Welcome to A Rawer Reaction, where I’ll take a look at some of the challenges currently facing the WWE Raw red brand as it gets ready to hit the road. I think it is safe to say that Raw is War has been replaced with Raw is Meh. What has caused the longest-running weekly episodic TV show in history to go down the drain? It’s not likely any one thing, but a combination of factors contributing to its struggles over the years. Let’s take a look at what I have seen.
It was no secret before Covid threw a monkey wrench into the entire globe, attendance was in a state of decline. The empty arenas of the pandemic made things more challenging that brought about the Thunderdome concept. Thunderdome replaced one set of challenges with another. I’m not sure if the fans’ actual reactions can be heard by the superstars in the Thunderdome or if they can hear the edited reactions we get on TV. Fan response has driven match direction in the past and there is no energy for the superstars to draw from. More often than not, that can take away from the match and things just sorta fall flat.
The entire Raw Creative process is in shambles. From Vince McMahon changing his mind every 20 nanoseconds to shredding the entire script 10 minutes before going live on TV, the creative process is all over the place and it shows. Superstars have cut promos backstage where you could tell they were reading off a teleprompter or cue cards. Endless rematches are used to fill the time. Overbearing replays help remind Vince which version of the script they were going with. The show is poorly written and it shows.
Another issue with Creative is the total mishandling of superstars and angles. The Retribution group showed such great promise, a la The Nexus, but got Cena’d by The Hurt Business instead. Mustafa Ali could have brought his hacker gimmick over to Raw and incorporated it into the group as well. Alexa Bliss’s bewitched character has also gotten the creative screwup. For as critical as I am with Alexa, I loved her new character when she had The Fiend/Bray Wyatt to play off of. Once Randy Orton set The Fiend on fire; he not only burned up The Fiend, he burned the whole angle down and Alexa flew off the rails. After months of treading water, Alexa brings The Fiend back from the dead only to turn on him at WrestleMania, providing a weak reason that Lilly the doll made her do it. We won’t even talk about Shayna Baszler’s demotion from beast to babysitter.
Up until about a month or so ago, Creative forgot that the midcard even existed. If you weren’t in the main event scene, you were seen on Main Event. Everybody talks about how great the Attitude Era was and it had a strong midcard to entertain people. How can Mustafa Ali and Ricochet, for example, get over with the fans when they are in a Three Minute Raw Special match? The women’s division also suffers from a lack of time also, but that’s not one of their core issues. This time in the Thunderdome could have been spent introducing the midcard superstars to try to draw a following once the WWE returned to the road. With a strong midcard, it can cut down on the excessive pointlessness that tends to be used to fill the three hours of Raw. If WWE lets the midcard show what they’ve got, we just might make a new star or two.
The only thing that’s a bigger trainwreck than Creative is the Raw Women’s Division. The vast majority of the division’s problems are that Charlotte Flair absolutely refuses to put talent over that was not part of The Four Horsewomen group. Flair never gives a clean win back. She always seems to lose with some sort of excuse built-in, be it by a distraction or interference. Super Charlotte has steamrolled over everybody for several years worse than John Cena during the height of his Super Cena run. There’s never any credible challenger for the Raw Women’s Title other than Charlotte Flair because Charlotte has squashed them all. Shayna Baszler could be the lone exception, but we’ll circle back to her in just a minute. Need some proof? How many months did Asuka go in her most recent title run without a challenger? Asuka was tied up in the Women’s Tag Division with Charlotte, no less, so Charlotte could check off the Grand Slam Champion box. The last time I can remember Charlotte giving out an actual clean win was to Liv Morgan, but that had to have been an accident because Liv went into obscurity afterward until they decided to reform The Riott Squad on Smackdown. Charlotte has all of the accolades but, like Brock Lesnar ending The Streak, who’s really benefitted from that rub?
The other issue within the women’s division is Nia Jax. You can count on all of your fingers and toes the number of people she’s injured in the ring and may have a couple of toes left over. She’s reckless in the ring and is only coated in Teflon because if we hurt her feelings, The Rock would jump to AEW. Poor Shayna Baszler is stuck in a tag team with Nia to babysit her so she doesn’t seriously injure someone. Nia should be sent back to either NXT for way more training or shown out the door.
NO BREAKOUT TALENT
Who is there, talent-wise, that the fans can really truly get behind? It seems like when superstars get themselves over on their own with their talent, WWE pulls the rug out from underneath them because they were not one of the chosen ones. When 50/50 booking attacks, nobody comes out ahead. Why haven’t there been any breakout stars created in WWE? They certainly have the talent at their disposal. The closest we’ve had recently was Becky Lynch and that got cooled off when Seth Rollins didn’t pull out in time.
The reason may lie in their past. Over the past 20 years, there have been arguably three breakout stars; Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and John Cena. While Austin’s career was cut short by injury, what has happened to the other two? They both left for Hollywood and became super successful there. I believe that Vince is sabotaging the superstars from getting too big and leaving for Hollywood. John Cena was not expected to be the next big thing in WWE. He was bound to be released after the WWE returned from a European tour when Stephanie McMahon overheard him rapping on the flight home. She told him to try doing that on Raw and The Doctor of Thuganomics was born. WWE needs to let the superstars be themselves and they could usher in another golden era where the money just keeps printing itself.
These are the reasons I see as challenges for the red brand. What do you think? Do you agree or did I miss something? Hit me up on Twitter @ciscowebwiz76 and let’s discuss.
On a side note, my original intent was to have this up on Thursday, but my schedule changed on me by outside forces and made that no longer possible. I do apologize for that.