WWE has reportedly cancelled WWE Raw Underground “for now” per a report from Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wresting Inc).
“Raw Underground for right now is considered done,”read the report.
“At first it was dropped because of the COVID breakout and fear the extras who are in the crowd may have been exposed so it was shut down for a few weeks. But almost everyone who was part of that breakup is now back. Then again most were back either this week or last and this week with the draft it wouldn’t have fit as easily. There was fear that bringing all those people, both the wrestlers and the people they used as the audience, to Raw tapings could start a spread to the Raw roster and the idea is to keep NXT talent away from Raw and Smackdown talent as much as possible.”
Raw Underground last aired on the September 21 broadcast of WWE Raw. The final segment saw SmackDown Superstar Braun Strowman defeat rising combatant Dabba-Kato, who was positioned as the top star of the worked-shoot segments. It was a telling allegory for not only the future of Raw Underground, but also WWE’s textbook change-of-direction booking in general.
With WWE’s television viewership continuing to shrink annually, and now hovering near record lows throughout the pandemic, WWE’s lack of commitment to both its storylines and performers is one of many culprits.
Though Raw Underground was met with mixed results at best, one month of programming was never going to be an adequate amount of time to realize such an innovative—if not bizarre—concept to its full potential. This is a glaring problem with the worldwide leader as WWE simply cannot commit to anything that was not a proven commodity during eras past. Even current WWE champion Drew McIntyre, easily WWE’s exception to the rule as an up-and-coming star who broke through to the main event, was famously anointed “The Chosen One” by Vince McMahon in 2009.
WWE, and more accurately Vince McMahon’s, notoriously short attention span even appears to be frustrating higher-ups at the USA Network, which signed Raw to a five-year deal in 2018 worth over one billion dollars. McMahon’s decision to axe Paul Heyman, who was in the midst of building a youth movement as Executive Director of Raw, reportedly was not well-received by longtime former top USA executive Chris McCumber who left the network last month.
Heyman’s ousting was the subject of further grilling from top investment analysis firm LightShed Partners during July’s Q2 20 earnings call, with Vince McMahon admitting Heyman did a good job during his short stint as Executive Director. LightShed partners had previously prognosticated decreased television rights fees should WWE’s ongoing ratings decline continue.
WWE’s start-and-stop booking disincentivizes fans from investing in the product long-term and tuning in to see any type of payoff. While some may feel its nixing was justified, Raw Underground’s brief tenure is no different from Aleister Black, Humberto Carrillo, Ricochet, EC 3, Andrade, The Wild Card Rule, WWE’s failed fresh start, Apollo Crews, Naomi and the countless names, faces and concepts that WWE promptly abandoned after they did not deliver short-term gratification in a business that thrives on long-term business.