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.

Smackdown Live 1000 Review

One thousand episodes of Smackdown Live!  That is hard to image, but it is now the second longest weekly episodic show in television history.  What is number one?  Monday night RAW.  WWE has been a staple on cable television for over twenty-five years.  The celebration of the one thousandth episode of Smackdown Live did not disappoint.  A lot of special guest, and some great matches too.  So let’s get into it!

Truth TV Returns!

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Truth TV made its return last night, much to the delight of the Washington DC crowd and the WWE universe.  I personally love R-Truth and Carmella together, and their dance breaks are hilarious.  Also, Carmella is very easy on the eyes, so anytime Truth TV is on, it has my undivided attention.  The guests last night were some pretty important names in the WWE.  The McMahons, Stephanie, Shane and Vince were all guest and even participated in the dance break suggested by Vince McMahon.  Fun and entertaining segment and a great start to Smackdown Live 1000.

Huge win for the Uso’s

img_0208AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan will wrestle one on one at Crown Jewel, but last night they teamed up to take on one of the greatest tag teams of all time, The Uso’s.  The Uso’s haven’t been on TV for a few weeks, but always deliver when they are.  A great match that saw Daniel Bryan inadvertently hit AJ Styles adding to the growing tension between the two.  The Uso’s then hit AJ with a superkick, and then they both hit Daniel Bryan with a double superkick to win the match.  Hopefully that catapults the USO’s into the tag team title picture.

Evolution back for one night

img_0209Evolution were back together last night and I have to say, everybody still looks great!  Including sixty-nine year old Ric Flair, who has been through the ringer with his health over the last year.  I heard last night that there are forty-nine world championships between the four men.  All will be WWE hall of famers one day.

Every superstar got a chance to speak, and put each other over.  With the exception of Randy Orton who is really playing up to his current heel character.  Orton cut heel promos on the other three members of Evolution.  Batista had the most mic time last night.  It honestly went a little long in my opinion, and Batista was a little awkward on the mic, but got his point across.  He even had a funny line when he told Ric Flair to “keep that thing in your pants.” which got a huge pop from the DC crowd and even the other three men in the ring.  Probably didn’t make Vince to happy since WWE is PG now, but it probably made him chuckle at the same time.  But it was when he told Triple H that “he has done everything in this business, except beat me.” that received an even bigger reaction.  Clearly seeds have been planted for a future match between the two.  Who knows when it will be, or if it will even happen, but the wheels for that storyline are now in motion.  Great segment that went a little long, but was very entertaining.

Miz is in the World Cup

The quickest match of the night goes to The Miz vs Rusev.  The match was probably supposed to be longer, but I think the Evolution segment went a little longer than it was supposed to.  I would be surprised if the match was a minute long.  Aiden English ran down to the ring and disrupted Rusev and The Miz was able to roll up Rusev and get the quick victory, making him the seventh entrant into the World Cup tournament.

After the match, Lana had a few choice words for English and then kicked him in the man parts.  Rusev then came out of the ring and put a beating on him.  Throwing him into the steel steps and the ring post.  Rusev was able to get a little revenge on English, but I think it will take a gimmick match like a no DQ or maybe something like, winner gets Lana for 30 days.  I doubt they would go that route in today’s WWE but it would make this rivalry a little more interesting.

The Cutting Edge

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The Cutting Edge returned last night with WWE Hall of Famer Edge making an appearance.  By the way Edge is one of my all time favorites, so it was great to see him and listen to his entrance music.  The best entrance music of all time, yes even better than Real American.  Edge’s guests last night were supposed to be Smackdown Womens champion Becky Lynch and number one contender Charlotte Flair.  Becky was introduced and came to the ring to quite the ovation from the DC crowd.  Edge was surprisingly playing the role of moral compass last night.  He was explaining to Becky that he sees a lot of himself in her current attitude.  He told Becky that the attitude worked for him, he has all the championships he ever wanted.  But when your time in wrestling is done, that’s all you have.  You have no friends and you sit alone looking at all the titles on your wall.  He also said that “the kicker is, you won’t even like yourself!”  Becky responded with “You’re right, I don’t like myself… I LOVE myself!  Now quit being so condescending to the champ and get out of my ring.  And don’t re injure your neck again going through the ropes.”  She absolutely buried one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.  A clear heel statement and the DC crowd went nuts, still cheering for Becky.  Charlotte came out and was booed through out her promo, and even the scuffle between the two incited a Becky chant.

The double turn has to happen, Becky will not get booed no matter what they do.  She could punt puppies across the arena and still get cheered.  Look for Charlotte to take the title from Becky at Evolution, and turn heel in the process.  This is the hottest rivalry in the WWE right now and if it doesn’t close the show at Evolution it will be a crime.

New Smackdown tag team champions

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The Smackdown tag team titles changed hands last night, when The Bar was able to enlist the Big Show as a back up.  The New Day has always been a three-man group where any man could defend the titles at anytime.  I wonder if this will be a similar situation or if Big Show will act as more of a body-guard or manager for The Bar.

The match itself was really good, but a dangerous bump from Cesaro had me wondering if he injured himself.  Big E lifted him up and dropped him on the back of his head and neck.  It was either a great sell by Cesaro or he legit looked to be knocked a little senseless.  The match went back and forth for a while until The Bar tried to put Kofi through a table when The Big Show’s music hit.  The Bar looked as if Big Show was coming after them.  But Big Show picked up Kofi and choke slammed him through an announce table.  This distracted Big E, and when he turned around he caught a brogue kick to the face, and lost the match and the tag team titles.  The Bar is now five time tag team champs.

How great is the tag team division on Smackdown Live?  The Bar, The New Day and The Uso’s just to name a few.  Great teams that could all put on great matches.

Rey Mysterio earns final spot in World Cup tournament

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The returning Rey Mysterio took on the U.S. champion Shinsuke Nakamura last night in the main event for the final spot in the World Cup tournament, that will take place at Crown Jewel.  Mysterio looks great for a guy in his mid forties.  He looks like the same Rey Mysterio from a decade ago.  He had a solid clean win against Nakamura last night.

My concern is for Nakamura.  He has been somewhat irrelevant since winning the U.S. title a few months ago.  Even more irrelevant than Nakamura, is the U.S. title.  I am not sure how to make the title mean something.  It is probably the least prestigous title on the main roster.  If you were to ask me what would make it relevant again I would say put it on a babyface, like Rusev and have him defend it week after week in an open challenge again.  Or put it on someone like The Miz who has a history of restoring titles to their glory.

As far as the World Cup tournament, the field is stacked!  All wrestlers involved are former world champions.  My pick right now is for Orton to win it.  His heel character right now is fire, and he could use this tournament to put him in the WWE title picture.  The wrestler I would like to see win it is Dolph Ziggler.  He has been portrayed as the weak link lately, and I think winning the tournament would be great for his career.  No matter what the turn out, it’s the first time since the 1998 Survivor Series tournament, that I have been this invested in a tournament.  I typically am not a fan of one night tournaments, but this one will be good.

Undertaker makes an appearance

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The Undertaker made an appearance to close the one thousandth episode of Smackdown Live last night.  His entrance was longer than his promo as all he said was “When it comes to DX and Crown Jewel, I only have three words for you, Rest In Peace!”  It was rushed due to timing but, that is all you really want from the Undertaker.

Crown Jewel

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Still on mention of Saudi Arabia on WWE television.  Crown Jewel is being heavily promoted, but the location is not.  When it comes to the tragic events involving Saudi Arabia the WWE’s only comment is “They are monitoring the situation.”  WWE has a ten-year contract with Saudi Arabia to bring their product there.  But now that the tragedy has become political, WWE is treading lightly on the situation.  There are still a couple of weeks before the show is to take place.  The question is still the location.  I personally think the show will go on. However I wouldn’t be surprised if a few wrestlers back out on going.  Like the WWE, I will be monitoring the situation.

Thanks for checking out gohomepwb.com.  Comment or like this article and let me know what your thoughts on Smackdown 1000 or how you think Crown Jewel will play out.  Tomorrow, the weekly top ten.  Thanks for reading!

The Montreal Screw Job

img_0198Typically I like to reserve my Monday’s for my favorite wrestlers, but after the finish to the Bound for Glory PPV main event last night, it reminded me of the infamous night in Montreal almost twenty-one years ago.  As was much of the discussion on Sirius XM’s Busted Open radio show, I want to give my thoughts on what happened at Survivor Series in 1997.  But first, what brought up the thoughts of the this event some two decades later.

Bound for Glory last night, Impact Wrestling’s version of Wrestlemania, the main event was a world title match between Johnny Impact and Austin Aries.  The match was for all intents and purposes a great match, but the finish was what left everybody wondering, is this a work or a shoot?  Johnny Impact hit his finisher on Aries, and picked up the 1,2,3 winning the Impact world championship.  However, immediately following the pin fall Austin Aries got up and left the ring, “no selling” the finisher.  On his way out Aries, proceeded to flip off the crowd and the powers that be in Impact wrestling.  That’s not something we would typically see at the finish of a match, unless there was some real heat going on.  There appeared to be some confusion as the show ended.  Regardless of whether it was supposed to happen or not, it has every wrestling fan and critic talking about it today.  So if Impact was trying to get some attention… well done.

Although, the finish to last nights Bound for Glory main event was filled with controversy, nothing compares to the ending of the main event of Survivor Series 1997 in Montreal, Canada.  Late 1997 was a transition period for the then WWF.  They were losing in the Monday night ratings war, and was beginning to take their product in a more edgier direction.  Late ’97 was the birth of the most polarizing era in WWE, the Attitude Era.  The lead up to the Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart main event was a heated one.  These two men despised each other at the time.  They had real life hatred for one another, and I would like to say it culminated at the ’97 survivor series, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

Bret Hart was to be leaving the World Wrestling Federation, for rival World Championship Wrestling.  I have watched the Bret Hart documentary: Wrestling with Shadows, multiple times.  In the documentary, Bret clearly did not want to leave the WWF.  However, WCW offered him an incredible amount of money to come work for them.  Even with the lucrative offer, Hart was loyal to the WWF.  Owner of WWF Vince McMahon had offered Bret a long-term deal, which Bret had accepted.  In the following weeks/months Vince rescinded his offer, saying he would not be able to afford it.  WWF in 1997 was nowhere near the worth of WWE in 2018.  So I think there is some validity to McMahon’s concerns of being able to honor the contract.  So, Hart accepted the offer from WCW and was set to leave the WWF in late November 1997.

The idea that Vince had, was for Bret to drop the title to Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series PPV.  Bret, a proud Canadian wrestler, pleaded with Vince that he not drop the title to Shawn in front of the Montreal crowd.  According to the Wrestling with Shadows documentary, Vince gave Bret the opportunity to call the finish of the match.  Bret could be heard stating in be a smoz, (the match ends without a clear winner) and then relinquish the title the following night on Monday Night RAW.  You could hear Vince say “Whatever you want.”

When Shawn Michaels received word of the finish he was supposedly livid.  Triple H who was with Vince and Shawn during the meeting, has been quoted as saying “If Bret doesn’t want to do business, we do business for him!”

Vince was left with a decision to make.  I think he trusted Bret to drop the title, the next night on RAW, but at the same time Bret had possesion of WWF’s most prized title.  Vince already had a wrestler leave and put one of his championships in the trash on WCW television, and if it happened again, it would not only bury him as a promoter, but quite possible bury his company.  I personally think that Vince did the only thing he could do that night.

The Match

The match was about to begin and the Montreal crowd was hot that night.  Very vocal and ready for a great main event.  A lot of smart fans in attendance were intrigued, but probably expected a Bret Hart loss as they knew he was leaving for WCW.  But, at the same time, Bret Hart does no lose in Canada.  Bret was the clear fan favorite on that night, and Shawn who was a heel in both the U.S. and Canada at the time, didn’t need much help getting booed.  Triple H accompanied Shawn to the ring, and for some reason Vince and Sgt. Slaughter were at ringside for the match.  It was not a custom for Sgt. Slaughter and especially Vince to sit ringside for a match.

The match started and it was a typical Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels match.  I use the term typical lightly, because these two, despite their dislike for each other, worked phenomenal well together.  They worked a crisp, yet stiff looking match.  About ten to fifteen minutes into the match, Shawn put Bret in his own finisher the sharpshooter.  Once the move was locked in, you could see Bret reach back to try to reverse the hold, however to the surprise of everyone in the arena that night, the referee called for the bell.  The referee that night was Earl Hebner, and he was told by Vince to ring the bell at that spot.  To be clear Bret did not tap and he did not say “I quit!”  Both Shawn and Bret sat at the ring apron looking puzzled before Shawn was awarded the winner and the new WWF champion.  Shawn, Triple H and multiple WWE officials left the ring in a hurry.  The Montreal crowd was livid, and so was Bret Hart.  Vince stayed at ringside expecting to be retaliated against by Bret.  Bret in the ring and Vince on the floor were having words when Bret then spit in the face of Vince.  Vince left the ringside area, and Bret went on to basically throw a fit, destroying the table and monitors at ringside.  Bret then went on to air paint WCW in the WWF ring before he went to the back.

The aftermath

In the Wrestling with Shadows documentary, it was filmed with Shawn and Bret in the locker room and Bret asked Shawn “Did you know anything about this?”  Shawn denied, denied, denied of any knowledge of the finish, as instructed by Vince.  Vince was to take all the blame per his instruction.   The filming of the documentary stopped when Bret and Vince had their meeting, but the filming resumed when Vince was walking down the hall-way clearly disoriented.  Bret punched Vince right in the eye, and Vince sported a black eye for the next few weeks.

In the documentary, Bret was stated as saying “Being a wrestler, is a lot like being a circus animal.  Once your job is done and there is no worth to you, they take you out back and kill you.  And that is what they did with the Bret Hart character.”  Bret Hart went on to wrestle a couple of years for WCW, but it was forgettable.  He didn’t seem to fit, and he will be the first to tell you he hated his time there.  You can kind of feel for Bret at this point.  How many of us have put many years into a job, only for it to go south and feel like a complete waste of your time.  You give and give and when your services are no longer needed, they spit you out.  No thanks or we appreciate all you did for us, but a harsh abrupt end to your relationship.

As for Shawn following the “Montreal Screw Job” he went to hold the title for several month.  The next night on RAW, Degeneration X went on to further humiliate Bret, by having a “little person” come out and be harassed by Shawn and Triple H.  They even slapped a WCW logo on his back side when he left the ring.  Bret could be seen watching it on TV in the Wrestling with Shadows documentary in complete disgust.

Shawn’s run as champion was on borrowed time, because at the January 1998 Royal Rumble he hurt his back in a casket match with the Undertaker.  He was in a lot of pain in the lead up to Wrestlemania 14 in March of the same year.  Shawn was able to suffer through the pain and get to the Wrestlemania 14 main event match with Stone Cold Steve Austin.  The match was great despite Shawn being in excruciating pain.  You could see during the match he was in a lot of pain.  Mike Tyson was the special enforcer for the match and was supposed to be a honarary member of DX, but turned on him in a swerve and counted the 1,2,3 as Stone Cold won the match and his first of many WWF/E titles.  Also launching the Austin/McMahon rivalry into wrestling history.  That was Shawn Michaels last match with the WWF/E for over four years before he returned in the summer of 2002.  Shawn took the time off to turn his life around and was clearly a different person when he returned.  Honestly, the injury to his back probably saved his life.

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have since buried the hatchet.  They even sat down together to do a documentary about their rivalry and the Montreal “Screw Job”.  Bret was even able to get some revenge on Vince in a match at wrestlemania.  All parties have seem to put it past them.  Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels both are now WWE Hall of Famers.  Vince someday will be inducted, but he will not allow it until after his death I’m sure.

If you get a chance check out Bret Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, Shawn Michaels Heartbreak and Triumph and the Rivalry documentary.  This long rivalry could be a movie, it was so interesting.  Obviously, it still is as twenty-one years later it is a topic of conversation.  It will go down in wrestling folklore as one of the most controversial nights in wrestling.

Thanks for checking out gohomepwb.com, check us out tomorrow as I give my Monday Night RAW review.  I will get to my fourth favorite wrestler on Friday this week.  Some of you may be surprised as to who it is, unless you were in my fifth grade classroom in the 1992-93 school year.  Which is only about fifteen people.  But, I am happy to share my thoughts on this wrestler.  Feel free to comment or like this blog, and let me know your thoughts on the Montreal Screw Job.