Ranting on RAW

June 8, 2010

Everyone is talking about the big angle in RAW last night and I want to offer my 2-cents on it as well, but before I get to that I have to say my piece about the first 2 hours 45 minutes of last nightís show, because my god I hated it, and when TNA does stuff this shitty Iím all over them.

Part of me hopes that WWE booked the rest of RAW to suck on purpose, using the logic that if we make the rest of the show a huge joke the big serious angle at the end will stand out even more, but I didnít know the big angle was coming so I just hated the hell out of this show and almost gave up on it and turned it off before the big angle even happened.

I guess the biggest problem for me is that Iíve been debating/discussing the state of the industry with a few friends from the industry lately. One of the big things we discuss is the growing problem that matches seem less and less important and fans donít really care that much about actual match results, which is likely the biggest contributor factor to falling PPV buy rates. I think everyone in the industry is pretty much in agreement that this is a problem but the problem is trying to come up with a way to fix it.

On Monday morning I was discussing with my SWA class that in order to restore some credibility to the matches and in turn hopefully getting fans to care, I think RAW (or Impact for that matter) needs to get away from the fly by the seat of their pants presentation of the general manager booking the show on the fly. How can anyone take a wrestling show seriously when the people running the show ďsupposedlyĒ go live with almost no matches booked and quite often no main event even scheduled? Should the main event of RAW (the whole show in fact) not be so important that the people in charge put a lot of thought into it and plan it out well in advance? Further more should top level matches not be so competitive and important that top athletes need to know about their opponents in advance to allow them to train and prepare properly.

I am a big UFC fan and I just finished watching the Prime Time live specials featuring Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans. During those episodes I watched these guys training for months for one specific match. They developed a game plan and geared their training for that one specific opponent. When you see this you get a feel for how much work goes into training and how important WINNING that specific match is. When I watch RAW and I see someone book a match with 5 minutes forethought and guys stepping in the ring with seconds to prepare for a match (sometimes even for the Title match) the match feels trivial, which is NEVER good. Now I realize that you canít do a 2 month build for every match, but you could at least present RAW as a Wrestling Event that the executives in charge booked at least a week ago and all participants had at minimum 5 days to prepare for their specific RAW match, with even longer term training and preparation for top PPV Title main events.

Not only should this give added credibility to the matches and the effort and work guys put into winning wrestling matches, it also allows for the built in angle created by the once in a blue moon when you create a situation where a guy has to go into a match with no notice or preparation time. You could have the story of a guy preparing for a match with Big Show and for what ever reason there is the last minute replacement of Rey Mysterio, and the story of the match becomes cardio because the guy wasnít prepared for the speed and pace set by a Rey Mysterio. You could put Rey over and the heel can cut promos about how he wasnít prepared for the cardio demands of Mysterio and the loss was a fluke. You then build to the rematch with video footage of the heel training doing excessive cardio, and now the rematch has a completely different feel to it and the intrigue of will the extra cardio make the difference.

I know this would work, because itís been proven to work. Remember the last Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe program in TNA when they did the MMA type build up for the match. Neither guy had regular wrestling matches on Impact, they didnít do face to face bullshit contract signings, all they did to build this match was show them training. They showed footage of Joe training in the gym and in the cage doing MMA style training. Kurt did conditioning sparring type training in the ring live on the show and both guys cut promos saying how much they hated the other guy, how hard they were training for this match, and how much they wanted to WIN THEIR MATCH. I believe on that PPV TNAís buy rate almost tripled. It was the single most purchased TNA PPV ever! Iíve said this a thousand times, perception becomes reality. If we treat the matches like they are important, people with perceive them as important, thus they become important. Fans are willing to pay to see important wrestling matches.

Okay that was the gist of my discussion with my class, and from there I went home to watch this episode of RAW. Mondayís RAW show was build entirely around matches booked on the fly with no thought or advance preparation. On top of that almost every match had no purpose or significance to it, and in my opinion the fans were insulted by the presentation of the Viewers Choice concept. Do any fans actually think they were being offered a choice Monday night? Almost without exception I knew which option would win the second it was presented and quite frankly the few that I didnít, I knew it wouldnít really matter and it didnít. They all just ended up being a bunch of meaningless matches or comedy jokes. I will never pay to see a meaningless product and I donít think other fans will either.

Even if WWE didnít want to offer real option to the fans, at least go to the effort of protect your product a little bit. There were three specific segments, which really depressed me because they ended up illustrating just how little fans care anymore, and I donít see why you would want to make that fact so obvious on your show. The three segments Iím talking about are the Santino Ė Koslov thing, the Divas match, and the Hart Dynastyís tag match.

With Santino and Koslov I realize it was supposed to be a comedy segment and the dance off was obviously what they wanted, but come on. Why even offer a match as an option? Why not make it a complete comedy segment and offer three joke choices? By putting a match in as an option and having it pull only 9% of the vote, you are telling the fans that NO ONE wants to see these two guys wrestle. I realize most fans already realize this fact but why drive that fact home? This business is a ďworkĒ letís try to ďworkĒ fans into thinking there might be some interest in the stuff that we see on TV every week.

The Divas match was along the same lines. By offering a Champion vs. Champion match (something that should be a very rare important match) and having it lose badly, WWE effectively painted a neon sign telling everyone that NO ONE CARES about the womenís or divasí championships. Itís about protecting your champions and their championships. All they had to do was offer some other option for voters other than the champion vs. champion match and this burial of both showís female champion is avoided. Why needlessly bury your own product?

With the Hart Dynasty it gets even worse. You have a situation where they are in an angle with the Usos, who have laid out the champions 2 weeks in a row. If the Hartís or the tag titles are going to mean anything at all, fans need to care about this fact and want to see the Champions get their revenge. Well as it turns out fans didnít care about this angle at all and opted for the joke comedy tag team of The Great Kahli and Hornswaggle instead. WWE had to see this coming, or at least realize there was a good chance it would happen so why create the situation? If you wanted the comedy segment, donít put the Usos on the poll, and we wonít show the world that this angle isnít over. And if you wanted the Usos to win to further this angle, you keep Kahli and Hornswaggle off the poll and insert Archer and whoever heís teaming with on SD. You then have the Usos cut a HEEL promo where they say they DONíT want the match and fans better NOT vote for them because they want the Hartís on their own terms not on the fanís terms. This should deliver a lopsided result for the Usos and thus give the appearance that this angle really has heat and fans truly care. Perception will become reality.

Okay enough of my ranting; letís get on to the big angle at the end of RAW. This was really great, this stood out as something different, something impactful, and one of the more memorable and important things to happen on RAW in a long long time. I have no idea where this goes from here but I am excited about watching WWE and very curious to see where this goes, which is a very good thing. Not minutes after this show was over, my brain was running ideas on where I would take this angle and what possibly lays a head, which is exactly what WWE should want. When you are interested and excited enough about something to think ahead to what might happen next week, there is no way you arenít going to tune in next week, and if you are excited enough to discuss the angle with friend they might watch next week too.

Whoever laid this thing out was brilliant. The total destruction of the set, the announce desk, and specifically the ring really made this angle feel big. I donít think fans have ever seen down to the bare board on a WWE wrestling ring before and I thought that was really significant. By destroying everyone at rings side this stepped out beyond a wrestling angle between NXT and John Cena it became a full out attack on WWE, which is awesome. Having no one left at the announce desk to comment on the action was fantastic and did nothing but add intrigue to this segment.

What makes this even better for me is there is a logical explanation that can be offered to explain why these guys, who have been arguing and burying each other for the last few months on NXT, are teaming up in this fashion. Wade Barrett is the leader and since he won NXT he moves up to WWE with a contract and is going to get a title shot. He is a heel so he realizes he canít do this on his own so he decided to recruit the rest of the NXT guys by convincing them that there failure on NXT was WWEís fault. NXT was designed by WWE to bury them and they were to be the laughing stock of all the pros and the entire WWE. Once he has them convinced he gets them to attack WWE in this fashion as pay back for the humiliation they suffered on NXT, and as an added benefit has them help him destroy John Cena who he will be challenging for the WWE Title.

If I were booking Iíd have Edgeís attack on Orton the reason Orton gets pulled from the PPV match allowing Wade Barrett to cash in his Title Shot opportunity and take Ortonís spot in the Fatal 4 Way. You have Cena cut a promo from his hospital bed this Monday saying that he will be at Fatal 4 Way even if doctors have to roll him there in a wheel chair. Cena goes into the PPV like the Spirit of 76 all taped up and you put Wade Barrett over for the WWE Title and put this angle over the top. Wade Barrett with the Title and his NXT gang covering his back could be a very interesting dynamic.

A lot of these guys are inexperienced but if you present this group like men on a chess board I think it could work out great. You have Wade Barrett as the King; heís the guy with the crown and thus the most important member. Daniel Bryan is the Queen (not meant as a joke) he is the second most important piece but also truthfully the most useful and powerful. You take the next 2 most competent workers and use them as your bishop and knight, and the least experienced and skilled guys are your pawns. Pawns donít main event and will never draw money but they can be an important part of the game.

Hereís hoping,
Lance Storm