I despise filler, plain and simple. The low quality episodes that get made to make the great episodes seem even better. The excuse can be made that it allows for character development, but why not do it in a scenario or arc that not only does that, but also progresses the plot? As a wrestling viewer, this is how I have felt over the past few months when watching WWE’s weekly programs, Monday Night Raw, and Smackdown.
Over the past few months, I have found myself either barely watching, or not tuning into these flagship shows. Instead, if I want to keep up with what is going on, I will pull up their twitter account and essentially get a synopsis without needing to actually watch it. I have been debating with myself why exactly this has been. I know it's not a lack of interest in the scene since I still find myself tuning in almost every month to their PPV’s. Not only that, but I can easily recall as a child watching Raw and Smackdown on my DVR as a kid when my dad would not let me stay up past 9. My personal take is that most matches being featured on these weekly shows right now feel like the equivalent of a filler episode. I know before even tuning in that ninety percent of these matches are just to fill time with no care. Whether or not this lack of care comes from the wrestlers themselves or the creative teams fueling them is a whole other topic. Regardless, it is clear that these shows as of now are mostly being treated as an afterthought.
Credit: Bleacher Report
I will not deny that there are certain storylines that are phenomenal going on right now, with Roman Reigns' heel run as Universal Champion on Smackdown being the spotlight of this company right now. The only problem is that this storyline feels like a once in a blue moon scenario. Every year it seems like we get one good story a year and everything else just feels lackluster for the most part. At this point, I believe WWE is well aware of this because of their recent treatment of Roman Reigns, with them just recently pushing his match with Rey Mysterio from Hell in a Cell to Smackdown. So how could WWE alleviate this problem?
Based on what I have seen, there is one change WWE needs to make in order to bring back viewer retention. There needs to be more of an emphasis on these matches. And no, I do not mean more title defenses on Raw and Smackdown. When I say this, I am more referring to the matches themselves, not stipulations like title defenses. Right now some of the matches on Raw and Smackdown feel like the superstars are just going through the motions, waiting until the next big PPV where they will go all out. I can recall back in the 2000s and even the early 2010s to a certain extent where the matches on Raw and Smackdown were exciting to watch and felt like there was love and passion behind them. I can still recall a moment from July 12, 2010’s edition of Monday Night Raw where Randy Orton and Evan Bourne had a phenomenal match, which ended in spectacular fashion when Orton RKO’d Bourne out of the middle of the air. Looking further back, there is also the iconic moment from Brock Lesnar and Big Show from June 12, 2003’s episode of Smackdown, where the ring imploded after Lesnar launched himself and Big Show from the top rope. These matches brought excitement through the adrenaline pumping fights and iconic moments that I want to see again in modern day WWE television.
Credit: Sky Sports
To end on a couple of side notes, I firstly want to state that moments like those previously mentioned should not become commonplace as it ruins the magic behind them. Should they keep happening, it becomes predictable and expected, resulting in less excitement and being stuck back in square one. Second, despite this going on for a few years now, in my opinion, I thought we would see a return to form just around a couple years ago back on July 1st, 2019. Around this time, Paul Heyman, a manager for Lesnar and former frontrunner of Extreme Championship Wrestling, was hired on to write and manage Monday Night Raw. Within the first week of him returning, a falls count anywhere match between Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley took place that ended with Strowman spearing Lashley through the stage and being showered in a hail of explosions that left the crowd hyped and wanting more. Watching this live, I truly believed we would make a return to the love and support that these shows deserved, or at least Raw. Sadly, this would never come to be as not too long after Heyman was hired on, they removed him from the writing process and pushed him back to a manager position. I truly do believe that Raw and Smackdown can get back into not only being the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, but being the most dominant. They have the staff. They have the superstars. All they need is a refined focus on Raw and Smackdown to see this happen. With crowds returning in July, I do hope that WWE can pull this off as a combination of these two shows could result in a ratings boom that we haven’t seen in years for WWE.