Hi Scott, hope you are well.
I've recently been watching all the Raws from 95 & 96 (I'm a couple months behind Logan), which I feel have been a little overly maligned. They're not great, but their not THAT bad either.
Anyways, one of the factors that people often demean those shows for was that many of them were taped in one night, causing the crowd to be burned out by the third week or so. As the shows often came on a four-week cycle (one live, the rest taped, all done the night after a PPV, usually up to the next PPV), that meant that about half of the shows would have a stale, subdued air as the audiences were less energetic. While I don't deny that aspect existed and did hurt the shows somewhat, I feel that it was a price worth paying considering the large positive engendered by this taping approach. Namely, that it allowed for some consistent long-term planning.
We have all seen, over the past decade, or with WCW in the late 90s, the difficulties that come with consistently changing plans mid-stream with angles and characters. This can be made easier when one has the opportunity to change one's mind every week because with a live show each week, one can give in to their fickle natures. On the other hand, when one has the map laid out well in advance, they have to commit to a particular course of action. This can create a mindset where the braintrust feels that they have to get it right, or at least as good as possible, the first time around. Although those mid-90s Raws did allow for some tweaking each week, with taped promos and other angles (such as the Sid angle recently discussed), there was generally only so much one could do with an angle already "in the can", so to speak.
It is generally accepted that linear, long-term planning works better for wrestling angles, which is what often brings in the most interest. With those old Raws, they would have no choice but to commit to an angle to a great degree, whether that angle was good or not. I know that business was bad in those days, with WWF losing millions each year. However, I think that there were many other larger reasons than taping most of their TV shows. I would argue that doing so actually had some good benefits, from a quality standpoint. Heaven knows we've seen what can happen when Vince and his crew are allowed to alter plans on a quick whim, week after week. Planning can be a habit, and those old shows created good habits.
Well undoubtedly the best planning came in 2000 when Chris Kreski was in charge of the writing team, and he had a system where everything would be storyboarded to within an inch of its life. Once Stephanie took over full-time that went by the wayside, unfortunately.
The four-week taping cycles were good as far as planning things out a month in advance, but once the cycle was done, often things would change radically on the next live show anyway. It’s a fine line because wrestling is a business where you HAVE to be ready to change with the times at a moment’s notice (witness what a disaster the WCW Disney tapings were), but if you change TOO much, then it turns into stuff like the Vince Russo ADD booking. So yeah, I have no real answer here.