SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Like most of you, I feel a lot of things when watching Monday Night Raw each week. Frustration, anger, happiness, confusion, enjoyment, and a vast array of other feelings on the human emotion spectrum. This week was a little bit different. Something new. Unsettling, but satisfying at the same time.
It happened right after the third segment on the show. Keith Lee had just finished a barnburner of a match against Sheamus to become the number one contender to Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship. That segment wrapped up with Lee staring a hole through the champion as Drew held the title belt high in the air. Lee vs. McIntyre for the championship is taking place on television next week during “Legends Night” on Raw, and this was a smart and effective way to build tension between both guys while also showcasing the prize they’d be fighting for. Pro wrestling booking 101.
From there, the scene shifted to the backstage area where Elias was gleefully strumming his guitar for Jaxson Ryker. It was a typical Elias segment. He sang, was almost interrupted by knocks on his door, and then he sang some more. The announcers laughed it off and then the show went to commercial break.
I tell ya, it was as if someone spun me around while I was watching the show, hauled back, and slapped me across the face. Ouch. It hurt, but it also knocked into view one of Raw’s biggest, yet easiest-to-fix problems. Flow.
Three hours is a long time. It’s long for audiences to watch and it’s long for the writers to write. An easy way to stave off some of the drag is to produce a show that flows swimmingly from segment to segment. Right now, we get the opposite. Like Monday night, we get a serious, championship level, main event stare down followed by a goofy Elias sketch. That’s a drastic adjustment in tone and it makes creating the show’s overall identity that fans can attach themselves to difficult to achieve.
Monday Night Raw isn’t strictly a pro wrestling show at this point. The three-hour format forces WWE’s hand in doing other things to simply fill television time. So, we get matches, we get promos, we get skits, we get hype videos, we get comedy vignettes, we get whatever Retribution is supposed to be, and more. It’s a lot. WWE must find a way to piece those different elements together more smoothly so as not to jolt the audience back and forth for three long hours.
Example: In the radio business, radio stations have various music formats – rock, jazz, Top 40, rap, oldies, etc. Those stations have their identities, but the songs played on them cross a handful of tastes, styles, and sounds. Let’s take alternative rock for instance. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” are both songs that fall within that genre or format of music. Obviously, they are two entirely different songs in terms of how they sound to the audience. One is a thrashing, loud, bounce around the house breaking stuff tune, while the other is a slow ballad with an acoustic guitar and strings. A good programmer wouldn’t program these songs to play back-to-back due to the fact that their differences are stark, and it would be a trying listen for someone driving in their car. A good programmer would build a bridge from one song to the next. If “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Good Riddance” must play in the same hour, a good programmer would put other songs between those two so the listener would flow more easily from one to the other.
Monday Night Raw needs the same type of attention. On a three-hour show, the contrast in segments is unavoidable. What’s wrong with a bridge though? On Monday night, instead of putting contrasting segments like Lee/Drew and Elias right next to each other, build in the flow. Go to the Shayna Baszler vs. Dana Brooke match first, then fade to Miz and his match with Gran Metalik as neither are serious acts, and then go with the straight comedy in Elias strumming the guitar. That’s an easier watch for viewers that allows WWE as a company to keep the variety show flare they desperately covet and hang on to.
Yep, I see the elephant in the room. Ratings are an issue. An important one. Build the key parts of each hour into the show. If you know that the lead in and out of every hour is important, plant the segments needed to carry those key moments and build the rest of the show around them in a way that bridges and flows nicely to each one.
No, this won’t entirely fix Raw outright, but it’s a start. Thanks for the slap, universe. I’m icing now.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: Here’s the real reason WWE should be embarrassed about TLC’s burning Fiend angle