Over the past 12 months, WWE have seen ratings for it’s once considered flagship show, Raw, tumble to the point where USA Network executives made demands for a more ‘edgy’ vibe to the show. So, what’s gone so wrong in the past 12 months?
Of course, we have to take into consideration of what Covid-19 has done to the world. With the build up to Wrestlemania 36 being held in the WWE performance centre in front of no live fans, it was a very different show for fans to watch. Gone were the bright lights, the screaming fans, and all of the energy the crowd brings to the show.
Lack of Star Power
In 2018, Paul Heyman was appointed as executive producer for Raw, and with that came a 2 year plan in which he envisioned a younger roster where he would build new stars inside of 2 years. While the ratings dropped consistently, the executives at the USA network seemed to be ok with the dropping ratings, as they saw an end game to Heyman’s vision, one where the likes of Aleister Black and Angel Garza became more established, and the ratings would once again climb back up.
This, unfortunately, was not the case. Paul Heyman was released of his duties as executive producer back in June of 2020, with Bruce Prichard taking over the Raw role as well as Smackdown. But still, we have yet to see a climb in the ratings.
It was thought that once the WWE left the performance centre and moved to the Thunderdome at the Amway Centre in Orlando, that it would result in a ratings increase – but again, they continued to fall. In October of last year, WWE held their annual draft and we saw some of Smackdown’s bigger stars like Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and the New Day, move across to the red brand. The hopes were that watching more recognised superstars would start to draw in the casual fans on Monday nights again. But December 14th saw Raw hit a new low in the ratings when they were only able to average 1.527 million viewers over the 3 hour show.
So, in 2021, how can Vince Mcmahon and the other top WWE brass make Raw the flagship show in pro-wrestling again?
It’s more than obvious that most hardcore wrestling fans, let alone the casual fans, have struggled to watch a 3-hour show during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although, due to lucrative sponsorship deals that WWE have in place, it’s most likely not going to change from 3 hours to 2 anytime soon. But, the time could certainly be managed better! Personally, I would have the first hour presented as a hybrid pre-show, maybe with a panel of WWE legends each week along with a couple of matches showing younger talent getting TV time. This would allow the final 2 hours to be presented as the main show. This format would allow legends to appear on a weekly basis, without overshadowing merging new stars of the future.
Ok, so the USA network has said to have been vocal about wanting a more edgy show. Now, lets be honest – under no circumstances does that mean a return to the Attitude era in anyway. It’s not feasible that any of the over top sexualisation or Jerry Springer-like story-lines would stand today, but what they could do is include more violence on Raw. This would be the perfect way to finally make Raw and Smackdown feel like two very different shows.
Smackdown is doing consistently well since its move to FOX, and could continue to be the family friendly show on Friday nights, with Raw becoming the TV14 show it once was. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying I want blood during every match – but if we were to see a few No-DQ matches along with the likes of Cage or Ladder Matches like we had in the late 90s and early 2000s, it could certainly give the show a new approach.
More TV Time For The Women’s Division
One of the bright sparks for WWE across all of its shows has been its growing women’s division. Now is the perfect time for them to take the next step. I have said for the past few years, that the women need a mid-card title to be introduced that is equal to the mens’s Intercontinental/US championships. Raw in 2021 would be the perfect time to do this, and could introduce talent of the likes of Rhea Ripley, Io Shirai and Shotzi Blackheart to the red brand.
In 2019 we saw the introduction of TV specials on the NXT brand, using defunct PPV names like The Great American Bash and Halloween Havoc. Raw needs to feel a lot more important than it currently does, and the introduction of these PPV-like specials could add a lot of importance to the brand. Using concepts like Cyber Monday and King of the Ring/Queen of the Ring would give the show a different feel every so often. I personally would have loved to have seen a New Years Resolution event, rather than the legends night, to kick off the year.
The summer months can be long when it comes to consistent booking, but introducing a summer tournament similar to New Japan’s G1 would easily give people a reason to watch every Monday. A league-like concept starting in June could see the winner receive a WWE title match at Summerslam each year.
Obviously, these ideas are my own and there would be no guarantee that they would work for Raw, or WWE. But it’s interesting to speculate what one would do if they were in the driving seat, I guess.
How would you go about fixing the current problems Raw is suffering from? Leave your ideas in the comments below!
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