Just about a month ago, RAW quietly celebrated another milestone for “the longest running weekly episodic show on television”. That is, RAW has been a three hour affair for a year now. I wasn’t a fan of it then, but figured it’s worth re-examining to see if a year has changed my opinion of it.
The short answer? No, it hasn’t. I remember when WCW Nitro was a three hour deal on Mondays and RAW was two hours (and not always live). The benefit was I watched an hour of Nitro, then generally stuck to RAW, and counted on catching the Nitro replay at 11. Sometimes, if one show was offering compelling matchups that Monday, my remote may have gotten a workout-I was, after all, a huge ECW mark, and back then WCW had paid out for a majority of ECW names-Benoit, Guerrero, Jericho, Saturn, Raven et al.
Nowadays though? No Nitro, no competing product to challenge Vince and company. Its very predictable that the big stuff generally happens at 8, 9, 10 and 11. Filler between the top and bottom of the hour-if you skip those middle chunks, sometimes you miss something but not often. Does Vince have the talent to fill three hours of live TV every week? Absolutely. The roster is in decent enough shape that putting on a three hour show week in and week out should not be daunting, but as noted above, I tend to pick my spots if need be or multitask. Heading into football season, you know there will be channel flippers too. But I think the three hour format could be done better and generate interest.
WWE has a good deal of programming now, but what would be so bad about having an NXT highlight match on RAW every Monday? For every fan who watches RAW and NXT, there are probably quite a few more who watch RAW but skip NXT completely. Providing a look at some fresh young talent in the 8pm hour would be a good use of time. Highlight some other main roster stars who otherwise don’t always get the shot they deserve.
Or, why not open the show with a “remember when” type match-air something out of the vault, be it a classic WWE match or WCW match or really anything they own rights to. Maybe not every week, but even if its one or two a month. Let the younger viewers have a glimpse into wrestling’s past, it would not be a bad thing.
What I would really love to see? As crazy as it sounds, given that I think there are perhaps too many title belts flying around right now, I would love to see a resurrection of the TV title or Cruiserweight title (or convert the US title to that role). And, have that defended every week on live TV, like the TV belts were with ECW and WCW.
What I’d want to see less of? Vignettes and clear fluff. Don’t get me wrong, when done right some vignettes work great-the recent Wyatt vignettes were a perfect example. But when you see huge chunks of time absorbed by vignettes, reminding viewers what happened last week or letting interview segments run on too long (when not letting other superstars speak at all), it makes you crave better time management. For a three hour show, figure theres about 44 minutes of TV time and 16 minutes of commercials-not counting the five to ten minute overrun. That’s rougly 2 hours of actual programming time. Of that, the large majority should get back to highlighting the wrestling.
Will this happen? Probably not. That the three hour RAW has lasted over a year already tells me WWE is satisfied and sees no urgent reason to adjust or alter the strategy. But I would love to see them tweak things just a bit here and there. The three hour RAW, as it stands, does not keep me glued to the set like the two hour RAWs of old have. With a few changes or additions to the three hour format, it could really build up RAW into something bigger and better than ever.