With more than 6 hours of Raw in the books from the last two weeks, the jury’s still out on the impact of the show moving to three hours on a permanent basis. Given the significance of Raw 1000 and 1001, we haven’t exactly been provided with sufficient evidence to present a clear picture of the future run of the mill programming. Nevertheless, the potential pitfalls and benefits of the extra hour slowly have begun to float to the surface.
Without question, the small sample size has shown that one of the biggest fears permeating the wrestling community may come to fruition. It goes without saying that two hours of Raw often felt like an eternity on too many occasions. Unfortunately, even with the level of buzz surrounding the past two Mondays, the amount of mindless filler needed to round out a full 3 hours has been painfully apparent.
This is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the last two weeks of Raw…However, if the combination of Raw 1,001 and Summerslam preparation yields multiple segments containing identical footage from the prior week, I can’t help but fear that a random Raw in mid-October will resemble a shameless Sitcom clip show.
On the other hand, this week’s Raw in particular spotlighted one of the major positive aspects associated with an expanded time slot. Tyson Kidd continued to build a presence, the tag division was spotlighted, and Damien Sandow once again was given a platform to show that he is a new and improved second coming of The Genius…with all respect to Lanny Poffo.
In short, the extra hour provides WWE with the opportunity to do what it has failed to accomplish in quite some time…establish young stars and rebuild divisions that have spent uncomfortably long periods of time on life support. However, in order to do so in a successful and consistently entertaining manner, I believe that WWE needs to make a slight alteration in its manner of operation…at least as it pertains to its matchmaking logic.
In my opinion, one issue that has plagued WWE for quite some time is a complete lack of organization…Simply put, Raw appears to be random all too often. Matches consistently occur with little to no prior explanation and end without significant consequences attributable to the winner or loser. While merely noticeable on a two-hour Raw, such continuous spontaneity over the course of three hours begins to give off an air of dysfunction.
I’ve been watching the WWF/E long enough to understand that Vince McMahon prefers well-executed personal feuds rather than purely logical, achievement-based contests. To an extent, this is perfectly understandable…entertainment certainly trumps in-ring success when the outcomes are predetermined. However, I say that this makes sense only to an extent because WWE continues to premise its product on wrestling…As such, failing to utilize in-ring outcomes to create and propel storylines is an unmistakable gaff.
I see the advent of 3-hour Raws as a tailor-made opportunity to rectify this situation. First and foremost, I was thrilled to hear the news that WWE planned to feature the Intercontinental Title significantly as a result of the new format. This Title simply has too much prestige associated with it to be relegated to the dustbin of history.
While it will be great to see the IC Title defended regularly on Raw, I think the concept can be taken a step further. Why not create a Bound-for-Glory-esque series on a monthly basis with the winner being awarded a title shot at that month’s PPV and the top half of the competitors rolling over to the next month…such a scenario would provide significant exposure to a forgotten portion of the roster, while achieving the goal of placing value on individual matches.
In order to insert a level of drama and animus, the champion would be present for commentary throughout many of the matches. In addition to providing a practical opportunity to engage the front-runners of that month’s contest, this presence also would provide a platform for the champion to engage the audience on a consistent basis…exposure that desperately is needed both to sell the Title as an appropriate stepping stone and the champion as an individual worthy of taking that step.
In particular, the Miz would benefit from such a setup as an IC Title run with that level of exposure is the kind of jump start that could reinvigorate a sputtering on-screen persona. The Miz has the charisma to carry this load for many months, potentially leaving him ready, willing, and able to catapult back into the main event picture at a later date.
Although I hate to play fantasy booker, I genuinely believe that utilizing the IC Title and potentially the Tag Titles in this fashion would be the perfect means to ensure that the extra hour of Raw consists of more than never-ending product placement. More importantly, this method of passing time would prove to be productive from the standpoint of FINALLY bringing back the championship prestige that many have sought…in essence, a lack of time to build these divisions no longer would be a valid excuse.
In the end, WWE never will move away fully from a purely storyline-driven system as it pertains to the main event picture. John Cena and other main event superstars require the flexibility to maneuver in and out of the WWE Title picture subject to the whims and needs of the company. In this context, a rigid achievement based system is somewhat impractical.
However, for a mid-card title best known for its ability to launch the careers of the hunters while enhancing the legacies of the hunted, the IC Title is perfectly suited to bring a sense of logical progression to the product. Should such a feat be pursued and accomplished, an extra hour of Raw may do more to enhance the product than any of us could have expected.
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