When WWE decided to expand Raw to three hours on the 1000th episode of Raw, the first thought that ran through the collective hive-mind of the Internet Wrestling Community was "Great! This is going to be WCW Nitro all over again." Not only did the third hour of Raw not hurt the product, but it actually helped to make things better.
For those of you who don't know, or weren't old enough to remember, WCW Nitro was the show that put WWE Raw in second place in a two-horse race for over a year and a half.
A two-hour Nitro was what put WCW in the lead, but eventually the show was expanded to three hours to capitalize on the growing popularity, as well as the growing roster.
At first, it seemed like the right move. More people could be featured every week while still giving the top stars the time they had earned. However, with every upside comes a downside.
WCW started to look like it was booked by a random number generator after awhile because Eric Bischoff couldn't control the egos of everyone in back. Storylines ran off course, and people didn't know who was doing what week to week.
The big difference between WCW then and WWE now is the way the company is structured. WWE can handle the extra hour on Monday. WCW never had a chance compared to WWE. Raw not only survived the third hour, it thrived because of it.
How did the third hour help, you ask?
When Raw was two hours, even though it was the norm at the time, everything was rushed. There were more squash matches that lasted a minute, there was certainly more focus put on the main event scene than any of the other feuds, and there were some main events that lasted less than five minutes.
When you have more time to tell stories, they tend to be better stories, and that is part of why the third hour has helped WWE. Adding the third hour has allowed WWE to breathe, not just with storytelling, but also with the wrestling itself.
Matches have started to last longer on a regular basis, which in itself has helped to increase the quality of the actual wrestling. Every week seems to feature a 20-minute main event, whereas two years ago you would commonly see the main event start with five minutes left in the show.
Give two wrestlers five minutes and they will do what they need to do to tell a semi-decent story and get in their signature moves, but it will not be an original match by any means. Give them 15 minutes and you might end up with a five-star classic on your hands.
The feuds are longer-term these days, too. We are no longer seeing lots of quick recycled feuds just to fill time between title matches. We are actually seeing programs with months of story behind them.
The third hour of Raw can also be somewhat credited with making sure new Superstars have enough time to really develop themselves. The Shield, Bray Wyatt, Damien Sandow and Fandango have all benefitted from the fact that there is more time to go around these days.
Having real programs and feuds in place for a new wrestler is so much better than a random debut against a jobber. More time on the show gives you time to devote to building those feuds.
WWE has done a great job utilizing the extra time, as well as incorporating their app into the show to make it so there is content during the commercial breaks to watch. It might be looked at as a bit much by some, but being able to actually watch a match through the commercial break is actually pretty cool.
The storytelling in WWE is miles ahead of where it was two years ago, and a large part of that has to do with having more time to actually develop these stories. If this isn't the truth, then I have no idea why some of the B-level PPVs are outshining WrestleMania when it comes to both the matches and the feuds.
Even some of the lower and mid-card feuds have been given significant focus due to the increased amount of available screen-time to go around. There has even been time far more backstage segments and interviews since adding the third hour, which gives WWE the chance to add little bits and pieces to storylines.
Sometimes the build for a pay-per-view was awful because the only feuds that had a significant amount of time to build were the WWE and world title feuds. Now people actually care about feuds when titles aren't even on the line.
The third hour of Raw has helped in many ways. It may be too long for some people to sit through every week, but the DVR revolution has allowed us to watch the show in segments if we choose.
Better storytelling, better wrestling and better character development all make for a better overall product. Skepticism about the idea was valid due to WCW crashing and burning with a three hour show, but WWE has benefited greatly from the extra time.
What do you think? Has the third hour helped or hurt Raw?
Just in case it wasn't obvious, the "Collective hive-mind of the IWC" remark was a joke and meant in a sarcastic manner since everyone thinks we all share the same views on everything. And you're welcome for the Community reference. Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.