by Kevin D’Hooge
Raw needs to drop its third hour. Yes, this Monday’s show was one of the best of the year in my opinion, but watchable episodes of Raw have just been too far and few between.
It is rumored that this Monday’s episode was a desperation show, meaning that all the big stunts were pulled to draw ratings: the show featured Brock Lesnar, Stephanie McMahon, three NXT divas, and placed a large focus of its 3 hours on meaningful storylines and juicy matches. Regardless, Raw could not make a dent on its viewers; the show had the second lowest ratings of the year. It could be too little too late. The show has really been floundering in viewership over the last few months.
Raw tacked on an additional hour on July 23, 2012, its 1000th episode. It’s been nearly three years to the day. What does WWE have to show for it? Well their executives are making more money from advertisements, added screen time, and more rights fees.
Raw has seemingly turned more into a variety show and a marketer’s paradise. Just check this reddit post about how all three hours in a 2014 episode of Raw were divvied up. The extra hour of Raw almost does nothing for the viewer. A general episode contains on average 45 minutes of actual commercials and about an additional 15 minutes of WWE advertisements. The rest of the show is split between talking and believe it or not, once in a while, they have actual matches.
A show formatted like this only serves to benefit the executives. Now, seemingly more so than ever, superstars are given less time to establish their characters and prove what they can do in the ring. How is this even possible? WWE’s best years all took place in an era with only 2 hours to work with every Monday (and Thursday/Friday for Smackdown for that matter). The Attitude Era and subsequent Ruthless Aggression era pumped out entertaining programs that allowed the superstars to thrive.
Taking on an extra hour of Raw is a difficult task for creative. It’s hard enough entertaining an audience for one hour. It’s certainly an unenviable scenario to be in, but WWE executives wanted the extra hour to begin with. It has certainly raised their income, but ratings are dropping quick and fan backlash is increasing.
Vince McMahon himself told Stone Cold on his podcast that putting together 3 hours of television is difficult, but he wants to continue regardless. Here are words of advice Vince: go back to 2 hours.
Have Raw start at 9:00. 9-11pm have traditionally been the highest rated portions of Raw. I still think three hour episodes should exist, but only on special occasions. A three hour show before the PPV is perfectly acceptable. A three hour show for special occasions like The Slammy’s or to introduce an honorary guest/hold a debut is fine too. If there are stories and matches deserving of it, yes give us three hours.
If you can’t come up with a show that can entertain an audience for three hours, cut an hour. If it comes to Wiz Khalifa or Machine Gun Kelly having to perform and take up time, you might want to cancel the show for the whole night. I’m sure USA won’t mind if WWE has uneven time slots; USA has plenty of reruns of Suits and Burn Notice to air in Raw’s place.
WWE needs to perfect 2 hours of Raw before it can continue masquerading its lack of creativity in 3 befuddled hours of frustrating programming. If this Monday was any indicator, Raw can definitely entertain over the course of 3 hours, but can they do it on a regular basis? If they plan on remaining on the air and gaining viewers, they’ll have to treat every episode like a do or die episode. I still say they should go back to the 9-11 schedule and keep three hour episodes for ones that deserve it.