The following column was written by John Sivewright on NoDQ.com in October of 2003…
I want Raw to be addictive again.
I’m addicted to a few things. Coca Cola, Trebor Soft Mints and to a lesser extent, a good cup of tea. But my favourite addiction of all used to be the Raw. Every Friday night would be the same. My friends would be out getting drunk and having a laugh while I’d be sat at home. But I wasn’t alone. Oh, no. I had Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, D-Generation X, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Mankind/Dude Love/Cactus Jack, The Undertaker, Kane and many more of my heroes. That would always be the way. I went from the summer of 1995 when Raw was first broadcast in the UK to the summer of 2000 without intentionally missing an episode Raw. I guess you could say I was addicted.
Nowadays, I hardly watch Raw. There you go, I’ve said it. I am a columnist on many top pro wrestling sites, and I barely watch what I write about. If anything, you could say I’m addicted to not watching Raw. And why should I watch Raw? Give me one good reason why I should watch it every week …
I am a fan of pro wrestling. I don’t know about you, but I am. The stuff that goes in inside the squared circle … I love it. Hilarious skits behind the mic … I get a kick out of them, too. The larger than life characters? Yeah, they float my boat. I have no reason to watch Raw anymore because none of those factors really exist. Quality wrestling? You’re having a laugh. When Goldberg and Mark Henry headline Raw, things are looking pretty grim. Okay, I have supported Goldberg in the past, but he’s not good enough to drag a better than average match out of the four hundred pound waste of space. Hilarious skits? The Highlight Reel I hear is at times humorous, but when it’s always a McMahon, Eric Bischoff or Steve Austin, the whole thing can surely get rather tiresome. Larger than life characters? The characters on Raw at the moment are an absolute joke. Let’s look at a few …
Kane – The indestructible monster who can come out of a canister of fire almost unscathed, yet a few weeks later he is involved in a car accident and is feared dead. Add to the mix all of the pathetic plot twists involving this guy and you have a character that even my six year old cousin wouldn’t believe in.
Shane McMahon – Let me get this straight. A man who needed a ton of outside interference to beat X-Pac at WrestleMania 15 is suddenly working a feud with Kane in which he’s believed to be more or less Kane’s equal? Plus, how are we supposed to cheer a spoilt, silver spoon thirty-something who thinks he’s cool?
Chris Jericho – His character was a hoot in 1998. But five years on it’s staler than last month’s sliced loaf. And to top it off, he’s not anywhere near as good an in-ring performer as he once was.
Bill Goldberg – Make up your minds, WWE! He’s supposed to be an unstoppable, mega face. Yet he gets outsmarted every time he comes up against Evolution. Not only that but a sledgehammer shot beats him at SummerSlam, yet it barely fazes him at Unforgiven. What kind of ridiculous training regime was he undertaking between those two events?
La Resistance – A couple of green French kids who hate Americans. Congratulations, Vince, this is one original creation. There were America-bashing heels around before I was born. Stop living in the past and looking for cheap heat!
Dudley Boyz – Great in their hey day, but they like Jericho, are getting stale. And what exactly is their motive nowadays? They’ve had more tag title reigns than I’ve had birthdays.
Shawn Michaels – Washed up legend. What’s his motive? God only knows.
The Hurricane – I got a kick out of this guy when he first donned the cape, but enough is enough.
All of the women – Only Victoria has a gimmick of kind, the psycho bitch, and she plays it well. But what’s with the other women? What are they around for?
Test – The women-basher. What’s this guy’s obsession with beating poor Stacy? The least they could do to broaden his character is for him to explain why he treats Stacy like a piece of Rosey.
Garrison Cade, Mark Jindrak & Maven – Could you find three blander wrestlers on the planet? They have no character at all and are all too poor between the ropes to be on the main roster. Yet they get air-time every week. Why?
Rodney Mack – The guy is out there fighting for black men everywhere, yet I’m struggling to actually accept him as a Negro. Why? Because the guy isn’t actually black!
The McMahon Family – We got the picture three years ago and now we’re sick of it: we know they’re a dysfunctional family.
There are some exceptions of course. Christian and Randy Orton are both gold. Booker T, when he’s healthy, is a superb face wrestler. Goldust is always a riot. Lance Storm’s ‘boring’ angle is quite amusing. When The Rock is around, he lights up Raw. Evolution itself is good, old-fashioned heel group. Triple H, although I hate the guy, plays his part excellently. Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff’s bickering is always entertaining. And Rob Van Dam, although the most wasted talent in the game today, is a fantastic performer and a guy target demographic can relate to. But how can you get addicted to a show with very few good matches, limited amounts of comedy and so many bland, uninteresting characters?
Think about how things were five years ago. I’ll admit, the matches weren’t exceptional. At times, they were as bad as they are today. But with guys like Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Mankind, Triple H and The Rock at the top of the tree, there was always a quality tussle somewhere in sight. The in-ring and backstage promos and skits were always top notch and the characters were fantastic. Stone Cold, the rebellious anti-hero. Vince McMahon, the evil, scheming corporate billionaire. Mick Foley, the man with three unique and captivating identities. The Undertaker, the Man From the Darkside. Val Venis, the Porn Star. The Godfather, the Pimp. D-Generation X, the guys every 13 year old kid around the world wanted to emulate. Mark Henry, sexual chocolate. Chyna, the Ninth Wonder of the World. Ken Shamrock, The World’s Most Dangerous Man. Triple H, who seamlessly made the transition from beloved babyface to hated heel. And The Rock, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. Let’s not forget Rikishi and Too Cool, hip hop trio complete with the Stink Face and the Worm.
Now we only have a few decent characters, virtually no unique and inventive finishers, catch phrases or theme music and hardly any quality skits.
If that isn’t proof that WWE is underperforming with Raw, I don’t know what is. Nobody who watched Raw five years ago can say that things are better now. Things are worse, much worse. The stuff from yesteryear would capture the imagination of the casual fans and ratings would improve. WWF was the in thing because Vince and the Boys were always doing inventive and original stuff. Nowadays, either the Television material is recycled or when it is original, its absolute garbage.
I feel really sorry for the announcers. Poor JR and The King are getting hammered by some people for seemingly being stale and dated. But you try announcing the trash that is produced every Monday night! Back in the day, JR and King always had interesting characters and storylines to commentate on. Nowadays, the characters are extremely bland and the storylines are so bad that JR and The King have to ignore certain things that just don’t make sense, or talk about said plot holes and look like ignorant fools. Lay off the announcers for a change. The fault of Raw’s decline is down to one man … Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
It’s Vince’s show. He has the power over everything and he’s let Raw become a diabolical parade of horse manure. He’s let his daughter, someone with no qualifications whatsoever, control the creative aspect of the program. He’s let his future son in law treat his top tier adversaries like garbage. He’s never listened to the public, he’s always insisted that he’s right and that he knows what we want. Does he, bollocks! Vince is an out of touch fifty-eight year old man. It’s at times like these that he needs the fans more than ever. But will he listen? Not bloody likely.
*I have not included SmackDown in this column because I for the most point enjoy watching SmackDown and I don’t have too many problems with it.
If you want to drop me a line, please don’t hesitate. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And please don’t send me an email saying ‘shut up and enjoy what WWE gives you’. Because I’ll give you the same answer every time: ‘why enjoy what I’m getting when WWE is capable of and his given me so much better before.’