MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – Thoughts on the New WWE RAW Television Deal, All In Event, and More

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The EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING has returned to LordsofPain.net, exclusive to that site since October 1998. Man, lots of news to cover this week… So much hitting the fan and not just the WWE, which is a good thing. But I keep hearing about the WWE Stock price… However, I already covered that in my last column. Facts are that WWE’s United States business is declining with FACTS seen in their own Financial Statements of (a) lower attendance and (b) lower merchandise sales coinciding with LOWER television viewership. Yes, Monday Night RAW has been 2 weeks UNDER 3 million viewers in a row in case you haven’t noticed (Jordan’s 1998 NBA Playoffs outdrew this year’s playoffs by a WIDE MARGIN).

However, to WWE‘s advantage, other industries are declining MORE and are desperate to give them money. Such as Cable/Satellite providers.

The FACT is that younger individuals entering their 20s are NOT subscribing to Cable (Comcast, whatever took over Time Warner, etc.) and Satellite (DirecTV and Dish) like they were before 2012 when the Cable/Satellite industry “peaked” and cord-cutting trends began. They have other options to watch such as Netflix or Amazon Prime which feature NO COMMERCIALS to watch the same content that HAS COMMERCIALS on Cable/Satellite syndication. Gee, which one should someone choose and at a MUCH LOWER price? So do I pay over $50 per month for a bloated Cable/Satellite system with many channels that I DON’T want that are full of commercials or should I just pay $9.99 per month for Netflix without commercials and more convenience? Gee, the choice isn’t very hard.

I’m not even in the younger age demographic that is commonly associated with “cord cutting” and yet I did it. I chopped Comcast off at the knees during August 2015 and have never looked back! I don’t need you, Big Cable/Satellite..

But Cable/Satellite channels need something to survive… Hence why Comcast/NBC/Universal reportedly wants to renew Monday Night RAW only and up to “3 times” the value that Comcast paid for the RAW show specifically during 2014, the Hollywood Reporter reports.

That could allow the WWE to shop Smackdown around to another network and see if someone will overpay for that. The 2014 COMBINED deal was reportedly between $175-$200 million, with the mid $180 million range is what I’ve repeatedly heard. This deal includes 3 hours of RAW, 2 hours of Smackdown, and Total Divas. That deal was amended to later include Total Bellas which could have pushed it closer to $200 million. Let’s just say, for sake of argument, that RAW’s value is $75 million. If you do the Math and multiply that by 3, you’ll get $225 Million. HOLY COW.

And then if you assume that someone is willing to pay $50 million annually for Smackdown… Total Divas, Total Bellas, and the Miz/Maryse show will likely have their own deals at probably $10 million each.

On top of that, the recent Saudi Arabia exclusive Pay Per View, “the Greatest Royal Rumble”, could open up the International floodgates for other countries to want their own Pay Per View like shows that proudly display their countries on the WWE Network. In my opinion, the WWE reduced the # of RAW/Smackdown Pay Per Views to possibly cater to this request. I’m not saying every month, but I could see 4 International Pay Per Views happening if not more.

Oh, and the WWE Network is a hit… If you’re a wrestling fan who wants to actually see good in-ring wrestling from the WWE, $9.99 is a great deal. For me, I just watch YouTube.com clips of RAW/Smackdown and then watch the Pay Per Views. That is SO CONVENIENT for me as a wrestling fan and I believe that is for others as well. Beats paying over $44 for Pay Per Views monthly (or twice monthly for the Brand Split.

But I think that the first 2 points are extremely important… If you have a DECLINING Cable/Satellite industry DESPERATE to have top drawing content + International countries willing to pay top dollar for Pay Per View events… Good for WWE!

As much as I ridicule the WWE for going “under” 3 million viewers for RAW, the fact is that RAW still outdraws much of the content on Cable/Satellite. If you’ll recall part of USA Network‘s reasoning for NOT overpaying the WWE during 2000 (RAW went to TNN/Spike TV that year), they felt that they could survive on their “thriving” syndication programming. Ratings for reruns of “Law and Order” did just fine AND they actually paid higher ad rates than WWE back then. Times have change… USA Network, in particular, is getting crushed by Netflix/Amazon because streamers can binge an entire series, without commercials, on their own time and endure watching WITH commercials at a scheduled time on Cable/Satellite. That and many Cable/Satellite channels are actually revamping their line-ups right now in order to maintain their customers. Many traditional channels from about 10 years ago are actually getting moved to “expanded” packages (or being removed from “basic”). USA Network needs something to remain in that Top 10 Cable list weekly.

There are estimates between 10 to 25 million cord cutters in the past 6 years for Cable/Satellite subscribers. Comcast NEEDS the WWE, notably the flagship show RAW. Having WWE Smackdown on the SAME network just a day later, in my opinion, hurts that show. Smackdown needs to be elsewhere to actually freshen up the WWE on the USA Network and possibly be on another day. Times were great when RAW was on USA/Spike TV on Mondays and Smackdown on UPN for Thursdays. Kept a distance from each other and made things feel fresh. Having shows back-to-back on the USA Network is overkill for the WWE and the network. Plus, it will give the WWE options to see how other networks operate just in case that following the next 5 years, they should shop RAW around…

Good for WWE… Take advantage of deep pocket entities who are desperate to give you money.

BUT – The fact remains that UNITED STATES attendance, viewership, and merchandise numbers are declining. Those are HARD FACTS that nobody can deny (well, except for the McMahon yes-men fans who deny everything).

My argument about pushing the WRONG GUYS such as Roman Reigns, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Miz, Seth Rollins (minus Curb Stomp), and Jinder Mahal to the World Title actually LIMITS how much more the WWE could be successful. The WWE just dumped 4 years of resources into Roman Reigns becoming the #1 babyface and what is their return? 1 million fewer RAW viewers, less merchandise sold, and much lower attendance. In that time, they’ve destroyed the Main Event career of John Cena while depushing many wrestlers to make Roman “look good” by comparison (Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, etc.).

COULD YOU IMAGINE this WWE Corporation infrastructure with John Cena, Steve Austin, the Rock, or Hulk Hogan in their PRIMES as the top Main Event Stars? HOLY COW… WWE destroyed John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 with the Lesnar squash to even limit the drawing power that Cena could show with the Network. Cena was champion during 2013 when the WWE rebounded from awful 2012 numbers to prove that and ratings tanked after Cena lost the title at SummerSlam 2013… Just as they tanked badly after Cena lost at SummerSlam 2014.

Could you imagine if the SAME PUSH that has been given to Roman Reigns to allow for 100% clean wins against CM Punk, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, the Undertaker, or John Cena has been given to any other wrestler who was naturally over? Simply put, if you just LET Daniel Bryan defeat Randy Orton during late 2013 and then seek revenge on Triple H by Survivor Series 2013, we’re looking at a much different WWE right now. Bryan is your top star while you could let Roman Reigns develop in the midcard to figure out WHO he is as a wrestler and to gain valuable in-ring experience. Nope, had to sabotage Bryan’s momentum along with everyone else’s to allow for the ridiculous “Roman Empire” to begin.

You want to talk about the stock being $50 per share? Imagine if RAW still did 4 million viewers as it did during 2014 when Roman Reigns‘s push began. Comcast would have to pay MORE than “3 times” to retain RAW on their network, believe me. Let’s not even put all of our chips on Bryan. What if WWE Creative actually someone with a brain to step up to Vince McMahon backstage? Disagree with Vince on Steve Austin or Mick Foley as Jim Ross did openly during 1996. Guess who was right in the long run? Who is backstage now? Stephanie or Triple H who are incredibly grateful to Vince for making them rich and famous? Ha! Ditto for Kevin Dunn who has a nice back account thanks to Vince. All of those Hollywood writers who were brought in and know nothing about the wrestling business?

WWE could be bigger and that is my entire frustration with pushing goofs like Roman Reigns and Jinder Mahal. WWE can do better and not rush guys like them to the World Titles and/or main event scene. Both were rushed into the spotlight without developing their characters in the midcard to get naturally over. Now, the WWE is actually trying to get Roman “over” by having him feud with Jinder Mahal. The result? Fans are actually cheering for Jinder Mahal… Ha, ha, ha!

The best part about the Internet RIGHT NOW is how they are trying to blame lower United States business on Brock Lesnar being a part-time champion. Huh? Why is it that when Lesnar appears on RAW, viewership is usually ABOVE 3 million and when he disappears, it is BELOW 3 million? Why is it that Brock Lesnar is EXCLUSIVE to the WWE Network for matches? You want to blame HIM for the lower business? Please… He’s the ONLY guy propping things up. Hence why he has retained the WWE Universal Title TWICE now over Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 34 and the Greatest Royal Rumble. It may seem that the WWE has figured out that Roman winning in both spots could have been a disaster… Maybe…

It could be that Comcast told the WWE that they will NOT pay “3 times” for RAW unless Brock Lesnar remains… How about that? I bet that conversation has happened.

Who should hold that WWE Universal Title instead of that “part time” Brock Lesnar? Seriously, who do you have, WWE?

Roman Reigns – Yeah right. I’d argue that he’s too damaged right now after losing to Lesnar twice now. Just move on.

Braun Strowman – Lesnar already bodied him. That and his goofy Wrestlemania 34 outing made him look really bad.

Bobby Lashley – Too much TNA “stench” on him. In my opinion, he needs more time developing his character in the WWE before going for a big title.

Jinder Mahal – Hell no! Horrible draw for Smackdown as WWE Champion and his in-ring work has NOT improved. Nothing that he does looks convincing in the ring to hurt anyone.

Baron Corbin – Nope. His character, look, and personal attitude need to change.

Oh, and by the way, the wrestler probably should be a babyface wrestler. None of those guys above can fill the shoes of a top babyface wrestler. Roman and Braun have tried to act as the WWE’s face of the company but it almost feels forced for them. That’s why Braun did what he did for the Tag Titles at Wrestlemania 34 with that kid. But it backfired and made him look weak while pissing off fans for how much it disrespected Sheamus/Cesaro.

I just don’t see Roman Reigns becoming that top star that children are inspired by and want to pay top dollar to see. When I was on the Doc‘s podcast, he made a really good point about Roman Reigns that I don’t think many have thought about… Roman is that high school jock who feels like he is entitled to everything and treats others below him like garbage. He just has a naturally smug attitude to him that doesn’t fit the WWE babyface mold. He’s not bipolar or sociopathic like John Cena who can flip the character switch on and off when needed. Cena is a better actor than anyone gives him credit for and he was a luxury for the WWE to have as their top guy from 2005 through 2014. Even after getting destroyed at SummerSlam 2014, Cena is still the top guy sought for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Hollywood opportunities. You really don’t see Roman Reigns sought to appear in TV Shows or Films… Contrast that to 1999-2001 when everyone was beating down the door to get Austin, Rock, and even other wrestlers to appear on TV/Film. Or John Cena right now.

But WWE put all of their chips on Roman Reigns since 2014… It has FAILED and they’ve lost many United States fans in the process (1 million RAW viewers, lower attendance, less merchandise sold).

Being a Monopoly wrestling content provider with weak challengers has its advantages… Better yet, being that in an environment where Cable/Satellite channels are desperate to survive, even better. Now, the International markets will pay the WWE top dollar for what amounts to “WWE Network Infomercial or Tourism Videos” to host Pay Per Views.

And that’s why I’m encouraged by the All In show selling out in UNDER 30 minutes for their September show in Chicago.

I admire what Cody Rhodes has done with his wrestling career… He was UNHAPPY in the WWE and wanted change. WWE wanted him to remain as “Stardust”, which had a good run as a midcard act, but Rhodes wanted more. WWE didn’t want to give him more and thus Cody rolled the dice to demand for his release. Now, he and his beautiful wife are traveling the world and the other promotions want them. On top of that, he has taken charge of his character and promos… Cody is flourishing and he is energizing others around him to finally make a mark in the wrestling business. Listening to Jim Cornette the other day, he advised that since 2002 (with WCW/ECW long gone), no other promotion has been able to draw 10,000 for a wrestling event other than WWE in the United States. Cody’s “All In” show just accomplished it.

Can Cody and gang do it beyond 1 date? Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)‘s comeback during the mid 2000s looked great, too, but then it fell apart quickly. Yes, the WWE Creative Team butchered it, but many of their older stars remained and would also resurface in TNA wrestling as well. You need to have something intriguing that keeps fans coming back. “All In” should attempt to not only deliver on the first night, but build a cliffhanger that causes fans to want more.

For example, if Cody Rhodes wins the NWA Title in the Main Event and then suddenly, Cult of Personality hits… If CM Punk pulls a “Lex Luger making a surprise debut on WCW Nitro during 1995” to immediately challenge Cody for that NWA Title, holy cow… We’d do nothing but talk about NWA wrestling again for the next few months!

And if Cody can lure Daniel Bryan to NOT re-sign with the WWE… Getting beat-up repeatedly by Big Cass and then jobbing to Rusev in the Money in the Bank qualifiers is a joke, folks. That Wrestlemania 34 was a joke, too, with Bryan doing an injury angle to start the match. Big Cass probably would have won at WWE Backlash if he didn’t piss off WWE management for going off script one night on Smackdown.

Where I worry about the “All In” folks is that I’ve seen their work already on Ring of Honor… I don’t want to rip the ROH promotion, as there are a few guys there that I like. But my extent of viewing them is watching them on broadcast television on a Sinclair channel late on Saturday or Sunday night if I’m still awake… Compare that to my energy of wanting to stay up until 1pm during 1996-1997 to watch Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW)‘s infomercial show with a passion. My eyes were glued to the television for ECW while Ring of Honor is background noise when I’m on my computer or playing Rocket League on my Nintendo Switch. That’s the difference. Cody has been a welcome addition but Ring of Honor needs more to entice me with star power… That’s my main worries about “All In”, as if it will be just a Ring of Honor clone and nothing unique.

I hope that I’m wrong on the “All In” show and that it blows the wrestling industry away…

We NEED them to succeed… Because otherwise, WWE won’t change as long as Comcast and International markets hand them piles of money. To Vince McMahon, receiving “3 times” the value for RAW justifies everything that he has done in the past 5 years including overpushing Roman Reigns among many other creative mistakes.

To quote CM Punk from his 2011 promo, “Vince McMahon is a Millionaire who should be a Billionaire”… Well, the WWE stock price going to $50 per share has probably made him a billionaire. Vince, however, could have many more billions if he just got the Main Event STAR correct. Could you imagine if he found the next John Cena/Rock, let alone the next Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan who carried the business and created rivalries who also drew? Holy cow…

SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.

Bookmark Mr. Tito’s Column Archive to read the current and past columns.

© Mr. Tito and LordsofPain.net – 1998-2018

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“13 Reasons Why” the WWE Has Declined Since the Year 2000

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