My name is in fact Justin Henry (the byline did not lie to you), and I have been a fan of professional wrestling for 29 years as of this summer. I have also been a writer on the topic of professional wrestling for the better part of nine years. In that time, I have contributed many places, some of which I'm certain you've heard of, including WrestleCrap, Fighting Spirit Magazine, WrestleTalk, among others.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the two years I spent writing for [Name Redacted]. It was through my time at [Name Redacted] that I became acquainted with Mr Adam Pacitti and the gang, so my time at [Name Redacted] was rather beneficial for me. I admired the work that the eventual Cultaholic crew produced in their time at [Name Redacted] and I yearned to one day work with them in some capacity.
Which brings me here to Cultaholic today. I feel rather blessed.
As I write this, it is an early Friday afternoon, one in which I'm not propped up in front of my WWE Network feed, in order to watch a rather hastily thrown-together pay-per-view without much in the way of story context. Questionable morals surrounding the event aside, the so-called Greatest Royal Rumble was yet another overly-long WWE production that makes telethons look like drag races. By the time it was over, I was thoroughly exhausted, and my normal bedtime wasn't for seven more hours.
It's not exactly clear why WWE decides that this is the best course of action. The last three WrestleManias have rivalled the length of a cross-Atlantic boat trip. The other Big Four pay-per-views followed suit, expanding to the point of the kickoff shows beginning during Sunday brunch. Now the secondary events are apparently going to stretch toward the neighbourhood of four hours apiece, for reasons that make about as much sense as the Bayley/Sasha story trajectory.
The first question that needs to be asked is what exactly the benefit of this is. If you've watched any of the past three WrestleManias, you know that the crowd falls into a near-collective coma by those final couple hours. It's not like at the end of WrestleMania 31, after Seth Rollins was through swinging the WWE Championship belt like a lasso that the fans in Levi's Stadium were in an uproar, crying out for another hour of action.
You'd think WWE would learn from the folly of three-hour episodes of Raw, which, while financially lucrative, don't exactly enthral many viewers for its full three-hour length (hence the hour three ratings drop). I've been the one handling social media chatter on Cultaholic's official Twitter page for the past couple months, and if you've followed along, you may have noticed the drop-off in said chatter during that third hour. I wish I could say it was for reasons like, "I was distracted by the final inning of a compelling baseball game" or "I had to fend off three home invaders with nothing but a crowbar and my gumption." Something other than the truth, which is, "This show is too damned long."
Sure, Raw has the excuse of its three-hour length providing substantial monetary gain for WWE, but what about the pay-per-views? What does WrestleMania achieve in five-hour form that it was unable to do in four hours? And what does a four-hour Backlash promise that we were unable to get in three?
I'm going to sound like an old hipster (I'm 34, which is 49 in excessive Pepsi drinker years), but I grew up watching WWE in prime "less is more" years, and I do miss it greatly. Jobber squashes on the weekends, "feature bouts" that would be something life-altering like The Red Rooster vs. Dino Bravo, and four pay per views a year to go along with maybe a half-dozen episodes of Saturday Night's Main Event. It was impossible to get burned out on a schedule that mostly provided mere nibbles at the feast, as opposed to today (three hours of Raw, two hours of SmackDown, plus a ton of other content and pay per views that never, ever end), which is like having an entire buffet shoved down your gullet through a feeding tube - it's nice, but it just takes too long to happen!
But times change. The Monday Night Wars put the heat on WWE to stop leaning on squash matches, and instead start giving away "competitive" bouts on a weekly basis. Nitro and Raw began fighting toe-to-toe to try and outdo the other, and while the result was some truly memorable television, there were so many quality matches that were given away too quickly (and for free). It's kind of hard to go backwards from that, and resume harmless squashes, when the standard for Raw remains those cherished "Attitude Era" years.
That's just one example of how the dangers of excess got us to where we are today, looking down the barrel of bloated pay per views from a company whose roster is equally overstuffed. If WWE were a meal, it'd be a 72 ounce steak and six side dishes crammed onto a flimsy paper plate, enough to make your arteries curl up into a ball and cry.
But we'll put up with it, because we're wrestling fans. We can tolerate anything, so long as we're allowed to gripe on the internet.
I hope to continue my work here at Cultaholic for a long time, as long as one of you can prod me awake during the third hour of Raw. Poking me with a stick seems to work.