McMahon returns to try to boost ratings in a sagging TV market
The past few weeks have been more than a bit interesting for a variety of reasons in WWE, while TNA has been preparing for Bound For Glory, generally regarded as its top pay-per-view and set to take place this evening in Phoenix.
Two weeks ago, Monday Night Raw limped to its lowest rating in 15 years. You just knew that would not sit well with the always volatile chairman, Vince McMahon, and that changes would be forthcoming. It was immediately announced that Vince himself, (a proven ratings magnet) would be back on Raw the following week to do a state of the WWE address.
Sure enough, the ratings for that show moved the needle from the previous week's disastrous 2.5 up to 2.8 - a far cry from the glory days, but within eyesight of the recent 3.1s the show had been doing routinely. Vince was set to deliver his address after clearing the ring of the dancing fool Brodus Clay and his Solid Gold sidekicks, when he was interrupted by the respect-seeking WWE champ C.M. Punk.
Not long into the exchange, McMahon absorbed a Nayloresque slap to the face from Punk. That was all to set up a main event bout between the aging corporate tycoon with the world's biggest 60-some year old arms (they put NFL official Ed Hochuli to shame) and Punk. Punk eventually dominated with the help of double Sandman utensils.
Unfortunately, when Vince was delivering a post-match promo telling Punk he would have to decide at the next Raw (Monday night) if he was going to face John Cena or Ryback (who made the save when Vince was down after a low blow by Punk) at Hell In A Cell, Punk was up in the stands where he scampered when Ryback came calling and was struck by a fan. Swinging back in self-defense, Punk apparently hit an innocent bystander and there were a variety of post-show issues stemming from the non-scripted turn of events that were not addressed or apparent as the show ended.
Cena is reportedly scheduled for a medical check-up Monday morning where it will be decided if he will be cleared to return to action at the ppv or relegated to a lesser role and the title shot given to Ryback. Punk and Ryback were doing matches at house shows this past week to prepare for the possibility that Plan B might be in effect. Besides Vince appearing at Raw, a major creative executive was reportedly demoted in a writing team shake-up according to various website sources.
The Main Event debut on Ion a couple of Wednesdays back did pretty well in the ratings. It featured a champion vs. champion bout between Punk and Sheamus. Punk won via pinfall when he ran the Irishman into an unprotected turnbuckle and got the pin. An Orton-Big Show match this past Wednesday did not fare quite as well in the ratings for week two.
Raw's rating troubles are likely due to a combination of factors. Wrestling is not in a boom period right now. The move to a three-hour marathon ensured it would be a real challenge to keep fans invested for that length of time. The star power on the roster is pretty thin and there are way too few fresh match-ups available. Monday Night Football is back and offers strong competition most weeks. Additionally, the start of a new season for popular shows such as Castle probably siphons off a reasonable number of viewers.
For wrestling fans, though, it may really boil down to overexposure of the product and the recognition that anything of significance that happens on Raw can be seen recapped on Smackdown, on the company website or at the intro to the next ppv. We now have the new Main Event show on Wednesdays, Saturday Morning Slam and NXT on HULU.
How much is too much? And when does more become less interesting and important? Despite the common misconceptions and stereotypes, most pro-wrestling fans do have lives and can't afford to watch wrestling every waking moment, even if they wanted. They are also discriminating enough to pick what wrestling is worth watching and when.
In the territory days, a show each night of the week from different areas of the country featuring the various personalities of each promotion's top attractions could probably keep the interest of many fans, but watching the same roster of WWE superstars interacting endlessly on shows with different names on different channels is simply cutting the same pizza into smaller slices.
TNA has Austin Aries defending the championship against Jeff Hardy and Bobby Roode battling James Storm in its top two attraction for tonight's Bound For Glory. Good luck with the buyrate for that one.