Rancid Raws, Backwards Booking & Shameless Self-Promotion
Finally, Matty J. Douglas is home from Austin, Texas! I was on vacation for about 10 days, and during my time stateside, I left wrestling alone, back home in Toronto. My vacation was to be wrestling free, and a great 10 wrestling-free days I did have (Thanks Austin, you were amazing!). Upon returning home, I find that “wrestling” like the petulant child it is, couldn’t do something cool like thwart a pair of bandits a la Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone” while I was away. No, instead they busted out some crayons and scribbled all over the walls, ate a ton of candy and puked it all up, and left the “house” looking worse than it did before I left (difficult task, so I guess I need to give the WWE some kudos for that). This is my colorful illustration, of what it felt like to come home from a great vacation, and watch the Monday Night Raw that I had waiting for me on my DVR.
In the past I have compared the WWE’s lack of consistency, nonsensical storyline shifts, and paper-thin character structure to that of cartoons, but being an avid viewer of cartoons like Adventure Time, The Legend of Korra, Regular Show and The Venture Bros, I’ve come to find that the comparison is unfair. These shows are much better structured, consistently funny and compelling, and feature more character development in a 15-minute segment of their show than the WWE does in 2+ hours on a weekly basis.
Frustrated by the abysmal July 9th Monday Night Raw (which I can only assume was written by a child), I refused to pay money, much less spend the valuable minutes of my life it would take to find a stream of it on the internet. I spent my Sunday back home catching up on Louie, The Newsroom, and watching the Season Premiere of Breaking Bad. I knew I was really mad about Raw when after I was told that Money In The Bank featured four stellar matches, I still didn’t care to watch the PPV. On principle alone, they didn’t excite me or sell me on the PPV during the build-up, therefore I refused to be disappointed I missed it. I might try to find Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk, but I have absolutely no interest in the rest of the show, regardless of how well the matches turned out.
Different fans look for different things out of the WWE. For some fans the wrestling itself is of the utmost importance, but for me the narrative is. I can deal with mediocre matches as long as the storyline is compelling and continues to move forward, building my interest towards the eventual payoff. I watch shows like Louie and Breaking Bad, because they are ambitious and compelling and are focused on telling the best story that they can. WWE has no ambition. They have no real competition, but that’s no excuse for not striving to be the best show that you can be.
The fact of the matter is, before last night it had never occurred to me that the WWE has stopped being narrative programming. Monday Night Raw at it’s best is a sketch comedy show, that spends nearly 50% of its two hour running time either being a commercial for an upcoming event, like maybe a 3-hour 1000th Raw celebration, or engaging in shameless self promotion. Not knocking them for it, it’s what their business model is. I’m simply saying that Breaking Bad doesn’t need to spend 50% of it screen time telling me how awesome it is, or that I have to watch next weeks episode while this week’s episode is still on. Other programs generally do that when they’re not on the air. In fact nearly every other serial television program lets their product speak for itself while it’s airing.
I don’t want to hate on the WWE or Monday Night Raw, but they are struggling right now to keep me interested. I want to enjoy the two hours that I spend watching Raw or any other WWE programming as much as I enjoy watching shows like Game of Thrones, Adventure Time, and The Newsroom; and there are three things that need to change to make that happen:
First, things need to be structured and make sense. If the brand extension is over, why is there a need for a different GM to be in charge of each show? Why is there a need for a World Heavyweight Championship and a WWE Championship? Or the Intercontinental and United States Championships for that matter? If everyone can be on both shows, there only needs to be one set of titles, not two. Make a clear-cut decision, either there are two brands or there are not. If there are, then make the brand separation meaningful, with no intermingling without a well-defined reason. If brand extension truly is no more, get rid of half of the titles, because quite frankly, there are too many champions.
Second, stop with the backwards booking. There is no reason why a MITB match should be more important than the WWE Championship match, much less a Ryback squash or a 6-divas tag team match. CM Punk should be main-eventing PPVs as WWE Champion. Instead John Cena has had that honor at seemingly every PPV despite not being champion for nearly a year. If being John Cena is more important that the WWE Championship, as a young superstar, I’d be aspiring to face John Cena, not win a WWE Championship. Maybe this booking is all part of a storyline, but I honestly refuse to give this creative team that much credit. The booking needs to be fixed and the WWE Championship should be respected as if it is the most important prize in the WWE narrative.
Finally, give me a character that will sincerely compel me. Give me something different. I’m sick of Alberto Del Rio (and let’s be honest, Ricardo is the most entertaining part of his shtick, has been from the beginning if you ask me), I’m sick of John Cena, I’m sick of the same characters all the time. Cocky Heels vs. Smiling, Good Natured Babyfaces just doesn’t cut it anymore. Give me a character with some nuance, something to get excited about. Give me a babyface Dolph Ziggler, who desperately wants to be viewed as a heel, despite getting babyface pops. Each week he would do “heelish” things to get the crowd to hate him, but end up getting the crowd to cheer for him through his actions, to his chagrin. That character would seem fresh and be fun to watch on a weekly basis. Hell, bring in Dean Ambrose finally to jump start things on WWE TV. I just want something fresh, rather than the same old, cookie cutter characters I’ve been watching for weeks.
There you have it, but I want to know what you think? Does the WWE’s backwards booking bother you? Are you tired of the shameless self-promotion? Should we hold WWE programming to the same high standards that we hold shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men?
Until next time, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying thank you again to Austin, Texas for a very fun and exciting vacation. I can’t wait to go back! I also can’t wait for next week’s Breaking Bad… or The Dark Knight Rises on Thursday night. It’s going to be a pretty fantastic week!