Every compelling TV show finds a way to progress. The stories change. The setting changes. The characters, sometimes, change. In the entertainment world, change is good. It is interesting. On the other hand, stagnancy, in most cases, is not. It bears too much semblance to real life, disallowing people to escape their monotonous lives.
Conversely, WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw, has not changed since it has gone 3 hours back in 2013, as the pattern of how an episode pans out is almost identical to the previous one. In most cases, the show builds itself around four important segments: the top of the hour segment, the 9 pm segment, 10 pm segment, and then 11 pm/overrun segment.
The top of the hour parts are important to WWE because they believe it is the most likely time new watchers will tune in. For that reason, Raw circles itself around these times while padding the rest of the show with predominantly filler. As if that is not mind-boggling enough, what WWE usually classifies as important content will be. Raw usually starts with a drawn-out promo, meandering aimlessly to fill time, with not a whole lot of information coming out of it.
To make matters worse, it customarily sets up a tag-team match between the top babyfaces and heels, a match that more be more suited on a house-show. With a few exceptions to the rule, these matches serve no purpose other than to send the crowd home happy, which means the babyfaces 9 times out of 10 stand tall. Hardly ever does story development occur in a Raw main event time slot.
Surely, Monday Night Raw has always had its flaws. It would be hard to find a year where it was amazing every week. It is expected for there to be a few clunkers since it is on every essentially every Monday night. At the very least, though, Raws used to generate enough buzz so that fans could talk amongst each other about it. Now, there is almost nothing to talk about when Raw concludes. The show is so cut and dry, copying and pasting the same “how to build a feud” ideas to a point where they become spam. Raw does not end with cliffhangers, mystery, or intrigue. There is no guessing going on about how a story line might unfold; anyone who has watched Raw for at least a year has a great understanding of how the storylines will play out.
Even on a rare occasion where Raw develops a newsworthy and intriguing story, the angles loses its momentum within weeks. Triple H turning on Seth Rollins and siding with Kevin Owens is a perfect example of that. At first, the angle was intriguing, opening a number of different roads the story could go down; and so, the fans eagerly waited for Triple H’s explanation of why he turned on Rollins and anointed Kevin Owens as the new face of Raw. They waited and waited and waited and waited, waiting so much, for so long, that barely care anymore. Triple H has not been on TV since he turned on Seth Rollins, all because WWE wanted to drag the story out to WrestleMania; and, somehow, the best idea they came up with was, essentially, pretending it never happened.
The company failed to strike when the iron was hot, and, consequently, Kevin Owens became a lost character while Roman Reign and Seth Rollins looked like geeks for never really calling Triple H out. After that angle, Raw has felt as if it has been on hold for 4 months, something a weekly episodic show never wants to feel like.
Nothing flawlessly illustrates what type of show Raw is quite like its audience. People are supposed to be excited to be at a live show. They are supposed to want to play a part in the show, and they should be chanting, screaming, cheering, and booing to feel a part of the experience.
On Raw, though, almost every crowd looks bloated and cheerless, simply watching the clock slowly turn round and round, waiting for something to finally happen or for their misery to end. This is mostly because Raw is not a show that has stories gradually playing out all night; the show has little progression, and, instead of building to the apex, it forcefully drags itself over the finish line.
Surely, people can blame the additional hour each week. All that additional hour has done, though, is expose Raw’s imperfections more. They would be still there but less overt. Raw puts little thought into its main-event feuds and even less thought in its lower card feuds.
They bungled the entire Cruiserweight Division (which could have helped break up Raw’s formulaic ways) by poorly introducing the characters, giving them little time to develop their characters, and booking them to have 10 minutes to flip and flop around like vanilla midgets a week.
They mostly refuse to have midcard, women, tag-team feuds, and sometimes upper-midcard that do not involve a title, which means wrestlers have to pin the champion on TV to build themselves up to their level; or more accurately, drag the champion down to their level.
Because of their even-steven booking ways, no roster member can muster up some momentum, even heading into big shows like WrestleMania. Other than Braun Strowman, who mostly beats up jobbers or wrestlers with nothing to do, I cannot think of a wrestler who has gone 4 weeks without looking weak at some point on Raw.
The show is so micromanaged to the point where it sucks the verisimilitude right out of the show. Raw could not feel nor be more contrived and unnatural. WWE manages everything to an OCD level, giving the show zero ad lib or off-the-script feel to it. The promos, especially, are so overtly over-scripted, causing the wrestlers sound like robots, as they are so busy remembering their lines, they cannot be put passion, emotion, or any realism into what they are saying. It does not help either the words they say do not sound like them and sound more like a mawkish soap opera writer’s words.
The same goes for the announcers. They are so busy promoting and, well, doing whatever they do, they end up not selling matches or angles, telling the story of matches or angles, or augmenting drama or enthusiasm into much of anything.
Even Raw’s matches feel like a dance rehearsal. The format of their matches is so “plug and play” and homogenized that it feels extremely unnatural. Everyone on Raw wrestles the same matches, and the matches all play out the same way. Wrestlers trade and counter moves while the pacing gradually picks up as the match goes on. The same cookie-cutter matches, all the time.