WWE: Why I’m not watching Raw, Smackdown

wwe logoRoughly 1.9 million fans who tuned into WWE Monday Night Raw the night after WrestleMania didn’t watch the show this week. I’m one of them, and it wasn’t by accident.

Raw and Smackdown, currently in the midst of historic ratings slumps, both stink on ice. That’s about as direct as I can say it.

Why? Let me count the ways.

  • Brock Lesnar is the Universal champion, again, and won’t be taking part in this weekend’s WWE Network special, TLC, which is par for the course for Lesnar, whose contract only requires a handful of TV appearances a year. Which means: the supposed top title in the company is not only not defended with any regularity on TV, but the person who holds the belt isn’t even around to talk about whoever his next challenger may be. Rendering that belt rather useless as a prop, which is all a belt is.
  • Drake Whatever-His-Name-Is keeps pissing himself. That alone is reason enough to turn the dial.
  • The whole Baron Corbin heel GM thing has been a disaster. And if you ask me, the whole heel GM thing, dating back to whenever the creative folks got the idea to have a heel GM, has been a disaster. I’ve long since had it with faces having to fight various and sundry uphill battles due to obstacles put in their way by heel GMs. It’s just dumb. Put a non-partisan legend like Mick Foley or a recent superstar forced by injuries into early retirement like Paige (the current GM on Smackdown) in that role, and have them play it straight up, as a figurehead. That’s all you need out of the GM: somebody who more or less lays down the law, and otherwise fades into the background.
  • While we’re at it, the backstage vignettes have, for years, been way, way out of control. It makes no logical sense at all to have a hidden camera on heels or faces in a locker-room setting talking about whatever they’re getting ready to do. I like the way Triple H is doing things in NXT in this respect, having a gaggle of people ostensibly playing the role of news media asking questions with phones set to voice-memo mode, informal press conference-style. That, plus the conventional promos cut to questions from your traditional backstage interviewer, is the way things need to go, in terms of adding a dose of reality back to the presentation.
  • How about, and this is a revolutionary idea, so give me some rope here, but what if we actually featured the wrestling matches? I read analyses of what’s wrong with WWE, and many of them go into detail about how hard it is to program three hours for Raw and even two hours for Smackdown. But, you know, you could have the talent out there putting in, say, 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, the occasional 30-minute match, as opposed to the 3- to 5-minute spotfests that we get in between commercial breaks and Crash TV backstage segments. I know we’ve been calling it sports entertainment since the 1990s, as if we’re embarrassed by the idea that the sports entertainers are also, at some level, involved in the wrestling business, but they are, and some of us, roughly 1.9 million, looking at the numbers, actually enjoy the combat part of the combat theater. It might be worth a try.

Column by Chris Graham

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