A few weeks ago, I made a decision: no more Monday Night Raw for me.
Only a few years ago, it was just something to watch while I ate my supper. Then, over time, it became appointment Television. I had to watch it the second it came on rather than join it in progress.
Now, at least for the time being, I see no reason to watch it at all. Here are 9 reasons why:
1. It’s too long.
When it debuted in 1993, it was just an hour. Then, as the decade progressed, it became a two-hour broadcast. Since the airing of the 1000th episode on July 23, 2012, it’s been expanded to three hours. In the past, three-hour shows were strictly for special episodes which was perfectly fine. But having this much time to fill on a permanent basis? Despite some occasionally strong episodes in the last year and a half, the WWE is having a difficult time justifying the need for these epic weekly broadcasts any more.
True, there have been some very good long matches since the third hour was added. Think CM Punk vs. John Cena back in February this year to determine The Rock’s opponent at WrestleMania 29 or Punk vs. Ryback in a ladder match for the WWE title during the first 2013 show in January. Unfortunately, great long matches have been pretty rare in the three-hour era. In fact, great matches period are increasingly uncommon. For the most part, short, forgettable encounters in the ring are the norm.
Talking segments can be electric and exhilarating when they involve top performers in a great story. But when they don’t? The show drags on considerably. Lately, practically every match and promo has felt that way.
Those who know their pro wrestling history remember that WCW’s two-hour Monday Nitro program also expanded to three in January 1998. They also know that they went right back to two hours two years later. The show was cancelled in 2001.
Obviously, Raw isn’t going off the air any time soon. (Ratings are fine and no other wrestling shows air Mondays at 8 p.m.) But how long can it pretend that its endlessly dull three-hour shows are worth slogging through?
2. The awful, overcrowded announce team.
I’m old-school when it comes to wrestling announcers. I want a play-by-play person calling the holds during a match and I want a colour guy to make interesting comments to enhance the story being told in the ring. What I don’t want is endless bickering, pimping of products and shows I’m not interested in, or any discussions unrelated to what I’m watching. And I also don’t want more than two broadcasters at the table.
Since the Attitude Era, either Jim Ross or Michael Cole has handled the action between the ropes and Jerry Lawler has supplied colour commentary. But ever since The King’s scarily real heart attack last year, we’re back to three announcers for the first time since Vince McMahon still pretended he wasn’t the owner of the WWE.
In the beginning, it was surprisingly great. Ross temporarily came back along with John Bradshaw Layfield to sit with Cole while Lawler recovered. For a couple of weeks, the trio were very entertaining. But some time after The King returned (Ross went back to NXT before being fired recently), what once greatly annoyed me about JBL during his first stint on Smackdown (of which I’ve thankfully only suffered through in bits and pieces on DVD) irritated me all over again.
Layfield is obviously trying to be Jesse Ventura in the heel colour man role which means arguing constantly with his babyface colleagues to the point where it’s distracting. These verbal disputes frequently take place while a match is going on which means no holds are being called and no analysis is given. As a result, the poor wrestlers in the ring (particularly the women) are not considered important enough to push. They can’t possibly be pleased that their efforts are almost completely ignored.
Usually, the only time Cole in particular pays any attention to what’s going on is when someone makes a pin attempt or goes for a submission. Then, after the inevitable kick-out or escape, it’s back to the bickering.
Also annoying is the constant promotion of shit I don’t care about. I don’t own a cell phone and therefore will never care about the WWE App. I don’t buy WWE Magazine so I don’t care about the articles Cole brings up. And any mention of the Total Divas reality show is met with indifference. I’ve yet to sit through an entire episode.
It’s bad enough having an announcing trio. But what about those times when they have additional guests sit at the table during specific matches? You can forget about the calling of holds because it’s interview time! Considering this is a three-hour broadcast, couldn’t that same interview take place, oh I don’t know, after the match, or possibly before? The current approach is rarely successful.
When he’s allowed to, Michael Cole is a good play-by-play guy (check out his fine call of the Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle WWE title match from WrestleMania 19) and JBL & Lawler have had their funny and insightful moments over the years, as well. When a match is cooking, which doesn’t happen very often, they thankfully drop all other discussions to sell like crazy for the audience.
But after a year of this, I can’t take it anymore. Go back to the two-man booth (maybe even start thinking of replacement announcers) and focus more on the action.
3. Champions constantly losing non-title matches.
Right now, the WWE has six titles: the WWE Championship, The World Heavyweight Championship, The tag belts, The United States Championship, The InterContinental Championship and the Divas title. When a holder of any of these titles works a non-title bout on Raw, you would think they almost always win. You know, because they’re the champions.
But anyone who watches Raw on a regular basis, like I did up until a few weeks ago, knows the opposite is true, for the most part. (How many times did we see then-US champ Antonio Cesaro lose when his title wasn’t on the line?) Even Money In The Bank briefcase winners job more than they win before they cash in. Just look at all the losses Damien Sandow, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan piled up.
It’s one thing if the non-title loss sets up a title match on another TV show or pay-per-view, even if the champion retains. It’s quite another if that doesn’t happen at all. Yes, when a championship is at stake, naturally the title holder will get his win back during most encounters. But how we can take them seriously if they don’t win non-title matches?
Which leads to my next complaint.
4. The lack of title matches.
I became a wrestling fan during Hulk Hogan’s first WWF title run in the mid-80s. Back then, he rarely appeared on the weekend TV shows. And when he did, he rarely defended his belt. You had to wait for the monthly Saturday Night’s Main Event broadcasts to see him take down the top heels of that era in championship matches.
Today, the WWE airs its shows in prime time during the week, not on Saturday afternoons. And quite some time ago, with some exceptions, they dropped the idea of doing old-school squash matches altogether. (Where are you now, AJ Petruzzi?) There have been numerous title matches on Raw over the years, some of which had significance like Mick Foley’s first WWF Championship push in 1999. But now, when you want to see the current champions in action, their belts are almost never at stake.
Even when there are title matches, the lack of importance and excitement attributed to them is solidified by the announce team’s focus on other things like something that happened earlier in the show or something that is completely unrelated to the story being told in the ring. And don’t get me started on those non-title champion vs. champion encounters.
Yes, it was great seeing The Rhodes Brothers beat The Shield for the tag belts last month (even if it was only the second half of that match that was at all interesting). And yes, Damien Sandow and John Cena won raves for their WHC battle a couple of weeks ago (I didn’t see it) even though Sandow, who cashed in his MITB suitcase to seize this opportunity, ultimately came up short and has been in creative limbo since then.
But for the most part, title matches on Raw are next to non-existent. Count me out.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, November 16, 2013