When World Wrestling Entertainment announced that its flagship show, Raw, would be extended to three hours, fans replied with a collective groan. After all, World Championship Wrestling had tried something similar in 1997 that was, almost immediately, considered a failure.
Take into consideration the lackluster creative direction of the company, and there was definitely reason for concern.
A full month into the experiment, however, and it is easy to see that the increased hour has made for a better show.
The most obvious problem with the two-hour format of Raw was the lack of attention paid to any WWE Superstar outside of the main event picture. Since expanding the show, the best midcard talent has seen increased exposure via lengthy tag team and singles matches, while those in the undercard are finally enjoying storylines that will earn them the spotlight they previously didn't get.
For how many weeks did fans beg for Brodus Clay to be given a rivalry rather than endure the same formulaic squash matches every week? How many fans feared that Damien Sandow's character would become stale before he was actually allowed to do something outside of his normal shtick every week?
Because Raw has more time to focus on other talents, Clay and Sandow have been programmed against each other in a feud that gives them both something to do in hopes of further getting them over with the audience.
Ryback, Sin Cara, Cody Rhodes and Jinder Mahal have all been featured on Raw, when, in the past, they would have been saved for SmackDown, the company's B-show.
Is the focus still largely on the top stars? Absolutely.
They are the bread winners for the company, and it would be a major mistake to take the focus off of them. But the longer shows have made it possible for the company to fill its show with more young talent and give fans longer, higher-quality matches.
Are there downfalls to the three-hour format? Absolutely.
There are far too many video recaps. More commercials and advertisements create viewer boredom. As always, there is concern with oversaturation.
When a company has as many talented individuals as WWE has on its roster now, though, having a large enough platform, with enough time to showcase it, can absolutely never be a bad thing.
Could the three-hour format of Raw eventually come back to bite World Wrestling Entertainment? Bet on it. But in its first month of existence, it has done far more better than worse for the show.
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