In the everlasting attempt to pop a rating, shake things up and do something to get viewers to tune back into Monday Night Raw, WWE’s latest strategy came with something called Raw Underground.
What Is It?
To be fair, we still don’t officially know much about this. It wasn’t exactly explained in thorough detail. However, we can assume some things, based on what we’ve seen so far.
It’s a cross between the Brawl for All, the NXT Fight Pit and your standard WWE matches.
There are no ropes on the ring, which is surrounded by some dancing girls and potential fighters (which is great for COVID, right?). Seemingly at random, fights are happening with people being able to volunteer to step in the ring and go at it.
Supposedly, there are no rules. It’s definitely more inspired by MMA and other styles of fighting, as opposed to wrestling matches. Clearly, you’re not going to see dropkicks and suicide dives, as this is more about fists and take downs.
Pro: The name’s not bad. It gives off the impression of seediness and grunge, but it’s not trying too hard to sound cool. It’s not “Xtreme Blood Smash Battle Pro Club Ultimate Dark Fighters” nor is it “WWE Fyte” or something else equally ridiculous.
Con: If this catches on, how do you expand it now that it has the Raw name? You’d have to switch it over to WWE Underground, right?
Pro: At least it’s something different. When they announced that Shane McMahon would have an interesting addition to Raw, I was expecting just another lame Wild Card Rule type idea. This shows WWE is willing to try and fail and are up for testing out oddball ideas.
Con: If someone wanted to watch MMA, they’d watch MMA. Fans of pro wrestling might consider it not what they want, either, because you’re ultimately more of a fan of WWE’s product than not, if you’re watching a WWE show. Expanding horizons and doing something new can be exciting and open up different avenues, but it also invites people criticizing it as being “not what I’m here for.”
For instance, I’m a huge James Bond fan. When they decided to go a little grittier with Daniel Craig’s films, I liked some of the changes. I also hated how they stopped having gadgets and such. I like Scrubs, not the med school spin-off. Then again, how much better is the 30-man Royal Rumble than the original 20-man version? How great of a change was it to replace Clive Revill with Ian McDiarmid in The Empire Strikes Back?
Brawl for All
Pro: It’s not Brawl for All. People shouldn’t be getting injured and being made to look like idiots.
Con: Maybe they should’ve called it Brawl for All to try to bring some prestige to that name? I’ve always liked that name and it has RAW in the first word. Plus, the fact that it is scripted instead of real means it loses value because it’s ultimately just a match with less theatrics and not an actual contest of fighters.
Pro: I like the idea of Shane McMahon as the emcee of this. He’s got some clout, being a McMahon, so I buy that this is his baby and he’d be allowed to run with the project behind the scenes (at least in a kayfabe sense). If this were run by Ric Flair, I wouldn’t believe it at all.
Con: Please, please please please, please don’t turn this into a vehicle to get Shane McMahon over. He doesn’t need to start an angle with someone where they pick on him and he has to step in the ring to fight and get his credibility back as a man or whatever. We’ve gone through enough of the Best in the World gimmick. Shane’s not going to draw millions more viewers.
Pro: Had WWE announced this ahead of time, people probably would have made fun of it and had a bad outlook heading into the show. By just hitting viewers with it out of nowhere, you had to form your opinions when it happened, rather than get psyched up and disappointed or turn on Raw already thinking it would be a train wreck.
Con: I already have heard from a lot of people that they didn’t bother watching Raw because they assumed it would be a terrible idea no matter what WWE announced. Some of those people might actually be interested in Raw Underground as a concept, but the general “tune in to find out the surprise” didn’t work for them.
Also, the fact that we still don’t know a lot about what Raw Underground is means people don’t have as much tangible information to hold onto. I’m not one for thinking a lack of information creates mystery that people will be super psyched about. My approach is more along the lines of explaining things so people don’t feel like they’re being teased just to keep coming back for crumbs.
On top of that, I think the less you tell people about an idea, the more it shows that you haven’t thought it out and you’re trying to figure out the specifics as you go along. I don’t trust WWE can do that well.
Pro: This is an opportunity to showcase some new talent. They’ve already done that with Babatunde being repackaged as Dabba-Kato. Erik and Dolph Ziggler were pretty random picks to have fight people, but I’m down with that. Maybe they can make some new stars out of this.
Con: How about you don’t job out some of your guys like Dio Maddin and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott? Maybe it’s not the best idea for The Hurt Business to run through everyone on the first night, too.
For that matter, if it’s a bunch of no-names getting whooped, nobody will care. Joe Schmoe losing to Erik means nothing. But if you start sacrificing your superstars to make others look good, you’re going to kill their credibility, too. It’s a tricky balancing act I’m not sure WWE can manage.
Pro: I grew up in an era where the Nitro Girls were a decent bit of eye candy to eat up a few seconds between matches, Sunny and Sable and Marlena were totally reasons to tune in to Raw and so on. Maybe this will attract some people to tune in, or at least better help with the atmosphere that this is supposed to be grungy. It’s certainly not something we’ve seen in WWE for a while, so that does help push that idea.