If you watched WWE Raw last night on the USA Network, you might have noticed that you actually watched the entire show, beginning to end. And clocking in at three hours, watching the whole show has become something of a chore for fans over the past few years. While three hours is probably too much for any single weekly wrestling show, Raw, in particular, has suffered from a real lack of creative vision and implementation each week. We've all read the backstage horror stories of Vince McMahon terrorizing the creative team and rewriting shows on the fly each week, but it has seemed that it is the Chairman's reaction to his perceived "bad creative" that has actually led to that result in execution with each show. This results in incomplete or poorly realized storylines/feuds, an erratic show that rarely has a narrative thread to follow, and an overall uneven presentation that leaves viewers feeling lost, confused, and unsatisfied. All of that doesn't result in returning viewers week to week, as ratings have shown. Well, last night's episode of Raw was… different.
How was Raw different this week? For one thing, they actually used some basic storytelling techniques. Anyone that has ever taken a basic writing or storytelling class knows that the beginning is important because that's where you hook your audience and bring them for the ride. WWE understood that this week and actually started it last week. On last week's Raw, they announced the main event of this week's show would be Bobby Lashley challenging The Miz for the WWE title. That's an immediate attraction, as fans don't exactly see The Miz as a legitimate champion, and Lashley is a generally respected veteran. The key is seeing Miz lose; having someone the fans respect beat him only helps.
Now anyone who was old enough to watch the Monday Night Wars as they happened (ugh, I can't believe I just wrote that) knows that, ultimately, WWF beat WCW through better storytelling with better characters. WWF created captivating storylines that didn't resolve in one night and often ended Raw is War with a cliffhanger that would entice you to tune in next week to see what would happen next. WCW, meanwhile, felt very unfocused and like the stories and character development wasn't that important. Sometimes they would hook you with something intriguing, only for the star involved to not even be seen on the next week's episode of Nitro. It didn't hook fans enough, and now we know how that ended.
Raw has been making some WCW mistakes for a while now, and that's taken a toll on fans' continued interest in the show. But last night felt different in that they programmed it to keep an interesting story going from last week through the entire show this week up until the end of the episode. The way they crafted it out, with Miz continuously weaseling out of facing Lashley over and over, was specifically positioned around the show's hour breaks. This both baited the hook, making the audience stay tuned through the whole show to see the conclusion, and REALLY made you want to see Miz get destroyed at the end. And destroyed he was! The final battle between the two at the end wasn't any sort of five-star classic, but it gave the audience a very satisfying conclusion to what you had committed three hours of your night too.
They teased someone you hate (The Miz), getting beaten to a pulp and losing his title to someone who you actually believe could do it (Bobby Lashley), and they kept you waiting and building it up, and then you got what you tuned in for. It felt good to watch. It felt cathartic. It felt complete. Those are things we rarely describe Raw with lately, and who knows, maybe this was just a lucky night where Vince wasn't there, and the show was run by someone else; let's call him Paul H. No, that's too obvious. Let's say, P. Heyman. Who knows? What we do know is that Raw was pretty fun last night and actually saw a storyline through and characters progress. That's something, right?