“We haven’t been doing the one thing my father has always taught us to do, which is listen to our audience. We’ve let middle management air their petty grievances, we’ve suffocated our Superstars. And all of that is going to change, and that starts tonight. As of now, you are the authority.” -Stephanie McMahon & Triple H
Why am I still here? Out of habit, perhaps? Because in my heart, I feel it will turn a corner and be like it was? We relive moments and wonder why it can’t be like it was back then, when we were young and carefree. Only to be left in the cold. Hollow. Wanting more and never getting it. Of course, we are talking about Monday Night Raw.
WWE’s ratings have been slipping for years. It’s no secret. And now and then, WWE addresses their shortcomings through the guise of a McMahon return. Sometimes Shane McMahon blames his sister. Other times, the family unites in the ring to deflect on to a General Manager they told what to do. However it’s executed, WWE admits they haven’t been listening, vows to do something, and then chooses not to do anything.
We can’t believe the words “You Are The Authority”, because they have selective hearing. We are fickle and don’t know what we want. For two decades, WWE has tried no harder than necessary. Any bold decisions are reactionary (Daniel Bryan push, Women’s Revolution etc.). And when complacency becomes the norm, a new generation of fan grows up accepting it. We are like birds flying in to a garden for the cheap seed they leave out for us. Rarely will the luxury feed be handed out. When it is, we bounce (mark) around like it’s the greatest thing ever.
I have no qualms with NXT because it’s free and booked to compliment its talent. SmackDown isn’t making me fall over with delight, but at least it’s watchable half of the time. To be honest, no wrestling show anywhere is filling my soul with sweetness. Wrestling isn’t cool in 2021… I hope that isn’t a shocking revelation to anyone. New shows may emit a fresh aura, but after a few months their minty smell fades away. It falls in to line on the criticism train. In terms of reach, wrestling is doing better than a few years ago, but is nowhere near what it was. That’s not me hating or being cynical, it’s just how it is.
AEW is cross-promoting hard, because they know that battling for market space works against wrestling climbing back to where it was. Consequently, this leaves WWE bumbling around, parroting itself in its own bubble. The “sports-entertainment” identity crisis detriments its growth because the world still sees it as wrestling, but the company convinces itself otherwise. Lesser promotions won’t work with a behemoth because they will probably be swallowed up and forgotten. There is little compromise, because WWE has wanted to kill professional wrestling for the longest time.
WWE labels itself as entertainment, while doing little to prove it is the forerunner in creating intriguing characters and interesting storylines. With its resources, there is little stopping WWE from having a long-term game plan. Vince McMahon doesn’t like to plan though, he does everything at the moment. Therefore, he gets stuck handling rewrites. When the captain steering the ship doesn’t know which way to turn til the day of the show, it’s no wonder why 3-hour episodes of Monday Night Raw turn out like they do. WWE’s superstars have to deal with whatever they get and like it.
Remembering of lines at such brief notice, superstars struggle because they aren’t actors. They didn’t get in to wrestling to be anything more than a turned up version of themselves, so reeling off lines makes them sound fake and deficient at promos. Some can adapt better than others, but most aren’t naturally capable. It also makes them sound the same as everyone else, because the writers don’t do enough to adapt lines to suit how a character should talk. Much of the way WWE works is inexplicable. So much talent gets wasted.
No One Likes You
I’m not one for summarizing full episodes of Raw, so let’s go through the highlights:
– Not sure if anyone picked up on this, but Drew McIntyre looked and sounded legit pissed off. True, he lost the coin toss at the beginning, but what does it matter? He’s in the title match at Backlash. It makes little sense to sound so worked up. And I don’t know what it is about Braun Strowman, but I’ve stopped caring. It could be him beating Goldberg last year, only to suffer in the stupidest feud I have seen in a long time with Shane McMahon. Train sound effects helped none either. Isn’t he supposed to be a monster? Remember when he was in The Wyatt Family? He was a beast back then. Now he’s nothing but another Big Show, only without being over. I don’t know why he needs to be involved.
– The reason New Day keeps getting automatic title rematches is because WWE has no one ready to challenge when they need it. So it’s easier to give New Day a reign every so often, have them lose, and then keep going around in a circle. No direction. Just one big glorious run around. Remember when WWE said no more automatic title rematches? In case you didn’t notice, this practice ended in November 2019 while New Day feuded with The Revival. There was no notice of the change, and it has happened several times since. WWE promises things, but often goes back on their word while hoping nobody notices. We aren’t allowed to remember things.
– The Sonya Deville thing makes no sense. How does she get anything by Adam Pearce when she is under him? Can’t he just fire her? It’s obvious that Charlotte Flair has something over Sonya, but Pearce is a representative for Vince McMahon. So if anything got cleared, it was Vince who approved it. So Adam Pearce should be happy about it? Haven’t we had enough of this General Manager rubbish by now? This shtick is so old it could legally drink.
– Charlotte Flair demands to be in the title match at Backlash. Deville gives it to her, again going over Pearce. Rhea Ripley appears looking bemused and states the reason Charlotte wasn’t at WrestleMania is that no one likes her. What the hell? Since when was it a popularity contest to be in a title match? And why would Charlotte care, she’s a heel! No one likes her, that’s the point. Dammit. What a terrible line. Asuka calls this crap and I don’t blame her. This whole thing stinks. The segment is a perfect example of what is wrong with Raw today.
– Damian Priest, The Miz and Morrison are still feuding despite no Bad Bunny and WrestleMania being over. Yawn. Move on already.
– I cringed when Mansoor told Adam Pearce he didn’t expect things to change so quickly, and Pearce replied by saying to “get used to it”. Yes Mansoor, welcome to a typical episode of Raw.
– After losing again, Cedric Alexander screams at Shelton Benjamin unconvincingly. He was trying to sound pissed, but he’s not natural and probably didn’t want to break up anyway because it relegates them to Main Event. Shelton just takes it. When he gets backstage, he tells us a little known “fact” it was he who encouraged MVP to get Cedric in to the Hurt Business. No Shelton! If you remember last year, it was in fact you who didn’t want him in the group because you didn’t trust him. It was MVP who accepted Cedric’s application and told Shelton to deal with it. No one wanted the Hurt Business to break up, but WWE doesn’t listen.
– You want fresh faces? Who better than two former Cruiserweight Champions in Angel Garza and Drew Gulak? How do they set up their match? Gulak says Garza can’t score, although he’s married. He challenges Garza to a match, who responds by saying when he wins he will shove the rose up his ass?! Whoa. Yeah. That escalated out of nowhere. Much to my surprise, after Garza wins he places the rose in Gulak’s tights and kicks it up his backside?! Quality television. Sarcasm overload. This was so random I didn’t know what to think.
– The odd chemistry between Riddle & Randy Orton is the only thing carrying the show. It’s funny, although I’ve seen it before with Riddle & Pete Dunne as The Broserweights. What surprises me most is Randy Orton’s fall from sadistic maniac setting a Fiend on fire, to no-selling being pelted with rotten tomatoes. How are Elias & Jaxson Ryker still alive? Orton won the match at WrestleMania. He should be moving up in the world. Somehow, he is hanging around with an idiot and being made to look like his bite has vanished.
– No one anywhere has anything nice to say about Alexa Bliss and Lily. After WrestleMania’s disappointing match, the payoff could have led to an intense story between Bliss & Wyatt. The pieces were there for Fiend vs. Fiend. Playground vs. Fun House. But we get Alexa Bliss spouting nonsense and possible sexual innuendo (just me?) while playing with her favourite toy. It’s Bray Wyatt all over again, except the only place this leads is Lily getting killed off? Well, that’s if WWE has a clue. If they have some kind of master plan, they need to hurry it along, because all I see on social media is frustration. No one wants this. It’s doable with Wyatt because his character has always been weird, but even he doesn’t nail it every time.
– I didn’t mind Eva Marie in NXT during her last run. She was getting heat and wasn’t as dreadful as some claim. But bringing her back to the main roster not long after getting rid of Mickie James, Chelsea Green and The IIconics leaves a foul taste in my mouth. The women’s roster needed someone who could spice it up, but Eva-lution is more like Deva (Diva)-lution. She is the epitome of looks with no substance. Women’s wrestling should be past this stereotype.
WWE has accepted less than 2 million viewership without batting an eye. In late-2018, the company rolled out The McMahon family because of its lowest-ever ratings the week before, which at the time was 2,193,000 with a 0.75 in the key demographic. Fast forward to this year, and the show is ranging between 1,701,000 and 2,128,000. This week’s show did a demographic rating between 0.47 and 0.57.
The pandemic can’t be blamed for this either. Any TV show gains ratings because of its quality and marketing, not because of the attending crowd. Wrestling fans don’t tune in to listen to other fans, although it helps us to gauge what’s worthy. Back in 2018, Vince McMahon said that Monday Night Raw has prospered over 25 years because it “changes with the times”. That’s laughable, right? Raw hasn’t changed since 2010. Maybe 2008. The only reason the setup changed last year was so they could introduce the Thunderdome, but nothing else has changed in over a decade.
When ratings see another drop to the 1.5m or 1.6m mark, expect another “We’re Sorry!” segment. Let me break it to you though, it will be hollow. The underlying message will be to accept what they feed us, or fly off and find another garden. Honestly, if I didn’t have to tune in each week to know what was happening, I’d be taking a long break about now. What I described above is Monday Night Raw a few weeks after WrestleMania. I wonder if it can get any lower than this. Then again, I’d rather not think about it.
Apologies if you enjoy Raw, but after watching since the late 90s I just want better for everyone. The WWE Universe deserves better. Please let me know how you feel about Raw, and how they could improve it. If you’d like to know what I would do, let me know and I’ll make a piece about it later this month. Thanks for reading.