When the WWE officially made Monday Night Raw a three-hour show starting with the 1,000th episode this past summer, there were mixed feelings from the fans.
Many felt as though Raw would drag on and the WWE would use the time for frivolous things, but Raw has really hit its stride as of late.
It isn't possible to please everyone, so I'm sure that there are still some fans complaining that three hours is too much programming, but when all three hours are used effectively and for a clear purpose, those three hours tend to fly by.
That was the case this week despite Raw being taped, and it has been true over the past couple months for the most part.
Has the WWE hit its stride with three-hour Raws?
In fact, that extra hour is going to be of the utmost importance moving forward. With the Royal Rumble and the road to WrestleMania approaching, the proper building of feuds and storylines is vital.
With The Rock returning and other angles playing out as well, the WWE is going to need each and every second of programming it can accommodate.
Raw has been much better as a whole in recent weeks, but the New Year's Eve edition of the show was a perfect example of how to milk every last ounce out of a three-hour time frame.
Not only were there solid matches, but most were meaningful as titles were on the line. Also, there was plenty of storyline development, an entertaining war of words between Dolph Ziggler and John Cena, and even a comedy segment involving Mae Young.
One thing there was very little of was social media endorsement, and while that probably had something to do with the fact that it was a taped show, the WWE has taken it easy on that front for the most part. There are still mentions of Twitter, Tout and the WWE's iPhone app, but none of it has been shoved down our throats like it was initially.
It's understandable that the WWE brass wants to do everything it can to reach as many eyes as possible, but most fans hated the increased social media exposure for the most part, and the WWE has rectified the situation. Fans want more wrestling and storyline development, and that is what they have gotten in recent weeks.
Also, the development of fresh angles has contributed a ton to a better overall show. The aforementioned Ziggler vs. Cena feud is great because it pits a rising star against the face of the company. Prior to this feud, Ziggler was never viewed as anything more than an upper midcarder, but he's now on the precipice of becoming world champion and establishing himself as a main-eventer.
The introduction of The Shield is another thing that has revitalized Monday nights. Fans were clamoring for Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to get called up to the main roster, and they along with Roman Reigns have made an immediate impact by taking out some of the biggest stars in the entire WWE.
If that isn't enough, Ryback has quickly developed into one of the most popular stars in the entire WWE. Over the course of the past few months he has gone from squashing jobbers to feuding with WWE Champion CM Punk. He gets a louder crowd reaction than perhaps anyone on the roster and his ascent has been a big part of Raw's improvement.
More than anything, good storylines and good talent lead to a good show, so the fact that things are starting to click on Raw has a little bit to do with increased focus on wrestling and storyline development, but the wrestlers who are involved in those matches and storylines are better and being used better as well.
With so much action taking place on a weekly basis, three hours now seems like it's necessary rather than overkill. There used to be complaints from fans that they could barely stay awake over the course of a three-hour Raw, and I even admittedly found myself weary-eyed as well, but I've been glued to the action since Survivor Series at the very least.
Even when things aren't going so well, the build toward WrestleMania is almost always entertaining, so the next three months promise to be fantastic. That's especially true when you take into account the great angles that are already happening.
It didn't take long for fans to call for the end of three-hour Raws and to go so far as to say that they were ruining the company, but knee-jerk reactions are nothing new in professional wrestling.
The WWE has figured out how to properly pace and book these marathon shows, and I'm back to the point where I find myself wanting more when Raw goes off the air.