SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Anticipation is a funny thing. It can be a good thing – drive people to want to spend time, money, or energy on an event. It can also be a bad thing when there is an absence of anticipation, exposing flaws.
Three years into the Three-Hour Raw Era, it seems like the general population of WWE viewers are watching Raw more out of obligation than anticipation. Or, they’re holding onto fading hope for a turnaround rather than anticipating John Cena’s next U.S. Title Open Challenge, especially after recent letdowns since Cena regained the U.S. Title.
WWE is simply not giving viewers enough to anticipate. It seems like every big match among full-time wrestlers has been blown through, repeated, and recycled. Every story has been done between the characters on the show. And, new blood that has been mixed in has slowly returned to the middle of the show (e.g. Kevin Owens, Cesaro).
Raw is currently centered on a soft corporate storyline involving The Authority, both Kanes, and Seth Rollins. When viewers were greeted by Corporate Kane standing next to a speakerphone listening to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon yell about some sort of travel problem, it immediately removed whatever existing anticipation there was for the show.
It’s a copy of a copy of what worked during the late 1990s when Boss vs. Employee was a big item because of shifts in the workplace. Now, those shifts have settled, yet WWE and USA Network remain enamored with the idea of workplace drama on the wrestling show.
It reflects a disconnect between content provider and content consumers. Combine that with giving away everything on TV each week, there is simply little to anticipate about the product. Viewers are so overwhelmed by good, bad, and weird content that it’s become a chore to make it through three hours. What is there to anticipate next week or in the next chapter of a feud when viewers are still trying to process everything thrown at them this week?
The excitement of Monday nights and the wonder of what might happen this week has given way to viewers almost bracing themselves to try to make it through the show, whether out of habit or obligation.
There has to be a change this fall season heading into 2016. Viewers need something wrestling-centric to anticipate once NFL Season concludes and Fall TV season gives way to re-runs. Otherwise, the new viewing style of watching Raw on the DVR’s fast-forward function will turn into viewing habits. If it’s not already too late.
– PWTorch assistant editor James Caldwell.