Will Raw Underground Be A Success? - Triple Threat POV | Smark Out Moment

Will Raw Underground Be A Success? - Triple Threat POV

Posted by Dallas Allsopp Thursday, August 13, 2020
Welcome to another edition of Triple Threat from Smark Out Moment, where three of us get together to discuss three questions based on one big topic going down in the week of professional wrestling.

This week, Dallas Allsopp, Bodeen Green and Ethan Neufeld will be discussing Raw Underground.

Raw Underground made it's television debut last week, with Shane McMahon seemingly creating an environment dedicated to gritty shoot fighting. The presentation is different, with the so called matches offering something different to the rest of the show. But has it been enjoyable so far? Can it be a success? And will the concept create new stars?

Question 1: Have you enjoyed Raw Underground so far? What has been the standout highlight?

ALLSOPP: It's hard to say that I have enjoyed it, but Raw Underground does at least feel different. For better or for worse, WWE are trying to implement something new to freshen up the product. Shayna Baszler taking out three women and surviving the subsequent onslaught made her look like a real badass. This alone makes me feel as though Raw Underground has a purpose.

GREEN: I can't decide whether I like Raw Underground until there's some context behind it. We have been thrown into a world with no meaning and context, and whilst I can understand the decision behind it, it raises many questions. I don't know why I should be excited for something that hasn't been explained or given any meaning or context. Apart from it's flaws, there have been a few things that have grabbed my attention. One of these is the building of new stars, and whilst these are just glorified squash matches, it's still interesting to see how new stars are being presented.

NEUFELD: It’s very refreshing to see WWE try something, anything different from their stale formula. The COVID era of wrestling has been a slog, so they needed to do something to mix things up. Raw Underground actually as a concept is not a bad idea to mix things up during this time, as they could have done a lot worse. It’s been enjoyable to see a different format overall, but I see it getting stale very quickly unless they can make it matter. That is to say, show that matches and outcomes on Raw Underground have consequences to the overall WWE product. That, I think, will be the key to its success. This could be a vehicle to create new stars who gain opportunities for titles through alternate means. If you twisted my arm though, I predict this will be gone in about a year with maybe only two or three people getting any sort of boost from it. And if the COVID restrictions finally end, this will be quickly forgotten.

Question 2: Is Raw Underground a direct response to declining ratings or a real attempt at creating a new dynamic on Raw?

GREEN: I mean anything WWE does at this point is an attempt to save declining ratings. Due to the empty arena situation, WWE programming has started to feel more stagnant and tiresome by the minute. Whilst Raw Underground may only last a short time, it still has the chance to create an interesting and new dynamic, providing entertaining viewing which will hopefully make the product feel fresher.

NEUFELD: Yes. Any program that can make week to week changes should logically adapt to declining ratings, and introducing a new concept is a good way to approach that. No doubt WWE wants to combat declining ratings, and because their hands are tied with limitations on their roster and match types, as well as a lack of a real crowd, creating a new format of match style is a good idea. I think Raw Underground is actually well intentioned in that regard. They have a lot of limitations on how to present their typical product in the current climate and they have a lot of unused, potentially grittier talent. Even if the whole thing feels a bit half baked at the moment, there’s some good ideas here. If they give it some attention and fans give it a chance, we might have something very memorable, if ephemeral.

ALLSOPP: It is certainly a reaction to declining television ratings. The product is stagnant at the moment, therefore real change is needed. Does the need to improve ratings come before the desire to create a better dynamic on Raw? Sure it does. But one can lead to an improvement to the other.

Question 3: Can Raw Underground be used as a vehicle to create new stars? Which current wrestler would benefit the most from Raw Underground?

NEUFELD: If they don’t use Raw Underground to at least promote a few stars, then it will be a complete waste. That is the very least they could do with this. I would love to see a repackage of talented grapplers like Chad Gable (I’m not calling him Shorty G). What I would really like is for Raw Underground to be an alternate route to championship contention. They could have a ranking system of sorts where the top dog of Raw Underground has the right to challenge for the title of their choosing at particular points. This would be a great way to reframe Shayna Baszler or Bobby Lashley. Let them rebuild their credibility in a format that they’re more suited to and then have a pseudo-cross branded match for the championship. This could also be another way to take NXT talent that isn’t doing much on that brand and mix them into matches with Raw and SmackDown talent periodically. The potential is certainly there.

ALLSOPP: Definitely. You can see WWE wants to push Dabba-Kato, as he has featured on Raw Underground each week. Can he be considered a success in WWE? Only time will tell, but he certainly seems to have an x-factor. In terms of who would benefit from the concept, I really feel Shorty G could reinvent himself. Let's get rid of that God awful name and turn him into the next Taz. I'd definitely get behind him, and I know many fans would love to see the former American Alpha return to relevance.

GREEN: I would love to see Raw Underground be used to push more MMA influenced wrestlers. We have already seen Shayna Baszler dominate, highlighting just how much of a threat she truly is. However, in order for this to work, there has to be real meaning. Otherwise you just have a vehicle for talent with no gas in the tank. Another name I wish to see thrive on Raw Underground is Shelton Benjamin. Benjamin is an underrated mat worker and could really thrive in this new environment. It would also give Raw Underground an experienced name.

Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!

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Dallas Allsopp is a writer with two main interests, Pokemon and wrestling. He has been writing for a few years for his own personal blogs and is now taking his passion for wrestling and putting it into his writing. You can follow him on Facebook.


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