Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The Monday night Raw doldrums
I shamefully enjoy professional (fake) wrestling, which normally surprises others and forces me to mount an awkward defense of my interest. Yes, it's fake, but so is everything on television. Yes, it's a bit like a soap opera, and yeah, it is kind of homoerotic that guys are clutching each other, and yes, that's weird. But there is something oddly entertaining about it to me, to the point where I've never really been able to stop, even when the programming is in a down cycle.
I think there is something primal in wrestling that gets pretty much every guy interested in it at some point. I was substituting for an elementary school gym class last week, and casually commented on a CM Punk shirt a kid was wearing. This was a bad decision from a class control standpoint, but good for me personally, because soon every kid was asking me about the wrestlers I knew and (somewhat comically, somewhat scarily) trying to put their friends into the Go To Sleep (you put the person up on your shoulders, then swing them down toward a knee to the face).
All the kids I knew growing up watched wrestling, but pretty much all of them dropped it as we got to middle school and high school. I didn't really advertise that I watched it, but it never came up in casual conversation, except for a few times when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was fighting with The Rock and the corporation and Mick Foley (1998, 1999). From conversations in college, when I grew a little less ashamed about my habit, I found out that there weren't really many people watching it in secret like I was.
Enough with this trip down memory lane, though - The current product leaves something to be desired. The most pressing issue to me is what has happened to Monday Night Raw. This week's episode was OK, with a bloody, intense confrontation between Randy Orton and Ric Flair to hype up this Sunday's meeting between Orton and Batista. However, even the hilarious Santino Marella and a solid MVP-Kofi Kingston match couldn't keep the hour I watched from dragging a bit.
After the draft, it seemed like Raw would become the dominant brand, because of all the star power - HHH, Batista, Orton, HBK, The Big Show, John Cena - in the top tier. Oddly though, this has made most of the booking predictable. After a slight push to MVP, involving him in the Orton-HHH--Batista-McMahon family angle, he is back to the midcard, in a feud with the pedestrian William Regal and Matt Hardy. All of the big names force the WWE to book formulaically at top, since HHH and Batista and Orton aren't going to be losing often to the likes of MVP and Kofi Kingston.
Meanwhile, Smackdown and ECW lost a lot of their marquee talent, and both have been great since the draft. Because there aren't really any talent "tiers" on the shows, the only focus is on good angles and good matches. Both of the shows, and to a lesser extent Superstars, are normally my focus in a given week as opposed to the normal flagship, Raw.