Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Narrative Direction

Not even Ambrose could save RAW tonight
Photo Credit: WWE.com
WWE did the unthinkable; the company made a show centered around Dean Ambrose lose its sense of wilderness. Ambrose has been WWE's most valuable personality since he was jettisoned out of the comfy walls of The Shield, and even mediocre material has been gilded in his clutch. Of course, RAW can't maintain the same energy every week. Even Ambrose needs time to recharge. However, blaming the show's lack of energy on Ambrose having an off week would be ignoring the flaws in the narrative direction that he is required to defy on a weekly basis. When Ambrose just can't put on a transformative effort, the bottom collapses under the unbearable loads placed upon it by Vince McMahon and his creative staff.

Whether it be the lazy reliance on old Attitude Era match types, causing people to wonder aloud if Vince Russo got his old old job back, the constant fear at showing anything more than a nick in John Cena's armor, Cena's refusal to take any face-to-face promo segment seriously, or recursive, repetitive implication of match finishes, WWE has dipped into a post-summer lull the likes of which I'd like to say are historic. However, I have memory retention stronger than that of a goldfish; seemingly, every year the company dips into autopilot between SummerSlam and the New Year. This year is no different, and it may only seem worse because the audience is currently being asked to suffer through week-in, week-out holding patterns for the the shows where the narrative moves forward.

However, the pay-per-view product being abnormally stronger than the televised game was hardly ever the case. WWE has gone through so much of its history where pay-per-view was an extension of the live weekly serial at best, and from TLC 2012 through Mania XXX, it could have been argued that the free TV blew the doors off the product WWE asked its fanbase to pay for. The last time WWE produced a show that wasn't worth its price tag, whether $60 or whatever portion of $9.99 each live event is really worth in the Network sub per each individual user was arguably in January of this year, and more realistically, it was over a year ago. Even Battleground and Night of Champions this year, the two weakest shows of the Network era, were better than the average pre-Money in the Bank '11 PPV. It really makes me wonder if these weekly doldrums are going to get any better once the charge towards WrestleMania begins.

Nights like tonight make me wonder if WWE's narrative direction really is changing, whether RAW is the landmark event on the calendar that it has been from around 1996 until WrestleMania XXX. Granted, last week's edition wasn't all that great either, but Ambrose was cookin', and The Rock made a special, surprise appearance that, whether or not one liked it, was the hallmark of the kind of primacy that WWE placed on its weekly television show. If so, then what is the point of watching RAW, other than having a reference point for when reports like Best and Worst or The Heart Is RAW go up?

I don't want to feel like my time has been wasted. WWE, however, seems to be in a spot where wasting time is what it does between monthly supercards. The roster may rise to the occasion week to week, because that kind of talent can't be repressed, even if the stars aligned to the point where no one was really righting the ship this week. However, WWE's narrative direction needs a shakeup. It can either toe the line and inspire malaise, or the writers can spend a little bit of time organizing the roster and deciding on stories they want to tell week to week. Frankly, I have less and less faith each week that the people writing this shit, or more importantly approving it, care about being more than the former.