You had to know this was coming. On Tuesday, news broke that Monday Night raw had finally broken through the glass floor and set an all time record for lowest viewership for any episode. The show has been on the air for over 27 years and have run over fourteen hundred shows. This week’s was the least viewed of any of them though, and I can’t say I’m surprised in the least.
I know the first thing that people are going to point to is the Coronavirus and empty arenas. That’s probably true as well, but what about when the numbers were falling before that? This is hardly some big shock where five million people suddenly stopped watching the show. Monday Night Raw has not been doing well for a long time now and this is the big moment that they have been approaching for years now.
So in the words of a great wrestler, what’s causing all this? That’s what we’re going to look at today, as there are a bunch of factors that have led to this moment and you shouldn’t be overly surprised that it has happened. The collapse of the audience has been coming for a long time and it only took a few more pushes to get them all the way to the bottom of the barrel (which will likely be crashed through to reach an even lower level of barrel soon enough).
This one worked:
First of all, let’s look at the short term issue. It is a miserably boring time in WWE at the moment. Look at the main focal point of this week’s show: the build towards Money in the Bank. In this case, that included three women talking to each other with one getting shoved down, a gauntlet match (with participants not named, including the big surprise entrant at the end), and Drew McIntyre defeating the lackey of a very quiet #1 contender who lost his big match at WrestleMania. What in there would make me want to watch?
The whole show was building to a show built around a glorified #1 contenders match. Nothing was on the line last night, save for a 1/6 chance to get a title shot at some point in the next year. That’s supposed to make me want to watch a three hour show? I’m not exactly sure how well that is going to work, but it seems to have not worked out all that well at all. That’s the small issue though, and now it’s on the real problem
Let’s expand this a bit and look at some of the bigger picture. The major problem at the moment is the lack of star power. You have Drew McIntyre, who is a potential breakout star but is stuck as champion in front of no fans after winning the title from Brock Lesnar. Based on recent years, why should I believe that Lesnar is going to stay gone and not come back, pick up another World Title, and leave for months at a time? It’s happened before, so why is it not going to happen again?
That’s where we get to the longer term problem: WWE has relied on the same people doing the same thing for YEARS. How many people in WWE have been pushed as top stars over the last few years? Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and…..somebody help me out here. Right now, only Rollins and Charlotte are around, with Rollins as the guy who just lost at WrestleMania and Charlotte now as a 12 time champion, because NXT Titles are totally the same thing.
WWE has spent the last several years telling us that these four or five people are the only ones that matter and everyone else can just be swapped in and out over and over again. Well now there is no Reigns, Lesnar, Rollins or Lynch (until next week) and look where we are. Wrestling has always revolved around star power and WWE has gone out of their way to make it clear that most of their roster has no star power. What else did they really expect to happen?
Kind of like this one:
So what’s the solution here? Well, that would be to make new stars. You always hear about WWE wanting people to grab the brass ring (after they have written confirmation and approval of grabbing said brass ring, with WWE telling them how to do it every step of the way of course) and make it to the next level. This would be a perfect time to do that, so let’s see what they’ve done.
This week on Monday Night Raw, Brendan Vink and Shane Thorne defeated Cedric Alexander and Ricochet clean in about five minutes. With that match, Vink has now wrestled four times on Monday Night Raw with one win. WWE has given us no idea of who he is, why he’s here, what he’s all about, where he’s been (Did you know he’s from Australia?), or why we should care. Oh but he’s managed by MVP, and as long as you’re over the age of 20, you know who MVP is right? It’s not like he hasn’t meant anything in WWE since….oh 2010 or so.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that Vink can’t be a star or that MVP isn’t valuable to the company. Vink hasn’t been around long enough to get anywhere and MVP can handle himself on a microphone. Instead of letting us know ANYTHING about these people though, they’re thrown out there with a win over Ricochet (because RICOCHET is the guy you throw out there to take a clean loss rather that, I don’t know, pushing the heck out of him or something) and we’re just supposed to instantly care. It didn’t work for Riddick Moss (Yeah remember him?) and it isn’t likely to work for Vink.
With so much time to fill in on these shows, shoot some material on some of these wrestlers. Sit down with them and let us hear something about them. Maybe a backstory, maybe them cutting promos on how much they’re glad the fans are gone because they were stupid anyway or something about their rabbit named Lucy. Just tell us SOMETHING about them so we have a reason to care. Chris Jericho made a name for himself in WCW with a bunch of thirty second promos. WWE can’t take one of their 38737 writers and come up with a story for these people?
Yes, this one too:
Flash back with me to any of the following three scenarios: McIntyre wins the Royal Rumble, Kofi Kingston wins the WWE Title or Daniel Bryan FINALLY overcomes the Authority. These are three of the most emotional moments WWE has put together in a long time and there is a reason for that: we’ve been given a reason to care about these people and have connected with them over the years.
It’s not as simple as throwing Bryan out there and having him win the title out of nowhere or taking away the Jamaican accent and making Kingston serious. It was a progression of these people’s lives and stories and the fans have been along for the ride. WWE is trying to get to the finish line without having gone through the entire race and it’s failing miserably.
Monday Night Raw has an audience. I don’t think it’s any secret that there are a lot of wrestling fans in the world (at least a million and a half people watched the show this week, just in the United States) and they are willing to watch WWE’s programming. However, you can’t just expect them to take whatever is offered. At some point you need to actually build to something and put in the effort. WWE was willing to let a lot of people go last month, so maybe they can focus on who they still have. Or maybe they can just buy a deeper barrel.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!