Paul Heyman is a genius.
It’s no secret that Heyman has been in charge of RAW since this past summer, and it’s pretty easy to see which ideas of his get through to television unfiltered by Vince McMahon, and which ideas come directly from the WWE chairman’s warped mind.
The Rusev-Lana-Lashley love triangle, for instance, has McMahon written all over it.
WWE’s return to enhancement matches, particularly on RAW, is almost surely the work of Paul Heyman.
On this week’s RAW, Kevin Owens beat Mojo Rawley in what was essentially a squash match; the same goes for Drew McIntyre beating Zack Ryder in two minutes.
Also on the show, Aleister Black squashed Deonn Rusman in one minute. Buddy Murphy beat Joe Asa in 30 seconds and Erik Rowan beat Travis Horn in under a minute. Rusev beat No Way Jose in 30 seconds.
There were a lot of quick decisive wins on this week’s episode, and while too many of these matches can certainly be problematic, the idea if time-tested and proven.
Heyman is simply, and effectively, getting over wrestlers by having them win matches. The main-event wrestlers are winning matches quickly and they’re winning those matches using their finishing moves.
The strategy is proven to be effective, and without any wrestling competition on Monday nights, it’s easy for WWE to go back to these types of matches to build up talent and make the “superstar vs. superstar” matches feel bigger. Those matches then draw more attention and feel like bigger deals.
It’s tough to book main-events for pay-per-view shows that are, essentially, the same matches you’d see on RAW or SmackDown every single week. Heyman is trying to break that mold, pitting superstars against enhancement talent or lower-tier wrestlers on the main roster (like Ryder, Rawley or Chelsea Green). The bigger stars win those matches easily, and then when two of those “superstar” wrestlers face each other in a big main-event match on RAW or a pay-per-view, those matches feel like a bigger deal. They feel more unpredictable.
WWE’s audience has dipped so much over the last year, WWE should be desperate to try anything it can to rebuild its audience. In Heyman’s strategy, what’s old is new again. WWE’s TV is being booked much like it was in the early-90’s or late-80’s. Maybe not to that extreme, where every match on the show as a squash match until the main event, but it’s close. Especially given that WWE didn’t run three-hour TV shows at that time.
It will take time to see whether or not Heyman’s strategy pays off and rebuilds the audience, but just watching the flow of the programs over the last few weeks, it’s making it much easier to get through three hours of RAW.