Tuesday 20 November 2012

Three is One Too Many

The October 22nd episode of RAW drew the worst (non-holiday) ratings the show has received in fifteen years. It got a 2.48 ratings, averaging 3.55 million viewers. That may seem like a big number but when you consider the amount of homes RAW is available in and, more importantly, the sort of viewing figures the programme has enjoyed in the past it seems less impressive.

If this news isn’t enough to make WWE seriously reconsider their approach to the content of their flagship show I don’t know what is.

Since being extended to three hours in July RAW’s viewing figures have progressively declined. I’m sure that the biggest reason for this is that three straight hours of wrestling every week is just too much. I’ve been watching for over a decade and write thousands of words on the subject every month and I don’t feel the need for a show of that length on a weekly basis. Casual fans certainly aren’t going to want that much.

Another part of the problem is almost certainly that although the programme is now an hour longer there are no new acts appearing. CM Punk and John Cena still monopolise the show, with other performers each getting their regular allotted appearances. It’s formulaic and predictable. There is no feeling of spontaneity or unpredictability. RAW exists only to maintain its own status quo from week to week.

The answer is simple. Take one of Punk and Cena’s weekly segments away and aggressively push new acts. Give them interesting or intriguing characters to portray. Provide viewers with new favourite wrestlers and reasons to tune in. The recent introduction of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins is a good start but can’t be deemed a success until it’s made clear the three aren’t going to be wasted.

Longer matches would help too. This is something WWE has already begun to do over the last couple of months, with at least one mid-card match per episode getting around fifteen minutes. It should help to keep the core audience happy and encourage new fans (additions to that core audience) who discover that they – gasp – like professional wrestling as well as sports entertainment soap opera. There’s room for both, especially on a three hour show.
Barrett and Kingston were given a lengthy match on last night's RAW
Announcing big matches a week or two in advance and hyping them isn’t a bad idea either. This would be a lot simpler if WWE didn’t have so many pay-per-views to promote but that’s not going to change any time soon. Hyped TV matches don’t have to feature world titles though.

WWE could announce a Randy Orton v Alberto Del Rio cage match for two weeks’ time. That could attract viewers and advance their ongoing rivalry. Or Kofi Kingston could be attacked by Damien Sandow after successfully defending his title on RAW, prompting a match between the two to be announced for the next week.

Changes need to be made to RAW, and quickly. If not the entire three hour move could prove to be the show’s undoing.

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