by Luke Raven (@ravenluke)
We wrestling fans are a fickle bunch. With the advent of the internet age we have morphed into what many see as wannabe, know-it-all, keyboard warriors. We watch a product we claim to love while simultaneously complain and rip it apart. However, wrestling fans are not unique in our love/hate relationship of a product no matter how certain WWE/TNA personnel feel. I’m looking at you Roman Reigns and Bob Ryder. Fans of sports, movies, television, comic books, and many others share a similar bittersweet feelings to that which they hold close. Bitching and complaining only means so much before you have to do something about it.
Monday Night Raw has been at the forefront of television wrestling for over two decades. We’ve experienced many ups and downs. While at the peak we breathed in the clean air and thought it would last forever. Much like Icarus we flew too close to the sun and have begun our sudden fall back to Earth. There has not been a boom period for WWE in quite some time. There have been a few bright spots like John Cena, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and a few others since the PG era began what feels like an eternity ago. For each CM Punk “pipebomb” there have been dozens of “Old Day” type segments. Groan-worthy minutes of television where wrestlers are not wrestling; they’re acting. I have no problem with this, but when you take wrestlers who can’t act and give them material that Daniel Day Lewis couldn’t make interesting then it makes for an unwatchable product.
It’s not just the material either. Let me break down how much WWE someone like myself watches this week alone. Four hours of Hell in a Cell this past Sunday, 3 ½ hours of Raw (including post show), 2 ½ hours of Smackdown Live (including post show), and one hour of NXT. That’s ELEVEN HOURS of wrestling just through Wednesday. A few months ago there was another hour added on when the Cruiserweight Classic was running, and now we will soon be getting 205 Live. These are just the weekly wrestling shows. This doesn’t include the one or two times a week I get a wild hair up my ass to watch old wrestling or something like Table for Three. This, however, has become less frequent as of late.
Smackdown Live has been fun. It’s two hours, features some of the best workers, and accentuates the strengths of the talent while hiding their weaknesses all while seeming fresh each week. NXT is going through a transition of introducing a lot of new talent within the last few months. Right now they have the Dusty Classic going while Nakamura and Joe keep the NXT title as the main focus. Don’t get me wrong, when things are good I watch it all gleefully within inches of my television. That’s the problem though. Not everything has been good or even tolerable.
The past few years have been a very simple routine. I sit down at 7PM with my dinner and a beer. I am with my fiancé and our pets. I settle in and begin to watch Monday Night Raw. This was a show I so enthusiastically watched with wonderment as a child. As an adult I still watch it, but I have grown cynical. During the show I eat, drink, bitch, tweet, drink more, become annoyed, then when it is over I feel like I’ve been repeatedly kicked in the groin. After years of this I decided I could take one night off to go do something different.
I did not watch Raw live this past Monday night as my aforementioned fiancé and I decided to go see one of my favorite movies, Rocky Horror Picture Show, in the theater near our house. (Writer’s note: If you’ve never seen Rocky Horror you should remedy that then find the nearest theater that it’s still showing in. Then go there and be prepared to have an incredibly fun and unique experience.) It was odd not watching something I rarely miss each Monday. When I got back home I settled in to watch Raw on my DVR. I found myself groaning that I had to watch it. I felt like I was 10-years-old and my parents were making me do my science homework that I had been putting off. I actually texted Dustin asking, “Should I go back and watch anything [from Raw]?” His response was, “No. Nothing.” I laughed and decided to give it a quick look. What I saw was the same bull shit that I’ve seen for years: nonsensical promos, no logic, little wrestling, annoying commentary, and one segment worth watching.
This has been the formula for mediocrity that WWE has implemented for years. They have essentially stopped trying to be a good television show. They are simply trying to maximize profits by sticking at 3 hours and remaining PG. I am not shaming WWE for this. They are a major business. They are attempting to completely monopolize not only the wrestling scene, but all entertainment consumption. In doing so there will almost certainly be an oversaturation of a stale product which will (or possibly already has) lead to a decline in viewership of not only live TV, but the Network as well. Look at what is happening to the NFL and ESPN, for example.
I’m not here to go through the numbers and project the future. I am here to announce I am jumping off the Monday Night Raw bandwagon. I can no longer watch a show that I no longer enjoy. Please do not misconstrue this as my hatred for WWE. They still put out a lot of good content. The problem is the majority of it is not on their most watched program. I will continue to watch Smackdown Live, Smackdown PPV’s, NXT, and co-branded PPV’s. What I intend to do from here is take those 3+ hours on Mondays and once a month on Sundays to other areas of wrestling. I will watch, post, and write more about promotions I enjoy each week like New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, Insane Championship Wrestling, and whatever else I can get my hands on. I might even subscribe to FloSlam to watch some promotions I’ve never seen before.
I’m not asking anyone to join me. This is not a revolution. This is not a protest. I am not asking anyone to get #CancelYourWWENetwork trending. No one should come jumping off this bridge unless they want to, although I will say it’s a sturdy bridge with very deep water. What I am doing is simply self-exploration in the form of wrestling fandom. I want to enjoy my Monday nights again. I hope you do too because consuming something too raw will leave you sick.