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IN LAIMAN’S TERMS #353 – Thoughts on RAW
Last Monday, it was because I had flown home from Nashville early enough to get to work on time after a weekend with six panels and a wedding I did photography for.
This Monday, my kids had strep and there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world, but I still tried.
It’s two weeks from WrestleMania, which is supposed to be the prime time for WWE television, when even the casual eyes are on the product, and when the final anticipation for the biggest shows of the year is at its peak.
So why don’t I care?
Those of you who have followed me long enough to know that I’ve written through fan burnout several times likely aren’t surprised by this, but I’ve reached that point again, probably at the worst of times. It’s different this time though.
Whereas in 2014, it was frustration over a desperate attempt to return things to the status quo after the WrestleMania that felt like a true passing of the torch; in 2018, it’s that the (televised) product doesn’t speak to me anymore. I greatly enjoyed the Rumble and NXT: TakeOver in January, though I was bored by the other two offerings since, but the television shows have been a chore at best for me.
That is not to knock anyone who has been into the product and what’s going on. I need to make perfectly clear this isn’t some kind of “IWC always hates whatever” because outside of this column and watching Simon Miller videos, I don’t even participate in the community anymore.
I’ve spent more than 20 years of my life following this product. Even at what I considered some of the worst of times, I found a reason to get through the television shows. There was always something I could grab onto, or at least anticipate, throughout the night, and the shows were structured in a way that it didn’t seem like the entire night was used by doing so.
Now, I’m no longer working in retail, or in college, but I do have a family, full-time job, several podcasts, writing projects, speaking engagements, and photography work. I’m also 32. If I’d had to start over at Penn now instead of at 27, I doubt I would’ve made it a year.
That matters. As do a lot of other involvements that I have. I don’t talk about them much on here because I don’t want the cavalcade of shit that reared its ugly head around summer last year. Cue shitty jokes right there as you will, but it’s amazing what people treating you awfully will do to your desire to participate.
I sat down last night to at least try to watch RAW. I didn’t want to though, and that was probably more than enough reason to avoid it, but I do have a column job that matters to me. That, and for some reason, thousands of people read it; most of whom also matter a great deal to me.
But this show? I think I need to accept that the weekly television output isn’t for me anymore.
I think one of the biggest reasons people still return to the Attitude Era isn’t the blood, the visceral nature, the storylines, or the fact that it did more to capture the mindset of a generation than it ever would again. Moreso than that, it felt like unpredictable television. That unpredictability wasn’t always good, or at least didn’t always end in good results, but it made each passing commercial break with you anticipating what was next, anxious to see how the storylines would play out from week-to-week, even if that meant watching Big Show be dragged on a coffin by a cop car with a hilariously-oversized megaphone on top of it. Seriously, that was like Norm MacDonald’s Burt Reynolds hat. “Giant hat, it’s funny, haha.”
But they managed to pack more into those two hours, less commercials, than they do into three hours now. I’ve accepted that matches will never again not be interrupted by commercials, and that is what it is, but can you imagine a football game going into commercial on 3rd and 6, or the World Series cutting to talk about how each cigarette is a contract on a 2-2 count in the 4th inning? Aren’t we being sold to enough when even the matches have sponsors?
It used to feel like a lot packed into a small allotment. Now it feels like a lot less spread out over more time. There are logistics to this, like a bigger roster, more content to fill, and a more corporate nature to the overall interaction with the media, but for JBL’s sake, can I get an episode of RAW that doesn’t feel like it’s been on for three hours already at 8:10 (central)? Is that really too much to ask?
I woke up this morning and instead caught the highlights on YouTube. Well, a few. Okay, like two. I watched John Cena’s Undertaker rant and Ronda Rousey do stuff. But two weeks before Wrestle-JBLdamn-Mania, we’re having squash matches with a Royal Rumble winner? We’re having Club Sandwich/Miztourage fill up a segment of television? I saw the Reigns beatdown, which was good for its match buildup, but the Cena work felt like it happened on an entirely different night with a ton of filler in between. When I can see 15 minutes of the show and catch a few clips on YouTube and feel like I haven’t missed anything, I don’t think that’s a good sign for me.
And, well… Part of it feels so forced. Nothing makes me buy into the Monster Among Men myth less than a promo with selfie arm and the words “catch these hands” on the screen like a Video 101 midterm. I can’t take the show seriously when their camera shots switch 12 times in 4 seconds or have to sway with every punch or need to add impact with a finishing move with shaky editing because that’s what happens in the video games. Again, not knocking it if you like that, but this is obviously catering to an audience that I not only don’t know, but I’m not even in the same universe as.
I just want watchable, if not exciting matches; believable storylines with good promos and interesting mic exchanges, and to not be checking my phone through 85 percent of the show. Royal Rumble weekend proved to me that can still happen, but it’s not happening enough for me to be fully invested in the product to watch it every week, even when I’m only watching one of the 46 shows.
I want to be positive. I want to have a good outlook. I don’t want to lay down a pessimism and sarcasm parade when I write these columns. Maybe that just means I need to review PPVs only, because I feel like I remember more about how many times I see the ultimate first world problem as demonstrated by Domino’s than I do anything about the show itself most of the time. I’m gonna try to watch the go-home show next week, and WrestleMania of course, but I think after that, I may only write about PPVs. I just can’t watch this show anymore, and I’m sorry about that. To be quite honest, the only reason I’ve kept writing about it is for you. Well, the you who have interacted with me, read my work, supported me, and been kind, not the you who… You get the idea.
Thank you for that. I’ll never not be grateful. I even am working on having a long podcast interview with Mr. Tito, even though Doc got to it first because Tito and I couldn’t coordinate schedules in time, but that’s going to happen. We’re probably mostly going to talk about anything but wrestling, but I anticipate that more than any episode of RAW in the last few years.
So, we’ll see what happens. Maybe this is how I have to watch now. Maybe, just maybe, the product has passed me by and I will never enjoy it again the way I want to. Either are acceptable, but it’ll take seeing WrestleMania to know for sure. If the latter is the case, perhaps a less-jaded writer who can see past the cynicism would be more right for this spot. And that’s okay.
I’ll never forget the last comment I got the first time I left LOP. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” I have no doubt whatsoever plenty of people feel that way, and it is what it is. I know who I am and I know what fanbase I’m a part of, more or less. I knew what I was getting into when I started living openly, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But what I remember more, better, and in greater fondness, are the letters I’ve gotten over the years, especially in the last one. I remember a commenter telling me about his husband, who I met this past weekend. I remember someone coming out to me because of a film I made. And I remember how a column entitled “Don’t Quit” led someone to tell me they didn’t commit suicide because of it. Those will last far longer than trolling and needless hate.
Thank you for giving me the space to write and be honest. I’m sorry if it wasn’t what you were expecting.