This past Monday night, WWE posted the worst ratings since they program moved to the current three hour format in posting a 2.33 or averaging just 3.33 million views. That may seem like a lot of people, however consider that ratings haven't been this low since the late 90s' The waters that the good ship “WWE,” currently travels are murky and quite dangerous, as ratings drops of this magnitude nearly sunk the ship some 20 years ago.
However, if things were truly as bad as they seem (and they are...) then obviously a change is in order for the format of WWE Raw and Smackdown, right? WWE should be pulling out the stops and giving us matches we want to watch with performers we want to see, right?
Monday's main event saw Bray Wyatt take on Roman Reigns yet again in a feud that has been going nowhere fast and long overstayed its welcome. Couple that with the Heath Slater bait and switch match for the United States championship and you begin basically handing people at home the remote. The real question here isn't necessarily why this is happening, or answering whose fault it is, but rather how. How in the hell did things get this bad and more importantly how does WWE go about fixing it.
The legendary missteps WWE has taken in the past six years of the stuff of internet legend at this point. Rehashing the obvious failure of “TV PG” serves little purpose at this stage of the game. However, as a fan I can't help but wonder if the removal of the shackles of censorship wouldn't make things in the “Reality Era,” a tad more palatable.
Take for example Paige's version of the “Pipebomb” promo from two weeks ago. This is the perfect example of how the Reality Era should be presented on a near weekly basis. Paige managed to seamlessly blur the lines of script and reality as she took the mic and tore her way through the roster. Culminating in a dig at fan speculation that Bella Twins have achieved so much due to their current respective relationship statuses was icing on the cake. I knew then that was the show that I wanted to be watching.
Moments like this are so few an far between in modern WWE that rather than becoming true must watch television, Raw has sunk to “Must Read TV.” When the most exciting thing on the program is a relatively short promo, typically there is a problem elsewhere on the show at its core.
A very obvious problem lies in the booking of matches and the star power attached to them. I point the finger squarely in the face of this week's “United States Open Championship Open Challenge” in which, despite Heath Slater being previously announced as the contender, it was one Xavier Woods who would answer the challenge.
Mind you that Woods is currently the manager of the hottest thing on WWE programming right now. Xavier Woods could come out against gay marriage, say Caitlin Jenner isn't a hero and announce his support for Ben Carson for President and the WWE Universe would still clamor and praise Woods and his crew. How does a performer who is so high in WWE get a shot that is reserved for up and comers or those that need a slight boost in popularity? WWE even went so far as to produce videos of Slater preparing for his match and retweeting the hashtag, #giveslaterachance. Much like the Divas, WWE obviously didn't.
The exceptionally low glass ceiling aside, if we are to be honest with ourselves, the entire roster is a complete mess. WWE's reliance on performers acting in movies is killing any engagement we can gather for a competitor. Take King Barrett for example. When his star was finally beginning to shine and his tag team with Stardust appeared to be gaining some momentum, he was gone. Away to film some shitty movie, King Barrett was off television, literally the next night.
While using injuries to write a character off of competition isn't anything new in professional wrestling, the frequency in which wrestlers are allowed to film movies is staggering. At any one point, it seems as though at least one wrestler is out filming a movie, despite how hot a feud is getting. Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose and The Miz all left programming during high profile feuds to film a movie. Examining the current statuses of each of the three will answer how successful those films were for their wrestling careers.
Perhaps the answer doesn't lie with changing Raw, but perhaps in changing NXT. NXT was the hottest thing in professional wrestling, and for many it still is. However, for some, myself included, NXT slowly became everything I've grown to hate about the main roster. The big belt is hardly defended anymore. The once strong and mighty Kayfabe lived large in NXT, now seems to be growing weaker by the episode.
Episode quality in general fluctuates wildly from jam packed with high quality wrestling, to jam packed with promos and vignettes from prior episodes. One thing though can't be denied and that is that NXT is the best thing to happen to WWE in sometime and for some stuck on the main roster it could be the key to a resurgence.
Rhyno, Zack Ryder and Titus O'Neil have all benefited greatly from time back in the minors. O'Neil returned from his brief stint in NXT a new man and enjoyed a great tag run and could be looking at a great singles career in the near future. Honing one's passion can create some wonderful things and perhaps its time that others followed suit.
Could Adam Rose succeed back in NXT? Defiantly. Damian Sandow, Heath Slayter, Jack Swagger and others would benefit greatly from a stint at Full Sail and I wouldn't be surprised if behind the scenes that this isn't a request that is made with some frequency. WWE is doing these guys a disservice in their treatment and its trickling down to the fandom.
This is precisely why ratings are so low... its because we have nothing to watch. I've seen Reigns and Wyatt far more often than I care to. I'm kind of sick of Dolph Ziggler and Ambrose has gotten kind of Boring. This Demon Kane thing is kind of interesting, but it doesn’t make sense that he's going after the belt.
Perhaps if WWE were to save a few of the matches they reserve for Pay Per Views and events then we would have more reasons to watch Raw again. Perhaps the card of the Madison Square Garden event illustrates this better than anyone could. Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship? Brock Lesnar vs The Big Show?
Why is that not our card for an upcoming Raw? Instead, we'll just have to get used to the idea of re watching the same match over and over again. When Triple H said that WWE has to compete with all forms of entertainment, he was correct... However Vince and company don't have to practically put the Xbox controller in my hand every Monday night.