Hey, WWE: Here’s why I’m not watching your TV shows anymore

wweThe recent historic low viewer numbers for the WWE signature weekly show Monday Night Raw is coincidental to me taking an extended break from tuning in.

I’m saying that up front to try to make my observations here feel less hot-takey.

Just musing out loud about why I’m not watching, and how maybe the reasons I’m not watching may impact the WWE bottom line.

Not enough actual wrestling

I still tune in for the monthly pay-per-view, which, we should stop calling it a pay-per-view, kind of like we used to call collections of songs by an artist an album, then a CD, and now I’m not sure what to call them.

In the WWE Network era, maybe the better term for what we used to call pay-per-view would be Monthly Sunday Show.

Anyway.

I still watch those, because those are mostly in-ring wrestling action.

Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live are mostly dumb skits and interludes, with bite-sized bits of in-ring wrestling that follows one of two formulas.

The first consists of high spot, high spot, setup move, tease finisher, reversal, finisher, we’re done. This is what we get for matches that aren’t interrupted by a commercial break.

The matches that do stretch past one, two or sometimes even a third commercial break involve lengthy ring intros, a rest hold going into and coming out of the break, then a schmoz non-finish finish.

I get it that WWE doesn’t want to give away the good stuff for free, but then again, I mean, I shouldn’t need to say that this isn’t the pay-per-view era anymore. The bottom line isn’t what you can draw in terms of pay-per-view buys; it’s USA and Fox paying billions for Monday and Friday nights beginning next fall.

The Network seems to have reached its threshold for subscriptions, and Network revenues still lag a good distance behind even its current TV deal with USA broadcasting both Raw and Smackdown.

If you were booking shows based on their actual bottom-line value, you’d put the better stuff on USA, currently on Mondays and Tuesdays, and treat Sundays as the secondary, as opposed to the way it’s being done now, with Mondays and Tuesdays existing to push Sundays.

I mean, I’m not saying, let’s put WrestleMania live on Fox, but when you think about it, actually, OK, maybe. I’d bet you could sell some ads for that, because there’d be eyeballs, is what I’m saying.

Any case, the way it’s booked now, with Raw and Smackdown treated as the 2018 equivalent of the old Superstars show that ran on USA on Sunday mornings, I’m not watching, and from the looks of the viewer numbers, I’m not the only one skipping.

50/50 booking

Who’s hot right now? No idea. From one week to the next, anybody can beat anybody, and often does.

I don’t know who to hate, who to like, who to expect to be next in line for a title shot. The tag-team division is an absolute afterthought.

Creative brings The Shield back together, merchandising comes out with a new T-shirt commemorating the occasion, and now we’re being led to believe they’re breaking up again.

O … K.

Rusev Day is hot, so let’s put the kibosh on that.

The only thing consistent at all is that Roman Reigns is The Guy on the Raw side, and A.J. Styles is The Guy on the Smackdown side.

The rest is mismash.

It’s as if creative looked at what the NFL and NASCAR did to slow each of their rolls, trying to make all 32 NFL teams and all 43 NASCAR drivers basically the same, and said, yeah, homogeneity, let’s do that.

Enough with the old folks already

Triple H-Undertaker was enthralling in 2003. It’s 2018; I don’t care.

Shawn Michaels: sorry, dude, I don’t care. I’m glad HB-Shizzle is getting another payday. Don’t care.

Kane? I didn’t care about him when he was in whatever prime he had.

Please don’t bring The Rock back to wrestle again.

I saw enough of Lita in the Women’s Royal Rumble to know that she shouldn’t leave the pre-game show desk.

Trish Stratus is no longer Status-fying.

It’s fine to bring them back occasionally to talk with a backstage interviewer, maybe serve as a special guest referee.

If we want to see them work, we have the Network, and we can see them when they could actually do something.

Enough with the over-producing

Good line from Kenny Omega the other night as he was promoting the upcoming triple-threat match with Kota Ibushi and Cody Rhodes when he repeated a talking point twice: “That’s what happens when I’m trying to stick to a script.”

The product feels more authentic when the guys and gals own their characters, talking in their own words, and working matches live in the ring, not repeating something they’ve rehearsed earlier in the day.

Get rid of the Hollywood writers, now. Well, maybe keep one, but that one isn’t writing scripts, just story arcs.

Like, for example, hey, Roman, that big guy over there, Braun, he wants your belt, and he says this is his yard. Go out there and tell folks why it’s your yard, and that he’s going to have to kill you to get the belt. Or something like that. Make it yours.

You can get rid of the match producers. Send ‘em back to the Performance Center to work with the rookies.

No more rehearsing the match in the afternoon. All you need to do is say, you got 15 minutes, and here’s who’s going over.

The guys and gals figure it out from there.

Which is how it worked in wrestling for 100 years.

Back when wrestling was live combat improv, and it was so interesting that you had to tune in again next week to see what they came up with next, and you couldn’t wait until the show came to town so you could watch it live.

I’m not sure it will ever be that way again, unfortunately.

Column by Chris Graham

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