WWE Chairman Vince McMahon opened this week’s Monday Night Raw with a wild attempt at saving its slumping ratings. The ratings have been trending downwards and hit a low for a non-holiday show on April 29th for Monday Night Raw at 2.15 million viewers and on April 30th for Smackdown Live at 1.83. This past week, the numbers slightly rose to 2.24 million viewers for Monday Night Raw and 1.93 for Smackdown Live. However, the overall ratings are dropping throughout the shows and with FOX set to air WWE programming in October after paying upwards of a billion dollars for a five-year deal, this trend is troubling.
When Vince McMahon opened Raw on Monday night he had a plan to improve the ratings. WWE TV shows have separate rosters and champions except for the Women’s Tag team titles, which are defended across both shows. It was no surprise when WWE Superstar Roman Reigns appeared on Raw. Reigns was just moved to Smackdown during the Superstar Shuffle, the annual event where WWE moves wrestlers to different shows to refresh storylines and matches.
In the event, Reigns was joined by Smackdown wrestlers Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston. Kingston had just defeated Bryan at WrestleMania to capture the WWE title. This was the first time Bryan appeared on WWE TV since WrestleMania.
McMahon declared himself a genius and announced the Wildcard rule, where three superstars can cross TV shows at any time. This rule puts fans on the edge of their seats, anticipating the possibility of surprises every week. On the surface, this is a good idea to improve ratings as both shows exhibited improvements from the previous week. However, that was not significant. The WWE Universe took to social media to bash the new rule as all the fans got were two rematches from WrestleMania including Kingston vs Bryan, a match that can be seen on a Smackdown TV show.
Despite the rule being set at three superstars, Elias, another Smackdown wrestler appeared with Shane McMahon making him the fourth wrestler to appear. Later on, Lars Sullivan made it five superstars.
McMahon on the phone in the backstage area says Elias came with McMahon, so he does not count. So now there is the McMahon exception to the rule and three is still the number. Enter the intimidating Lars Sullivan, the fourth wrestler to come over, and McMahon changes the rule to four wrestlers. In McMahon-esque fashion, he creates a rule that gets broken, adds an exception, threatens to penalize anyone who violates the rule, and then changes it rather than enforcing it. A similar event happened the next night on Smackdown.
Even the most passionate WWE fans see the problems with this rule. It did not lead to any fresh matchups on Raw. Rather, the matchups created on Smackdown had predictable results. This is simply a band-aid on a crack in a dam. Vince McMahon said the WWE would listen to what the fans want, however that has yet to be seen. The fans want good storylines and innovative matchups. That’s it. The WWE machine has failed to create larger than life characters and the product is insufficient. Even the talent behind the scenes is exhibiting frustration. The fans are slowly dwindling away. Not only are ratings down, but merchandise sales, live events, and a new rival competitor are coming this month.
These are all problems with solutions. The WWE fixed it before and needs to go back to the drawing board and get creative like its done in the past.