In his first piece for ZWrestleTalk, Marc Madison discusses if loading up WWE RAW is the answer. As SmackDown Live dominates the creative scene of WWE.
The names that are on the WWE Raw brand certainly suggest that it is a rather rich brand. Smackdown Live also appears to have a fairly competitive roster with a great deal of talent. When one looks at the names that are suggested to go to Raw in 2017, it suggests that they really want to create a roster with depth and options. However, if there is an issue with Raw, it is that the storytelling has been suspect to say the least. What they more than likely want to ensure moving forward is that they provide enough surprises for fans to look forward to, and with many potential combinations for feuds as well.
A concern, however, is that regardless of who may be added, are these additional male and female wrestlers what the brand needs to succeed? If we consider names such as Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura, who are rumored to be moving up, along with the possibility of Kenny Omega coming in from New Japan Pro Wrestling, it's hard to see why they would be moved up, and which brand they would be a part of. While depth is always a good quality to have, they really aren't short on talent. Consider that they have an entire Cruiserweight division that isn't being used very well. Is more the way to go, or can they achieve more with less much like Smackdown Live?
Yes, it's what they need to put on an entertaining program weekly.
Time is money, and when you are a multi-billion dollar promotion you realize that the more time lost, likely the more money lost as well. Are we suggesting that the WWE is losing money because Raw is poorly written? That isn't necessarily the case; if the company is losing money it could be because of a lack of content available. The idea of adding more talent may be good in theory, but does that mean it would be the best option? Samoa Joe vs Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe vs. Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Seth Rollins, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Chris Jericho. Chris Jericho vs. Finn Balor. Those are some potentially very exciting matches that appear to be on the cusp of happening. Would fans be more likely to watch a program that involves the names included above? They very well may be.
A rich talent pool sets up a number of promotional and marketing possibilities. As seen by the company's ability to elevate NXT in Japan by having Shinsuke Nakamura re-capture the NXT championship there by defeating Samoa Joe, the build and long-term booking worked, as a victorious hometown talent brings in more money. Strengthening the Raw brand overseas is also an important goal.
A deeper roster also means that the mid-card can be strengthened, and the United States Championship will regain the value given to it when John Cena held it, not to mention its prominence in the NWA, and later WCW. While those years are behind us, it could still be booked in a way that it has real value. While the Intercontinental Title has featured in notable programs on Smackdown Live, the US Championship hasn't appeared to be as valued, regardless of whether it was Rusev or Reigns holding the title. During Rusev's previous reign as champion, the booking of having the anti-American capture the title worked. In his second reign it was held with less regard, which is unfortunate.
There are certainly pros for having a deeper roster, as it could get the company out of the dull rut that the program appears to be in. The on-screen leadership has been a focal point, and hasn't evolved into allowing the performers to be the focal point of storylines. Too often either Mick Foley or Stephanie McMahon has to come out and intervene in either a match that is still to come or has happened. While Mick Foley often is there to fight on the side of good, and wants to see the most made of an opportunity, at times it feels like filler. Would a deeper roster reduce the need for on-screen leadership? It's very possible that a deep pool of talent will eliminate the on-going problem of having much of the time spent on non-in-ring performers.
No, it isn't the best choice.
With a three hour program, the easy decision is to add more performers. However, the concern with adding more is that somewhere along the line something will get lost. Talent will simply be shuffled around with little to no direction, and when they are given screen time, there isn't any ultimate pay off for them. For example, how long have fans clamoured to have Neville included in the Cruiserweight division, or have Sami Zayn booked regularly, so the rest of the world can see what fans in NXT were fortunate to see?
An even deeper roster would run the risk that the talent already there would have even less direction, and even less reason for fans to invest time and energy in wanting to see them succeed. When Sami Zayn was able to last ten minutes with Braun Strowman, we were hopeful that it meant that he would move on to ultimately defeating Strowman by pinfall. However, once Strowman was able to get his hands on Zayn, the result was a storyline where Zayn was incapacitated and out of action. It took months for something of meaning to come Sami's way after his feud with Kevin Owens came to an end. One would think it would take even longer if someone else was booked in Zayn's place. As it stands, Zayn is already struggling to find a sustainable storyline.
While it would be nice to have a Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura or Kenny Omega as a part of the main roster that is just a gut reaction. What they really need to do is write more effective and convincing storylines to engage their audience. Tales of retribution and revenge, where things become personal, and fewer things that are unrealistic; they need to stick to the same formula. There has been too much ‘Heel leader laying down demands and employees need to follow.' There needs to be more self deprecating characteristics coming from Stephanie McMahon, and non-performers should be more in the background rather than at the forefront.
Several fans that enjoy Enzo and Cass may be a little off put by some of their antics, especially with how they are being presented as good guys when what they are doing at times is actually quite concerning. The Lana/Rusev storyline involving Big Cass and Enzo wasEnzo was supposed to help who exactly? It may have been intended to help Enzo and Cass and create a bit of a level playing field between Rusev and Big Cass, but when we get down to the bare bones of it, one man propositioned another man's wife. Regardless of whether it was a trap or not, the message sent really doesn't speak well for how the writers are trying to get attention.
A stockpiled group of talent is a bandage solution to an otherwise longstanding problem that Triple H has often discussed. The third hour of Raw is the hardest to program. It may not even be their fault, really. An overly long three-hour program will have high and low points. Despite financially being the best option for them, it suffers a great deal critically. Since it doesn't appear the third hour will be going away any time soon, we need to realize that it is that third hour that needs to be the show's crescendo. It really needs to pull the story together, whether through backstage segments, interviews or matches. There needs to be a reason to watch.
The writing on Smackdown Live has proven time and time again to be much better than the writing on Raw. While we could argue that the length the show could also affect its ratings, if there was much more passion tied to the storylines, then we would more likely be drawn to want to watch it. On the whole, Raw has lost steam, whether it is due to their own writing, injuries, or the amount of pressure to match past success. While it is hard to feel sorry for entertainment, fans don't want to see it fail. At one time, Raw was the must-see program, and wants to reclaim its place once again.
For years, Smackdown faced the fate of being simply a recap show, where matches that took place on Monday were simply repeated on Thursday. While that maintained storylines, it wasn't the most compelling or interesting wrestling program that WWE put on. They have seen the other side, and failure has a sour taste. The writing was meant to continue storylines rather than generate their own
Fans should want to check into Raw each week, but are less inclined to do so because there is little to no reason if the sequence is the same and the story being told doesn't evolve. Too often the champion loses a non-title match and squeaks by when it counts. That doesn't do him/her or the story being told any benefit. While a deeper roster could potentially provide some complexity to the cast of characters, it ultimately won't improve if how they are used doesn't reflect the emotion conveyed inside the ring. As 2017 has arrived, so has the opportunity to create a whole new perspective on Raw. The question remaining, however, is will that outlook be positive, or will they continue to spin their wheels?
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Creator of ZWrestleTalk. This page I give you my thoughts on the current state of the WWE product. I look back at the history of WWE. Sometimes even predict the future. If your lucky you get comedic articles too.