation with Kevin Owens. If you were paying attention, you knew that there was nothing left on the show and this was the big closing match, which is where things become a problem.
Now you might notice a common theme with these two main event matches: there were points early in the match where you could tell that they were going to run long with nothing left on the show. On SmackDown, it was clear that they were going to recreate Kingston’s miracle run and on Monday Night Raw, there was no hiding the fact that the show had nothing else after this match so we were in for the long haul with the eight man tag. It might not seem like it, but finishing both shows this was was not a good idea.
How one ended:
First and foremost, it didn’t leave any reason to watch until the end. It’s similar to an Iron Man match: if you know the matches are going to go on for a set amount of time, why would you want to watch anything until the end? As soon as it was clear that this was how the shows were going to end, a big part of the incentive to watch went out the window. You were getting this and this alone for the rest of the show and that might not exactly be what you wanted to see.
That’s where the second problem comes in: what if I’m not interested in either of those stories? The gauntlet match was a six team elimination match to set up another six team elimination match two days later. Am I supposed to be all that interested in seeing if a team can hang on until the end and get to enter the Elimination Chamber last? Or on Monday Night Raw am I supposed to get invested in another version of these same people fighting each other? Throw in Owens having been taken out earlier in the night and it didn’t exactly have much to offer the fans.
That’s all you were getting for the last forty five minutes of each show though. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, that’s just too bad and you don’t need to stick around any longer. I’m not sure how smart it is to have that be the case with a third of SmackDown and a quarter of Monday Night Raw. One of the biggest selling points of the show is the wide variety of material that you could get, but if you were looking for anything else over the last forty five minutes of either show, it just wasn’t your week and you would be better off watching anything else that night.
And then the other:
On top of all that though, we are less than four weeks away from WrestleMania. There aren’t even ten episodes of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown combined at this point and that’s how they use their time? I know Elimination Chamber needed some attention and that’s all well and good, but that much time on one match? And not even the pay per view’s main event?
There had to be something else that could have used that time in one way or another. Maybe it’s a promo (or a few promos) or maybe it’s a match to get some more people on the show for a change, but going with over twenty people in three matches to end the shows, especially with one of them being for a match that wouldn’t mean a thing after Sunday (and didn’t mean all that much on Sunday) was quite the poor decision to make all around.
It’s a good example of a situation where more wrestling is not always the right answer. I know that it sounds great to say that they’re a wrestling show full of in-ring action, but how much good does it do when the action is only decent? The gauntlet match had some decent drama with Heavy Machinery, but it’s not like the wrestling itself was all that great. The eight man tag wasn’t much better as it is another version of something that we have seen for several weeks now.
In other words, just having wrestling for the sake of wrestling is not a good idea. There may have been a story to the matches, but that doesn’t make it an overly interesting story or something that should be out there for that long. Sometimes a match calls for a short run time with something else coming after it and that would have been the case in both of these matches. Was anyone really needing to see Heavy Machinery for forty minutes? That’s not exactly a great way to make me want to pay to see the bigger rematch just two days later.
All that to get here:
The problem comes down to more careless planning from WWE. They have all of the talent that they could possibly use and yet for some reason they felt the need to dedicate this much time to two stories that aren’t all that important at this point. There is so much else that WWE could be doing, even if it means throwing some names out there for a five minute match. With so many wrestlers that you don’t get to see very often, it seems like a waste of a lot of possible time for so many people.
These two shows may not seem all that important, but given the time of year, EVERYTHING should be important. WWE has a lot of things they need to do at the moment and putting two long form matches out there, one of which they all but advertised as being the exact same thing as something they did last year, was hardly the best call. It was fairly obvious what you were getting and as a result, a good number of fans probably gave up. That’s not a good road to go down, especially on the Road to WrestleMania.
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!