How Are Episodes of WWE ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown’ Written?
Everyone knows that professional wrestling is scripted, but something you may have wondered while watching Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live is how, exactly, does the scripting work? Who are the people making creative choices about the direction of the show, what is the writing process, what might a script for an episode of Raw actually look like?
Starting with the first question, WWE has a team of writers on staff. At the moment, Edward Koskey is the lead writer of Raw, according to 411 Mania. Meanwhile, on SmackDown, Ryan Ward is the lead writer. As of 2015, WWE had over 20 writers, all of whom come from a variety of backgrounds, including soap opera, movies, and theater, according to Bleacher Report.
The writing for the week begins on Wednesday, with writers beginning to brainstorm concepts for next week’s Raw and SmackDown. These are presented to Vince McMahon himself, who makes all of the final decisions and approves everything.
“At some point it gets to Vince, and Vince goes, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ And that’s what we go do,” Triple H told Bleacher Report.
In terms of what a Raw script would practically look like, well, you can see for yourself, as one was leaked back in 2014. For the matches, the script does not go into much detail at all, just putting down the word “match” and listing what the finish is going to be.
Obviously, the wrestlers will know who has been determined to win the match, and they also know what the finish is supposed to be, how long the match is supposed to last, and any major pre-planned moments in it. But other than that, a lot of what you’re seeing in the ring is essentially improvisation. Think of it like a sketch where two comedians know the broad outlines, and they know the final punchline, but they work with one another to fill in the details live. They will also receive direction from the referee.
As you can tell just by watching the show, all of the promos are fully scripted. This script that leaked in 2014 includes a promo between Bray Wyatt and John Cena, and it’s pretty detailed, right down to certain words being italicized or capitalized so Wyatt and Cena know what to emphasize and when to take long pauses. That being said, while the wrestlers rarely go fully off script, they do sometimes ad lib a bit during these promos and adjust the wording a bit.
The script for an episode of Raw or SmackDown usually isn’t given to the wrestlers until the day of the show, and it’s constantly being rewritten up until showtime.
“We’re tweaking that thing until it’s out the door,” Triple H told Bleacher Report. “It’s not done until it’s live. And even then, it’s living and changing. [John] Cena can go out for segment one, come back and say, ‘I’m not feeling this for later.’ And he’s right.”
Even with that script that leaked, for instance, if you compare the promo to the one that aired, you’ll see that the final version is a bit different. So what’s scheduled to happen on the show can be altered up until right before it occurs.
There are plenty of instances throughout wrestling history of WWE performers going off script, though. For instance, just recently, there was some controversy when Big Cass reportedly went against WWE’s wishes in order to viciously beat up a little person, whereas in the script, he was just supposed to drop the big boot and that’s it. There has been speculation that this is part of the reason he was fired.
Famously, there was also CM Punk’s 2011 “pipe bomb” promo. This is meant to seem like Punk is going against WWE’s wishes by speaking the truth, but in fact, everyone backstage knew what he was going to do. At the same time, he was allowed to basically say what he wanted to, so it’s not like he was handed a full script from the writers with that speech on it word-for-word. These instances of a moment that is supposed to come across like it’s unplanned when it actually is planned are referred to as “worked shoots.”