The Decline of Monday Night RAW

The last Monday night RAW was abysmal. That’s the only way to describe it. And after thinking about it, RAW for the majority of 2018 has not been as enjoyable for me as in years past. So, I am trying to figure out why it is. When did it start to be less entertaining? How long do I keep watching? Why has it become so predictable?

So after putting some thought into it, I believe there is a combination of things that have led to a less enjoyable RAW. First thing I have noticed are the injuries. Right off the top of my head I can think of five wrestlers that are out due to injury. Obviously Roman Reigns is out for the foreseeable future and Braun Strowman is out for a few weeks.

Right there are two of the biggest names in the industry. Not to mention wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Alexa Bliss. Now I realize Bliss is still on tv, but when is the last time she was in the ring? She’s great on the mic and maybe they are on to something with her being the leader of the women’s division. But she is one of the top stars who needs to be competing in a lackluster women’s division.

Smackdown clearly has the better women’s division. Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Asuka will compete in a TLC triple threat match at the TLC pay per view. Yes please! RAW women’s title match will be an overrated Ronda Rousey vs an even more overrated Nia Jax. If that match comes on after the Smackdown women’s title match, expect to here some “boring” chants.

Speaking of weak divisions, RAW’s tag team division is weak as well. A.O.P. are the current tag team champs and there biggest competition is Bobby Roode and Chad Gable. Seriously? Really?? I mean RAW has buried their entire tag team division. The titles have become insignificant and the teams in the division are laughable.

The Universal title is back on a part time schedule. Not putting the title on Strowman at Crown Jewel was probably the better option at the time. Strowman needs more time to get his popularity back to where it was before the questionable heel turn in late summer/early fall. Perhaps they had different plans for Strowman before Reigns’ illness, but I feel like WWE was trying to turn him face again just prior to Reigns announcement.

There have been a lot of questionable decisions made creatively this year. Obviously the brief Strowman turn is one of them. Some others that made no sense to me are Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt team. Whatever happened to Wyatt anyway? How about Finn Balor being used as enhancement talent most weeks, or Baron Corbin as RAW general manager elect?

How about the misuse of Bobby Lashley for the majority of the year. He was floundering to say the least, until he turned heel. And Lio Rush as his hype man is weird to me. Much like Drake Maverick as manager of A.O.P., I don’t understand the use of 205 Live guys as managers. They have their own show for crying out loud. To me, seeing Maverick pee his pants and Rush constantly being made fun of for his size is indirectly hurting the entire 205 Live brand.

Aside from all that, being three hours long does the show no favors. It’s hard to sit through anything for three hours, especially this day and age. Twenty years ago during the attitude era, I would have loved a three hour show. But at the same time only being two hours long added to the intrigue of the show. I don’t like a three hour RAW. Period.

Before I get into suggestions on ways to make RAW better, I want to address the rumor that Vince McMahon has lost touch with what entertains a wrestling fan. I am on the fence with this. About twenty one years ago McMahon aired a video message stating that the WWE would be moving on from super hero type wrestlers to a more edgy product. I feel like that was more out of necessity opposed to a creative direction.

At the time of the video, circa 1997, WWE was losing ratings to WCW. Not to mention ECW was gaining traction at the time with their hardcore style. So, he changed his direction to remain competitive with those wrestling companies that were already finding success with the hardcore shoot style of show.

With no real competition in 2018, there is no need to change creative directions. The PG formula which has been used for probably fifteen years, was and is a successful formula. But I think any long time wrestling fan will tell you, it has become stale. Certain moves are banned, certain words are banned and certain gestures are banned.

There are a lot of rules in a politically correct 2018 Monday night RAW. It has watered down the show and I know Vince doesn’t need to change direction, but would it really hurt to try? Like I said, he has no real competition. Smackdown has been dabbling in some attitude era angles and characters and the show is without question a better show.

So, has Vince lost touch with the current wrestling fan? Na, I don’t think so. I think it’s time for Vince to take some more risks creatively, but I don’t think he has lost touch with fans. So if I had Vince’s money and knowing that there is no real threat to ratings what would I do to make RAW more entertaining? Well, I am glad you asked.

The first thing I would do is go back to two hours. And if going to two hours is not an option due to network obligations, I would use the first hour of RAW as a NXT platform. Yes, I know NXT has their own show, but it’s not on network television. I would still build for RAW during the first hour with vignettes and interviews with the wrestlers, but keep them vague and interesting so that I have to watch a second and third hour to see what happens.

The second thing I would do is a brand draft. Clearly Smackdown has a more entertaining roster. I know injuries play a factor, but who wouldn’t want to see a match like AJ Styles vs Braun Strowman. Or Randy Orton vs Drew McIntyre and what about a Jeff Hardy vs Seth Rollins. So many options with a loaded roster and all the talent is on Smackdown.

Another thing I would do, since RAW is three hours, is bring back the Hardcore title. Something that can be defended each week, multiple times on the show and it’s a anything goes situation. Falls count anywhere and anyone on the can be a contender. You could have some legends return every now and then to win it.

RAW also needs to beef up there tag team division. This would take some time, but it’s not impossible to do. Honestly, I would wipe the slate clean with the current state of the RAW tag division and start over. The Revival, Ascension and B-Team could all be teams that are capable of being legit contenders if booked right.

I would start by setting up a several month long tournament for the tag team titles. But not a traditional tournament. Maybe a double elimination or round robin style tournament. And have matches that fans want to see tag teams in, such as cage, ladder or tornado tag matches. Give the teams time to look strong instead of losing in a minute or two like they normally do.

Another thing RAW needs is some comic relief. It’s a very serious and dramatic show anymore. Smackdown has the NEW DAY! who always do some funny things. They also have The Miz who gets a laugh every now and then. Everyone on RAW has to be a bad ass, and I get you want to be taken seriously, but it makes for a one dimensional show.

Dolph Ziggler is a stand up comic and he doesn’t use any of his stuff on RAW. I would like to see him be more witty and use some comedy in his promos. Elias is about the only one on the roster who makes the crowd laugh anymore. He and his guitar are about the only comedy on the show.

The last thing I would do is keep the Universal title off of Brock Lesnar. Lesnar doesn’t need a title. He’s an attraction anytime he’s in a match. He doesn’t need a title to appear legitimate, he just needs to kick the crap out of someone. I would put the title on a weekly work horse like Rollins, Balor, McIntyre or Ziggler. Or bring Orton, AJ or Daniel Bryan from Smackdown to carry it.

Those are just a few things I would do. If I could hit reset on the current state of RAW I would totally do it. As much hate as WWE got for this past weeks RAW, hopefully they take notice. I mean if 15,000 people in an arena screaming refund at the end of the show doesn’t tell you something, then maybe it’s time for hearing aids.

RAW was once a can’t miss show, now it’s something I dvr and fast forward through most of. The flagship show is sinking and if things don’t change life boats will need to be deployed. Hopefully things start to change and RAW will become easier to digest. I’m optimistic that a positive change is coming, especially as we inch closer to the road to Wrestlemania.

WWE is a very successful business and will right the wrongs. I think we will have to be very patient with RAW over the next few months. Hopefully we start seeing some wrestlers return from injuries, and hopefully we start seeing something worth watching again.

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