THE RAW REVIEW
I just want the WWE to understand their audience.
That's one of my goals with The Work of Wrestling. I want the WWE, Vince McMahon, and whoever else makes the decisions with the company to understand what the WWE-viewer who lives in the year 2015 actually wants from the company.
It’s hard not to feel dejected sometimes when watching a Monday Night Raw like last night’s Monday Night Raw. It’s hard to accept that the WWE’s flagship show is, more often than not, simply not made for someone like me.
I’m a twenty-eight-year-old professional wrestling fan. More specifically, I’m a fan of the WWE’s version of professional wrestling, and by that I do not mean the superficial "sports entertainment carnival soap opera" that defines today’s product. I mean that I enjoy RAW when it’s actually a professional wrestling show - a true rarity in today’s era.
NXT is WWE’s version of a professional wrestling show - the heart and soul of the pro-wrestling medium combined with the WWE’s exciting visuals and theatrics and relatable characterizations.
NXT is that perfect middle-ground, the beautiful intersection of honest artistry and the spectacle that enhances it.
NXT is not unlike a tentpole studio film that actually has some depth, heart, and soul - think The Matrix, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Terminator 2, or Star Wars.
RAW is a tentpole studio film that limps through the motions, makes no real effort to ascend to anything even remotely thoughtful or even entertaining, appealing, very purposefully, to the least engaged, most disinterested viewer imaginable.
So I feel, more and more, that the WWE wants to lock me away in the realm of NXT and keep me there.
As I watch the infantile cartoon that is Monday Night Raw, where anything and everything that should be done to elevate the quality of the talent and the broadcast is rarely, if ever done, I feel as though the WWE is encouraging me to turn the television off between 8pm and 11pm on Monday Nights. With each new segment and each new non-match, the WWE tells me, "Tim this just isn't for you, we're not making this for you. Don't you get it? We're not interested in entertaining you. We've got this whole other audience we're going for and you're not it. That's why we've got that little wrestling show on the Network every Wednesday at 8pm. We know you love wrestling enough to be a subscriber anyway, and that you'll recommend it to other wrestling friends, so just stay over there and be quiet. We're not changing RAW."
And I can’t, for the life of me, understand why the WWE wants me to just turn my television off, tune out, stop paying attention, waste time on Twitter during segments that clearly appeal to no one on this or any other planet.
Where last week’s first two hours of RAW kept me engaged through logical, emotionally intense moments that seemed designed to maintain my interest, this RAW’s repetitive, listless three hours seemed entirely disinterested in maintaining the attention of anyone wanting to watch a well-made, intriguing live event centered on competition.
I don’t know why the WWE seems to not care about the viewership of the people who are actually awake at 10pm on a Monday night and the people who actually have the disposable income to pay for a streaming service, buy tee-shirts, and pay for tickets.
And I can’t, for the life of me, understand what it is about TVPG that requires a lack of depth, intelligence, and excellence. What is it about TVPG that necessities lame, anachronistic characters trading schoolyard barbs, pretending that calling someone a “lap dog” is an R-Rated insult? The WWE’s immature perspective on “PG” results in an immature show - a show that doesn’t have the courage nor the intelligence to make a PG-rated television show for an adult.
While the WWE has been Disnified in many ways, it’s actually not nearly as daring, courageous, and intelligent as the massive conglomerate Mickey Mouse built.
Disney gave us Toy Story 1-3, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and a vast library of films that have inspired, enlightened, and moved both adult and child alike.
And all of those aforementioned films have one very specific thing in common - they’re PG.
PG, for Vince McMahon and the WWE, seems to mean repetitive segments where creatively neutered talent pour over the same handful of bad ideas again and again, constantly reminding the audience of easily-remembered plot points, constantly returning to the same match-ups, the same segments, the same trite dialogue, and the same outdated style of presentation.
We are so very accustomed to the sight and sound of a backstage segment, for example, that we’re not entirely cognizant of how truly atrocious backstage segments tend to be.
They look like low-budget porn.
They sound like low-budget porn.
Why is that acceptable on a primetime, three hour show produced by a money-making monster of a company? Can they not afford a better camera? Can they not afford an art-director? Can they not afford a head writer whose thoughtful enough to work out some reality-rules for the WWE's fiction, spelling out whether or not pro-wrestlers are actually aware of the cameras when they're doing their plotting and planning on national television?
Only the unexpected excellence of certain performers could overcome this heinous style of presentation, a style of presentation the WWE simply doesn’t seem to recognize simply because that’s the way it’s always been done.
How is it, in 2015, that we’re still watching nefarious Authority figures plot and plan behind the curtain, seemingly unaware of the camera that is very obviously filming them, reciting lines in a style of performance that’s right at home in a first year student short film, restating, over and over, the same tired ideas, the same cliched concepts, whilst booking the same boring matches?
Perhaps I’m joined only by my closed-minded brethren in these beliefs. Maybe I’m locked in my little world and I’m unable to see the forest through the trees, an old dog who can’t accept that the world has changed.
But where is the contingent of the WWE Universe that’s happy with Monday Night Raw?
Where are the people who the WWE seems to be making their television show for; people who enjoy watching a disjointed, poorly performed, poorly written cartoon that consistently insults the intelligence and the desires of every human being who wants to watch an enjoyable television show?
Perhaps the majority of viewers believe Monday Night Raw is perfect the way it is.
But where are those people?
I do not accept that the pacified and happy constitute the vast majority of the WWE’s fan base, that we only hear from the people who complain because they’re the ones who take to Twitter.
And, even if this fantasy known as “the casual viewer” who enjoys RAW the way it is actually exists, while I can’t argue with what that person enjoys, they are wrong if they believe RAW is fine the way it is.
The very simple, obvious, objective truth staring every human being in the face is that Monday Night Raw is a bad television show.
From one week to the next it cannot decide what it wants to be, it refuses to maintain sense of narrative intensity and it refuses to keep things intelligent, believing, always, that PG means thoughtless, anesthetized entertainment where all the rough edges have been sanded away.
When we listen to commentary, when we see wrestler’s perform, when we watch backstage segments, when we experience the highly regimented cartoon that is an episode of RAW like this latest one, we are witnessing the death of inspiration.
That’s why I experience such dejection when RAW comes to a close every Monday.
That is why I have to look away during a Randy Orton promo or a backstage Authority segment or an abbreviated Divas match or a Roman Reigns promo or a needlessly tampered-with Adrian Neville or a five minute match that hits all the predictable spots…
...I cannot stand to watch creativity die a slow, painful death every single week.
And that’s what Monday Night Raw often is…a dumb, creativity-snuff-film.
And life is simply too short to watch Randy Orton challenge Seth Rollins to a match that obviously should be Brock Lesnar’s or Roman Reigns’, a match that simply doesn't matter no matter how good the spots might be. Life is too short to listen to Corporate Kane or The Big Show, as they currently are, say or do anything on any of the WWE’s various shows. Life is too short to watch Adrian Neville nonsensically transform into Mork from Mork & Mindy (no matter how good his matches might be), because someone in corporate heard “The Man That Gravity Forgot” and thinks a purple cloak and an asteroid will make more money than a hard-working athlete.
I gave this television show three hours of my life last night. That’s three hours I could have spent talking to my wife or playing with my dog or watching something that respected my intelligence.
And I came away firmly believing that absolutely nothing that happened in all three hours deserved any kind of thoughtful analysis - hence why this review is what it is.
Until intelligence, respect, and self-awareness fight their way onto Monday Night Raw to make consistent appearances, the show will remain something the WWE simply shouldn’t be proud of - lifeless entertainment-mush that in attempting to appeal to everyone appeals to no one.
The people in charge of this company very clearly do not understand what it means to live in 2015. The people in charge of this company exist outside of time, trapped in a world that has long since left them and their old ideas behind.
The culture simply will not accept a WWE that goes on disrespecting its audience with this trite nonsense and this repetitive booking.
I don’t know what the answer is, dear reader.
I don’t know how to truly affect change, to transform the WWE in our image, to make it something enjoyable, thoughtful, and watchable.
All I can do is write that NXT exemplifies a WWE-pro-wrestling that should define the product at all levels of the card, on all WWE television shows.
All I can do is write that NXT is what a WWE fan wants in 2015.
All I can do is ask the WWE:
What eight year old is awake until 11pm on a school night?
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