When WWE Main Event started airing in October 2012, it quickly developed a reputation as a must-watch show for one main reason: It featured lengthy matches.
Although not all lengthy matches are good matches, Main Event thrived early on in large part because it featured quality TV matches that lasted 20 minutes or more. Long, PPV-like TV matches did, in fact, become the mark of the show.
Even to this day, we’re still treated to long, well-wrestled Main Event matches here and there. But Main Event is no longer where WWE fans go to get a taste of PPV-quality matches.
That honor now belongs to the WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw.
Recently, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of Raw matches that go 15 to 20 minutes or more, and not surprisingly, that’s resulted in the overall quality of Raw matches improving as well. The more long matches we’ve gotten on Raw, the better the show’s wrestling has been. Period.
Just over the past few months, we’ve been able to witness a number of incredible matches on the WWE’s “A show.” Some that jump out right off the bat are the amazing CM Punk vs. John Cena bout from back in February, a number of contests involving The Shield and Daniel Bryan vs. Seth Rollins in arguably the third-best match of 2013 so far.
On what seems like a weekly basis, we’ve been getting at least one—and sometimes two or three—incredible displays of wrestling, which is the way that Raw should have always been and should always be. After all, as the overall quality of the WWE’s in-ring action picks up, the overall quality of the show does, too.
The question we have to consider, however, is: Why? Why has Raw replaced Main Event as the WWE’s go-to show for lengthy, quality matches?
The answer is rather simple. The WWE has finally figured out this whole three-hour Raw thing.
Although it took a while (Raw has been three hours each week for nearly a year now), it’s clear that the company has finally figured out the best way to utilize the extra hour of time: Give us longer matches between superstars who should be wrestling longer matches.
It’s never been a difficult concept. Unfortunately for the WWE, they’ve had a difficult time grasping that concept.
For the first five or six months after Raw transitioned to a three-hour format, the quality of the show was rather poor. Heck, even to this day, some three-hour Raw shows are really hard to sit through.
The common factor in those shows? Too many short matches.
When we are forced so sit through short match after short match on Raw, it hurts everything about the show—its flow, our ability to pay attention to it, the ability of those superstars to get over, etc.
But as of late, we’ve seen fewer short matches that do nothing for either guy involved, and in Main Event-like fashion, we’ve seen longer matches that go a long way in helping superstars get over.
Want to know why Daniel Bryan is ridiculously over right now? Because he tears the house down in lengthy matches on Raw on a weekly basis now.
Want to know why The Shield seems like such a big deal? Because the trio gets to steal the show with 15-to-20-minute matches instead of five-minute ones.
Raw now feels a lot more like Main Event once felt in terms of in-ring quality, and the WWE is reaping some major benefits as a result.
Superstars are getting more over. Matches are getting better. The show’s overall quality is improving.
That’s what happens when you finally find the right formula for making a three-hour Raw as good as it can be—a formula that involves a blend of both entertainment and wrestling as entertainment.
Now that Raw is defined by Main Event-like matches, the show is much easier to sit through for 180-plus minutes week after week.
It no longer feels like work. It feels like entertainment.
Drake Oz is a WWE featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!