Monday Night Raw has seen record lows in viewership recently and you’ve got to imagine Vince McMahon’s brain is that meme of the dog sitting in the burning room saying, “this is fine”. Whether it be because of the unprecedented Covid-19 or injuries, the rosters seem depleted and fans aren’t tuning in. WWE was in the main focus of the sporting world while other sports figured out how they would resume or start their seasons. Major League Baseball started its season this past weekend, and the NBA, and NHL resume their seasons later this week.
With a Detroit Tigers game already preempting Friday Night Smackdown last week, the WWE has to make some changes to increase viewership, get fans re-invested, and show the networks that they can draw more than/compete with the returning sports leagues. Here are some things that WWE can do (should do) to increase viewership:
Get Rid of the Brand Split
This honestly should have been done when Raw and Smackdown started being filmed in the same location. While the “Wild Card” rule definitely had its flaws, the idea of superstars showing up on other shows was attention grabbing. One of the gripes of the Wild Card rule was that the same 4-5 wrestlers were the “wild cards” every week and so you just kept seeing them. However, with the current struggles, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. The Fiend from Smackdown could easily take out a Raw superstar or two and you wouldn’t have to create a narrative around it, he’s a monster, that’s what they do. You could also do champion vs. champion matches, create new tag teams, etc. Bayley and Sasha are crossing brands as the Women’s Tag Team Champions, and are two of the best things in the WWE right now. Why not do this with others for the time being?
Plus, Survivor Series is coming up in a few months. Every year when they try to go brand vs. brand, fans don’t take it super seriously because there isn’t ever much conflict between the brands until they force it for Survivor Series. This is the perfect time to go ahead and start planting some seeds and maybe have a “Brand Invitational” style event.
Bring Back More Legends
Because of the actions taken by the Legend Killer persona of Randy Orton, we have seen Christian make his return to WWE television albeit briefly. I think WWE could either run a whole storyline where they bring back a legend a week, or just advertise having a legend of yesteryear returning for Raw. Fans are sure to tune in when some of their favorites that got them hooked into wrestling, return to the squared circle.
Speaking of Returns…
A surprise return with a crowd can generate one of the loudest pops, sending fans into an absolute frenzy. Without fans, surprise returns aren’t what they used to be; they fall a little short. Sure, I was pumped to see Bianca Belair, Shayna Baszler, and Mustafa Ali show up on Raw in recent weeks, but you have to assume that if WWE had marketed these returns more openly more people would’ve tuned in to see what these wrestlers would’ve done once arriving. And if they had tuned in, they would’ve witnessed some really entertaining matches and spots. Because of certain wrestlers sitting out due to Covid, we really don’t know when they are going to return so whenever they are ready, let the fans know!
Let’s Get Gimmicky
We have this a little bit with the match between Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre tonight that allows McIntyre to pick the stipulation, but the WWE needs to do more of this. With a limited roster, this is the time for tournaments and open challenges to abound and thrive. Whether it be a King/Queen of the Ring tournament, a Beat the Clock tournament, or just a best of 5 series between wrestlers, a tournament can increase intrigue week-to-week and not just be a one-off match. An open challenge with a question mark of an active roster could create some exciting matchups, and if you want to have a surprise return, this is a better way to go about it than the wrestler just showing up for a match. Building interest each week is imperative as we approach SummerSlam
Be Honest About the Active Roster
This would be a whole new idea for the WWE, but why not just be honest about who is available? It seems like each week we have some 6-or 8-man tag just to get wrestlers TV time which is great, but for every match we have like 3 backstage segments. The other week I was trying to think of another disciple for Seth Rollins for his movement, and I couldn’t really come up with 1 wrestler who we have seen on TV recently that isn’t a current champion or aligned with another superstar that would be eligible to join his cause. WWE is trying to fit as much as they can into their programming, which is understandable, but it doesn’t allow any one person to get pushed. SummerSlam is in 4 weeks. With the current structure and at the current pace, it feels like that’s not enough time to build to their second biggest PPV of the year.
Bring Up Some NXT Talent
There’s rumors of the Undisputed Era making the jump to either Raw or Smackdown and I would personally love if they showed up on both. They could add so much to both brands, and I’m sure that the WWE could come up with some loophole about why it was allowed. But, take it a step further. We had Charlotte as reigning NXT women’s champion earlier this year and then once she lost it, went back to Raw before her injury. I’m not calling for a full-blown Superstar Shake-up but if we blur the lines between the brands, there are a ton of possibilities. It would be awesome to see R-Truth interact with Keith Lee backstage confused as to why the Limitless One was on Raw. It would be great to see Gargano or Ciampa show-up to compete in an open challenge environment. I’d love to see Shotzi Blackheart rolling around backstage in her tank. Finn Balor could make his return to the red brand and immediately have an amazing match. I think the frustrating thing is that there is so much potential for amazing wrestling and content right now, but the WWE is restricting itself and not adjusting with these unprecedented times.
It does look like we are in for a packed Raw that hopefully makes the SummerSlam card a little more clear. I hope that WWE throws us some curveballs along the way to keep it interesting, but I do think letting us know about Randy and Dominik ahead of time is a step in the right direction. We will see how this effort is rewarded tomorrow when the viewership numbers come out.
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