Last night, yours truly was at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, attending a live broadcast of the flagship show of the biggest wrestling company on the planet – and my wife was falling asleep from boredom. I’m surprised I wasn’t as well.
That’s not to say that WWE RAW was bad last night. At least, not compared to most other weeks. The problem isn’t that RAW was boring last night. It’s that RAW is boring every week.
So how do we fix this?
The one thing my wife kept saying to me last night is that three hours is too long. As I sat there in section 226, row 5, seat 12, I agreed with her. But as I thought about it more through the night and into the morning, I realize that the length of the show can’t be the problem. Every couple of months or so, I head out to watch my local indie promotion, Empire State Wrestling. This tiny wrestling company based in North Tonawanda, NY regularly puts on three hour shows, and we’re regularly entertained from the opening bell of the undercard to the time the bell rings to end the main event.
So why can ESW entertain me for three straight hours, while WWE can’t?
Enter into my argument the WWE Network. At any given time, I can watch episodes of RAW from the Attitude Era, and for two solid hours, I’m entertained. Why? What do those old episodes of RAW and ESW have that modern episodes of Monday Night RAW don’t?
The answer is simple, really. They have an undercard that they’ve allowed people to care about. Back in 1999, there was nobody on the show that didn’t have some kind of story going on. The titles were defended on a regular basis, and you believed that anybody on the roster could win a match on any given night. That’s true of Attitude Era RAW, and it’s true of ESW (and your local indie too, I’d imagine).
Last night, Heath Slater and Curtis Axel had matches on the Superstars taping. Titus O’Neil and Zack Ryder both had matches on RAW. Not for a second did I expect any of them to win their matches. And they all lost. The exception to that rule, of course, was Tyson Kidd beating Sheamus by count out. And even then, he got a Brogue Kick for his trouble.
The fact is, it’s hard to care about guys like those. Guys who lose all the time, and still wind up lying in a heap in the middle of the ring when they do win. I’m a huge Heath Slater fan, but I can’t find a reason to cheer for the guy when I know WWE is going to job him out anyway.
The era of the Barry Horowitzes, Barry Hardys, Duane Gills and Brooklyn Brawlers was the 80’s and early 90’s. That’s the past. I want to see a match where I know both guys have a chance to win. If I were tasked to fix WWE right now and make RAW enjoyable for three hours again, I would start by taking undercard guys like Slater, Axel, O’Neil, Ryder, Kidd, Justin Gabriel, Adam Rose, and the other guys you don’t expect to win, and give them matches amongst each other. Midcard guys like Sheamus, Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper, Rusev – those are my guys who are competing with each other for the chance to challenge for the Intercontinental or United States Championships. I would want my audience to believe that any superstar has a chance to win any given match. Occasionally you have a main eventer wrestle an undercard guy with no shot at winning as a tune-up match or something, but for the most part they stay away from one another.
Is it a perfect solution? Probably not, but at least I’m trying to think of a way to make the undercard matter to fans. WWE needs to do that. But for now, I’ll stay confident in knowing that I’ll pay far less money for far better seats and actually be entertained for a full three hours on Saturday, November 22nd when I attend ESW WrestleBash in Lockport, NY.
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