One Hour Is The Best Length for Wrestling TV
Now and days if a wrestling program is on television, it seems like the goal is to get two hours a week. That’s roughly the length of a film plus credits, a special season finale, a series finale of a ratings buster or a collegiate sports block.
And don’t get me started on going three hours. That’s a pay-per-view, chief. It’s a regular pro sports TV block. That’s a “special 3-hour RAW” or a late 90s Nitro.
In either case, it’s a lengthy period to be parked in front of the television, so this show had to be good. There couldn’t be any “It was an alright episode.” Of course, wrestling gives you more alright episodes than consistently good ones. There has rarely been a three-hour episode where I didn’t leave the TV. Or didn’t flip channels in the middle of a match or interview segment. Any of that.
It was the same for a two-hour show. It’s a bit tighter than three-hours but you were guaranteed to have bathroom break segments!
Gambling With A Perfect Show At Two Hours
Let’s look at two hours. Most of grew up off of a wrestling TV show running for two hours or some of us became fans when WWE was easing out of this and into three hours. Two hours gives a company a little more room to jam, so it can stretch the perfect show theory. It’s getting the fans excited, cool them off, get them excited again so they don’t get freezing cold, cool them down just enough, then send them home happy.
Basically, you don’t want to burn out the crowd or the viewing audience but you also don’t want to bore them to tears. In WWE’s case, that opening 15-20 minute segment could go either way even with hot stars. People tuned in to see wrestling mostly, not sit through 15-20 minutes of talking before getting into the action…or going right into another shorter interview.
With WCW’s case, Nitro was a roll of the dice for a viewing fan. Either it would start with the nWo in the ring causing a ruckus or they would come out after the opening match. And WCW had the in-ring talent over WWE’s rising star power. They could put two guys who weren’t in the main event or about to break through and still put on a really good match to start the show off.
Hell, the nWo could interrupt the match and the match itself still would’ve been good and gotten you excited. This was different from WWE’s opening match being a means to cool down the crowd after that hot opening segment.
Oof…That Three Hour Marathon
Ultimately, there will be moments in those two hours where even the segments meant to be exciting or hot fall flat or your enthusiasm is dulled. It not as often but there’s a significant risk of it happening because of the pacing of the show with commercials dropped in. That said, we tend to be more forgiving at two hours.
At three hours? Forget about it. There will be segments that fall flat because it’s three hours, the pacing is very rarely perfect and eventually, we just check out. Some fans hang in there even after they should’ve tapped out on the show because they have to see how it ends. Others find something else to do during this period and check in to see what’s going on.
The thing is, RAW will end on an exciting note. Something will drive a major story. It’s just the crawl to get there. Sometimes, it’s like watching a three-hour In Your House pay-per-view and on rare occasions it’s a great show top to bottom. It’s all in the pacing and at three hours you’ll have more hits than misses.
One Hour Is Perfect
Enter the one-hour slot. This is the undefeated length for a wrestling program. On the one hand, it’s doesn’t really give you enough action for the week. On the other, it gives you just enough to have you fiending and wanting to come back next week! It’s the perfect length of time for a fan to sit in front of the TV and watch a company.
Every major company has had a one-hour show that hit just right because they kept it short. The original Monday Night RAW, Nitro, Hardcore TV, Impact, Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor—all of these shows delivered with just one hour to work with.
As a matter of fact, no one knocked Impact Wrestling much back when its main show was an hour-long. Fans were just tired of seeing Jeff Jarrett at the top all the time. Hardcore TV’s problem was that it ran too many lengthy, non-wrestling segments in an hour. With RAW, the main problem was that the product was out of place for its time. The superstars all delivered in-ring and those at the top gave us some great interviews but WWE was in the 1980s still when it was 1990-something.
The Flawless Shows
Lucha Underground and Nitro were really the closest things to a flawless show. Ehh, let’s include ROH too. It’s flawless for the company’s approach to wrestling. If it was a two-hour show it would get real dicey real fast.
What one hour allows for is a perfect pace for that promotion’s audience. A company can easily condition an audience to the style of the promotion and what to expect out of the show every week. It’s a short show, so fans aren’t being held hostage for the main event segment. People can drop an hour a week to watch a show.
It also forces a company to get everything important done in that period. WWE had promos and segments during the one-hour RAW period but they were shorter and got to the point. WWE had the TV pacing at its tightest here. TNA Impact was the same thing: shorten everything not in-ring. For roughly three years between 2004-2007, TNA Impact did exactly what a show should do: have fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Only Lucha Underground really delivered every week. Everything of note happened in that episode. Even at its worst, LU delivered because it used that slot very well. It established what it is with those episodes and gives you a little more with multiple part Ultima Lucha specials.
So, the next time you’re chilling and watching RAW think of what you’d get rid of if you had an hour or two hours to work with. See how different the show would be with what you scrapped. While you might come back home to two hours, you might find one hour gives you a truly exciting show.
What is your favorite time for a show: one hours? Two hours? Or do you prefer to go the full primetime slot? Let us know!