When three hour Monday Night Raw's were announced in May of 2012 most internet wrestling fans had their suspicions as to whether or not this was something WWE's creative department could handle long-term. That's not a slight at the writers, but WWE had rarely put on quality three hour programs prior to making the permanent jump to weekly three hour shows.
It's been almost a year and a half since the move, and I must admit I can't watch Raw live on a weekly basis. I'm still tuning each week, but I'm doing so thanks to the help of my DVR. I really did give it my best effort early on to try and watch each show live, but it just got to be too much. I can't sit down and watch each show live, but I still find myself tuning each week. I found that to be odd in a sense because I'm not DVRing the program each week so I can skip the commercials. There isn't really one specific reason as to why I'm not able to sit through the show's live, but more of a combination of things.
As most fans have noticed the wrestling quality on Raw has greatly improved. Wrestlers who may not excel on the mic, but excel in the ring have gotten the opportunity to get over with the fans in a way that wasn't plausible on two hour shows. It simply wasn't plausible because of time constraints. So -- even though the three shows are probably a major strain on the writing the staff -- its been worthwhile for the wrestlers.
You could make the case The Shield would not be as big of a commodity had Raw not added an additional hour. Not that it matters but if I had to pick a wrestler of the year I'd say The Shield. Obviously it's a three person unit, but they're all equally deserving of the award. After being as revealed as paid goons The Shield evolved into just being three guys who put on incredible matches week after week. The fans didn't care about their character contradictions because they were given a lot of time to steal the show every Monday for a pretty significant amount of time.
The Shield may have shined the brightest this past year, but CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, the Uso's, etc have all really good years if you just look at their in-ring work. However, it's easy to forget who has really benefited the most from the three hour Raw's -- the jobbers.
With more in-ring time squash matches have subtly started to disappear. A perfect example of this was CM Punk vs. Darren Young earlier this year. Traditional jobbers are rarely losing in thirty seconds or less, and it's slowly adjusting how fans view the roster as a whole. Young may not have beaten Punk, but hanging with a star like Punk for that long helps guys like Young establish credibility that may have been ruined prior to the three hour Raw's. Even 3MB -- who I'm not entirely has won a match in 2013 -- get time to show they can hang with most tag-teams even if fans have been conditioned to expect them to lose each week.
Fans have been conditioned for years to tune in for John Cena and friends, but with the added hour fans are now being conditioned to think most of the roster is capable of beating anybody else -- and that's good. Just ask the NFL how a parity driven league is working for them.
Three hour Raw's aren't perfect; the commentary is atrocious and there isn't really a compelling storyline going on at the moment. Even when Raw hits this dormant period you can still count on a quality match or two every week. That's a really good thing and change WWE has slowly made over the past year and a half.
It may still be weird to see the Darren Young's of the world hang with the CM Punk's of the world, but in the grand scheme of things it's better for the product to continue to level the playing field.