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I’m trying to give Raw Underground a shot, but it’s not easy

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After a Raw for the record books wrapped up last night (Aug. 3), cSs head honcho Geno Mrosko asked if I could take an old gimmick out of mothballs for Shane McMahon’s undergound fight club. I used to write an occasional series of posts called “Excited and Afraid” where I’d make lists of reasons I was optimistic and pessimistic about an angle or development, then net out whether I was more excited or afraid for where it was taking us.

Get it!?!?

Anyway, the issue I had with taking the assignment on for Raw Underground was that I didn’t feel particularly excited about it. Don’t get me wrong. There was stuff I liked about our first visit to Shane’s subterranean sportatorium:

  • It’s good and important for WWE to be trying things that break the mold Vince McMahon’s been using since the 1980s. At this point, I’ll take almost anything that does that.
  • This is a vehicle to give more opportunities to more people. In one night that was evident with the debut of Dabba-Kato (NXT’s Babatunde Aiyegbusi), the new side of Erik we saw, and the side of Shelton Benjamin we hadn’t seen in a while.
  • Some of it was pretty fun! Especially once MVP and The Hurt Business took over, this was not a bad way to spend a few minutes of Raw’s too-long runtime.

It’s not even that the bad outweighs the good. There’s bad, of course, like:

  • Shane talking over the “fights.”
  • Standard WWE production, including quick cuts and rapid camera movement.
  • Dancing girls? In 2020? Really? [Author’s note, since these five words seem to be what 50% of early comments want to focus on and it’s easier than replying to everyone: Not trying to dancing girl shame, nor am I “triggered.” I just don’t see any point in a handful of 2 seconds cuts to blurred out people moving awkwardly. So like much of this whole affair, it screamed “thrown in at the last minute because old guys remember it from last century and think it’ll be edgy.” Give them a reason to be there and/or do it well. If it added meaningful context for you, mazel tov. They did nothing but make me roll my eyes and make it that much harder to suspend my disbelief.]

The bigger issue is that I don’t trust WWE. To explain why any of this is happening, or how it’s different from the matches that take place on Raw Aboveground. To have any of it matter, lead anywhere, or even still exist in a month.

  • If Shane’s fights are “real,” are the ones we’ve been following for years not? Why should we care about those at all?
  • Will Erik and Shelton simultaneously be badasses in the Underground while doing comedy sketches and doing jobs on regular Raw? Why don’t they use the tactics they use on the rope-less mat in the standard one? Why doesn’t everybody? The rules don’t prevent ground-and-pound as long as the pounding isn’t done with a closed fist, right?
  • Why is Shane doing this? Why is he allowed to? What’s the motivation the competitors have for participating? It could just be opportunity, or a love of violence, but say it.

Right now, like it or hate it, Raw Underground comes across as a shock tactic for ratings. Which it is. But we could suspend our disbelief a little better if some time’s spent building it into WWE’s fictional world.

I really, truly hope this is a game-changing moment for the company and the business. That we learn WWE has answers to all those questions, and a plan to not only incorporate Raw Underground into its existing storylines, but use it to create new stars & start telling new kinds of stories, and that those things bring new fans to wrestling.

For any of that to happen though, there needs to be more layers to this. And [gestures broadly at WWE history] I’m not expecting there to be.

We’ll see if they surprise me. Sounds like we’re getting at least one more week of it.