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Dry Socket Opinion: The Good and the Bad of Last Night’s RAW

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I only caught the opening and closing segments of last night’s RAW. That seemed to be enough to show how polarizing this company is. The opening showed what is wrong with the company while the ending showed what was right. Consistency is a constant struggle, within WWE, and it has led to the downfall of the company.

Sure, some will claim that WWE is doing great. The initial numbers (and excuses) are common fodder for WWE execs to back up their stories of success. Truth be told, the company continues to give away free content because they don’t have enough subscribers to their Network. Ticket prices continue to climb to make up for attendance losses. We used to laugh at TNA because of the near empty arenas. Now we’re seeing that within WWE’s TV tapings.

Monday’s RAW started off with Goldberg. Here’s a guy who had a feud with another part-time performer built to be a monster. Both half-assed their Wrestlemania XX match. Yeah, it happened over a decade ago but, unlike WWE’s hopes, not everyone has forgotten. The match spoiled an otherwise amazing PPV. The excuse of “both were on their way out” is pathetic. These two had the spotlight that so many others crave, desire, and pray for throughout their career. Just because they’re leaving doesn’t give them a pass at putting on a mediocre (at best) match.

Goldberg squashed Lesnar. Does Goldberg, who already has a well-known name, really need that push? He’s a part-timer and doesn’t seem to be sticking around long enough to really put over any new talent. WWE plans to use the same formula, from 2004, to build this feud into Wrestlemania. We can forget WWE Creative doing anything new. Nostalgia is nice until it becomes overused. Too much of a good thing gets old and eventually kills the company. Just because WWE adds in a few pop-culture mentions doesn’t mean they’re relevant with the times.

WWE continues to rely on the past to gain viewers. Instead of building up regular full-time workers, WWE must break the bank for appearances that are scattered throughout the year. In the meantime, they’ll use twitter and a manager to build main event feuds. Some argue that it keeps viewers watching for when the special appearance may occur. The numbers show that ratings and viewership are both dropping. This won’t speak well to advertisers. While we’ve already got too many commercial breaks, WWE will be adding more, I’m afraid. I’m glad we’re putting matches on during commercial breaks. Nothing kills interest, in a match, more than breaking it up with a commercial break. Even worse- it hurts and disrespects the in-ring performers (especially when commentary are focused on something completely unrelated). I wonder which match will get bumped from ‘Mania so that Lesnar and Goldberg can have their third encounter.

While WWE got the internet talking with the squash match, it won’t help in the longrun. Social media scores only carry so far. For a match that was hyped up so much, one would think WWE would deliver something just a little bit better. This isn’t UFC and Goldberg isn’t Holly Holm. I understand the suspension of disbelief but are we really supposed to believe that the middle-aged guy can’t beat the former UFC champion? Even the Undertaker lost his streak. Goldberg was a machine…17 years ago. Instead of hyping up and mainstreaming the cruiserweights or one of the other full-time employees, WWE puts their attention behind an established star so that they have to do as little as possible. Kevin Owens is the RAW champion and AJ Styles is the Smackdown champion. Neither one has made a significant appearance on a talk show or sporting event. While WWE claims the champions are the face of the company, their actions say otherwise. Ask non-wrestling fans if they know who Owens or Styles are. Then ask if they know Cena, Lesnar, or Goldberg. The last three have been around longer but they also had more media hype when they were on top. But hey, we still get plugs and special features on Dwayne Johnson!

Having a third match can work if both performers consistently show up to build their feud. Both need to compete with others and use psychology rather than stand around and talk about the same things that all lead up to a contract signing. The crowd must be fully invested and each of the two matches must deliver. The second should be better than the first and the third should be better than the second. The Rock and Stone Cold perfected this at each of their Wrestlemania bouts. Wrestlemania X7 had the best build. The other matches, on the WMX7 card, were 4 and 5 star matches. They delivered and the crowd was exhausted but craving more.

I flipped RAW off, after the Goldberg segment. I just didn’t care. There was nothing new that drew me in and kept me watching. WWE struggles to retain viewers throughout the three hours. Three hours, itself, isn’t too long. It’s what is packed into those three hours that is. Commercial breaks, recaps, horrible commentary, and repeated matches aren’t going to keep an audience watching for one segment that we know occurs between 10:45 and 11:05PM. And a contract signing, at 10PM is not the answer.

Thankfully, the Rollins/Owens match was nearly flawless. Even commentary was solid. Both participants stayed in character and put on one heck of a match. There was decent chain wrestling, high-risk spots, and psychology. Jericho interfering took away but also added a bit of humor (see: Sin Cara mask). The end segment was booked very well. It still left the viewer wondering when (not if) JeriKO will break up. Who will swerve who and why? Both egos will boil over but the comedy is rightly placed. It isn’t the typical VKM bathroom humor from third grade (see: Sparklecrotch and Anal Bleeding).

I was particularly impressed with how physical Owens and Rollins were at the end. There was a constant build to a bigger and bigger spot without a huge reliance on weapons. Commentary seemed to stay on topic and the right amount of excitement and emotion were used at just the right times (rather than Ranallo’s constant screaming and shouting).

However, the seeds are now planted for Wrestlemania. The coming weeks will build to the Royal Rumble which sets the stage for Wrestlemania. Sure, there’s a PPV called Roadblock but it’s a D-list PPV. It’s just filler (like most things on WWE programming). The Road to Wrestlemania is when WWE brings out their best storylines for the year. It sets the tone for the coming year and establishes long-term feuds. I’ve grown tired of hoping WWE will deliver something spectacular and amazing. Honestly, the content has caused me to view less and less of the programming and more and more NFL. Maybe it is because I’m not WWE’s target audience or maybe it is because I’ve already seen this episode. A live show shouldn’t feel like a rerun but it does. There are no other wrestling shows to compete. Sure, Love and Hip Hop, the NFL, and Sportsceneter are competitors but WWE won’t acknowledge them (unless they beat them and can put it up in their RAW Trivia banner). Solid 2s will be the norm and the company will continue to have the show revolve around the McMahons and other non-wrestling personalities.

Until there is a legit wrestling threat, McMahon won’t change. WWE needs to have another company come up and take viewers, sponsors, and talent away from them. This is when they seem to put out their best content. It worked with ECW, and WCW. When TNA faced RAW, head to head, WWE brought back Bret Hart for the first time. The nostalgia effect has worn off. We need something fresh and new…and not cheesy. Tag matches are a cheap way of getting the most people on TV at a time yet they offer the least amount of time to build individuals and their feuds. Maybe 2017 will be WWE’s turnaround year but I won’t hold my breath.

Thanks for reading and please comment below!

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