Or, as an alternate title: “RAW is Way Too Fucking Long, and it’s Time to Whinge About That”
By Sam Jones
So, I recently posted my review of WWE NXT’s latest live special, TakeOver: The End (which you should go read by the way: SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION IN MY OWN BLOG, I LOVE IT!). And one of the things I happened to mention a few times when it came to the awesomeness of that show was that it was pretty much just the right amount of wrestling: there was enough to satisfy, but not too much to tire someone out on the show as a whole. And as with any kind of work, length is fairly important: every story (even ‘russlin’ stories) needs just the right amount of time to be told, and ideally, only just the right amount of time.
This is clearly an idea that is somewhat lost on the WWE when it comes to their flagship show RAW, which for a few years now, has been a three-hour show. Yes that’s right, a wrestling show exists today that is of a comparable length to a Lord of the Rings film, except unlike Lord of the Rings, RAW is hardly a grand, sweeping fantasy epic that actually requires so much time to be told (Well, maybe in Vinnie Mac’s mind WWE is, but anyway). What’s particularly baffling about RAW being this goddamned long is that its fairly clear that the WWE writing and creative team clearly doesn’t actually have three hours worth of content to churn out every week: most episodes of RAW blatantly recycle the same matches endlessly and pointlessly stretch out certain feuds and angles long past their lifespan just to function as filler (Golden Truth vs. Breezango is a particularly blatant offender in this regard). I mean, how many times do WWE expect to watch Dean Ambrose wrestle Kevin Owens? Especially when its pretty much the same finish each time? I mean, I’d tell them to stop, but they’d probably just go back to having Kevin Owens wrestle Dolph Ziggler every week instead.
The excessive spamming of the same matches every week also goes to illustrate another problem this bloated run-time represents: exposing how dangerously thin WWE’s roster is right now and exhausting and wearing out every new or fresh match-up they have left. Y’know, I think half the reason guys like Gallows and Anderson or AJ Styles get cheered, beyond the obvious ones natch, is just the fact that them wrestling is something that actually feels fresh, that they’re matches aren’t the same ones we’ve been seeing for years and years now. But, with the length of the show being what it is, even the Club is beginning to become worn down, just from the need to fill that three hour time slot by splashing them all over the show, along with a very limited handful of other talents. The result is that the whole roster just feels tired and stale, because we’ve already seen everyone wrestle everyone else: there’s no new ground to cover, no new matches to explore.
And this isn’t even getting into RAW’s apparent trump card for dealing with its lack of content: talking. Lots and lots of talking. More talking that could really ever want on a wrestling show (or even ask for, really). Whether it’s the seemingly obligatory 30 minute opening promos or completely random and myriad backstage segments, all these talky bits generally do very little to actually advance the show in any meaningful way: as I said, they exist purely to exist and kill 5 or 10 minutes of TV time, and as a result, completely kill any momentum what little wrestling takes place on the show actually builds up for it. This becomes even more galling when you look at all the lower and undercard wrestlers who are inexplicably passed over in favor of throwing these pointless segments out: if you wanted time-killers on your show, the least you could do is turn that into an opportunity for someone whose underexposed.
Now contrast this to NXT’s weekly show. At only one hour long, most NXT shows consist primarily of 3-4 decent-length, solid matches, and the show as a whole is generally light on excessively long talking segments and promos. The length of the show is also such that it means that oftentimes the same wrestlers won’t always appear every week either: people get rotated in and out from show to show, and this results in everyone retaining a “freshness” about them, because you aren’t seeing them approximately 394939 times a week, unlike on the main roster. On top of this, rotating everyone in and out each week means that more wrestlers get more opportunities to showcase themselves on the show, and if they use those opportunities to their maximum effect, they stand to get even more time down the line. And yeah, sure, this means that sometimes major talents, like the Balors, Joes, and Nakamuras of the world, sometimes have to take a back seat, but this just ends up making their appearances on NXT feel like a bigger occasion. And the best thing about this formula is the results are consistently good: like seriously, not even great, just good. Its a good watch week by week, and that’s all I’ve ever really asked for. Not every weekly show needs to be an amazing barn-burner- just give me some decent wrestling every week and I’m fine, and I imagine a lot of similarly-minded people are too: and that’s exactly what NXT does so well: Triple H and whoever else is responsible for writing and running NXT understand what its audience wants and how much of it its audience wants as well .
The really scary thing about this whole spiel is I’ve only been bitching about RAW in relation to NXT: I haven’t even gotten into Smackdown, or Superstars, or Main Event: WWE right now has close to 10 hours of programming every week they somehow have to fill out. With so much time given to them, its really little wonder the product descends into repetition and recycling content so often, and with the Brand Split looming on the horizon, this issue of a lack of content for the time given could potentially be set to become far, far worse.
At any rate, if there’s anything to take away from this pointless, meandering (ironically) lengthy diatribe, its that sometimes, less is more.
Except when it isn’t. Did I mention I might be a hypocrite? That suddenly seems very relevant now.