Welcome one and all to another edition of The Main Event. I am your host, Don Franc, back with another column that you will all hopefully enjoy. Long introductions aren’t really my thing so let’s jump straight to…
THE MAIN EVENT
According to speculation, the TV industry is down on wrestling. With wrestling’s popularity being at one of its all time lows, you have to wonder if wrestling even matters anymore. It’s just not that popular anymore and one has to think about what the next steps would be to maintain the current fanbase instead of thinking about getting new fans at this moment in time, especially in WWE. World Wrestling Entertainment has been at the helm of the professional wrestling industry for twenty years now and since they’ve been on top they have done nothing but lose fans. It’s not hard to see that the desperation is kicking in as WWE are going balls to the wall in an attempt to save their ratings. Yet, they are still failing.
Not too long ago WWE was pushing a respectable 4.0 rating almost every single week for their flagship show, RAW. But in modern times it has become the norm for WWE shows to be under a 3.0 rating. From being at 7.0 plus to going all the way down to struggling for a 3.0 rating really should be indicative of how many people have become disinterested in wrestling since their last boom period. WWE has lost way too many fans since then but there is always a way for them to recover. WWE needs to go to their boardroom and work on an action plan that will get ratings up.
These days, instead of hearing “Did you see what AJ Styles did to Seth Rollins?”, I hear “Do you remember Eddie Guerrero?”. My point is that WWE set the bar extremely high for themselves in the past – a much needed elevation of the bar to become top dogs – that everything they do now will always be measured against that. I’ve always argued that fans should let go of the past in order to allow the new guys on the roster to have a chance at greatness. But yet WWE were the ones who instilled our minds with expectations that they can no longer meet. That could very well be the reasons for fans not really being that into wrestling anymore.
Fox and the ABC network are putting immense pressure on WWE to increase their ratings. They can see that the ratings are now in the toilet compared to what they’ve delivered in the past and they’re expecting better results. From a business perspective it would make perfect sense for the pressure to now be on WWE. With shows that get high ratings advertisement deals will be better. Fox especially is spending a lot of money on getting Smackdown Live on their network and now that they’re seeing that SDL is consistently struggling to hit that 2.o they’re running scared.
And who does WWE blame for the decline in ratings? The WWE Womens Division. It’s funny how the Womens Division gets the blame when WWE were the ones who decided to push Ronda Rousey to the moon. They were the ones who made Ronda one of the faces of their promotion. Yet it’s not the women to blame for the decrease in ratings. There are a number of things that when looked at as a collective forms the problem that has created some apathy toward WWE and the professional wrestling industry as a whole. The women cannot be blamed whilst other main eventers – who happen to be men – get the same ratings as the women do when they’re in that main event spot. Unfortunately for the women, WWE were looking for an excuse for their ratings and the women became the scapegoats.
But the blame cannot solely rest on the shoulders of the Womens Division. The main event scene is just all kinds of dull at the moment. WWE has not been able to create a universally appealing star in years. Besides the pathetic writing team having an effect on their new superstar turnaround (in terms of not being able to create a big star), I also think the fact that WWE isn’t able to create that next big thing is because fans just don’t care about wrestling as much as they used to. It’s sad but true. Yes, the onus is on WWE to create compelling television in order to pave the way for their next big star, but if fans think wrestling doesn’t matter then the compelling television won’t do much in that regard. Remember, even some of the most over stars in recent years barely had an effect on the ratings. If that doesn’t say people think wrestling doesn’t matter then I don’t know what will.
But even if compelling television does not cure the apathy toward the wrestling business as a whole, WWE still need fresh, innovative storytelling nuances in order to maintain their current fans so that their ratings don’t plummet even further. WWE can do so by not constantly recycling old ideas. The things that are done on television have been done a thousand times before. All storylines feel rehashed and recycled. The entertainment industry as a whole suffers from this, but the ball is in WWE’s court to put an inventive spin on old tropes.
Why doesn’t WWE try a different outcome to a tried and tested storyline? Instead of the storyline going towards its historical conclusion, switch things up and head in a different direction completely. Hell, why not think up brand new storylines that hasn’t been done on WWE television before. Things are at its most interesting when fresh ideas come forth and WWE sorely lacks in that department. You would think that with forty writers on the creative team at least one of them could come up with an engaging storyline or at the very least a different take on an already established storyline. Why not make a new match? A new concept? A new gimmick? Shit, I don’t know but what the WWE does do moving forward should include the words fresh, new, innovative and different because without that WWE will be stuck with the same low ratings and will still be met with disinterest from fans who’ve turned their backs on their product.
WWE has become so desperate that they’ve implemented a wild card ruling where RAW superstars are able to appear on SDL and vise versa. That practically voids the entire concept of the brand split. If this is the case then the brand split just shouldn’t exist. However, the problem with that is the company is bloated with talent and if all titles are unified then there will be alot of key players missing out on title opportunities. Then again, Baron Corbin is the current challenger for the Universal Championship so I digress. I like the brand split due to Smackdown having it’s own identity. But as of late it has become RAW-lite.
WWE has even started cutting down on YouTube content to help with the ratings decline. Hopefully that cutting back of uploading YouTube videos during shows will help combat ratings as it is potentially affecting the numbers that WWE pulls. It is the sensible thing to do considering that you wouldn’t have to watch an entire show to see the important bits. To be fair, it was a silly business decision to begin with.
Perhaps WWE are going through a dry spell like in the New Generation when they were pushing ratings of 2.5 and under. During that spell the ratings were in the tank, much like it is now. Yet WWE persevered and managed to claw their way back to the top. As it currently stands however, this current state of abysmal ratings has lasted longer than that of the New Generation. WWE should be feeling like a crack addict craving for that next big hit. That next big hit being their next big breakout star, of course. But examining the WWE from top to bottom the next big thing seems so far away. Like I mentioned above, the lack of interest in wrestling as whole could derail any opportunity that WWE has of creating that next big star. So instead of doing that, WWE should rather have a bunch of compelling characters at the top to collectively become the next big thing. They could have had their next big thing with CM Punk way back when, yet they were to scared to go all in.
It’s also quite possible that AEW becoming an alternative to WWE could generate interest in wrestling again in terms of competition. Professional wrestling has been missing that competitive flair since World Wrestling Entertainment became the monopoly. I sincerely hope that AEW manages to step up and recent ticket sales certainly gives off the impression that they’re not here to play around. If AEW can bring out the ruthless businessman in Vince once again then that could force his hand into put on a product that everybody wants to watch again.
At the end of day wrestling needs life injected into it. Hopefully AEW can succeed in doing so. If not, WWE has to prove why they’re the monopoly and bring attention back to the sport. Yes, I know Wrestlemania is in the top ten of most watched sports in the USA. But that’s mostly old fans coming out for their grandest show. I don’t know how WWE is going to fix this and I don’t know why wrestling doesn’t really matter anymore in the grand world of entertainment. All I know is that wrestling matters to me and provisions should be made before the professional wrestling world comes crumbling down.
And that does it for this edition of The Main Event. Do you think wrestling still matters? What do you think is needed to reinvigorate the wrestling world? Please leave a comment below. You can also hit me up on Twitter @donfranclop or pop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any and all feedback is always much appreciated. But until next time…
This is Don Franc signing out.