(Thanks to Jason Powell at Prowrestling.net for so diligently checking JR’s blog. And thanks to JR’s BBQ employee Tim for hooking me up with some chipotle ketchup about two years ago.) Jim Ross discussed the recent WWE draft on his blog at JRsbarbq.com and addressed whatever criticism may have come DOWN THE PIKE~! regarding the once-again top-heavy Monday Night Raw:
No huge surprises as any one who did not think that Monday Night Raw wasn’t going to be enhanced more than any other brand simply wasn’t paying attention. Raw is the #1 TV priority of WWE and rightfully so as it delivers the biggest audience in the longest standing time slot on the best medium to sell pay per views, cable TV. Raw will have John Cena, HHH, Batista, HBK, and MVP at their disposal to feature as fan favorites. That’s five deep, at worst, plus perhaps an unknown will “break through.”
He also wondered how impactful Mr. Kennedy’s return next month would be (heh) and touted some of the picks Smackdown received…
I also like having Shelton Benjamin, Dolph Ziggler, Curt Hawkins, Ricky Ortiz (no towels please unless they feature JR’s BBQ), Charlie Haas and Mike Knox on Friday nights.
Besides the fact that Shelton was already on Smackdown, I can agree with 20 percent of that list.
So we’re supposed to take away from this that it’s logical Raw is so loaded with stars because it’s the No. 1 priority of the company. That’s a given, but that doesn’t address the idea that WWE should be trying to pull in huge ratings for every show no matter what. Why wouldn’t they? Even though we’ve already done an audio version of this, I’m a visual person (and a butt man, as well), so let’s take a look at how things came out in the wash:
Raw babyfaces: John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Batista… MVP, Mr. Kennedy (ugh, please make him a heel again), Kofi Kingston… Festus, Jamie Noble, Goldust, Hacksaw Duggan… Carlito & Primo
Raw heels: Randy Orton, Big Show… Matt Hardy, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase (both of whom have been emasculated in a matter of months)… Santino Marella… William Regal, The Miz, The Brian Kendrick, Chavo Guerrero… and who the hell knows what Sim Snuka is these days; I thought they’d just fired him anyway
Smackdown babyfaces: Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy… CM Punk… R-Truth, The Great Khali, Charlie Haas, Ricky Ortiz, Jimmy Wang Yang, Jesse… Funaki… Cryme Time
Smackdown heels: Edge, Chris Jericho… John Morrison, Kane, Shelton Benjamin… Umaga, Mike Knox, Dolph Ziggler… Curt Hawkins
ECW babyfaces: Christian, Evan Bourne, Finlay, Tommy Dreamer, Hurricane Helms, DH Smith (last time we saw him, anyway), DJ Gabriel (I think)
ECW heels: Jack Swagger, Vladimir Kozlov (so extreme), Mark Henry, Tyson Kidd, Paul Burchill, Ezekiel Jackson, Zach Ryder
I used ellipses (…) to stratify the tiers per brand, and I think they’re pretty accurate. Raw’s babyface main-eventers outnumber the heels 2-to-1, and the only people who could legitimately mix in are Rhodes and DiBiase (and without some character rehabilitation, what’s the point other than being warm bodies to do jobs?), Smilin’ MVP (and who’s he gonna break out wrestling? Regal?), and Matt Hardy (not too far out there as a possibility, but what’s he gonna do, start a feud with Batista by calling him a big oaf, which would totally babyface him?) Will these guys draw ratings? Yes, Raw will continue to linger around the 3.7-4.0 range for a little while with this roster. But the booking needs some motivation behind it and quick, or else we’re stuck with some combination of Rhodes & DiBiase jobbing to some combination of Hunter and Batista for another few months. Blecch.
And as far as drawing ratings, Edge is proven. Undertaker is the man. People love Jeff Hardy. Chris Jericho just got about 7 seconds of mainstream exposure (and it’s not like WWE capitalized on Jericho’s two-plus years of VH1 work, so this point is moot). And I can’t think of any empirical evidence I’ve seen to prove that Rey Mysterio draws the Hispanic crowd, but people say it all the time, so it must be true. Beyond that, WWE had better hope the crowds that love chanting “C-M-Punk” will tune into Smackdown on MyNetwork TV to watch him. If nothing else, it could be interesting to watch John Morrison and Mike Knox attempt to break on through to the other side. But Dolph Ziggler, Charlie Haas, R-Truth and Ricky Ortiz don’t exactly warm the cockles of my Nielsen-family heart. Smackdown’s color might be blue, but good business says you spread the wealth around and make some green.
ECW, on the other hand (yes, I have three hands; I typed this whole post in 35 seconds), will continue to be quality television, minus Kozlov. Christian and Evan Bourne will keep things interesting, Jack Swagger will continue to come into his own, DH Smith’s return and whatever friction may be there between Tyson Kidd and Natalya could turn into something good down the road, and I can’t wait to see what bad-ass Ezekiel Jackson has to offer. Again, though, WWE better hope this is the roster that maintains that hefty 1.33 rating every week. ECW shouldn’t be the bastard child, but it is. It’s like the time-out chair of WWE. On the flipside, one could argue it’s more like the preschool, but it doesn’t need to be that way. I guess we’ll just have to sit back and see what the Christian-led ECW brings to the table (hopefully a 1.34).
JR isn’t entirely wrong when he says we should expect Raw to be loaded with stars. But as fans, we should also expect WWE to put their best foot forward with every show, not just their best foot on Raw and their gimp foot on the other shows. -Eric