Features

Off The Ropes: Do Raw Ratings Really Matter? by Hab Rich

When Monday Night Raw is bad, we all know it. We don’t need ratings stories to confirm a trainwreck of a show, but every time they’re bad it becomes the talk of the wrestling world midweek. I just have to wonder if we, as wrestling fans, should even care about ratings to begin with.

Hypothetically speaking, if I’d bought advertising time during Monday Night Raw during this recent ratings slide, I would have a legit reason to be concerned. Why? Simple, because I want maximum visibility for my product and if Raw isn’t doing the numbers that will provide that, then we have a problem. But, I haven’t spent one red cent for advertising during this three hour wrestling—oops, I meant sports entertainment show, so mark that off the list as a major concern. Did you buy any ad space during Raw?

I also can’t help but think of the Monday Night Wars docuseries on WWE Network. The battle for ratings between WCW and WWE produced some great television and brought plenty of attention to professional wrestling. But after Vince McMahon ultimately beat and bought WCW, there were no other wrestling shows on television to compete for ratings against. Sure, TNA foolishly tread the shallow end of the Monday night ratings pool for a hot second, but they didn’t have any impact (see what I did there?).

With no wrestling to compete against on Monday Nights, Raw’s competition is “Dancing With The Stars,” “The Voice,” and “Monday Night Football.” This is yet another reason I feel that ratings don’t matter to the fans. With so many choices on what, when, where and how we can watch our favorite shows and movies today, I can almost guarantee we’re not checking the ratings of those shows.

Let’s look at the landscape in WWE right now. Many of the top superstars are injured or taking time off. The creative direction is seemingly nonexistent. They’re trying to position a guy to be the guy who just really isn’t the guy. They have a young upstart and homegrown promotion breathing down their necks. But don’t you dare be sour, because they also have The New Day! Wouldn’t make sense that ratings would be down?

As a fan, I wonder if other wrestling fans see plummeting ratings as some sort of message that Vince McMahon and creative just aren’t getting; like hanging on to a slim hope that once they see how bad the numbers are, they’ll change direction. I was very interested to see what others thought so I posed the question on Twitter and asked if fans really cared about ratings.

Joe Sondag@MickieSteeler74:The quality of storytelling and good to great matches are to me more important.

PASC@RonPasceri: I’m interested solely in the quality of the product personally.

Howie Mandella@NaturalHowie: I don’t think anyone really cares as much. Ratings these days mean 30% of what they did 15 yrs ago.

Howie and I also shared an exchange on the business side of the WWE and he remarked that merchandise sales, stock and network subscriptions were all trending up and since businesses are in business to make money and be profitable, screw the ratings. Maybe the advertising companies I referred to earlier don’t like the ‘screw ratings’ stance so much, but I’m willing to bet since Triple H said it himself that he doesn’t envision Raw returning to a two hour format, there are still plenty of other companies willing to buy ad space for the show.

Have you ever been by or bought anything from the merchandise table at a WWE event? Were you sober? Did you have to do a double take when you were told how much? Have you cancelled your WWE Network subscription? Will the bad ratings make you want to do so? You do know that the Network is expanding into Asia very soon, right? They just announced a deal to get WWE Network in Japan. WWE isn’t in business to make ratings, it’s all about that “money, money…yeah, yeah!”

When the wrestling insiders tell it, Vince freaks out over the ratings returns. If part of that freaking out can be done in the comfort of your own private jet, then let’s just agree that a slight ratings dip isn’t the biggest blip on your radar.

If I were to offer an unsolicited suggestion to help with the ratings, it’d probably start along the lines of not allowing Roman Reigns to begin the show in the ring with a microphone. Oh, and maybe utilize Damien Sandow a little more. The entire roster from top to bottom, including all the superstars that are on the shelf, is one of the deepest and most talented rosters I’ve ever seen in WWE. For the creative team to not put them in storylines and segments where they can flourish is almost criminal. Okay, maybe not so much criminal but there is a very strong argument to be made that the fault for falling numbers belongs to creative.

This isn’t the 1980’s. Wrestling fans are much savvier now and I just don’t feel as if we need ratings to tell us when a show is bad or not. I really want to go as far as saying that don’t matter at all, but therein lies the pickle. I’ve just spent the last two hours putting together this column to say ratings don’t matter, but the very fact that ratings is the topic says it matters more than I think. Or maybe I’m just cross-eyed. #AllRatingsMatter