It's been a little over a year since Monday Night Raw switched from the standard 2-hour block of programming to an impressive 3-hours. The move has been greeted by mixed reviews by fans, some citing the three hours as just being too long to watch an episode of wrestling. However, the three hour Raws have drastically improved the quality of the product, in ways that would previously have been impossible under the 2-hour format.
Look, I get it, sometimes when the show is sucking the three hours seem to move by at a snail's pace. Like an unbearable meeting at work, a bad Raw can seem to last an eternity. Three hours is a long time to sit in front of a television, even if the program is compelling. When the show is bad, then it becomes a real chore and a percentage of fans will tune out. Despite the lows that the WWE delivers, realistically, they would be turning out the same amounts of crap if they had 2-hours to do it. Because the show is now 3 hours, it feels like the WWE is maximizing their ineptitude, when in reality, the ineptitude is really the same, just a little bit longer.
This is the main reason why I think the 3-hour shows get kind of a bad rap. Monday Night Raw will have a lackluster night and some fans will immediately point to the fact that Raw is now 3 hours, and that was the reason the show was bad. Sure, the show was longer, but the 3 hours really do not change the things that typically make a show bad, like poor booking decisions and terrible segments.
Despite some of the negatives, the 3-hour Raws deliver some new facets to Raw that were not there before the show was extended. The biggest example would be that the actual wrestling matches have been given more time, which allows the performers to further develop the matches, increasing their quality. For example, under the 2-hour format, Daniel Bryan would not be able to wrestle a gauntlet match for 29 minutes like he did last week. On almost every Raw, you are guaranteed at least one really solid match that goes between 15-20 minutes. Before the three hours, that was rarely the case.
Raw on July 15th opened with a 13 minute match between Randy Orton and Fandango. That match was followed up with a 16 minute contest between Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler. After several quick matches, the final match between Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho went 21 minutes. That is 40 minutes of action just between those three matches. Before the extension to 3 hours, Raw rarely had more than 30 minutes of in-ring action on it, total. The 3-hour Raws have really allowed the performers in the WWE utilize their talent to the highest level, without having to fret about time constraints.
Another big reason the 3-hour shows are working is that they open up more time to showcase different talent. If Raw were to go back to 2 hours, we wouldn't be seeing any less of John Cena, or the McMahons or any other performer or group that fans believe are oversaturated. If Raw was 2 hours, we would all be seeing a heck of a lot less of groups like the Shield, the Wyatt Family, and performers like Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes and Fandango. The tag team division and the women's division, both divisions which have made big strides over the past year, would suffer from serious lack of exposure issues as the WWE would struggle to present everything they wanted over a 2-hour span. Having Raw at 3 hours gives the company that extra amount of levity that allows them to showcase more talent.
One last point is that from a business standpoint, 3-hour Raws are a smashing success. The WWE gets more or less the same numbers as last year, even though 3-hour shows are doomed to get lower ratings then their 2-hour counterparts. The extra hour (in theory) increases the advertising revenue from Raw by 33%. If the WWE can produce a longer show with better matches and showcasing more talent, while also making significantly more scratch at the same time, what is so wrong about the 3-hour Raws?