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Dale Wolfe

The length of wrestling shows & overkill

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Dont really post here much (or anywhere, in fact), so apologies if i missed a topic. but this has been playing on my mind for a while really. 

Why did AEW join in with the idea that that wrestling TV shows need to be 2 hours+ with potential to overrun? WWE shows are horrendous, the idea of watching a 3 hour Raw is horrific. Two hours of smackdown- especially in its current slump- is a chore. 

AEW is quite novel to me because its new but its difficult for me to imagine watching this for 2 hours every week for the next year unless something drastically changes. 

By contrast NWA Power feels like a breeze frankly. I dont know if its on TV or not but 45-50 minutes on youtube? Delightful. My favourite territory is Georgia, an hour. All the best WWF syndicated shows were an hour, imo. 

I just wonder if you can reconcile the lack of mainstream interest/attention with just how long everything lasts now. I know peak Raw & Nitro were 2 hours and that was the biggest it was etc, but its a different era now. Too many things vying for your attention. There are very few shows i could dedicate 2+ hours to a week. In theory WWE is at least 5!

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I have always thought the perfect pro wrestling show was 1 hour long.  Maybe i'm in the minority on this but keeping up with WWE sometimes feels like a chore more then anything.  

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I am perfectly fine with 2 hour shows. My biggest enjoyment of wrestling was 1996-97 with 2 hour Nitros. I am not counting when I was a kid because I watched wrestling 5-8 hours in a day depending on which promotions were on the air at the time. 

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My intro to wrestling was the 6:05 shows that were usually 2 hours (give or take depending on Atlanta Braves games in the summer), then Prime Time Wrestling for the WWF.  Flagship shows were always 2 hours for me, and it was only when Raw moved to 3+ hours did things become an unbearable slog. 

The bigger issue to me is that PPV events have gotten way too bloated nearly across the board. The downside to everyone going to streaming is that there's no more hard limits from PPV providers on how long a show can be and now it seems like every major show has to be a 4 hour endurance test. 

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2 hours/ 90 mn show are perfect if there's enough good content. 50 minutes is only fine if it's really heavy on good content, which is why NWA Powerr has been mostly a nothing show and MLW is super inconsistent. Meanwhile, AEW Dynamite as been a joy to watch. So has been IMPACT for the last year and a half.

Big events should usually be at worst three hours. No need to go longer than this. NJPW can do it (and still, some of the undercard ends up being way forgetable and skippable), but most promotion can't.

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I agree with @El-P...TV should be 2 hours and PPV should be 3 hours. When the pace flows really good, a 2-hr show works like a charm. I mean, just like at Dynamite. They haven't had legit any bad show since they started. I don't know why WWE was so hellbent on going 3 or 4 hours.

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5 minutes ago, SirEdger said:

I don't know why WWE was so hellbent on going 3 or 4 hours.

It's so they can brag on investor calls that X amount of hours have been viewed on the WWE Network, that's it. 

It's one thing if it's just Mania going super long, it's the Super Bowl of wrestling and all, but not everything needs to go that long. 

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2 hours seems ideal especially if you have a larger roster. Although I think for a while LU and NXT did a great job with just 60 minutes (although both shows had the advantage of a smaller roster where they could simultaneously avoid overexposure as well as folks going weeks without being on TV).

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I like 90 mins to 2 hours for weekly stuff and 3 to 3 1/2 hours for major shows including pre-show. Then maybe 4 hours for a one time spectacular a year like Wrestle Kingdom or 'Mania. For smaller groups mentioned that I watch like MLW and NWA Powerrr 60 mins is plenty as I can squeeze them in among my other watching where if they were 2 hours I'd have to skip one or the other.

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Two hours is not too long if the show is well-written, well-paced, and has some flow and some variety. YMMV, but for me that seems pretty rare recently. 

 

It's not just the length of the shows, either. So many matches these days seem to be aiming to be 20+ minute Meltzer-pleasing ****+ classics. I'm getting sick and tired of great matches :lol:

 

There's a ramen place I go to with my wife and daughters once or twice a month. The ramen is reliably good. Nothing special, but there is a lot of variety. The sides are not bad, either. I particularly like the fried rice. The gyoza are solid, unspectacular, often on sale. They have unlimited free kimchi-style spicy fermented vegetables of some sort, which my wife really likes. The girls get to choose a free toy with their kids meal. They have cheap soft-serve and you can choose matcha, strawberry, or chocolate sauce. 

I love that place. It's just right for an evening out with my family. I am never not happy when we go there. 

I'm not always in the mood for gourmet ramen. It's really very nice, once in a while. Sometimes I just want a tasty bowl and some soft serve.

I'm not always in the mood for self-consciously great wrestling, but lately that seems to be pretty much all anyone wants to serve me... Sometimes I just want a nice 12-minute back-and-forth match with maybe a nice shine to start, a heat spot in the middle, and big move or two at the end, and perhaps an angle or promo on the side.

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13 hours ago, gordi said:

Two hours is not too long if the show is well-written, well-paced, and has some flow and some variety. YMMV, but for me that seems pretty rare recently.

Would very much agree with this. In general I enjoy a one hour show, although that can sometimes mean things get rushed and too much is squeezed in - a 2 hour show, when you also consider being able to skip any ad breaks, bringing it closer to 1 hour 40 or so, is totally fine, but as gordi says, that relies on it being well-written and well-paced! 

One of the biggest issues for me is just how bloated the big WWE shows have become, especially Mania. With all the matches and guff on the kick off show and then hours of 'main show' it's just way too long. I know this was a bit of a debate before this years show, with some pushing back against the criticism that the show was too long going in, but crowds are just exhausted by the end meaning that when you want to have a big moment like they did this year with Becky Lynch, it gets nowhere near the reaction it could/should, because everyone is just mentally drained and checked out.   

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I read somewhere that Vince McMahon once said 90 minutes was the perfect length for a wrestling TV show. Sure wish he'd take his own advice now, or that others in wrestling would take the same advice.

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My only exposure to wrestling when I was younger was through 1-hour "highlight" shows of Raw and WCW. That's all we had on TV here. Our major sport's channel would pick up WWF PPVs for the full length of time and it always felt so special.  It just made sense that the weekly shows would be shorter than the PPV you're shelling out money for. Episodes felt like teasers and the PPV felt like the complete package.

Fast-forward to 2009 and I started discussing wrestling online and watching the original edits of the shows. PPVs lost a lot of appeal to me, because what made them so special if I'm getting 3 hours every week? Sure, one could say that we don't get feud blow-offs and quality matchups on TV but it isn't like the WWE offer that to us on PPVs, anyway.

 

To me, 90 minutes is the perfect middle ground. 3 hours is too much to dedicate to the current product weekly while 1 hour is just too short to enjoy matches/progress more than just the main story-line. I love binge watching TV shows and I probably do watch 3 hours of TV a day, pretty easily, but I feel like I get some form of development in the story/characters with that. It never feels like a wasted venture - and if it does I stop watching the show. I don't want to stop watching wrestling, I love it too much, but I can't justify investing that much time into something where the only story-line development is usually undone or forgotten within weeks. I guess that's why I loved Lucha Underground - yeah, it was kinda silly but it at least went somewhere.
 

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The issue isn't the length of the weekly shows. The issue is the format and the lack of compelling stories. When the characters and their arcs are worth watching, you will follow along and be left on the hook for more.

When everything hinges on "good matches" and athleticism, you're basically watching gymnastic displays for hours on end every week. I can't imagine trying to force myself to watch anymore.

Wrestling today feels like a giant time-suck. It's almost strategically devised to kill time. To eat up time. Let's draaaaagggg this match out so it can be twenty minutes at a minimum. Let's talk in circles, in the most verbose manner humanly possible, without ever actually serving any purpose or accomplishing anything. It's just the dirt worst.

A lot of times (not always, but certainly mostly), when I try to watch, I can't help but notice that the matches would be so much better if they were more condensed and compressed. A match isn't REQUIRED to go twenty minutes to be a classic. I hate this mindset, and the best thing about some modern Brock matches have been the small glimmer of hope that this might change. But it only seems to be the exception & never the rule.

A lot of times, it feels like they've got a five or ten minute story to tell at best, but they stretch it and force it & hammer it into place until it's 20-30 minutes of tedious torture, because hey. Stars. Cardio. All night. CrossFit, bruh.

I listen to some podcasts that focus a lot on film directors and screenplay writers, and something that has come up quite often is the art of the action scene. And one of my favorite talking points centers on the idea that a good action sequence will ultimately leave the participants in a different state or position than they were before it. That is really the only way to give purpose and weight to a fight or its result. Otherwise, you just get a shitty, late night martial arts movie.

And I'm not naive. I understand this is wrestling. Not film. Not even good television, to be honest. And there NEEDS to be matches for the sake of matches at times. But the "at times" has become "at all times" in 2019, and almost every match feels & functions like just another match to fill out a card. Hardly anything has purpose or weight or direction. It's all about filling time. Killing time. Putting something out there to get through the show.

I'm sure a lot of you will disagree. And what do I know? I've largely given up on pro wrestling in 2019, after 30 years of nearly uninterrupted fandom. It just isn't interesting to me anymore. The podcasts and the discussion are enough. The actual shows feel like chores, and I can't sit through them without feeling like I should be doing (and enjoying) something else with my free time.

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I feel you're only talking about WWE. Nothing on IMPACT nor AEW seems like killing time for the sake of it. No match on Dynamite is a 20-30 minute epic (main events are usually longer, maybe reaching toward 20 minutes yes, but nowhere close to what a PPV main event would look like either). Unless a good competitive 10-15 minutes match on TV is now considered too much (and really, come on now), I feel like the "everything has to be epic" talking point is a complete overstatement mostly from people who don't actually watch the shows or simply are so biased against modern wrestling that their view is totally tainted. You have shorter matches, you have matches with a clear feel of hierarchy (Kenny Omega vs Kip Sabian on Dark was competitive, but it was also nowhere close to an Omega epic main event style match, neither in lenghts nor feel), you even have pure squashes. Nothing at all screams "forced classic" on either company's weekly shows (not even talking  about MLW, because they lack actual really good matches too often). NXT, I dunno, I don't watch it, I've given up quickly. Mauro sure makes the announcing like a forced classic for two straigt hours, which is unbearable.

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Yeah, that's right. Dynamite matches don't overstay their welcome. AEW scratches a lot of my wrestling itches, including the desire for fun 12-ish-minute-long matches.

40-plus minutes is pretty long for a death match, though. I mean, I enjoyed it, but it's not like AEW * never * gets indulgent.

Thinking about it, I maybe think that too many matches go long these days because I tend to go out of my way to check out highly recommended matches... and of course those matches tend to go pretty long :lol:

And I tend to check out big WWE shows during RumbleMania season, which is when they get most over-indulgent... And Dominion and Wrestle Kingdom, which... 

No wonder I keep getting burned out on wrestling sometimes. It's like an all-you-can eat ice cream sundae buffet.

 

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60 minutes works from a storytelling perspective as a TV show. That's why the stuff that tends to be rewatchable is 60 minutes - ECW, LU. But that doesn't really work as a major touring brand that wants to do weekly shows, because 60 is too short for a real live show (ECW of course taped in roughly 3 week chunks in its best TV years, and LU didn't tour at all).

So 2 hours is the middle ground for Nitro, Raw, Dynamite - a two hour TV show plus a dark opener and closer and you have about 3 hours, which is a good length for a live show. 2 hours can work in the moment, even if it hurts rewatch value (which wrestling used to not care about, and now only to a small extent).

As has been said above, 3 hours really should be the max main show for a PPV unless it's the biggest show of the year. I think AEW going 3 1/2 for a quarterly show can work. More than 3 only works if the main event you're building to has real anticipation and can be a true epic. 4 hours is such a commitment that everything better pay off to a really high level. (Which is why it works for the big New Japan shows, because the main events pretty much always justify their existence).

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I prefer the one hour format too, as you dont see the same wrestlers every week (so far, NXT and AEW have been ok about that with their two-hour shows, but who knows what the future will bring?), and it makes the show move faster. It's still possible to have angles develop on a one hour show, NXT had lots of good stuff like the "who attacked Alister Black" storyline which played out while still only one hour.

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The 2-hour format isn't ideal for rewatch value or anything, but I do think the format can still carry that episodic feel. It's also possible to weave stories and performers in & out of each show within that 2-hour window.

Again, it's all about creativity and effort. Burnout and fatigue are real issues in anything that is CONSTANTLY churning out product though. And so, on the one hand, it's hard to pin too much blame on them for taking the lazy, tired route that they do. On the other hand, that's a clear indicator that the model needs adjusting. The infrastructure itself is a weak, flawed design if you can't find a way to get the creativity powered up.

And yes. I was mostly describing WWE in my previous post. But shit, son. Even THEY have gotten it right in the recent past. I always point to that Fall 2016-Spring 2017 run of Smackdown shows as proof positive that they can still pump out a weekly show that has me WANTING MORE.

Sure. It didn't last very long. And perhaps it was never sustainable. But they did it. And, before that superstar shakeup gimmick, it really felt like they had stumbled onto something that helped to energize their television. Performers didn't feel overexposed. Rivalries felt raw. Each division was rotated on & off the show in key spots. There were enough breadcrumbs placed out on every show to keep you following along until the next episode.

As far as current AEW and Impact go, I can't speak to them. I don't find it hard to believe that their weekly shows are watchable though. I was still catching every pay-per-view from those two up until the beginning of this year.

Right now, I only watch whatever promos/segments a friend of mine recommends on YouTube.

Actual match-wise, I seek out every big Jericho, Cody, and Callihan match. These guys get it. If you want a summary of what my tastes are in 2019, that says it. I want angles. I want feuds. I want stories. My days of analyzing every match and forcing myself to seek out anything that gets good reviews are far, far behind me at this point. I've lived that part of my fandom, and I just feel like I burned out on it.

I have no desire to watch wrestling as a chore anymore. I have no desire to force-feed myself everything that's out there. I'm good with catching four or five matches a year from guys like Jericho, Cody, and Callihan at this stage. I realize that makes me an extreme outlier around here, but fuck it. Diversity is healthy.

And, if the only link I have left to my lifelong wrestling fandom are those guys, then that's cool. That works. Serve me up a short, succinct video package that explains what these guys have been doing for the past three months. Show me the story of their latest rivalry. Give me a match that doesn't overstay its welcome. And I'm a happy camper.

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On 12/15/2019 at 8:08 PM, C.S. said:

I read somewhere that Vince McMahon once said 90 minutes was the perfect length for a wrestling TV show. Sure wish he'd take his own advice now, or that others in wrestling would take the same advice.

I think Meltzer said the same thing. SNME was 90 minutes and basically booked like an episode of SNL would be. Put your top matches up front, and slowly dwindle down from there. 

2 hours is fine. Even going into overtime is okay as long as it isn't done every week then it becomes part of the format. 

WrestleMania over two days would be great. Or just put it all on Saturday night. Sunday is only good if you're going to start in the afternoon and end in the evening. 

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Oversaturation is a very real thing. The length of shows for sure but also the amount of shows a week, too. Especially when you follow multiple promotions like a lot of us do. 

I had to cut way back on wrestling because I felt I was getting burned out. I now only watch select Pay-Per-View events & NWA Power on Tuesday. And I didn't finish the last episode of Power, despite being only an hour. I don't even have a desire to attend an event anymore because it feels never-ending, without even including travel time, parking, etc.

I'm waiting on something different to come around. Right now, a lot of modern wrestling feels very "samey." It's a bunch of acrobatic small guys no selling big bombs & doing flips. NWA is trying to be different from that but their roster is weak & they come off as way too corny. NXT or New Japan are probably the closest to what I'm looking for right now but I would love to see something like Lucha Underground return. It felt a lot different. The presentation was unique.

I feel like the luster has fallen off of AEW for me completely.

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2 hours ago, Coffey said:

Oversaturation is a very real thing.

Agreed. Instead of a new boom, it seems everyone is gonna suffer from having so many companies around.

2 hours ago, Coffey said:

NXT or New Japan are probably the closest to what I'm looking for right now but I would love to see something like Lucha Underground return. It felt a lot different. The presentation was unique.

Scratch NXT and put AEW there and that would be me. Although I admit right now, the most fun promotion for me to follow remains IMPACT. And a billion times the bolded part. It's too bad LU did not get the audience it deserved, especially after the first three seasons.

I have no idea what my pro-wrestling mix will be in 2020, but probably less than in 2019.

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2 minutes ago, El-P said:

Agreed. Instead of a new boom, it seems everyone is gonna suffer from having so many companies around.

I was thinking of all the different promotions that were on TV when I was a kid and wondered why I didn't get burned out then. I realized that every show I watched back then was an hour except for SMNE and that was only a few times a year.  I was able to watch NWA. WWF, AWA, WCCW, and UWF every week since it would have been no more than 5 hours of investment max per week. WWE asks more of that by itself now. It's hard to get invested in a new promotion now since it's asking so much of a time investment as a buy in from the jump.

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I'm just here to echo the grief and sorrow over the loss of our beloved Lucha Underground. Even when it was clearly starting to struggle, the show remained fun and endlessly watchable. That's a crazy cool feat for something so inherently disposable as weekly pro wrestling.

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I just watched In Your House: Season's Beatings from December 95' (just in a Christmas mood, I guess, plus I'd never seen it) for my blog* and I was amazed at how watchable the show was.

Now, aside from the main (Bret vs. Bulldog), there's not really a "good match" anywhere on the show. BUT what the show does do very effectively is present 6 matches that serve a purpose and the booking is solid throughout. The opening match sees Razor Ramon tag with Marty Jannetty to continue his feud with the Million Dollar Corporation (specifically The 1-2-3 Kid). In a real smart move, though, some of the attention is placed on Goldust, who is sitting in the audience and gets a mid-match interview with Todd Pettengill - who he then hands a love letter to to deliver to Razor later. Meanwhile, in the match, the babyfaces win - but neither Sid or The Kid eat a Razor's Edge, so, even the heels come out without full comeuppance (which furthers the feud without finishing it the way the Crybaby Match would in February). From there, you get a very mixed-up and poorly executed angle/match involving Jeff Jarrett, Ahmed Johnson, Lawler, Dean Douglas, and Buddy Landell - it is a total clusterfuck but its designed to accomplish two things: make Ahmed Johnson seem like a monster and re-introduce Jarrett (who also enters the Rumble and attacks Johnson). Again, its not a great segment, but its purposeful and feels important to the characters involved. The Hog Pen match is similarly clever in that it also delivers the two things it needed to - Helmsley remains undefeated, but we still get to see the snob covered in slop and pig shit. Deisel's slow-burn heel turn is also continued in both his match against Owen Hart and his post-main event showdown with Undertaker. Speaking of Undertaker, his match against Mabel is everything you'd think - its not good - but it also doesn't overstay its welcome and gives the Deadman a decisive win in a Casket Match in under 8 minutes to keep him hot for his Royal Rumble title shot a month later. To me, I'd rather watch the worst 7-minute match ever than a mediocre 14-minute match because at least the former doesn't overstay its welcome. Again, even if the audience doesn't care, the characters look at their matches as important. In a sense, the show has no filler because every match is either designed to push a storyline or adorned with enough gimmicky ornaments to make them watchable (you're kidding yourself if you'd rather watch Shanghai Pierce and Terra Ryzing actually wrestle a standard match than the Hillbilly Jim-refereed gaga with live pigs we get instead). The main event has been discussed elsewhere on this forum so I won't overdo it, but after a slow start, it ends up being an excellent Bret Hart title defense. And the whole thing wraps up in something like 117 minutes as each match flows into the next without too many needless commercial breaks and backstage BS.

Its not a great show - hell, there's a segment with Savio Vega that features some terrible, terrible outright racist jokes from Lawler - but it shows more creative thought and planning and consideration for details than anything the WWE presented (and that includes the NXT shows) in 2019. Today, you can look at a card and point to all sorts of "filler matches" even on the Network Specials/PPVs, but, even with a talent level considerably lower than what they have now, a show like this has no discernible filler because, for better or worse, every match served a purpose. I mean, I liked Aleister Black/Buddy Murphy as much as the next guy, but what the fuck did that match really mean?

Today, the idea of presenting "good matches for good matches' sake" has become as stale as what Season's Beatings must have felt like in 1995. Everything old can be new again. Maybe having wrestling matches end with heels falling in pig shit is what we need more of.

 

* CHEAP PLUG - If you go over to Kwang The Blog, you'll find my Top 10 WWE Network Matches of the Year. Great bathroom reading!

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