The July 23, 2012 edition of WWE Monday Night Raw was going to be a historic event even before Thursday's big announcement. That's because July 23rd will mark the 1,000th episode of Raw. What would they do to celebrate? I figured it would be a three hour edition of Raw, but that only turned out to be part of the big news. We got our answer at 4:34pmET in a tweet from @JohnCena in all caps no less:
STARTING Monday Night July 23 @USA_NETWORK WILL BE ADDING A 3RD HOUR TO @WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW - PERMANENTLY. #3hourRaw
Since May 2009, I've reviewed every episode of WWE Raw. It's been an interesting three years because the first year gave us a lot of bad shows thanks to an endless array of "guest hosts" that got way too much screen time. Summerfest anyone? In 2010 things got a bit better because guest hosts stopped being booked, but it wasn't a great year for WWE all things considered. Last year was an upgrade in terms of better PPVs, better stories and usually better episodes of Raw too. Having The Rock back, even as a part timer, certainly helped. This year's been okay as evidenced by my average rating of Raw being around a 6 out of 10.
Raw is not a great show every week. It's above average, though. It's also appointment viewing for a lot of wrestling fans although not at the level it was during the Attitude Era from 1998 to 2001. The ratings tell that story. Despite the show not being at the Attitude Era ratings level, it's still one of the highest rated shows on cable television. If it wasn't, would USA Network commit to adding another of weekly programming to Raw? Of course not. Make no mistake about it, WWE is a very healthy organization that makes money every year. If this fails for whatever reason then in six months or a year they can always go back to the two hour format. This isn't a make or break move.
With all of that said, I've come up with three pros (good things) and three cons (bad things) as a result of this move to the three hour Raw format.
Pros - More opportunities for wrestlers to get TV time
Every so often I get people asking me who I think is going to get forward when WWE makes cuts. I never know what to say other than if a wrestler isn't on Raw or Smackdown regularly then they're probably in danger of being cut. By doing an extra hour of Raw every week, that means more people will be at the tapings and hopefully more of them will not only get to be on every week, but those that may have appeared in danger of losing their jobs will be able to keep them going forward.
The current roster has over 70 performers on Raw and Smackdown. If you add in the talent that appears exclusively on NXT (including the new version that involves FCW) then that total nearly reaches 100 people. There's talent all over the place. There isn't always room for them on the shows, though. With an added hour of Raw, perhaps this will allow them that opportunity to shine on the flagship show of WWE.
Pros - The development of the midcard characters
This is a big one in my eyes. The Raw midcard these days consists of very few Raw performers that barely get any promo time while throwing them in tag matches or having them lose to make the directionless Brodus Clay look good. There are also the Smackdown performers that appear on the show that usually take up the spots that would have gone to the midcarders before the "Supershow" format took over last year.
The three male secondary titles (Intercontinental, US & Tag) are all poorly booked these days. While I have hope for the tag division with the additions of new teams on both Raw and Smackdown, I have concern for the other two. There's not much of a division. Rhodes had that feud with Big Show that went on for too long while Santino has had no real feuds since winning the US Title. The more important titles appear to be on Raw, the more the matches on PPVs will mean. It's not hard to book secondary titles in a good way. The question is do they want to make those titles seem important? I hope the answer to that is yes.
Pros - Attention given to the divas division
I really hope this happens. Generally speaking, the divas matches on both Raw and Smackdown are generally short. Most weeks, the actual matches get maybe two minutes at the most with three minutes being rare. Now that they have an extra hour of content every week, perhaps that could lead to an increase in screen time for the girls. Not only do they need more time in the ring, but they need to be better developed as characters. Why should we cheer for Layla? She was a heel before. She has a heel theme song. She hasn't spoke one word to the live audience. Sorry but WWE.com videos don't count. We need to be given reasons to cheer or boo these women.
Hopefully a returning Kharma will be a spark to the division as well. If you use her wisely and throw talented divas like Beth Phoenix and Natalya into the mix then the division could be a useful part of the company. It was before in the early to mid 2000s. It can be again. The addition of an extra hour could open some doors for the women that weren't there before. And if not, at least Eve isn't wrestling and looking hot in those business suits. Am I right?
Cons - Quality of three hour Raws are not generally better than two hour episodes
As mentioned, I've reviewed every Raw for three years. In the last year or so, every time a three hour Raw is upon us I usually complain about it because they are usually a below average show. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I know it to be true. What usually happens in a three hour episode is even more time is given to the top guys, even more video packages are run showcasing the same things multiple times (remember how many times they showed the Lesnar video?) and it doesn't necessarily mean the show is better. It's up to the creative team to be smart enough to realize you need different people on Raw instead of putting the same people in even more scenes. When that happens characters tend to get overexposed, they lose whatever momentum they used to have and it doesn't help anybody in the long run.
The way these three hour Raws are booked are crucial. The best way to book them is to use the first hour to build up things that will happen in the second and third hours, which is when the audience will be more used to key stories being told. From September to December, they can also use the first hour for big angles since NFL games start at 8:30pmET on ESPN and it will allow WWE to get a thirty minute jump on the competition (NFL destroys WWE on Monday night ratings and always will because NFL is the biggest sport in America). The point remains that the better the show is, the more people will watch. It's up to Vince McMahon, Triple H, the creative team and the performers to ensure that we get their best efforts every week.
Cons - Fans remember WCW Nitro going to three hours
In January 1998, WCW expanded Monday Nitro from two hours to three hours. They also added another weekly first run television show called Thunder on Thursday nights. Within a few months, thanks to the extremely hot Austin/McMahon feud, WWE passed them in the ratings and by the time 1999 got here they never looked back. Three years after WCW went to the three hour Nitro format, WWE bought them out and WCW died. I would argue that the three hour Nitro is not the biggest reason why WCW died.
The main reason it died was because of the lack of new stars, the inability of top guys past their prime to have lesser roles on the show and there being too many people having authority on what makes it on the television show. Most fans will point to three hour Nitro's as a big reason and I don't blame them for doing it. I just think there were other, bigger reasons for the company's rapid decline. The point is that with Raw going to three hours, fans are going to point to Nitro's downfall after they went three hours as well. As a company, WWE is much stronger than WCW was and are clearly run by competent people who have built an empire that has lasted generations. Let's just hope they learn from the mistakes of their former competitor.
Cons - This move could hurt Smackdown
The ratings for Friday Night Smackdown have been pretty consistent since the show moved to the Syfy network. When they've done live Tuesday specials the ratings have been okay, but not encouraging enough to permanently move the show to Tuesdays. Even though it airs taped on the worst TV weeknight, WWE and Syfy are pleased with the viewers they have. The biggest thing that can hurt Smackdown is an oversaturation of WWE's product.
Think about what it will be like on a PPV week. You'll have a three hour PPV on Sunday, a three hour Raw on Monday and then two hours of Smackdown on Friday. That will be eight hours of WWE programming for 12 weeks in the year. It might cause some fans to tune out the product simply because there's too much of it. I'm one of those people that likes Smackdown. If I'm not home on a Friday, I DVR it and watch it Saturday morning. It's usually a wrestling heavy show. It looks different than Raw. It feels different than Raw. The problem is, a lot of people already miss it because of the day it airs and because they can only take so much WWE in a week. I get that. Two hours a week is enough for most people. The potential of five hours is a lot and eight hours once a month might be asking too much out of the viewers. I hope that Smackdown remains a consistently good show because it's important for the health of the company. However, now that there is another hour of Raw on the docket that could affect the importance of the "B" show.
I'm leaning more toward the pros than I am the cons because I like to think of myself as a positive minded wrestling fan that wants good things to happen in the business for all involved. I'm hoping for the best.
It's a move with some risk, but in my opinion the potential reward far outweighs whatever negative feelings there may be. If this works and it improves the midcard roster, which in turn builds main eventers for the future then ultimately that is something that is beneficial to management, the wrestlers and most importantly to the loyal fans of World of Wrestling Entertainment.
Reactions from the World of Twitter
After the news broke, I took to my Twitter (@johnreport) following the big news and asked my followers if Raw going three hours was a good or bad thing. It should be pointed out that #3hourRaw was trending on Twitter, so I'm sure WWE was happy about that too. Here are some of those replies.
@JasonRogers1978 So we get one more hour of crying, corny jokes, and long drawn out hhh/cena/laurinaitis promos to start and end shows? Ratings gold.
@JakeGthetruth Let's keep our fingers crossed that they will use the new hour the best they can with it. Maybe we can see more superstars.
@XaosZaleski It could lead to the hiring of someone new and fresh. I think it'll be rough for a couple weeks, then be like normal Raw.
@Jem_Racing wwe can't write a decent show when the 3 hour shows come around once in a while. How will they cope with every week? Not impressed
@MarkRigney1979 They could leave the writing the same length but just have longer "wrestling matches" nobody would be against it then #3hourRaw
@GarrySage Maybe more @HEELZiggler?? That's good though!
@BellyBillboard I'm afraid it will mean more corporate crap and commercials instead of in ring action though.
@mvp486 I'm not sure creative can fill 3 hours and make it actually entertaining. #3HourRaw
@thedashingdon No it means 1 and a half hours of other wrestlers and the other on whatever John Cenas doing + his promos
@dcrum26 3 hours hurt nitro IMO. I know there were much bigger problems. But I think it watered the show down worse.
@HugoBoss_87 It's probably gonna be an hour of filler then 2 hours of usual stuff. First hour will be interactive & dictate rest of the show.
@_ronarch If they let wrestling matches get time instead of lame backstage segments and filler vid packages, then maybe good.
@LucasHayes 2 hours have been way to painful the past two weeks. One more hour could have me taking a bath with the toaster.
@marcyoung54 Exactly more time for Cody and more importantly awesome one!
@FrozenStupid Not only the mid card but could this potentially help new indie guys and give them better exposure?
@KilkusRules 3hr show that needlessly put on PPV "quality" matches on a weekly basis? Yeah, because that worked so well for Nitro in the 90s.
@tedaquilino More Big Johnny and his People Power or Cena's college humor? No thanks.
@Mr_Davies2012 One negative thing about permanent 3 hour RAW's in my opinion is it devalues PPV's that are supposed to be 'special.'
@Commodity_Bull Think it's good if the pacing of the shows can improve. Otherwise just a waste.
@Mofoticon Foolish idea. On one hand, getting more talent TV time is good. On the other, we'll get the same videos over and over #3hourraw
@realpatthebaker I would like to think the guys and gals would get more time but I'm not holding my breath. Expect even longer Cena segments.
@Jai_ It confuses me that people already think its good/bad. It really depends on how the hour is used isn't it? #3hourRaw
@emmrichr84 If they are really ready to start pushing a lot of the FCW talent, this can only be good right?
@codybiddy I think it's a terrible idea. I've learned to not be optimistic about #WWE
@Spirezilla It could go either way, could help develop the midcard, but then it could allow more crap/celebrities TV time.
@galjduk1 As a UK viewer that stays up until 4am then goes to work the next day, it isn't ideal shall we say. Good for US though.
@BrettJager It could be very good, but I think we all know it will inevitably go wrong.
@RCJ13 Fixing the divas has to be an organized decision. There has been no evidence of better diva booking.
@ROREO93 There will be way to many commercials which means I will never watch it live.
@King12String Could fit more midcard & enhance angles,but if they use that time for filler and skits 3 hours could feel like 5.
@LukeTheMorgz It'll be good if done well, if it's like 98% of their other 3 hour RAW's.....it'll be bad.
@AllenOutraged If they dont make meaningful feuds for ic, us, divas, and tag titles then it will be a bust. Its the only thing that makes sense.
@BellmanGooner Great. More time for storytelling, better build for ppv matches, and hopefully more in-ring time.
@BigDippa23 Maybe they can develop some talent that doesn't included months of squashes... Including the diva division. Fingers crossed.
@rave1411 I'm all for an extra hour of raw, providing they utilise it properly and give time for upcoming stars to develop. #dolphziggler
@jmuttersomethin I'd be more excited if I could remember a 3 hour raw that I didn't get tired of at 945. I bet it lasts a month before they change it back.
@dayman1983 Bad! They have a hard enough time with the 2 hours. Plus they're going to eat up time with recaps of 1st hour anyways.
@datbronzecat #3hourraw just gives me more incentive to DVR it and FF through the BS... This is good.
@bdc038 The only way a #3hourRAW will work is if they use it to properly develop their lower and midcard talent.
@belfastsbatman I wish your sanity the best in it future endeavors. 3 hours of raw every week. 3 hour Raws are a terrible idea.
@justdomino I'm hoping the #3hourRaw will let them build their midcard and hopefully strengthen their under-appreciated titles!
@Josh_Lyon1982 The only way to benefit from a #3hourraw is to cancel Smackdown and move everyone to one show.
@topecgaheel If it's used to promote and grow the midcard and tag divisions then I'm all for it, but I fear that might not be the case.
As you can see, there are a lot of different opinions there. I think it's fair to take a wait and see approach. I'm hoping for the best. After all, I review it every week and want it to be a good show on a regular basis.
There are still two more months until we get there, though. In the short term, I'll be back after Smackdown with the Over The Limit PPV preview (it will likely be posted Saturday AM), live on Sunday with the Over The Limit recap and then live again on Monday with the Raw Deal column.
John Canton - firstname.lastname@example.org
My personal 10+ year column archive TJR Column Archive