The WWE’s rating have plummeted in recent months. Of course, some of that stems to Monday Night Football and, now, the MLB Playoffs. The company’s ratings aren’t TNA-low, they’re not in danger of going bankrupt or anything like that, but still the numbers are disconcerting for the pro wrestling overlord. There’s no way that the lowest-rated non-holiday edition of Raw coming just weeks ago couldn’t be.
There are a multitude of reasons for the ratings slump. Broadcasts and storylines are stagnant and repetitive. As I detailed recently, it seems like every rivalry in the WWE spans months at a time. That makes it feel like missing out on a Raw is no big deal cause you’ll get virtually the same show next week. Twenty-minute promos from the Authority nearly every week opening Raw every week only furthers that narrative.
WWE won’t soon overtake the NFL, nor will it likely reach the euphoric level of popularity experienced in the Attitude Era again, but there are myriad ways to claw out of this ratings spiral all the same.
One thing that would behoove the WWE is to include more big money moments on it’s regular programming. Yes, with the absence of costly pay-per-views, the WWE’s main intent is to sell subscriptions to the WWE Network. That said, as your author well knows, most wrestling fans have a friend with such a subscription who hosts the monthly viewing parties (I’m that friend).
If they want to grab the casual viewer or the one who’s simply on the fence about the $10/month commitment, they need to draw them in to the weekly programming. One way to do so is with more frequent title matches, or title changes.
Not to say that the company’s major championships should change hands like the superstars are simply playing hot potato, but title changes are a quick way to raise excitement and drum up viewer interest. The last time the WWE World Heavyweight Championship changed hands thanks to something other than it being vacated or some other loophole came way back in 2006 — and even that came courtesy of a suspension to then-champion Rob Van Dam.
The last championship exchange before that was in 2001. Imagine if, next Monday, Seth Rollins were to lose his WWE title. Whether that be by way of a Sheamus cash-in or a traditional match against another superstar altogether, it would certainly draw some extra viewers and give the WWE a window to keep them drawn in. Of course, the changing of more minor championships is in play as well.
The WWE likes to build up its champions with numerous successful defenses and, for the most part, that’s fine. But for the sake of unpredictability there should be more title changes in the mid-card. Imagine if John Cena’s open challenges for the United States Championship were to finally backfire on him. He’d begin to have self-doubt and a newer, edgier Cena in pursuit of redemption would make for compelling television.
In the tag team division, the WWE used to rely on three major acts: The Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz and Edge and Christian. That trio traded tag team gold on numerous occasions. With the Dudleyz back in the fold and a Hardy return reportedly in consideration as well, the WWE’s got the chance to strike while the iron is hot. So long as the New Day remains triumphant the majority of the time, they’ll be benefited at the end from working with some all-time great teams.
With these mid-card titles, the WWE could put on some main-event caliber matches, if they’re not afraid to incorporate a few weapons that is. A TLC match between the Dudleyz, New Day and the Hardyz or possibly the Uso’s could main event any Raw. And, on the heels of Kevin Owens’ fantastic ladder match with Finn Balor, he’s proven capable of thriving in such an environment. Defending his Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match against a guy like Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro or Neville would make for must-see TV.
Lastly, the WWE shouldn’t be afraid to call on their big money guys for the occasional Raw matchup. Brock Lesnar draws attention to WWE Network exclusives, but why relegate his glorified squash matches to paid programming? If he’s booked to wrestle on free programming, even if it is a one-sided affair, fans will tune in. The Undertaker, too, is a guy who seemingly has single-digit matches left in his storied career. If one or two were on Raw, even if just for a few minutes, it’d surely produce a significant ratings bump.