Vince—I Thought We Taught You How To Structure A Show
by VINCE RUSSO
It is just difficult for me to understand how 25 “professional” writers, a Triple H, a Stephanie McMahon and the “Big Daddy” of them all, Vince McMahon, don’t understand the basic format and fundamentals of what goes into structuring a television show script. If anything, I would have thought that Vince would have learned this from myself and Ed Ferrara when we were doing it for him as employees.
When my co-host Jeff Lane, and myself critiqued the latest episode of RAW on our podcast RAW: The Day After (which can be seen on vincerussobrand.com), Tuesday morning, I already had a strong indication of what the numbers, or ratings, were going to be when they came out later in the day. While there was no question that playing off the buzz of Taker returning the night before on Battleground was going to increase their viewership, it was also evident that from the mid-way point of the show all the way to the finish—the numbers would drastically diminish due to nothing more than the ineptness of the WWE writers to construct a show that would actually BUILD viewership for all three hours.
Here are the facts:
RAW HOUR ONE: 3, 840,000
RAW HOUR TWO: 4, 030,000
RAW HOUR THREE: 3, 542,000
Those numbers are on-line for anybody to confirm.
Now, to the credit of the WWE writing staff, they clearly built the audience from the time that the show began with Taker’s promo, into the second hour of the show where the Dead Man and The Beast had an unbelievable fight/pull-apart. From Triple H informing Paul Heyman over the phone not to show up to the arena, to Paul inevitably showing up, to Trips laying out the law to the locker room, to Taker confronting Paul, to Lesnar hitting the ring, to an epic NON-WRESTLING MATCH BRAWL (which I didn’t even think those existed in pro wrestling any more)—all done beautifully. Bravo! Congrats! Great job!
But, here came the problem:
At the 1:12 mark of the show, Brock Lesnar was escorted out of the building and the Taker/Lesnar story was done for the night.
My simple question . . . WHY?
At 9:12 EST., why would you blow off the one story that everybody tuned into see? Why would you give the viewer a reason to now TURN OFF your show, because the one thing that they were interested in was over for the night . . . WHY?
Now looking at the numbers, the third hour of RAW lost ONE-HALF MILLION VIEWERS—ONE-HALF MILLION—clearly because their appetites had been fed and it was now time to turn in for the night. The numbers clearly indicate that—this is not simply my view,nor my opinion.
So now the simple question that anybody who knows anything about television writing would ask–why wasn’t the Lesnar/Taker angle carried out throughout the entire three hours of the show—ending with the dramatic, explosive climax at 10:45 as opposed to 9:12? Why wasn’t that story used as a thread throughout the entire show to keep the audience tuned into the very end? Taker looking for Brock, Brock looking for Taker, there were dozens of compelling scenes that could have been shot in between—why weren’t there?
Why, instead, would the WWE writers choose to book a meaningless 6-man tag–with no build—which nobody cared about as the shows finale instead of the Taker/Lesnar three-hour pay-off? Why? Did they actually not take into consideration that once Lesnar was carted off by the police—their viewers were going to be carted away from RAW because they had seen—what they came to see?
When you write a wrestling show, what you do first is lay out all the elements of that show. Everything that is going to be on in the three hours, At that point you look at what you have in front of you, and you start laying out the show in segments, at least attempting tobuild a compelling show from start to finish. Ed and I always did it with a beginning, a middle and an end, and the main story, or theme, interwoven throughout. Keep in mind, Ed Ferrara came from a television background, writing successful shows for USA Network before he became my partner, so trust me—Ed had a clue in what he was doing.
When the ratings actually came in yesterday, could Vince have actually been surprised, by the number of those who went away between hours 2 and 3? Just having a WORKABLE BRAIN would tell you that Taker/Lesnar was going to be the much bigger draw compared to a meaningless 6-man. Anybody could have told you that—and that’s an absolute shoot!
You know, I get tweets and Facebook responses daily from my detractors, reminding me how irrelevant I am when it comes to the wrestling business today. To be honest with you, even TNA’s “Big” John Gaburick slung that term at me in the midst of our consulting ending argument about a year ago. Looking at that—maybe there is some relevance to it—who knows? Maybe at 54 years-old I no longer have a clue to what’s hip and cool when it comes to sports-entertainment. However—if you want to be brutally honest—I don’t have to be neither hip, nor cool to understand the basic television writing structure of how to keep an audience tuned in. No . . . all I really need is to just have some common sense.
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