Stylin? and Profilin? ? Celebrities and RAW Really Don?t Mix
Most people are huge fans of having celebrity’s guest host RAW. At first I didn?t mind it, but I?ve soured on it quite a bit in recent weeks. To be fair some of my exposure to this idea is limited. When DX returned at Summerslam I simply stopped watching RAW because I despise DX more than just about anything else on this planet. I think they cause the RAW brand to regress and add little to the product. They hurt the development of new stars, they hot air time, and it’s a bad use of Shawn Michaels and Triple H as talent. It’s such a blatant in your face merchandise sales push that I?m insulted by it. Having said that, from all the reports I read it sounds like DX was better this time around so I started watching RAW a couple of weeks back and admit they aren?t nearly as bad as they were in 2006. But then again the bar was set pretty low so it’s hard to go anywhere but up. Either way, it’s all relative. Besides, I?m not here to write about DX today, even though they are terrible.
Back to the celebrity guest hosts of RAW. I am not going to go into a diatribe that mocks it, puts it down, spits it out and then tosses it to the side, but I am growing weary and bored of the idea. From a business standpoint it makes a lot of sense for all parties involved. Celebrities with something to promote get a chance to come onto a cable television show with a huge audience and promote their album, movie, website, new pair of shoes, or whatever it may be this week. From the WWE’s perspective they gain the benefits that come with the name recognition celebrities bring, which probably helps in the ratings during the traditionally slower summer months, and in the face of their yearly competition in the form of Monday Night Football. Despite the obvious business motivations, and benefits, I can?t help but feel this cheapens the product. I don?t want to come off like ?Mr. Wrestling-holier-than-thou-MoveZ-Itsstillrealtome! Guy?, but it’s just starting to feel out of place. It isn?t the celebrities themselves that bother me. In fact, in a lot of ways they actually belong. Historically wrestling has always been intermingled with celebrities. While my historical knowledge of this is limited to WWE lore, I find it hard to believe that local or regional celebrities did not find their way into regional wrestling promotions before the time of Vince McMahon. So yeah. In that respect it makes sense. But it’s being taken to a point of no return. While celebrities may have their place, it isn?t every single week on your flagship show.
One of the main criticisms of TNA over the years has been that they overuse gimmicks, ?moveZ?, run-ins, brawls and the like to the point where they become meaningless. The WWE has slowly moved down this path themselves in the last 12 to 18 months. It all seemed to start when we had two Elimination Chambers booked at No Way Out in 2007. I admit, I was intrigued at this idea and thought it was kind of fun. I did not, however, expect this to become a regular trend in WWE programming. We got the same thing next year, and then we started getting re-branded Pay Per Views like Bragging Rights, Breaking Point, Hell In A Cell, and now Decembers TLC-themed show. That means we will not have a non-gimmicked Pay Per View from Summerslam until Wrestlemania since the Royal Rumble and No Way Out (or whatever it’s called now) are gimmicked. That’s six to seven months (depending on when Wrestlemania falls this year) of strictly gimmicked Pay Per Views. While I realize not every match on these shows will carry a gimmick, the theme becomes the overriding factor in building for the shows, and it handicaps booking. Instead of letting feuds grow organically and adding a gimmick as needed, you end up locked into a specific match type, which choreographs your booking. If you already know where you want (or need) the feud to head from a storyline perspective, then you have to find a way to get the fans to buy into the feud the way that you want them to. What happens when the fans don?t buy into a feud but you?re stuck in a gimmick match anyways? It’s bound to happen at some point. So how does this all tie back to my issues with the guest hosts? Well, in my opinion it is just another extension of over-gimmicked shows in the WWE. RAW itself is essentially meaningless these days. It feels like there is little or no continuity from one week to the next. While feuds themselves are carrying over from one show to the next, the show isn?t about the feuds. The show is about the guest host and what type of crazy antics he or she will be up to next. As a result, pretty much everything else seems to get lost in the shuffle.
People have been very high on the Randy Orton/John Cena feud. I on the other hand, have not enjoyed this feud. I cannot really criticize it as I have not been watching RAW as much as I have in the past, and I have not seen their recent Pay Per View matches. But I do know that these two work well together. Their past feuds (2007 and 2008) were some of the best the WWE has produced since the Rock/Austin feuds of the late ?90’s and early 2000’s. But despite their natural chemistry and ability to put on good matches together, the feud itself has been hindered because of a combination of the gimmick Pay Per View’s and the guest hosts of RAW. Nothing flows from week to week. RAW doesn?t revolve around its main event talent. I almost feel like Randy Orton and John Cena are fighting because it gives the GUEST HOSTS something to do, rather than because John Cena and Randy Orton have a true problem with one another. Instead, RAW revolves around Snoop Dog and his lame jokes about smoking pot. While I am sure Jeff Hardy absolutely loves the mary jane references, they add no depth or value to RAW, and detract from it when we see the same types of antics every week. It’s fun here and there, but there seems to be something each week that goes down this path that is just a little bit too over the top for my tastes. On top of that, isn?t it counterintuitive to have an outsider to the wrestling world overshadow the top of your card? As fun as the guest host gimmick may be (at times), and as much as it may boost ratings in the short term, aren?t John Cena and Randy Orton the reason that people are going to tune in and buy Pay Per Views? If your weekly storylines suffer from this gimmick, isn?t this going to eventually come back and hurt the WWE’s pocketbook? I have to think that at some point it will if this continues. Granted, with Wrestlemania coming up, and the WWE getting ready to go into high gear to prepare for their biggest show of the year, it’s likely that the guest host gimmick will come to an end soon. From this writer’s perspective, that can?t happen soon enough.
On one final note, I can?t help but bring this up after all the hate mail I?ve received in the past for my criticism of Jeff Hardy. So now that Hardy’s found himself in a bit of legal trouble over his past, and apparently present, drug use: How’s that crow tasting?