WWE Raw: What the Show Can Learn from TNA Impact Wrestling
WWE dominates TNA in terms of ratings and attendance, but Impact Wrestling isn't the joke it used to be. WWE Raw could certainly borrow some of Impact's best aspects.
Some fans still have an image of TNA faltering every week, of too much Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan and Jeff Jarrett. With Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff involved, Impact sometimes felt like a continuation of WCW Nitro's worst years.
The show has grown and evolved since then.
Impact has found its own identity and is thriving in terms of wrestling and entertainment quality. It, like any wrestling show, is still a flawed product, but it has been successful on many levels.
It wouldn't hurt for the Raw writers to take notes on what TNA is doing.
Since King of the Ring was discontinued in 2010, WWE has been without a major tournament.
TNA on the other hand, has shown several Bound for Glory tournament matches on Impact leading up to the Bound for Glory pay-per-view.
The BFG tournament featured some great battles, especially between Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy. Part of the excitement of those matches was the talent involved, but some of it has to be attributed to the raised stakes that the BFG platform provides.
Matches suddenly have much more meaning in tournament form.
It also offers the bookers a multitude of options in terms of providing motivation and conflict for the wrestlers. Stories don't just have to revolve around championships.
Feuds can continue and begin courtesy of the tournament.
WWE would be wise to bring back King of the Ring and air some of the qualifying matches on Raw, or bring back the Gold Rush tournament they ran in 2005 and are now using on NXT.
The good guy/bad guy dynamic has its place, but sometimes sticking to that formula can pigeonhole wrestlers and writers alike.
Randy Orton is struggling and clearly uncomfortable as a face. CM Punk has been invigorated by his recent heel turn.
On Impact, it is often unclear who is a heel and who is a face.
The wrestlers are true to their personas, not a black-and-white role.
There seem to be less unexplained allegiances on Impact as well. On Raw, faces will join forces simply because they are on the same side.
Wrestlers on Impact form allegiances for more clear reasons, or they simply take an every-man-for-himself approach. The product is far more believable this way.
It makes sense that a large roster of wrestlers would all be after each other's throats as they all vie for championships, fame and glory.
WWE shouldn't turn everyone into tweeners, but loosening the boundaries for some characters could create some interesting developments.
Raw can sometimes be so scripted that it feels sterile.
Impact as of late is embracing a more rough-around-the-edges feel. Sure, sometimes that means awkward moments where two guys are just yelling at each other, but there is an exciting energy on the show.
It feels as if conflict could explode at any moment.
It's the difference of cooking between carefully measuring everything and following the recipe exactly, compared to throwing in dashes of this and sprinkles of that.
As a result, Impact often feels more organic.
This creates a more unrefined product than Raw at times, but one that delivers real emotion and makes it hard to look away from.
Less Gratuitous Self-Promotion
It's been better lately, but too much of Raw's three hours is spent on selling us on Raw.
Fans don't need to hear how many Twitter followers John Cena has or how great the ratings for the last Raw were.
Raw is like that annoying friend that always talks about how smart he is, constantly reminding you what prestigious college he went to and showing off all the bits of trivia he knows.
A few commercials here and there are acceptable, but there is no need to annoy your fanbase with filler.
Impact is much tighter in that regard.
We see mainly matches, backstage segments that lead directly to something and well-produced video recaps of feuds. Sure Impact could learn to embrace humor more, but many fans would trade some of Raw's jokes for the chance to be less bombarded by self-promotion.
This is not to say that TNA doesn't exploit their female wrestlers' sexuality, but they do let them perform in the ring.
Too many Divas matches on Raw are forgettable squeal-fests.
Impact gives their females more feuds, more airtime—and the end result is better matches. TNA hires beautiful, sexy women and has them dressed in as little clothing as possible, but they top it off with actual wrestling.
TNA's female portion of the show isn't perfect, but is given far more respect than WWE's Divas division.
Raw audiences hit the kitchen when a Diva's music hits. Impact has its fans geared up for their Knockouts.
Too often Raw is too CM Punk and John Cena-centric. The WWE title gets the majority of the spotlight (as it should), but there is far too little of it left for the midcard, for the up-and-comers.
Impact seems to have as many simultaneous stories as a soap opera.
Their Aces and Eights storyline has been a compelling one, but TNA hasn't made it the only significant narrative. The Bound for Glory series, the teacher vs. student Knockouts feud and the tag team situation have all been well-told stories as well.
Even the Aces and Eights story itself is multi-faceted.
It's reminiscent of Raw in the Attitude Era, where feuds overlapped and involved several people.
Fans want as much packed into every episode as possible. So if a fan is not all that into one storyline, there are plenty more on the air to choose from.
WWE may not feel the motivation to improve because of how successful it is, but if they do decide to elevate their product to further please their fans—it's lessons like these that TNA can teach them.