WWE currently has six hours of prime time television to fill every week. The legendary mainstay of the WWE programming stable, Monday Night Raw, is a three-hour event. SmackDown takes up two hours on Friday nights, and WWE's newest show, Main Event, is on ION every Wednesday night for an hour.
Historically, WWE television begins and ends with Raw. There have been periods of time when SmackDown was probably a better show, but overall, it's still the "B" offering. When WWE has had an additional one-hour show in the past (NXT, ECW and the old-school Sunday Night Heat), those shows were typically throwaway programs, filled with low-card workers and clips from the "important" shows.
Main Event is a different breed of show for WWE, and right now, it's the best thing that Vince McMahon and company have on television.
The best thing about Main Event is that, so far, it has lived up to its name. The WWE creative team has done a good job of creating matchups that people want to see. Big-name stars like John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and Kofi Kingston have all appeared since the show debuted in October. Unlike ECW and NXT, which both featured lower-card stars or rookies that no one knew, Main Event utilizes top-level talent and makes matches that are compelling.
What makes the matches compelling, besides the use of main-event caliber talent, is that the show is geared to taking most of an hour to tell the story of each featured match. While there is often a secondary match on the show, there is truly only one Main Event.
The WWE creative team supplies background videos on both the wrestlers (or teams) involved in the match, and the announcers do a good job of hyping the story behind the match. Fans who don't watch every episode of Raw or SmackDown still feel invested in the storyline, and they also feel like they know what is at stake in each match.
The story development on Main Event is more consistent and typically more logical than the storytelling that goes on during Raw or SmackDown. Instead of filler segments and throwaway matches with nothing at stake, the big conflicts on Main Event seem important and have resonance for the fans.
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The announce team, typically Michael Cole and The Miz (with John Bradshaw Layfield filling in for Miz if Miz is in the big match or otherwise occupied), does a great job of telling the story behind the match of the night and making the outcome seem important.
On a recent episode, Cole and JBL were calling the match between Damien Sandow and John Cena. While these two grapplers don't have a significant history, Cole and Layfield emphasized how important a strong match was for Sandow. They hyped the fact that having a good showing against a star of Cena's caliber would elevate Sandow's standing within the company. This approach resonates with hardcore fans who are usually at least as interested in the story as they are in the match, and it also hits home for the more casual fans that might be wondering why this match matters.
It's a tough balance for the announcers to appeal to both types of fans, but Cole and company have done an excellent job of walking that line.
Maybe the most obvious reason that Main Event is more compelling than its Monday and Friday counterparts is that it's only an hour long. With only one match to really focus on, viewers can get all of the background they need in a relatively short period of time. Any time not spent on the main event match is generally spent on a secondary match and on keeping fans up to date on the latest story developments from Raw and SmackDown. These updates don't seem as obtrusive as they do on the other shows, and fans who only have an hour to invest instead of two or three will feel as if they are up to date on all of the happenings in WWE.
If you have an hour to spare on Wednesday night, check it out. It's definitely worth recording to watch later if Wednesdays don't work for you. Main Event is the best thing on WWE TV right now.