As Monday nights in the WWE go, so tends to go the company. Raw is the WWE’s flagship show and everything that happens on that program leads to the biggest matches, the most notable rivalries and the creation and progression of the industry’s biggest stars. Sure, SmackDown Live has a great list of talent, but everyone knows the company favors the red brand. It’s been that way for years and it will be that way for years to come.
But, if you ask a large contingency of the WWE Universe, they’ll tell you the show is in trouble. Showcasing a Cruiserweight Division nobody seems to care about and having the female talent roam around with no real direction, those issues only scratch the surface of where things tend to go wrong over a three-hour program.
The WWE has a few big name talents, but there are no names that come close to the level of stardom that was once held by the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock or The Undertaker. Even names like Triple H and John Cena — who were in that conversation — are part-time talents at best. Cena was brought back to Raw just this past week in an effort to boost the brand and fight a ratings war the WWE will ultimately lose to companies like the NFL.
What is the WWE to do? With fewer top-level talents, no real name recognition and promising, but unproven stars, how can they possibly expect to compete?
Here are 15 ideas the WWE should consider to save Monday nights and their flagship program Raw.
15. Bring in Jon Jones
Yes, Jon Jones failed another drug test, but this kind of publicity is great for the WWE. There are no testing policies for part-time special-appearance performers and Jones bringing himself to wrestling instead of Brock Lesnar to MMA is actually doable (especially now that it looks like Jones is done in the UFC). It would also bring eyeballs to the industry and to Raw.
The deal however, is time sensitive. Jones is a consistent screw up. The news that he failed another test will get old fast. The WWE needs to capitalize on the press that is circling because of this controversy and put him in a program with Brock Lesnar right away. In fact, he should interrupt the match between Lesnar and Braun Strowman, thus holding things off until WrestleMania 34 for those two to really meet up. Strike while the iron is hot.
14. Big Promo, Then Cruiserweight Action… Every Time
One of the things that worked so well for WCW and Monday Night Nitro was that it had a formula. It was likely the case that the formula was only in place because of a lack of creativity and management to script a different format, but they did the same thing each week and the start of every episode (30 minutes at least) of Nitro was must watch. The format went, big promo to open the show, then a five-star cruiserweight match.
The WWE needs to try this format for a while. Take your biggest storyline and kick off your show with it. Make it short and deliver it with great impact to set the tone. Immediately follow that up with a high-quality cruiserweight one-on-one match that will get the WWE Universe to fall in love with the little guys. The WWE has the talent to do it and it would bring a shade of the high-end matches happening in NXT and on 205 Live to Raw, where they can showcase them properly.
13. Take The Title Off Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar and he doesn’t need the WWE Universal Championship to be relevant. That he’s also a part-time talent means that the belt is not on television very often and that’s not good for the product.
There are two strong ways to go to make the switch. First, is giving it another legit tough guy. If the WWE decides to give it to someone who carries the same weight (Samoa Joe or Roman Reigns), they can set the stage for a babyface to chase them for the belt. The alternative is to do the exact opposite. Give the title to a champ who cheated and is completely undeserving. Perhaps someone who crept in and stole it on a technicality from Braun Strowman who was about to win it from Lesnar. Let Strowman chase him down and get his final payoff after months of stalking his opponent.
12. Full Steam Ahead On “Woken” Matt Hardy
There’s no better time than right now to unleash Matt Hardy. And if the WWE can find it in themselves to do so, give him some creative freedom to do his thing. Hardy is one of the most underrated minds in the industry. That he was able to reinvent himself in the way he did speaks volumes to what he could bring to Raw. That he brought some of the highest ratings to a TNA product no one cared to watch is “delightful!”
A “Woken” Matt Hardy could be one of the most entertaining parts of the show and people would tune in just to see what off-the-wall types ideas he comes up with next. He’s unique and unpredictable and that’s exactly what the WWE needs in a time when it’s trying to win viewership from programs that consistently out-perform them this time of year.
11. Ronda Rousey Debut
It appears Ronda Rousey to the WWE is inevitable. Rumors are she is currently training to enter the wrestling arena and her days in MMA are done. She was seen at the Mae Young Classic supporting her friend and she was involved as one of the Four Horsewomen of MMA in a staged altercation with the Four Horsewomen of WWE. There is also talk Rousey may have halted a Cyborg to the WWE plan to ensure she was the first real female MMA fighter to make a WWE debut.
Rousey may be done in MMA, but she’s still a huge draw and for the WWE, would immediately bring credibility and marquee talent to the Women’s Division. As Jim Ross said in an interview with TMZ, it’s not if, but when. And, when she does, she’ll be a star and people will watch.
10. Two Hours
This one won’t happen simply because of the revenue created from the third hour of the show, but if Raw has the opportunity to go to two hours, it should highly consider it. The program would be more impactful, it would be faster paced and it would give talent time to rest and come up with more creative and competitive ways to get themselves television time when time is more limited.
If two hours isn’t an option, the WWE needs to make their shows feel as close to a two-hour show as possible. That means some five-star quality lengthy matches, surprises (like returning wrestlers), better entrances and ring announcements for main events… anything to give elements of the show that big fight feel and carry the audience through a longer time frame not realizing they just lost 30 minutes of the show.
9. Legends/WWE Alumni
Take advantage of your legends more. I know this one will be met with some skepticism from people who argue the WWE needs to move on from the old bones that used to be popular but aren’t any longer, but there is no denying that in small doses, legends and alumni give fans a sense of nostalgia. Fans like to see faces they haven’t seen in a while.
Who’s to say a wrestler like Bubba Ray and D-Von in a short-term appearance role for a couple weeks couldn’t help. Why not bring in Christian (maybe not to wrestle) but work an angle with someone for a few weeks. Shock the world by bringing back Damien Sandow or Adam Rose for a short stint. Both could use the money and both would make fans sit up for a second. As Lance Storm once said, “if I could be serious for a moment.” Well if Lance Storm showed up one night to say that in person, imagine the reaction he’d get. Hell, even Ryback would make you wonder what’s going on and you’d tune in to find out.
8. Bring in Jim Ross
He’s not in the type of shape or condition to work every episode, but if you’re going to promote a huge match weeks in advance, give it an even bigger feel by announcing that Good Ol’ JR will be calling the bout. When you add a legendary voice like his to a match, the match immediately becomes prime time and that’s what the WWE needs. Matches that feel like they can’t miss spectacles.
It’s not as though Raw couldn’t use the help. Michael Cole is a staple of the show and Corey Graves is excellent, but Booker T is often a train wreck and if David Otunga comes back to his spot, he’s not carrying a big match at the announce table. Ross is the answer and he’s looking to get more involved with the program anyway.
7. The General Manager Should Not Have A Story
The Kurt Angle and Jason Jordan story is already showing signs of decline. The whole illegitimate son thing was a risk and it’s very likely it doesn’t pay off. This isn’t because of the actors, it’s the idea that a general manager or boss is a major part of any storyline rarely works. Only Vince McMahon has ever really made it go and that’s because he had Stone Cold as his adversary.
If that means Angle isn’t the GM anymore, fine, but the general manager’s only job should be to help make matches and advance other people’s stories, not get involved in their own. He/she should not be a central plot line. The WWE would be better off moving Angle into an in-ring or managers role and let someone else be GM. Same goes for the Authority, or Shane McMahon or Daniel Bryan… anyone who should be running things should only run things. If they get involved, it needs to be so infrequently, it feels special.
6. Wrestling Focused
If you watched NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III, you saw just how much people loved a show that was almost exclusively about the wrestling. When the surprise elements of the show did come, they were more jarring and more effective because they added an extra layer to the great match that just happened.
Raw doesn’t have near enough focus on the wrestling aspect of sports entertainment. From the announcers not selling the actual in-ring maneuvers to matches that are thrown together with six participants to undercard bouts that have no buildup at all. If the WWE actually let their strong wrestlers wrestle from time to time, they might be surprised by the stars who emerge and grab that brass ring. WWE Superstars like Cedric Alexander or Cesaro would have a home where they can shine and produce money for the company.
5. Scripting Promos
It’s understandable that the WWE needs some sort of control over what gets said on their programming. But to script everything down to the word is killing the show. Look at what happens to wrestlers when you give them a little room to play. Superstars like The Miz shine when given some creative freedom. When you don’t, what you get is a guy like Roman Reigns.
One of the reasons people hate Reigns is not because of Reigns himself. He’s actually quite talented and there was a time the WWE Universe loved him. They turned on him when they realized the WWE was taking over his personality and force-feeding him everything he needed to say and when to say it. It’s not him. It never was him and clearly, the best wrestlers are elements of themselves with the volume turned way up.
4. Understand What PG Rating Actually Means
The WWE is not at a time that the Attitude Era would work. To some fans, they can’t accept it, but the WWE has grown to reach a wider audience. But, since when did being PG mean that every show had to be campy and cartoonish? Where’s the edge or rawness in Raw? Segments like the one with the Baller Brand not long ago show that the WWE still doesn’t quite get it.
Some unique and edgy writing could go a long way. Shoot some segments in the style of a 30-for-30 interview, use a little language here and there (not the kind the Ball kid used). Remove the silly pranks and childish tricks and have these guys act like they really hate each other. A someone remind the writers in WWE that what kids are seeing everywhere as “PG” nowadays is not what being PG once was. A little realism and edge to your show could go a long way.
3. Create A Dominant Stable
Whether it be a reunion of The Shield, a re-imagining of The Bullet Club or some sort of group aligned with a guy like Paul Heyman, create a faction that is dominant and ripe for destruction. It could be the next NWO or it could flop like 3MB, but finding a way to use the talent you have employed and let them come together as a group that is believable, eventually breaking off into singles wrestlers down the road is a major way to grow characters.
You could potentially start a new stable of “Drifters” led by Elias Sampson. Maybe you focus on a group of women? The first time WWE has even seen shades of a female faction was in the Women’s Revolution when they tried to introduce Charlotte and friends as part of a group of the Four Horsewomen. Someone explain why that was never followed up on. Seems like a missed opportunity. Let them turn on everyone and take out everyone. Talk about some interesting programming.
2. Raw Talk
Bring back Raw Talk. This time, air it in the middle of Raw. Like a panel might for the kickoff show of a pay-per-view, have them somewhere in the stands and cut to them periodically to give their take on what’s been going on so far during the three-hour broadcast. This will accomplish a couple things.
First, it breaks up a three-hour show quite nicely. Second, it gives a platform for wrestlers to speak in a different setting than an in-ring promo and lends to creative ideas for furthering wrestling feuds. Third, it gives roles to talent like Renee Young where she shines. This type of show can lead to different ways of debuting people, getting more personal and doing new and creative stuff, while not adding to the programming you’re already forcing viewers to watch and keep up with.
1. Run With Braun Strowman
Clearly, Strowman is the man. He’s getting more cheers that Brock Lesnar and he’s making Roman Reigns feel irrelevant. He’s the guy in the WWE and especially on Raw. The trick is going to be to make his first ever title win feel genuine and not manufactured by a WWE that has hand-picked their future franchise player.
The only logical choice is to let Strowman dethrone Lesnar and right when Strowman has become the clear fan favorite and he’s ready to be the WWe’s biggest babyface, have him turn on everyone and get the crowd to hate him because they almost fell in love with him.
The show needs to be revolve around Strowman now and his character development is critical. This is one of those things the WWE can’t over manage, but also can’t afford to screw up.
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