Stro's State of Televised Wrestling
Over the past 10 days, I've had access to all the major promotions televised in the US. I'd like to give some of my views on what I've seen.
WWE Monday Night Raw
Monday 8PM EST, USA Network
Everyone knows about Raw. It's been dog shit for years. Brutally long shows with underutilized talent, over exposed talent, bad skits, bad promos, bad commentary. Raw is garbage right now. No denying it. In a 3 hour show, you're lucky to get 40 minutes of actually entertaining content. Plenty of long matches, even though they are almost always completely meaningless and heatless. The build to WM has been worse than normal, which is generally pretty shitty besides 2-3 matches anyway. It's a miserable show to slog through most weeks.
Thursday 8PM EST, SYFY
The long suffering B show. NOTHING of importance happens on it. Anything good that happens on Smackdown will be redone on the following Raw. And usually anything good from Raw will be redone on Smackdown. More focus on the in ring action than Raw, but no matter how solid the action is, it is meaningless and heatless. Even with the sweetened audio, Smackdown crowds are deader than dead. Commentary is atrocious. I guess it is a solid show to watch some of your favorite mid card guys get some extra time to put on the same match they did on Raw 2 weeks earlier.
Friday 9PM EST, Destination America
TNA is still gonna TNA. Somehow they are still around, on a network with a solid 60% less penetration than Spike. The production style is somehow worse than ever, with the shows being lit like an 80s house show in order to hide that they run shows with 300-400 fans. Yet, even in the UK where they have a lot of fans, they still light the show like shit to make it look like there are fewer fans. In addition to that, their camera temperatures are different, so you'll go from shots of the mat being blindingly white to being a dingy yellow. They frequently have the lighting rig shining directly into the handheld cameras, and the 3/6/15 show had dirty lenses and what appeared to be dead pixels or something. I thought perhaps there was a dead pixel on the screen, but it was a production issue. Commentary is as bad as ever. Josh Matthews won't stop talking and he and Taz argue non-stop. They also go into the same "let's talk about anything but the match" routine that happens on WWE shows. The 3/13/15 show was amazing in that they clearly didn't do commentary together and Taz's dropped in lines were straight out of a video game. They also now do commentary from a studio, which for some reason is shown in its own screen on occasion that takes up 1/3rd of the screen. They spoiled their main event for 3/6 multiple times with ads for upcoming shows. Everything about it looks more low rent than 2002 era TNA.
From the in ring perspective, there isn't a single compelling person on the show besides Rockstar Spud, and that goes away when he wrestles since he's essentially a comedy character. They're still rocking the same group of people they've had for 10 or more years and all the new blood is WWE cast offs. Of course, they have two heel stables running shit, one of which is essentially the Wyatt Family mixed with the Ministry, with James Storm as Bray Wyatt and the Ascension logo. There is a Booby Roode/Eric Young feud, which happened 10 years ago. Magnus is feuding with Bram. Bram was the original member of The Ascension and now is in a group that uses the same logo. But what they're feuding over, I'm unsure of. Bram has a cue ball, Magnus is now a respected face and former champion after his title run was terrible. Mickie James is part of this as well. Oh, TNA also keeps bring back people that used to be over for them five years ago. The worst thing going is Drew Galloway's gimmick. It is the most pandering and gross shit imaginable. He's a wrestling fan, and he stands up for wrestling. It's a movement. He does promos in the crowd and it is SO BAD.
The in ring action is bland, poorly shot, lifeless. No one wants to be there. The stories are bland, poorly written, lifeless. But it's still on TV, somehow.
Wednesday 8PM EST, El Rey
AAA's Americanized spin off. I have a bias against this as I think lucha is the worst form of pro wrestling. The show has a unique style, at least. It's shot like a telenovela, with acting to match. El Rey is super tiny, so most people who watch this have to watch it online somewhere. If you like lucha, this is probably a good thing to watch. I don't like it. It isn't for me. Commentary, like everywhere else, is trash. Vampiro is a hot topic bro and Matt Striker is the smarkiest shit head on wrestling television. The hour running time really helps. Xfinity offers the English version each week On Demand even if you don't have El Rey in your package. Which you don't, because El Rey is in like 40,000 homes total.
Saturday/Sunday, Check Your Local Listings
The production is still trashy looking, the announcing is god awful, and the in ring stuff is basically Smackdown level, but with talents you probably don't know or care about even less. Shakey cameras, lights shining directly into the cameras, people who can't talk giving terrible promos, matches with no flow or story, entirely unengaging storylines. This is not the ROH of 10 years ago. Even though there are quite a few guys still around from there who never made it past the ROH level or got bussed back down. I find it to not be a good show. The commentary is truly terrible, though. It's worse than WWE's. Kevin Kelly can't get a single sentence out without stuttering, stumbling over words, saying the wrong things, or just freezing mid word. Corino's voice is incredibly annoying and as a color guy, he really offers no color. Each week's show is offered for free on ROH's website.
NJPW on AXS
Friday 9PM EST AXS TV
This isn't a real show. It's a clip show trying to educate the audience on NJPW. Until they start doing first run content or at least showing current shows, I have a hard time considering this anything more than "this cool match you could watch on Youtube, but with English commentary". I like the subtitled promos and whatnot. Josh Barnett is not good at all at his job. He's a terrible color man. Just bad. He often essentially breaks kayfabe, makes fun of talent, rambles while trying to think of a cool line, and delivers his lines like..my name....is....Randy....Orton. Mauro talks way too damn much, but I get that as it is his job to make sure people tuning in get to learn about NJPW. But in general, I find the commentary has trouble deciding if they are playing to smarks who follow NJPW, or people completely new to NJPW. It ends up making for awkward commentary from both guys, but mostly Barnett. They should bring Bas Rutten into replace him. Uverse offers this On Demand even if you don't have AXS in your package. Hopefully this becomes successful enough that NJPW can start doing current content or first run programing for the US.
On Demand/Wednesday WWE Network
The most enjoyable product, even though it isn't technically on TV. In the US at least. Solid wrestling, solid promos, solid stories, bad commentary. Commentary across the board is garbage in televised wrestling. Just bad. NXT continues to essentially be a super indie running with an 80s NWA studio style program. Perfect running time and the best production of any televised show, despite being the WWE developmental territory. It's just...solid. With flashes of greatness at the big events.