WWE Raw continues to feel like the second-rate show in comparison to SmackDown and has the bad ratings to back up that idea.
Which is odd because, as hardcore fans are surely aware, a favorite like Big E is the red brand's top titleholder and a name such as Becky Lynch is the top women's champion.
So what gives?
It's important to make something as clear as possible here: It's not Big E or Lynch's fault. Raw's worst-ever rating and worst-ever in key demographics was a long time coming almost regardless of who happened to hold the show's top two titles.
That it's Big E and Lynch is incredibly disappointing, of course. The culprit (booking) has struck again in both cases.
With Big E, the fact that WWE used him as a slapdash solution to the show's problems just didn't help. He essentially came out of nowhere to win the title. A dropped feud with Aleister Black (because the Dutchman was released) turned into a Money in the Bank briefcase win, only to have it stolen, only to win it back before ultimately cashing in on Bobby Lashley to win it all.
Since, he's been in mostly holding-pattern feuds, re-upping with The All Mighty often or throwing down in tag team matches. That came before actually taking a loss to Roman Reigns in a champion vs. champion match at Survivor Series.
It's almost as if WWE simply banked on the goodwill fans have for E thanks to his time with The New Day in the hopes it would fix things. That hasn't been the case, and it now sure feels like it could yank the title off him in favor of someone like Seth Rollins for WrestleMania 38 season.
The Lynch situation, somehow, has been staggeringly worse. She had that unannounced comeback from her pregnancy leave at SummerSlam to what should have been a huge fan reaction. Instead, she turned heel, burying Bianca Belair in 26 seconds to steal back her title.
As expected, WWE inexplicably trying to get one of its most beloved Superstars booed for some reason has been a faceplant. It's not that Big Time Becks isn't trying or isn't great—it just doesn't make sense.
Since repeatedly beating Belair in what seems like an unlimited number of times since, Lynch looped back into another tried-and-true feud with Charlotte Flair, then teased dropping the title to Liv Morgan, only for her opponent to go down hard after years of toiling in the midcard before finally getting a chance.
To its credit, WWE is at least trying with these two while SmackDown loops back for another Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns affair that will stretch until at least WrestleMania. But the approach with both of Raw's top stars has been mind-numbingly dense for no discernable reason, and a general fan disinterest would reinforce that idea.
What might be most frustrating of all with Raw's purgatory-feeling shows with these two as headline stars is that for one, it was so easy to predict things would unfold this way. And two, it's not hard to fix.
Maybe WWE will fix it in time for 'Mania season, though. All it has to do is get risky by having a New Day member win the Royal Rumble and choose Big E. The storyline of brothers battling for the top spot writes itself and could end up memorable, if not guarantee at least one of them becomes a main event star for good.
Lynch is a bit trickier. She's already bested Flair again and that's an exhausting feud. Going at it again with Belair might air on the side of exhaustion, too. But whether it's Rhea Ripley as an up-and-comer or even a veteran like Alexa Bliss, The Man going down at The Show of Shows will be satisfying given the way she's used heel tactics to beat the likes of Morgan lately.
If WWE can smoothly pull off this heel Lynch run as a way to build somebody else, hindsight might judge it better than it looks right now.
But again, WWE does like to fall back to its old ways. That could mean a rehash feud for Lynch and somebody else taking Big E's title into WrestleMania on April 2-3. That sort of reactionary stuff is why the company is having this ratings problem with Raw in the first place.
There is an old idea that the best of the best talent should be able to make anything work, but that's not totally fair to the two champions mentioned here.
Big E has technically been in WWE since 2009 and never majorly elevated over tag team status, hence even losing clean to Reigns while champ. Lynch, maybe the outright face of the company right now and returning from a pregnancy, was asked to return as a heel.
Which is to say this is hardly a fault of talent, and it would be a shame if WWE treats it as such. With these two headlining Raw, it should technically feel like the "A" show over SmackDown right now. But the booking, long-term thought and care required from those around the Superstars just hasn't been up to snuff, which is a major shame.