Last week, there were reports that two weeks of low ratings for WWE Raw — coinciding with Labor Day and the start of the NFL season — had sent Vince McMahon into “panic mode.” That was followed by lots of, “hey, it’s alright” reports suggesting that ratings always take a hit around this time, and McMahon always reacts to them this way.
Panic will continue until morale improves. According to TVByTheNumbers.com, Monday’s episode of Raw drew a 2.33 rating, down from last week’s 2.47 rating. The show brought in 3.4 million viewers in hour one, followed by a drop to 3.3 million in hour two and 3.1 hour three, making it third for the night behind the NFL and SportsCenter, and fourth in its prime 18-49 demographic.
That’s a lot of numbers, so here it is more plainly: Raw brought in its lowest number of viewers since the show went to three hours in the summer of 2012, and it’s bad enough for the Pro Wrestling Torch to call it “historically low.” It’s also the lowest non-holiday rating since October of 1997.
As writer Justin Henry points out, things may be a little more severe than usual. While Raw usually sees a drop in ratings when up against football, this year’s first three Raws of the NFL season have seen a steady, 13.7 percent decrease. Last year, that decrease was only 3.8 percent. That’s not indicative of a casual fan choosing to watch a football game instead of Raw — that’s people who choose to watch Raw choosing to tune out. What, are human resources evaluations not enough to keep wrestling fans interested? What about Miz TV? Did you tell them about the Miz TV?
As someone who watches Raw in its entirety every week, it’s hard to pinpoint one problem, but the quickest answer to why Raw isn’t must-see television is that if you’ve seen one episode this quarter, you’ve seen them all. The same people wrestle the same matches against the same people, leading to the same finishes you’ve seen, building to big event matches featuring the same thing you’ve just watched. It’s a chore to get through the show sometimes, and that’s coming from a guy who has built his personal and professional life around watching it.
Of course, there’s also the reality that TV ratings may not matter as much as they used to, and that a show being “good” doesn’t necessarily mean it will be successful. Still, the slow leak of viewers means something, and WWE should take a second to figure out what. Maybe they should create separation and build momentum.