My wife turned to me around 10:30 p.m. Monday night and said exactly what I was thinking.
“That was the dumbest segment in the history of Monday Night Raw.”
In the moment, the hyperbole felt justified.
My wife’s dedication to watching WWE television exceeds even my own, but on this night she had seen enough. Her current favorites, The Revival, had just endured the bad end of a painfully unfunny segment involving The Usos.
The morning after Raw I was reminded by a part-time member of Pittsburgh’s local independent professional wrestling scene that bad comedy is nothing new for WWE. He’s right, but this most recent episode of Raw felt so much worse.
There was some good. I liked the segment involving Lacey Evans and Becky Lynch. I liked the match between Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre. I thought the main event WWE Championship match between Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan was really good. I’m not even upset about the new “Wild Card Rule” and the seemingly endless Superstar Shakeup.
What bothers me is that this episode of Raw had all the markings of WWE putting absolutely all of its resources toward reversing the recent trend of falling television ratings, which reached an all-time modern low outside football season last Monday night.
This is no time to mess around. We’re in the midst of the pivotal May ratings period, when Nielsen’s viewership data is especially important. These are the shows that draw the ratings that determine the advertising rates going forward. Reversing this trend wouldn’t just look good on paper. It’s an absolute necessity.
So, at their most desperate and determined, this was the show WWE’s leadership gave its fans – three hours dominated by tired, rehashed story lines, matches with little or no buildup and bad comedy.
To me, watching Vince McMahon and the product he oversees on Monday night felt like watching a once-great professional athlete in the twilight of his career. Sure, he can still hit a home run from time to time (Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston are recent examples), but those moments feel more rare as time goes by.
Monday night, I saw Vince McMahon reaching back for an electric creative fastball that was no longer there. All while vocally trying to convince us that he’s still “brilliant”, that he’s still a “genius”.
For at least this one week, Vince McMahon’s bells and whistles appeared to work. Raw was able to reverse its ratings slide with a modest 4% ratings increase over the previous week.
Personally, I didn’t even want to watch Monday night’s show. I could smell the stink of desperation building in the days leading up to it, but there I was Monday night…once again, left feeling like a sucker.
Raw has become an insufferable three hours of sports entertainment. The format feels broken – like it’s actively working against the live crowd. I have to salute some of WWE’s more seasoned main roster talents like Reigns, McIntyre, Lynch, Daniel Bryan and The Miz, who actually managed to bring Monday night’s crowd back from the depths of apathy at certain points during the show.
I’m not going to offer a possible solution. It doesn’t matter. If we’ve learned anything over the past 6 months that began with the broken promise of a “fresh start”, it’s that WWE’s leadership will do what they want regardless of the outcome.
I think I need to take a break. Maybe it’s time for Vince McMahon to think about taking one too.