MR. TITO STRIKES BACK – WWE RAW Viewership Declines + Lower 1st Quarter 2018 Revenues = TROUBLE Ahead!

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Well, I’m traveling down that road and I’m carrying that heavy load. Welcome back to the Mr. Tito Show exclusively here at LordsofPain.net. Hope all is well with my readers, good evening… I’m going doing well myself. By the way, the WWE has been sponsored heavily by the Rocket League video game and I cannot say enough about that game. BEST sports that that I’ve ever played and I’ve played everything since the 1980s from the Tecmos, EA Sports, NBA Jams, etc. This is the BEST sports game ever made. Period. If you ever see a Dark Knight version of the Batmobile lurking around with the name “Tito”… That’s me scoring on you!

First and foremost, with everyone saying that Seth Rollins “has momentum”. Wasn’t I the one who said, soon after Wrestlemania 31, that the WWE Corporation made a major mistake by banning the “Curb Stomp” finisher? You know, with my April 22nd, 2015 Column? I hit the WWE Corp with pinpoint accuracy because they stripped Seth Rollins of part of his identity. The WWE wasted Rollins for over 2 years until they finally gave him the finisher back, now called the “Blackout”. I remember when I posted this column, everyone ripped me saying that a “finisher doesn’t matter”. Well, massively declining business during 2015 with Rollins as champion proved me right and the surging Rollins with the stomp finisher proves me right once again.

Speaking of being proven right… HOW ABOUT THOSE RAW RATINGS! KABOOM, baby! Take away Wrestlemania AND Brock Lesnar and we are now back UNDER 3 million viewers. Not only are we under 3 million, but WAY UNDER following WWE Backlash. That is hilarious.

Remember what I said during 2016, as it was a commentary on the Brand Split Draft and who was on the RAW roster. I said that RAW would become “permanently under 3 million viewers” as long as Stephanie McMahon, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns were on top. With Seth Rollins, I was speaking on the Authority-neutered version of Seth… So… Backlash ended with Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe and the following night on RAW, wrestling fans had ENOUGH. That’s a protest, brotha…

And before you go “but but but NBA Playoffs” on me, let me remind you that during the 1998 NBA Playoffs, the biggest drawing superstar named Michael Jordan was on his path to collecting his 6th title. And let me remind you that the NBA Playoffs during the late 1990s drew stronger viewership than what you see today. Thanks to Lebron vs. the Warriors, the NBA Finals have seen some resurging viewership but during the 1990s, NBA Playoff viewership was at an all time high. In fact, it peaked during 1998 during Michael Jordan’s LAST year. What was going on in the wrestling world back then? Well, during the months of April, May, and June, both WWE RAW and WCW Nitro GREW in viewership. In fact, the WWE’s viewership during 1997, 1998, and 1999, grew during the late Spring and early Summer months.

So, what now? NHL Playoffs. Yeah right. The fact that NBC won’t put the full Stanley Cup series on the main NBC broadcast channel tells you everything (placing a few Cup games on NBC Sports).

Excuses, excuses, excuses… STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Roman Reigns is an utter failure as the #1 babyface of the WWE. I’ve already statistically tested it and Roman is prone to cause a full ratings point reduction when he’s on top of the company.

We’ve been on this push for 4 years now, ever since January 2014 when Roman Reigns become the FIRST Shield member to defeat CM Punk. The match was awful, as Reigns was clueless in the ring and waiting on Punk to carry him through the match. Then after teaming with the Shield and overcoming Evolution, Reigns was rushed into 2 World Title matches on Pay Per View. He feuds with and beats Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2014. Gets hurt and misses the rest of the year BUT the Slammy Awards actually made him “Wrestler of the Year” for 2014 despite that injury. Wins 2015 Royal Rumble and then begins the 4 consecutive Wrestlemania main event run by wrestling Brock Lesnar (Rollins MITB cash-in), beating Triple H, defeating Undertaker, and then getting another shot at Brock Lesnar. His clean 100% wins are a laundry list of big stars and yet he gained no momentum by beating any of them: CM Punk, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, the Undertaker, and John Cena.

He’s NOT OVER and this 4-year crusade to get the “Roman Empire” over has hurt the WWE’s long-term growth.

Don’t believe me?

WWE Corporation issued its Form 10-Q, which is the WWE’s 1st Quarter 2018 full earnings report, on May 3rd. In my opinion (although what I’m about to say is for entertainment purposes only, as you should invest at your own risk), here are the highlights:

* Revenues for 1st Quarter 2018 are DOWN slightly ($723,000) versus the same timeframe last year.

* However – Expenses are also down by over $11 Million

* Because of the Expense Reduction by the WWE, Net Income (difference between Revenues and Expenses) was much stronger during 1st Quarter 2018 versus 1st Quarter 2017.

So what happened to Total Revenues? Because that’s what investors did not like about this report.

* TV/WWE Network revenue was up by about $12 million versus last year (Good)

* Live Events revenue was down by just over $1 million (Bad considering prices went up). Digging into the details, total tickets sold were down. Venue merchandise sales were also down.

* Consumer Products revenue was down by over $11 million. (Very Bad) As I go to my local Toys R Us, which is liquidating its assets right now and will be closing soon, there is a ton of WWE toys and merchandise that hasn’t moved despite more than 20% markdown. Maybe there is a bunch of unsold Nintendo Switch WWE 2K18 games out there (LOL)? Basically, the WWE is taking a big revenue hit on merchandise not sold through their Shopzone.

The latter 2 points about Live Event revenue and Consumer Products is an extension of DEMAND by WWE fans to spend beyond their standard $9.99 WWE Network subscription or watching RAW/Smackdown on your existing Cable/Satellite package. Demand is clearly DOWN in the United States. When Smackdown is headlined by Jinder Mahal and aging New Japan stars (AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura) and RAW has a part-time champion with Brock Lesnar and an overpushed Roman Reigns, it’s NOT putting butts in seats nor is it convincing fans to buy merchandise at live events or in a store. And everyone will dare to tell me that “Roman sells the most merchandise”. For one, break into WWE Corporate’s headquarters and SHOW ME THE NUMBERS. I’ve never seen a report that proves that. And secondly, the WWE audience in the United States has declined since 2014. Over 1,000,000 viewers LOST for RAW and thousands lost per live attended shows. Thus, if Roman truly is the #1 merchandise mover of the company, then it is sold to a DECLINED audience that HE helped cause.

What’s killing the WWE is their failure to find the NEXT top drawing star. Guys like Roman Reigns, Jinder Mahal, Seth Rollins (minus Curb Stomp), Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Randy Orton (not the same since Wrestlemania 25), and the Miz‘s premature World Title push of 2010 are NOT the right directions to take to mold a top star. WWE has had the “next guy” right at their doorstep with CM Punk during 2011, Daniel Bryan during 2013, Braun Strowman during 2017, and I would argue that both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were capable had WWE Creative not neutered the both of them with character changes or repeat jobbing. I would also argue that the misuse of John Cena during and since SummerSlam 2014 should also be mentioned.

The WWE has ONE or TWO problems… Depends on how you see it. Either the NXT developmental system is failing to restock the WWE’s talent pool and/or WWE Creative is completely failing with nobody giving good advice to Vince McMahon. Which one is it? Talent or Creative? I’d argue that Triple H is great at developing tag teams and women’s wrestling but he has YET to deliver on a top star. On the other hand, WWE Creative has been a complete disaster since late 2000 when Stephanie took over and infiltrated it with failed Hollywood writers who fold like a chair anytime they see Vince McMahon. As much as we rip Vince Russo for his WCW and TNA years, when he was in WWE, he actually DISAGREED with Vince on storyline ideas. Guys like Jim Ross and Pat Patterson also had the courage to tell Vince McMahon “NO”. None of those Hollywood writers will say “no” and family members Stephanie, Shane, and Triple H owe their rich lifestyles to Vince. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

What is really needed is someone like Daniel Bryan to say “SCREW YOU” to the WWE and leave during September 2018 when his contract is up. That clean loss to Rusev, COME ON! Go join Ring of Honor and become the face of that company again. Believe me, Sinclair Broadcasting would LOVE to plaster Bryan’s face all over their channels because nothing is drawing there. Bryan, like Cody Rhodes before him, needs to join another promotion to create competition. Guys like Rusev (whom the WWE jobs repeatedly, besides that Bryan win) and Dolph Ziggler need to spread their wings as well.

Right now, the WWE is doing well financially because of their rich TV Deals and the WWE Network. Both are cash cows that will keep feeding the WWE money AS LONG AS competition is weak. Ditto for the WWE now obtaining International deals for bigger shows. They made a ton off of the “Greatest Royal Rumble” show and will do so for the next 9 years. More of those deals will come. If I were any WWE wrestler, you better update your passport… I believe that the merged RAW/Smackdown Pay Per Views might be occurring in favor of more international shows.

Pushing the WRONG guy and producing the same TIRED WWE brand is not going to grow fans, particularly younger ones. According to the Sports Business Journal, the median age of the WWE viewer through 2016 was reported as 54. Compare that to 2000 when it was 28. What that means is that WWE has a loyal fanbase of older fans but younger individuals aren’t becoming wrestling fans. In fact, any youth would be the sons/daughters of those older fans… But by the time they hit their teenage years, they are dropping off.

There is just NO TOP STAR that is attracting any newer fans… That’s why pushing the WRONG guys like Roman Reigns and Jinder Mahal while poorly handling the rest of the WWE roster is so damaging! These 2 shows on the USA Network, 3 hour RAW and 2 hour Smackdown on a consecutive night, are burning out wrestling fans. There are no compelling stars that are forcing you to WANT to endure 3 hours of wrestling on Monday.

Nobody complained, ever, about those 2 hour RAW shows or eventually devoting 2 nights a week to RAW and Thursday Smackdown during the Attitude Era (1998-2001). Nobody. Why? Because guys like Austin, Rock, Foley, Triple H, Undertaker, and great midcard feuds made you WANT to watch 2-4 hours of wrestling per week. Zero complaints because the talent was GOOD and the creative was GOOD. That is not the case today…

WWE’s Television Deals are still relevant if they cannot generate NEW revenues and I’d argue that RAW/Smackdown is primarily what sponsors the WWE Network. Almost 35% of WWE’s revenues rely on the TV Deals and I’d argue that “multiplier effects” are attached because RAW/Smackdown remain the primary advertising tools for WWE products and shows. Right now, WWE is discussing with FOX about possibly jumping ship… But shouldn’t the WWE realize that FOX is currently in the middle of a acquisition discussion with either Disney or Comcast for 20th Century Fox properties? FOX also has big television deals such as Big 10 Football, NFL Football, and Major League Baseball. They also just signed a part-time deal for UFC. Meanwhile at Comcast, they’ve witness RAW lose 1,000,000 viewers since the 2014 deal was signed and viewership for Total Divas/Bellas has dropped. Furthermore, Comcast has major leverage because WWE needs some bandwidth deals for the WWE Network. Even if WWE joins FOX, Comcast could cripple the WWE Network absent of “net neutrality” policies in place.

What a disaster… How can this company that we’ve adored for years become such a second rate operation within its management? Seriously… The WWE has become a BAD sports franchise with a front office who makes poor coaching choices and drafts/signs the wrong players.

But worse yet, no competitors. Ring of Honor airs LATE at night on Sinclair Channels during weekends. Impact Wrestling is on PopTV where they think that getting near 400,000 viewers is a “success”. New Japan Pro Wrestling is on an AXS channel where we can’t find any viewership numbers and its streaming service has about 100,000 subscribers. Nothing in place to challenge the WWE to push the right guys and quit trying to force a guy, like Roman Reigns, for over 4 years to fit his square peg into a round hole.

What a shame. I don’t want to write negative, but the WWE is forcing my hand. And you agree. Look at those WWE Backlash 2018 reviews and now with this week’s lower RAW/Smackdown viewership.

I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again… The REAL “Brand Extension” of 2016 should have been NXT going prime time. Why? Because RAW and Smackdown are the SAME SHOW, just the WWE look and feel divided by 2. NXT had an Independent or International feel to it that the WWE has never been able to generate. 2015-2018 has seen massive talent raids and yet NXT Takeover: New Orleans can blow people’s minds with absurd quality. Had the NXT promotion been pushed as an alternative wrestling brand instead of just developmental, WWE’s business would be in better shape. It would have created REAL competition within the WWE Corporation as long as Triple H could run the NXT promotion as he saw fit without Vince’s influence. But no, we have to divide the WWE Creative Team into two groups to create 2 subpar shows.

But what do I know? I’ve been a wrestling fan for almost 30 years and writing about pro wrestling on a major website for almost 20.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

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

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

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