Friday 20 July 2012

The Third Hour

The first 999 episodes are finally out of the way. From Monday night we'll be enjoying the four-digit, three hour version of everybody’s favourite Monday night wrestling show.
WWE has assured us, via head gasbag Michael Cole, that RAW will be "the most interactive show on television." That may well turn out to be true, mainly because there aren't that many shows boasting huge amounts of interactivity on any channel in the world.
That's because the concept is not new. I grew up in the 80s and there were many call-in shows aimed at kids available on weekends. I'd say calling in is "interacting." Such shows are still commonplace today.
Even if RAW does become the world's premier interactive show, is that what wrestling fans want from a wrestling show? Not really. Most of us would rather have good wrestling.
The trouble is that WWE hates being seen as a wrestling company. It's a vanity thing. Vince McMahon wants to prove he can succeed in other areas. He can't. The WBF, the XFL, WWE Studios and the various other side projects he’s embarked on, seemingly at random, over the last couple of decades prove that. If the company concentrated on keeping wrestling fans happy by giving us slightly lengthier matches and the blend of storylines that has become their staple then they'd be heading in the right direction.

In theory three hours of RAW could be a useful tool for introducing new acts and granting more time to currently underutilised ones. The Diva, tag team and mid-card divisions could all make use of more air time. With a bit of work these areas could become relevant parts of WWE’s programming again.

John Cena and CM Punk will clash for the WWE championship on the 1,000th episode of RAW
The concern at the moment is that the writing team does not have enough material to fill three hours on a Monday night. They're having trouble writing two hours of RAW and two of SmackDown as it is. A third live hour is going to add more pressure, not help alleviate it. It seems to be a case of WWE choosing quantity over quality.
The inaugural three hour show should be fine. The promotion has done a good job of preparing for the 1,000th episode. There's a WWE title match between two of the company's biggest stars, a storyline wedding between wrestling's most over female performer and one of the biggest surprise success stories to hit WWE in years, the payoff to Heath Slater's legends feud, the announcement of a new GM, the reunion of D-Generation X (who are only ever referred to as DX these days, perhaps because of WWE’s PG rating), and the first appearance of Brock Lesnar on WWE television since the April 30th RAW.
That's a stacked show. But what's lined up for show 1,001? Presumably WWE will use the increased viewership to launch a big summer angle on the milestone show on July 23rd, similar to last year's Summer of Punk II and 2010's NXT invasion.
Whatever this turns out to be it will have a limited run-time and, if the last two years are anything to go by, will be chronically bungled within a month. A shocking angle may attract viewers to show 1,001 but it won't keep them tuning in indefinitely. If WWE wants to make three hour, interactive RAWs work they're going to need to be very smart in the way they handle the new aspects of the show and very quick creating new stars to fill out the card.

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