WWE are always aware of the threat that Monday Night Football brings to their viewership for Raw in the United States. This past Monday, Raw received a 2.3 rating; its worst non holiday rating since October 27th 1997. To put that into perspective, October 27th 1997 was a night that saw Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeat Goldust, Bret and Owen Hart defended their singles titles against Ken Shamrock and Ahmed Johnson respectively and The New Blackjacks were defeated by Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn.
Raw’s lowest rating in 15 years won’t exactly panic Vince McMahon and officials within WWE, but he most definitely won’t be celebrating it either. Commentators are putting WWE’s audience loss down to the NFL game between Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys. Now this is tough competition indeed for WWE but let’s not forget that Raw has gone up against Monday Night Football on countless occasions in the past 15 years without suffering this badly.
As a fan of wrestling and one that’s lost touch with WWE and Raw over recent years, I put this rating slump down to the simple lack of surprise and drama on WWE television. Now, I’m not calling for the return of the Attitude Era. WWE doesn’t need controversy and risqué content to attract an audience. They are still capable of going out and surprising us without pushing those boundaries, the way that they did with the CM Punk/Jeff Hardy storyline in 2009 and the beginnings of the Nexus angle in 2010. The simple fact is that they aren’t doing that. I watch Raw whenever I have the time and I’m very indifferent on the content lately. Each week sees the same routine of CM Punk bashing a legend for showing him no respect, Ryback makes an appearance to crush one or a few unfortunate members of the WWE roster and we see the very same faces in the very same scenarios every Monday night. My primary problem with WWE is its simple predictability.
Another issue for me is the lack of star power in WWE; something that the company has acknowledged in having the Smackdown roster appear on Monday nights. Don’t get me wrong, I like CM Punk. I like Punk as the champion and as the face of WWE. Following his infamous promo last summer, something about WWE felt fresh again, but at the moment, I fear that his act is quickly growing quite stale. There is no shock value to Punk’s character. In the same way that I grew tired of Randy Orton’s character, I’m starting to feel the same about his. In a statistic that will be sure to offend the anti-Cena Internet Wrestling Community, in one of the very rare occasions that John Cena doesn’t appear on the show, it receives its worst rating in over a decade. This to me speaks volumes. Whether you like it or not, John Cena has star power; star power that cannot be matched in WWE. There just aren’t the main event stars with the calibre of those in the recent past. Even looking back just ten years, WWE boasted a roster including Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Rock, The Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Edge, Booker T, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. In my opinion, WWE needs to work much harder in pushing current or developmental stars to the heights of these superstars from ten years ago. Using the Nexus angle as an example, that was a genius tactic in putting over a bunch of random guys as heels. It was completely different from what the WWE audience are used to. It surprised the loyal viewers and it attracted the attention of the casual members of the audience. At the moment, WWE suffer because they only have a handful of credible main event superstars. Most members of the main roster have very little depth to their characters and aren’t really that interesting.
Three hours of Monday Night Raw was always going to be a challenge, and I think this rating demonstrates this quite clearly. I don’t know anybody that watches Raw from start to finish every week. Like I’ve said, WWE simply does not have the star power to hold up a show for this length of time. Instead of playing countless VTs, I’d be concentrating on dedicating a certain amount of the show to introducing upcoming and promising superstars from NXT and FCW. What I fear the move to three hours has done is turn loyal viewers like myself into a casual viewer who doesn’t really care too much anymore.
Of course, there are several factors to consider in WWE’s rating slump this week, and although WWE officials won’t be panicking, maybe this huge fall in ratings will be a rude awakening for WWE and will put pressure of them to strive for a better product, attracting an audience that can watch with some element of anticipation for surprise, drama and variation.
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