Since the infancy of broadcast television, wrestling has been a draw for live viewers. The over-the-top characters and shenanigans of the squared circle were beamed into living rooms across the country and made national stars out of many performers. Cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis and many others had ratings through the roof every week for professional wrestling as it was seen as affordable entertainment for the networks to put on to get ratings. Most television was live in the early days because there was no feasible way to record programs. Once videotapes came in the equation someone would see the television on a weekly bicycling tour. A video tape, very expensive in those days, would be circulating from town to town on what was usually a one month tour around the territory. As technology became cheaper it became easier to syndicate a national wrestling program making the need to go live a costly endeavor. This would lead to wrestling focusing less on live broadcasting and more on this taped model with a live special thrown in for good measure.

WCW really began this trend with their Clash of the Champions specials in the late 80s on TBS. There was a sense of danger with live television that the been WWF had seemingly lost in their national expansion. If it wasn’t a pay-per-view it wasn’t usually live. And there is a sense while the characters may be good that the action is less spontaneous than normal live television. WWE then WWF would change that in 1993 with the announcement of Monday Night Raw, a show that would bring the gritty edge back to professional wrestling and add an unknown factor to a broadcast where anything was possible. This combined with its competitor WCW Monday Nitro with fuel the love of many in my generation that carries on to this day.

Fans tuned in to the Monday Night Wars to see what would happen next. After a few years though, the feeling wore off as WWE began to overtake WCW. They began to take less risks than they did before. Then once the competition was gone it became very safe and generic. Sure. There have been times where WWE has shocked fans over the last decade. But truth be told, those are too few and far between these days. Last week, having The Rock show up was a great moment. It had much more energy than anything else on that show. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get any of that this week. Everything felt like it was in a holding pattern and that the shame.

And let’s be honest here. There’s more and more live variety programming from the networks coming all the time. Of course you have your reality competition shows. But you also have the live musical that is becoming a staple of broadcast television once again. Grease Live as one of the most recent examples of experiments getting viewers back into appointment television. One of the things I loved about that production was the energy. You felt like you are part of this party. And even though I’ve seen that show probably 100 times there was a fun watching it. Something that live wrestling has been lacking for some time.

Now those who be this might think I might want to bring the Attitude Era back. And that’s really not the case. You don’t have to do a shocking angle every week. Just things need to feel organic. I said this time and time again and it bears repeating . Wrestling like other programming needs to feel like an experience, a roller coaster ride that you take the viewer on. Lately in the case of WWE their live programming has kind of fallen flat. You can blame this on injuries or the amount of television they produce but realistically you want your television to feel dynamic and different every week. You don’t need Vince Russo to do that you just need faith in your creative team and talent to work together to make more fun product. You can do a a solid PG show and still have fun.

Because if you’re not going to take chances, what is the sense of being live in the first place? It cost more money and you’ll probably get the same rating anyway. If you going to be live do something worthy of social media chatter, instead of hearing fans complain about how stale the product has gotten shake it up. Hell when the top wrestling programs in a lot of fans minds are two taped shows (Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground) then that should be a sign that your strategy may be a little off. Even Smackdown for the last month has been better than Monday Night Raw. So there’s a definite problem there that those in charge should really look at.