WWE Raw Has Major Production Problems
WWE Monday Night Raw touts itself as the “longest-running episodic television show in history,” and if you watched WWE television in the mid-2010s, that is a phrase that you will never forget due to how often they mentioned it.
This program has undergone many name changes, starting as WWF Raw from 1993-1997, becoming WWF RAW IS WAR from 1997-2001, returning to WWE Raw from 2001-2011, adopting the poorly received WWE Raw SuperShow title from 2011-2012, and finally reverting to WWE Raw from 2012 onward. This professional wrestling show, developed by World Wrestling Entertainment’s CEO Vince McMahon, has spanned over 30 seasons, with 1,495 episodes having aired as of this research.
Today, I will analyze parts of the WWE Raw product, including an in-depth look at the production techniques, distribution, and problems facing the show today.
The Genesis of WWE Monday Night Raw
WWE Monday Night Raw debuted on USA Network on January 11, 1993, where it would remain until September 18, 2000. In June 2000, the parent company of UPN (the channel which aired another WWE product, WWF SmackDown) would win a $12.6 million lawsuit against USA Network over the “right of first refusal” contract dispute. This led to WWE Raw moving to TNN/Spike TV later that year. In 2005, Spike TV’s parent company did not decide to continue the WWE television agreement. Therefore, WWE Raw would move back to USA Network in 2005, where it would remain to this very day.
The show would begin as a two-hour production and has switched between airing on tape delay and airing live multiple times throughout its history. This show has transformed from a two-camera taped production with edited-in segments to a 30+ camera live stream with lower-third graphics, pre-taped and live segments, and more!
The Case of Kevin Dunn
WWE Raw is produced and edited the exact same way as other WWE products such as WWE SmackDown, WWE NXT, and WWE NXT UK. However, in comparison to other professional wrestling products, there are some stark differences. Top-level WWE producer Kevin Dunn often faces a lot of criticism from wrestling fans for his constant camera cuts and preference for shaky camerawork. In a clip taken by a fan cam at a WWE event, you can see a camera operator doing full 90-degree squats to emphasize the impact of the beatdown happening in the ring. However, all this did was cause viewers at home to wince at the migraine-inducing footage.
You can check out the video yourself:
This is very standard for a lot of WWE programming, and it can be very distracting. In comparison to WWE Raw, AEW: Dynamite utilizes smooth camera shots to capture stable footage. AEW productions do not get nearly as much criticism for their camera work, and that is because they learn from the mistakes of WWE and listen to their fans.
67 Camera Cuts
WWE also faces criticism for their egregious number of camera cuts in a short period of time. For example, during a 118-second clip from WWE Raw on October 7, 2017, fans were privy to 67 separate camera cuts. This differs vastly from the production styles of AEW, NJPW, and Impact Wrestling. These camera cuts can be very disorienting for fans and have hurt interest in the storylines that WWE portrays on television. It can be difficult to watch a television show that is flat-out hard to watch. Overall, WWE’s production style is flawed in many aspects, but the audio and visual quality make it the highest-grossing professional wrestling program on the market.
Declining Viewership Over the Years
Viewership for professional wrestling has declined dramatically over the last two decades, and this is for many reasons.
First and foremost, the introduction of the internet and social media sites has lowered the necessity to tune in to a three-hour block of sports entertainment when you can just open Twitter to check out what went down. Many also attribute many controversies to a decrease in WWE’s ratings, including but not limited to the federal government steroid trial, the Saudi Arabia contracted appearances, the Chris Benoit murder-suicide, and the switch from a TV-14 rating to a PG rating.
According to the trusted wrestling source Gerweck.net, WWF Raw averaged a 4.35 in Nielsen’s television ratings in 1998. As of last week, according to WrestlingInc.com, WWE Raw drew a 1.61 rating. That is a 63% decrease in a 24-year period. Yet, as WWE commentator Michael Cole always says, “Raw rolls on”.
The decline in ratings has become so noticeable that WWE has even lost in the “ratings war” against rival wrestling company AEW, who beat them in the coveted 18-49 demo with their latest edition of AEW: Dynamite. Despite dropping ratings, WWE continues to make record profits consistently with their programming, merchandise, licensing deals, and live ticket sales. Will this string of luck continue into the next decade? Many believe it will. There’s a feeling within the wrestling industry that World Wrestling Entertainment is too large to fail and could potentially monopolize the professional wrestling industry if it continues in its current direction.
What does that mean for the television product? If recent shows are indicative, it means we will continue seeing bloated rosters and casts in this company with little-to-no competent storytelling elements portrayed on television. It’s hard enough to write characters with developing arcs for a drama or a sitcom, but it’s even harder when your “cast” is constantly changing, the number of characters is ever-increasing, and you can’t keep a consistent writing staff.
These factors all make WWE Raw a show that insults the intelligence of its audience and does not allow room for investment. How am I, as a viewer, expected to hold interest in who’s going to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship when the feud they set up for the belt last year was never completed due to WWE releasing one of the competitors? How am I expected to care?
Truthfully, it’s hard to.
WWE RAW: Final Thoughts
Overall, WWE Raw and all other WWE products will always hold a special place in my heart. This television program introduced me to an industry that I adore working in, and to one of my favorite forms of entertainment. However, there are glaring issues with the broadcasts that do not bode well for my enjoyment. The egregious camera cuts, the incessant “impact” camera, the lack of consistent writing, an over-bloated cast where no one feels important, and the switch from a two-hour to a three-hour timeslot have all waved my interest in watching WWE Raw.
While, sometimes, I may catch an occasional episode to write a review over, I’m not sure if I will happily turn my television to USA Network unless some of these problems are sorted out to make the show more coherent.
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