Rey Ca$h looks to speak some truth into your life about your hatred of WWE Raw!
On April 3rd, 2016, The Walking Dead went from the biggest show on television to one riddled with controversy. This particular episode is the infamous one where Negan, the biggest of all the big bads, makes his debut and kills an unknown member of Rick’s crew with Lucille, his barbed wire bat. We don’t see who it is and we are forced to wait 6 months to find out who died and what all happened.
Why am I talking about The Walking Dead on a wrestling website? I bring up this show, and in particular this episode, for one major reason. The fan reaction to it was vitriolic. Some fans hated it. Some loved it. Everybody had an opinion. But for a large number of fans, that was where the show crossed the line. Funny thing is, if you read the comics that the show is largely pulled from, this was a paramount storyline that was always going to have to happen on the show. So essentially, fans were told EXACTLY what was going to happen, even down to the smallest details, and they revolted.
You Hate Raw.
The vitriol spewed at the WWE currently, particularly Monday Night Raw, is stronger than ever. The thing is, however, WWE has never lied about what type of show Raw is. It’s a variety entertainment hour featuring wrestling. And yes, ratings are down, but they’re consistently one of the top 5 shows watched every night on cable. So, do the ratings really matter when nobody’s watching anything else either?
I understand that we as fans have an intrinsic right to feel how we are led to about the product we are given. For many, Raw is sub-par to terrible. I get that and respect that. I even echo that to a small extent. But I’ve started to wonder one major question as of late – are we really even fans anymore?
I hate to go all literal on you guys, but Merriam-Webster defines fan in this particular respect as “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator; an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit).” We all know that the word fan is derived from the word fanatic, as these definitions allude to. Have we thought, however, about how that really affects us? Do we think about what type of fan we are? How our fandom affects that which we are said fans of???
The WWE needs no sympathy. They’re a billion-dollar company, thriving in a business sense that was never before thought possible. But these criticisms…if we think deeply into them, is it really because the show is that bad, or is it because we’re not fans of what the product is anymore? Let me give you an example.
Gregg Popovich, super successful and championship winning coach of the San Antonio Spurs, was in the news recently because he mentioned that he thinks the current NBA is not beautiful anymore. The game, which has progressed from slower, more stylistic and cerebral play to quicker, more skill laden play, isn’t what he’s used to anymore. Add to that the empowerment of the player in this generation and the rise of super-teams, and many fans tend to agree with Coach Pop. The NBA has jumped the shark for many. For others, however, it’s the best it’s ever been. It’s massively entertaining, it’s breeding more stars than ever, and the skill is at an all-time high.
This reminds me of wrestling, WWE in particular. This generation of fans seems to be primarily interested in in ring prowess and “workrate”, choosing to focus on sequences of moves and characters that only resonate with them. Older generations, however, were largely intrigued by the characters and the stories told, with promo ability being lauded even more than in ring ability. A great match was only great because the story allowed it to be. Neither side is wrong, but much like if you watch CZW, you can expect hardcore style wrestling, if you watch Monday Night Raw, you can expect story driven television.
But What Is Raw?
Let’s take a look at the show from an analytical perspective. We have to acknowledge, from the beginning, that 5 of the top 8 male stars on the brand are out for significant periods of time. Roman Reigns is facing the fight of his life with leukemia, Braun has had his second surgery in years on his elbow, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will be out possibly past WrestleMania season because of major surgeries, and the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is somewhere on his farm. All criticisms must acknowledge this.
So, the major stories for the guys on the show revolve around Baron Corbin as General Manager Elect, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s blood feud revisited. For the women, Ronda Rousey is locked in a heated feud with Nia Jax and her cousin Tamina, and Natalya is out for personal revenge against the dastardly Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad. I ask you to think seriously about this question I’m about to ask you guys. What do all four of those feuds have in common?
They’re all story driven.
Corbin is drunk with power, abusing it to his whim. As such, he’s gained allies who want to be at the top, and are using Corbin’s power to hold their enemies down. Rollins and Ambrose have a near biblical feud, revolving around a very real and personal issue of betrayal. Ronda Rousey faced her toughest challenge recently against Becky Lynch and Charlotte, and Nia, who broke Becky’s face, wants to get back the title that she lost due to a cash in and beat the “Baddest Woman On The Planet” to prove her dominance. Ruby Riott broke Natalya’s late father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart’s sunglasses, destroying a personal heirloom of Nattie’s. Natalya wants to get personal revenge for that and the multiple attacks that the Riott Squad have given her.
All four of those are Raw style stories. They are largely told through promos and backstage vignettes, they are riddled with drama, and they are building to a crescendo. The stories can always be told better, but are you sure you’re not against the stories before they’re even told to you because of your expectations?
Look at Dean Ambrose for example. We’ve long salivated at the thought of a truly unhinged, heel Ambrose. Instead, we get a germophobic, cerebral, emotional Dean. In a sense, the emotionless lunatic has turned into the over emotional thinker. And many fans are down on it. Why??? The promos have been fantastic. The cat and mouse game he’s played with “The Architect” have been wonderful.
But, it’s not what we expected. And to add to that fact, it’s not what we wanted.
That take is not only unfair, but it’s a hindrance to everybody involved in telling that story. The people with that take have essentially said that they refuse to let WWE tell them a story because it’s not what they want. That is MASSIVELY different than being told a story in full and not enjoying it.
I legitimately ask you all, which side are you on? Not liking things because it’s not what you wanted or expected, or reacting to what you’re being given. I’d bet good money it’s the former.
My goal in this column is not to tell any of you that you’re wrong in your opinions. I’m not even trying to advocate for Raw – if you listen to Chairshot Radio or The Outsider’s Edge, you’ll see that I criticize the show just as much as you guys. My point in this is simply to push you to step back and look at the big picture. Re-evaluate what you think you want. Ask yourself are you giving the show a legitimate chance, or are you already against the show before they get a chance to entertain you. Then, maybe you’ll realize that Raw doesn’t need to change when they’re being who they’ve always been. Maybe them not changing isn’t the problem. Maybe you’re the one who needs to change. Maybe we all are.