WWE Raw: The Savior and Destroyer of Professional Wrestling by Jake Draper
By a show of hands that I can’t see, who reading this makes time every single day for the fine programming offered by the various wrestling promotions? With proper access to channels and the internet it is literally on every single day now. If you raised your hand then I am begging you to find a hobby. Crocheting is really taking off right now. Maybe you could get into those professional hot dog eating contests. I don’t know what you need to do, but I know you need help.
Brace yourselves for some hard truth right now, folks. I hate watching television. I hate sitting down and I hate trying to let it hold my attention for more than a few minutes. When I sit down to review Smackdown it’s hilarious sometimes how often I have to rewind to something because I wasn’t paying attention. The thing is, Smackdown is only two hours, instead of being three like Raw, and I stream it usually and watch it online without commercials. I caught Raw this week and I actually left for a while because anyone who doesn’t eat dinner at 10pm is weird.
In my review of Smackdown last week I wrote in some math about how much the Money in the Bank briefcase would be worth if it were made of solid gold. Right now I’m not feeling so mathematically inclined, so feel free to comment your own math. How many hours of wrestling are on television per week? I’m not scientist (yes I am) but I’m assuming like over 9,000. Who the Hell has that kind of time on their hands? Answer: Literally no one.
We live in 2015, most of us anyway…I think. If I wanted to go read spoilers for a show that hasn’t aired yet, I can do that. If I want to find a stream of a show as it airs live, I can do that. If I miss a show I can go find it online. If I want to watch a show from 20 years ago, I can do that. With the rise of the WWE Network, the increased exposure of ROH and Lucha Underground and NJPW, with TNA still hanging in there and NXT, there’s more professional wrestling available to us now than probably any other point ever.
Do you remember when superhero movies were all the rage? The Dark Knight Trilogy sparked a lot of new interest, then Marvel got on the train with Iron Man and we already had Spider-Man. It peaked out pretty hard in 2012 due to the runaway success of The Avengers. Yet, after so much buildup to this year’s Age of Ultron, I just wasn’t as excited to see it as I initially had been. The insane success of Jurassic World, coupled with the fever pitch anticipation for the new Star Wars and the fact that Mad Max: Fury Road was so good that it ruined every other movie I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s almost like comic book movies are finally falling from their pedestal high above the clouds.
It’s the same thing with professional wrestling. We miss the days of WCW because of the available options we had. Since WCW folded we’ve been left with WWE and had to search for alternatives. Then there’s the whole, “Let’s bump Raw to THREE F***ING HOURS because money.” I am a fan of professional wrestling, just like most of you, but I find myself burnt out because sometimes it’s overwhelming. I’m almost not a “true” fan like other people now because if they ask me, “Did you see that match between AJ Styles, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson and Okada, Rocky Romero and Trent Baretta?” I’m like, “No. I was washing my hair and thinking about Mad Max.” If I actually queued up all the matches I get told to watch on a weekly basis any more then I would get nothing done. And that’s even less than the very little I get done as is.
I believe this may be misconstrued as me complaining that there’s so much out there, but it’s more that I sometimes find myself sad that 24 hours is all I get in a day. It’s amazing that we have so many options, it really is. But, do we need three hours of Raw every Monday? I mean, I have a hard time sitting down and babysitting children for five minutes (which has led to a lawsuit or two), let alone watching one show that is about 60% filler and WWE talking about how great WWE is. Smackdown is, in essence, just a show to get some guys on TV. It’s mostly Raw recaps and no stories ever progress in a meaningful way. If you miss the show any given week then nothing changes.
We have more wrestling than we can handle sometimes as it is, and I will straight-up tell you that I firmly believe WWE’s current roster is the best roster in WWE history. You’re going to fight me with some Attitude Era nonsense, and that’s fine, you’re entitled to your wrong opinion. The case you have is mostly going to be about popularity and how they were used. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan (kinda I guess), Neville, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, The New Day, Brock Lesnar, John Cena (I think most of us can agree 2015 Cena has a place amongst these people), Bray Wyatt, Sami Zayn, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, the Lucha Dragons, Finn Balor, Paige, Charlotte, and several others. They’re not the red-hot commodities that we know from 15 years ago, but they are ungodly talented individuals.
With that, you could make a case for ROH’s insane roster right now, the girls in SHINE, everyone in Lucha Underground, and NJPW’s roster as well. There’s so much talent.
Then what’s the issue here? It’s simply that, honestly, after five hours of weekly WWE programming, plus the PPV’s and the Network in general, they almost make it hard to even care about other promotions. That’s probably a good thing in their mind, but it also pushes fans away from the business in general. If Raw is three hours then fine, but don’t spend the first 20 minutes talking, then run over 20 more minutes AFTER the three hour show, have random “comedy” matches that are not funny, and what the Hell is that nonsense with Roman Reigns being spliced into the Terminator trailer? That’s not wrestling. That’s not even entertainment. That’s WWE just putting stuff on the screen because they have a three-hour obligation to fulfill and don’t have anything better. Meanwhile guys like Bray Wyatt and Cesaro can’t even manage to get on the show some weeks, and the Divas get two minutes with their entrances included. Seriously, three f***ing hours and we can’t make time for these people?
Let’s face it, WWE won’t change how they do things. Raw makes a lot of money because it’s an hour longer. Hell, the odds of them bumping Smackdown up to three hours are higher than the odds of them bumping Raw back down. It’s like with anything else, they are a business and money is what matters. Which, as fans, sucks sometimes. This is why I skip Raw and don’t tune in unless my Twitter is telling me I need to get my ass to the TV. It’s also why I review Smackdown online so I can bypass some of the time it takes to watch it.
Are we on the verge of seeing professional wrestling hit a peak, much like comic book movies? If so, then we are also not far from the over-saturated market coming to a crashing demise not far in the future. That’s how economics work. I think. I slept through a lot of that class because numbers make me tired.
You can agree if you’d like. Just comment below. You can disagree if you’d like by doing so in your own head and going about your merry day with slightly more aggressive tendencies than usual because you’re holding back. You can follow me on Twitter over at @JakobDraper, on Tumblr over at SuperSaiyanJake, or even (finally) on Facebook because I finally rejoined after a year-long absence. Just search my name, Jake Draper, and we are probably both going to be friends with John Canton because he’s the thread that hold all this stuff together for us.
I’ll have my Smackdown review up either today or tomorrow, so you’d better come back and check that out or else I’ll have to take you outside to have a right word about this. Go now, find me on your internet-capable device, be my friend, and then go work on finding that hobby we discussed earlier because I care about your mental health and want you to be happy.