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WWE May Have Just Unlocked the Formula for Making Raw Fun Again

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

The two most buzzed-about segments on Monday's Raw involved references to things that exist outside of the scripted surreality of the WWE Universe. 

Denise Salcedo @_denisesalcedo

"You have people on other shows saying your name just to get a cheap reaction, you live rent free on a lot of heads " - Edge to the Miz This is after CM Punk called MJF a "less famous Miz" on AEW Dynamite. oooooooohhhhhhhhh #WWERAW

The first was Liv Morgan mentioning the releases of Sarah Logan and Ruby Riott in the last year. The other was Edge referencing the CM Punk-MJF promo war from All Elite Wrestling Dynamite the week prior.

Matt @SquishySnapple

@WWE @YaOnlyLivvOnce Okay but when Liv brought up the releases https://t.co/RurYFmLXuB

In tapping into reality, those two lines may have just unlocked the formula for making Raw fun again.

    

Respect the Audience

The most unique element of both of those lines is that they played on things that actually happened. So often, in the overly glossy world of WWE programming, things are scripted to almost ignore reality. We see wrestlers on the show one week and then the next they are gone, released from their contracts and absent from television with no explanation as to where that person we just invested in went.

Morgan invited fans in, and she let them know that, yeah, Riott and Logan aren't here anymore, and I blame Becky Lynch and her bloated paycheck for it. It is a nod to what we know to be true, utilized to further a storyline on television. It blurred the line and made the audience feel like they were a part of the show. 

Ditto for Edge, who put The Miz over by acknowledging that on AEW, CM Punk dropped The Hollywood A-Lister's name to get a reaction, claiming Miz is living in that guy's mind rent-free. 

B/R Wrestling @BRWrestling

“You have people on other shows saying your name just to get a cheap reaction. You live rent-free in a lot of heads.” Edge to The Miz 👀 (via @WWE) https://t.co/qDe6lZaZhb

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Social media understandably popped for both, since it's such a rarity to reference the competition or remind fans that there's been a rash of releases from McMahonland over the last 18 months. And therein lies what makes AEW such a red-hot program while WWE's flagship has not been.

Tony Khan and those in charge of AEW recognize the effect social media has on the business. Everyone knows what is going on. Fans are more aware of contractual situations, behind-the-scenes workings and the fact that, for the first time in two decades, there are two major, national wrestling companies to choose from.

Why ignore it? Why pretend it doesn't exist just to keep your show in its own bubble?

AEW openly recognizes the existence of WWE and is not afraid to work references to it or its talent into promos when appropriate. No, it isn't pandering to its base. It isn't looking for credibility. It is already thriving on a major cable network. The company doesn't need to do that. 

It respects its audience enough not to treat them like oblivious imbeciles and lets them feel like they are part of the show.

WWE doesn't extend the same courtesy. Not consistently, at least.

Perhaps that is why two lines that wouldn't have made much of an impact on Dynamite were so buzzworthy on Raw.

Let the talent have the freedom to talk, sure, but also don't limit what they can say within reason. If it's out there and the company website has announced the release of certain wrestlers, don't pretend it didn't happen. If AEW name-dropped one of WWE's top stars, let the talent take a shot back. 

Former WCW President and Raw general manager Eric Bischoff lives by the motto, "controversy creates cash." Inject the flagship with a little controversy, get fans talking, and the show might become a little easier to watch than the three-hour slog it has been for the last year.

Unfortunately, WWE doesn't appear ready to go all-in on the controversy just yet, as evidenced by its decision to remove one of the lines from its official YouTube channel.

      

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Fightful (h/t Cageside Seats) reported some of the talent backstage were unhappy with the use of real-life releases in an on-screen storyline. 

Had WWE used the releases disrespectfully, it would totally make sense that talent was livid over the decision. Instead, someone genuinely affected by them used her real relationships with Riott and Logan to attack Lynch and her egotistical heel persona. 

WWE @WWE

"You're the reason why your friend is gone just like the reason why your big, fat greedy contract is the reason why MY friends are gone. How does it feel knowing you become everything you despised?" - @YaOnlyLivvOnce 🔥🎤 #WWERaw https://t.co/EUSYTZEuYM

The releases were executed because of "budget cuts," and Lynch is a big-timer now. Blaming her ego and a fat new paycheck as the reason Riott and Logan were cut makes sense within the context of both the storyline and the real reason presented by the company itself.

Are there better ways to set that story up between Morgan and Lynch? Absolutely, but if you're going to go there, at least do it in a way that doesn't feel shoehorned. This did not.

If WWE decides it will backtrack every time one of their Superstars says something even a little controversial, it will never be able to sustain buzz or attention. It will also fracture that relationship it built with fans and deliver them back to the mediocrity that filled their televisions over the last year or two. 

Does WWE have to revert back to the Attitude Era to have success and get people genuinely excited for Raw again? No. Should it capitalize on buzz created by its talent acknowledging what everyone knows anyway? Absolutely. 

Until that happens, until WWE invites its fans into the show and lets them be a part of it, rather than feeling lucky enough to experience it, it will continue to be faced with the same apathy that it has encountered for the last year. 

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