WWE Raw has been the worst major wrestling show on television for nearly a year now, and the company doubled down on that claim Monday when it delivered one of the worst segments in recent memory with Shayna Baszler's appearance on "Alexa's Playground."
It's not so much the supernatural element of the segment that deserves scorn and criticism. After all, The Undertaker was an undead zombie who terrified opponents for decades by using his arms to turn out the lights, rose from the dead and summoned lightning indoors whenever he pleased.
What made it nearly unbearable was the continued nonsensical and directionless booking of Alexa Bliss, which is reflective of the larger issue surrounding WWE's flagship show.
Where is Any of This Going?
To her credit, Bliss has been nothing short of excellent in her new role. She has completely embraced her unsettling new persona and made the most of what is given to her, which, unfortunately, has been disjointed rubbish.
Her character change came via an alliance with Bray Wyatt's The Fiend. At WrestleMania 37, his demonic alter ego went away and therefore his hold on her should have as well. Instead, she has kept her persona.
And while that is fine in theory, the decided lack of direction the creative team appears to have with regards to her character isn't.
For weeks, she popped up here and there, and only recently did she finally hone in on Baszler as the intended target of her mind games. Why? Who knows? Apparently, WWE Creative doesn't based on the lack of explanation presented to the fans.
If it's simply because The Queen of Spades hurt her doll, Lilly, it's about as lazy an explanation as there could be. But lazy has been the theme of the red brand's creative process of late.
Too often, feuds start just to start. There's no real reason for them, and nor is there really any point. They just happen for a few weeks and end abruptly. Some continue on and forget what the goal was in the first place, i.e. the Bliss arc.
Then there are the world title feuds, which drag on for months because the writing team has little idea what to do with either man involved after they wrap up.
Case in point: The three-month feud between Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley that has never really intensified or even evolved much beyond "Guy No. 1 wants title from guy No. 2," yet will now inexplicably take place inside Hell in a Cell as if it was some red-hot feud that needs the confines of the structure to conclude things.
What was once a show that served as the company's most important television property has become a thrown-together, rehashed entity that is entirely skippable and features nothing really worth investing in, despite an incredibly talented roster of hard-working performers.
How does Raw recover both from the Bliss monstrosity and the hole it finds itself in creatively? Well, it can start by better utilizing the talent it has while booking with more urgency and long-term storytelling.
It's Not Too Late to Improve
For starters, maybe don't use someone like Baszler in an angle that requires someone to go performance-for-performance with Bliss. That's not her game. She's an ass-kicker, not an actress, and it was exposed as she let out screams in reaction to Lilly's appearance in the mirror at the conclusion of Monday's Raw.
WWE needs to recognize the strengths of its performers and put them in a position to succeed rather than exposing their weaknesses on television. Paul Heyman has repeatedly stated the secret to ECW's success was that he always accentuated the positives and hid the weaknesses.
That was a company on a much smaller scale, but it's a philosophy that should work for any promotion.
Look how shoehorned Randy Orton was into the Wyatt storyline and how effortlessly he has filled the role of straight man to Riddle's over-the-top goofball persona. On SmackDown, Roman Reigns has finally found his calling as The Tribal Chief and the show's lead heel.
WWE can create a quality program when it starts letting its stars be themselves rather than forcing them into no-win situations such as the one Baszler found herself in on Monday night.
From there, the creative team must put together coherent stories, with beginnings, middles and ends. It must recognize the significance of that to an audience that wants to be entertained but also has any number of higher-brow options elsewhere on streaming platforms.
No one is expecting an Emmy Award-winning turn out of WWE's writing staff; we just want better than the effortless shlock the company has been producing every Monday night for the last year or so.
And finally, more urgency.
Yes, Raw is the longest weekly episodic show on television. Yes, it is a brand name, but the total lack of urgency the company has approached it with has devalued it significantly of late. It's no longer destination viewing. Instead, video clips or written recaps are often more entertaining than the three-hour presentation.
Until someone sits up and takes notice of how far the show has fallen, none of the above—nor any asinine attempts at the supernatural—will help it recover the luster it has most definitely lost.