The fact that Monday Night Raw airs every week for three hours isn’t a big deal. Most NFL games run at least that, and most MLB baseball games run longer. In the instance of both, one could argue that depending on what team you’re into, the weekly (or daily) installment of those games can be much more disappointing than even the worst episode of Raw.
So, set aside any discussion about the length of Raw, because it’s not an issue. The issue is, that the show’s writing is bad, and a big part of that is because there doesn’t seem to be any discernible format that Raw follows after the first 20 minutes.
After last night’s public apology by the McMahons for Raw sucking, let’s take them at their word and assume it’s true we run the show.
If this is true, here’s a theory about how Raw can be fixed if the show just followed a simple format. None of these ideas are totally original, far smarter people have suggested them, and if you don’t like any of them, there’s good news. They’re just ideas. Your’s may be better.
Thankfully, we’ve had weekly three-hour wrestling shows in the past to look to for an example format to follow. Some of you may even be old enough to remember one of them. The show was called WCW Monday Nitro, and as dysfunctional as WCW was as an organization, Nitro had a distinct format the show followed each and every week.
During the first hour of Nitro, you would have the cruiserweights and the tag teams in action.
During the second hour, the NWO would show up, and then you would have all the middle-tier belts being defended like the Television and United States Championships.
And finally, in the third hour, you’d get the resolution of whatever the NWO was up to, as well as the show’s main event. Was this format perfect? No, but did it keep the show moving and maintain your interest? It sure did! And the ratings prove it.
Let’s assume the third hour of Raw is reserved for that night’s main event. What would a Nitro-like format on Raw’s first two hours look like?
First hour: put the cruiserweights back on Raw
205 Live is the best WWE show you’re not watching. But most of us can agree that sticking the cruiserweights in their own little corner doesn’t do much to advance the division, and make it an attraction that could drive new subscriptions to the WWE Network.
We’ve seen the cruiserweights on Raw before, but never really in a consistent manner, and never really presented as anything other than filler. So let’s give them the first hour to fix this, by essentially swapping out the first hour of Raw with 205 Live.
You wouldn’t have to change anything, either, to integrate the division into Raw. Drake Maverick can still be the GM of the cruiserweights, the same way Alexa is in charge of the Raw Women’s Division. You can also introduce cruiserweight tag titles. An hour is a lot of time when it comes to professional wrestling. Just look at how many storylines and threads NXT advances each week in forty-eight-minutes or less.
But, just putting the cruiserweights back on Raw doesn’t go far enough. The reason Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Psychosis, and numerous others stood out on Nitro’s first hour was because the cruiserweight division was different from what you would see on the rest of the show.
Now we have people, who could easily compete as cruiserweights (Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor), winning WWE Heavyweight championships, as they should, because they’re awesome at what they do and fun to watch.
But if people who could be cruiserweights are featured all throughout the show, what relevance does a cruiserweight division have, specifically?
As an advocate for intergender wrestling, and since this IS Diva Dirt, the cruiserweight division should also be integrated. That’s how you make this cruiserweight division something fresh and unique for Raw’s first hour.
Let the women weighing in at 205 or less compete in the division and tag up with the guys to compete for the cruiserweight tag title. That’s something we haven’t seen before on WWE television.
There are always going to be people who don’t like the idea of a man and a woman squaring off in a wrestling ring, but those people are wrong.
If you can accept an undead zombie warrior as professional wrestling’s greatest character, then you can, and should, easily accept men and women as being equals and able to square off with each other in a wrestling ring.
Second hour: bring back the Hardcore title
This isn’t a call for hardcore wrestling to make a comeback. We’re specifically talking about the goofy WWE Hardcore title and the concept that it had to be defended any time, and anywhere, by whoever holds it.
And yes, much like integrating the cruiserweight division, it should be noted that Molly Holly, Terri, and Trish Stratus are all former Hardcore champions. So this revived division wouldn’t be limited to just the guys, which is part of what made the belt so much fun in the first place.
There are a couple of reasons the hardcore belt can make a successful comeback.
First, because of WWE’s heavy social media push, title defenses can happen anywhere, and at any time, meaning if you follow any of those channels, you can see what’s going down with the belt 24/7. That’s great, but you have to remember not everyone sees what goes on social media. If anything, most social media metrics are bogus, almost guaranteeing that most of the people who watch WWE on television each week miss a lot of the great content on those social channels.
That’s bad news for WWE’s social media people, but great news for Raw, which means you can now fill some of Raw’s airtime with these videos. So instead of Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin for the billionth time, we can get recaps and segments following what went down with the Hardcore belt that particular week, what’s going on with it now, and what we should watch out for.
But here’s the twist: thanks to the success of Lucha Underground and the Hardy’s Broken Universe (now alive and kicking on the WWE Network), the Hardcore title allows for more cinema to make its way into the WWE universe in a way that won’t break the format. That second hour of Raw can be the experimental hour for WWE to see what sticks and what doesn’t.
What is meant by “not breaking the format”? If you watch Impact, there’s been some experimentation with Hardy and Lucha Underground-like short videos, and they’ve been hit or miss.
They haven’t worked too well, however, and this is what is meant by breaking the format, when Impact does segments with LAX including a street fight, and that one time the OGs ran over a kid in the car.
If that segment doesn’t sound bad enough, it gets better: Impact immediately followed the segment with the kid getting hit with the car with a “death match” that looked comical and stupid by comparison when taking place immediately following attempted child murder.
We should trust WWE to space out these short films better than Impact. Especially with FOX watching their new billion dollar investment like a hawk.
Maybe that’s wishful thinking. But, if it’s true we’re now all in charge of Raw, maybe wishful thinking is what fixing the show calls for?