Imp’s WWE Adventure
What on Earth Has Happened to Mondays?
(AKA Flush the Good Will Away AKA But How Come the Other WWE Shows Aren’t Crap?)
Good God RAW was horrendous this week. How… how are… these shows are produced by the same company right? What the hell has happened to Mondays? I feel like I should give credit to WWE for how they create so many hours of entertainment that I genuinely enjoy every single week, but then I watch RAW and all that good will is almost entirely flushed away.
I’ve found SmackDown Live, NXT, 205 Live and NXT UK to be of consistently great quality, especially since the Mae Young Classic kicked off, the cruiserweights moved and Wednesday nights turned into WWE Network day. Sure, they’re not perfect, but I am overall enjoying those shows.
However, what on Earth has happened to Mondays?
Just give a listen to LOP Radio’s Rich Latta & James Boyd on their weekly One Nation Radio RAW/SD Live recap show, by their count SmackDown has been absolutely wrecking RAW in terms of quality this year. The quality between WWE’s two main shows is night and day, which was exemplified beyond belief this week. I mean, what the hell was that episode of RAW?
WWE seem to be aware of the issues as well, last week sending out emails to select fans asking what could be improved about their weekly shows. An act which was immediately met with memes of folk endlessly typing, but also something that shows they are aware fans aren’t exactly enthralled right now.
But before I jump in I want to make the point, I often criticize WWE as a whole. When RAW sucks, I crtisize the WWE, but when those other shows are good I don’t praise them. So I just want to distinguish, WWE as a whole produces a high number of quality content every week, I want to applaud them on that. However their flagship product is absolute trash and that cannot be ignored.
Lots of Characters, Very Little Narrative
So I did a headcount, how many full time good guy characters does Monday Night RAW have and out of those, how many have had a form of consistent narrative throughout this year? By that I mean a story to get invested in, a reason to care about said character other than, “Look, it’s that superstar!” or at least some form of arc that lasted longer than a single PPV build.
I can count them on one hand: Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins and Ronda Rousey. One of which has had to take an indefinite leave, one is out injured and another is sending real mixed messages for someone who’s meant to be the one we like. Which currently leaves only one, Seth Rollins.
Want to know why RAW feels like it is full of segments of things happening but you just don’t care? Because it is. Seth Rollins is currently the ONLY male face with any narrative consistency on that show, no wonder the heel/face balance feels off.
RAW is so heel heavy it hurts. Look at this week, the single segment that didn’t end with the bad guy victorious was the Lucha House Party beating The Revival in a 3 on 2 handicap match (that’s what it is, no matter what you call it). This grains on the viewer, especially when this style of show is not a one off and seems to have become a regular occurrence for RAW. The heels are constantly on top and there’s currently only one good guy with consistent character, no wonder the crowd is silent when you’re sat watching Jinder Mahal vs No Way Jose.
I have been given no reason to care about these guys/girls outside of Rollins/Rousey, nothing other than that, “Look, a superstar!” In fact, CM Punk hit the nail on the head for me. When talking to MMA Fighting he said, “It’s amazing, the more time the show gets, the less time it seems they develop new characters.”
Perfectly expressing my point on this particular issue, RAW was three hours this week and I cared/cheered for one guy. One. And out of three hours only two face characters had consistent development behind them. Meaning every segment that wasn’t about Seth Rollins or Ronda Rousey felt like filler, essentially a waste of time.
As I just brought up, the other face with consistent booking is Ronda Rousey, a character that has simply become downright confusing since her feud with the NXT Horsewomen started. Her lines feel like they’re written by an out of touch 70 year old man, put downs over sexuality, youth, not being a ‘real’ MMA fighter.
And her calling Becky a ‘Millennial’ makes zero sense, they were literally born like 2 days apart. Who wrote that? What part of that is meant to make your viewers cheer her? A high number of which, by the way, are millennials themselves! I’m a millennial, does that mean Ronda is saying she looks down on me? How is that meant to make me cheer the goodie in this situation?
So sure Rousey is the other face character with consistent narrative on RAW, but she’s been coming across real unlikable in her promos. The whole presentation just feels conflicting right now, like they’re laying the ground work for a heel turn but it all feels like accidental consequences of failed attempts to get Rousey cheers.
Then there are one or two on the narrative bubble, like Elias who’s had consistency in character but received zilch in actual feuds to sink his teeth into. You also can’t forget the ‘Stop Start Gang’ going nowhere fast in Finn Balor, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Natalya, Bobby Roode, Chad Gable, Ember Moon and I guess Apollo Crews… and maybe The B-Team. One week they matter, the next it doesn’t effect anything if they’re not even featured.
This week’s RAW was like the Stop Start Gang featurette, wall to wall characters with no narrative. And the worrying thing is, with Strowman out this is RAW. We’re seeing the consequences of WWE putting all their eggs in the Reigns basket, stuck in this weird limbo with a show full of characters we’ve been told not to care too much about.
It’s like the latest season of The Walking Dead, who gives a crap what Tara thinks the Hilltop should do? Might as well ask Michelle McCool what she thinks about the zombie invasion.
Quality of Narrative
Which brings me to the second half of this column, when someone does get a narrative on RAW, is what they are given any good?
The differences in the divisions between RAW and SmackDown are remarkable, it’s hard to believe it’s the same company producing these two shows. On Tuesday The Bar and The Usos had a back and forth match establishing the challengers as a true threat to the champions. What was the main focus on RAW’s tag title match? Ah yes, Drake Maverick’s piss.
What about the non title stories? Jeff Hardy had a fantastic 20th Anniversary segment with Samoa Joe’s interruption, The Miz took on the New Day in his continued efforts to form a Best In The World Team with Shane McMahon and Orton/Mysterio added another layer of violence to their intriguing feud. What about RAW? Corbin/Lashley/McIntyre opened and closed the show, Alexa Bliss did ‘something’ to Sasha & Bayley and… the Lucha House Party beat The Revival again?
Wow, just wow. This next PPV SmackDown is bringing all the fire, whilst RAW has Rollins vs Ambrose and that’s about it. Especially if the rumours of Strowman potentially missing TLC turn out to be true, what stories are there for me to care about? Nia vs Rousey just feels off and nowhere in the league of interest that SmackDown’s women are offering.
To be fair, how are the RAW women meant to compete with Lynch vs Flair vs Asuka in a TLC match? It’s almost unfair to even compare, one is obviously going to garner more interest than the other. But even narrative wise, Rousey vs Nia has both women constantly banging on about their more over SmackDown counterparts.
There’s Styles vs Bryan as well, how intriguing is that story? Daniel Bryan’s The New Me promo from last week was phenomenal, Styles built well on it this week too. RAW has been in an awkward place finding its feet since the Reigns news, but that doesn’t change the fact that the show is undoubtedly in a worse place as it’s trying to do so without their champion there.
Just compare the main events from this week’s shows, Monday set up this Corbin/Lashley/McIntyre thing and Tuesday gave us the Women’s Championship triple threat TLC match. I can’t wait to check out SmackDown next week, I have zero intentions of watching RAW at all.
One set up the contenders as a threat, the other had the heel manager piss on a robe to distract for a roll up victory. In terms of AoP, they’re a victim of the same single criticism I have of SmackDown in Shinsuke Nakamura. They’re the champions, but of what division? Are there any credible challengers?
Shinsuke Nakamura has received some slack from fans for his US title reign, but has he been given any feud/story since becoming champion? He’s the champion, but of what division? How is he meant to impress as a champion when he’s literally lulling about with no one to face? I’ve enjoyed him as US champ, but there’s no division even there for him to reign over.
It’s the exact same thing on RAW with not one but two of their divisions. The tag title scene has seemingly squashed down any team that could be perceived as a real champion, whilst the main event scene has the problem in that it doesn’t really exist. Before SummerSlam there was Lesnar vs Reigns and that was it, then Strowman was allowed in before Reigns had to bow out. So who is in RAW’s main event title scene now?
None of those three are on the show. Like with Nakamura, for now Lesnar is essentially the champion of an empty division.
So What Do About RAW?
I didn’t receive an email from WWE asking me what I thought, but people talking about it did get my brain turning. The possibility of dedicating time to characters, having a continuity checker, sticking to arcs, toning down the toilet humour, etc. They all came to mind, but watching RAW I realised one thing: WWE are already putting out an improved product. They don’t need to look elsewhere for help, just look at how much fans are enjoying every other weekly show they put out.
The issue isn’t WWE, it’s specifically with the running of Monday Night RAW. That show isn’t the leader, it’s the anomaly. I enjoy every other WWE show, RAW is the only one I continually struggle with. So before looking outside for help, WWE, I’d advise simply looking within.
I don’t mean that in some deep metaphorical way, WWE is literally producing content that the fans are loving and eating up each and every week. SmackDown is currently great, NXT continues to break ground, 205 Live has hit an amazing streak of consistency and NXT UK is only just getting bigger.
Don’t ask us what’s wrong, look at what’s already working on your own shows. Because something is clearly working, something that is just flat out ignored come Monday nights. Whatever it is, the answer is right in front of your eyes, WWE. You’re just too blind to see it.
In the meantime, I’m once again calling it a day with RAW. This Monday set a precedent and I’m not going to willingly waste my time again. See you in 2019 for the Rumble season, RAW.
It’s time to start writing and getting giddy about Wrestle Kingdom anyway.
Email Imp – firstname.lastname@example.org
Imp’s on LOP Radio every Thursday with Perfect 10 Wrestling covering Network Wednesdays: NXT UK, NXT itself and 205 Live! Listen to the NXT TakeOver War Games special with LOP’s NXT cool point man JCool here:
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