“Did you watch this week’s Raw?”
“Nah, I missed it. Was it worth watching though?”
“Well, the Brock Lesnar segment was interesting, rest was pretty bleh.”
“And storylines? Anything I should know about?”
“No actual developments. You can watch the Pay-Per-View directly and not miss much.”
Although, this might seem like a fictional conversation, it is not. In fact, this is probably one of the most common dialogues you would find between WWE fans.
The Raw Episode on September 28th, 2015, drew 3.32 million viewers, which is a record low for the show and also the lowest number of viewers for a non-holiday edition of Raw since 1997. As shocking as that sounds, it is actually not that surprising. The WWE has seen its viewership and TV ratings drop year after year, gradually and arguably so has their content quality. There are now reports that the WWE plans to use part time stars like The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and even The Rock more on TV to close out 2015 over this panic in the ratings drop. Once again, it's a band-aid solution for a larger problem.
The craze of watching a Raw or a Smackdown event has just faded away in the last few years. The fact that you can easily catch up on whatever is missed over the two or three hour show in a few minutes of highlights later makes it even worse. The action on the weekly shows seems to lack high quality of entertainment and since the ‘E’ in the WWE stands for Entertainment, you cannot do without that facet, can you?
As Paul Heyman recently said, the fans get recycled. Some old ones leave and other new ones join the WWE Universe, but when the number of those leaving outscores those joining in, the WWE should be worried about its popularity. It is certainly not easy to pin point at one or two aspects which has led to the decrease in popularity of WWE over the years, so here we look at the top 15 reasons leading to this cutback.
15 Titles Losing Prestige
The WWE scrapped European Championship, Cruiserweight Championship and Hardcore Championship (personal favorite) and fans slowly lost interest in the Divas Championship, Intercontinental Championship and the WWE Tag Team Championship. The Tag team division lost its sheen, the quality of Divas went south quickly and hardly anyone cared about who wore that Intercontinental Championship. That is basically your entire mid-card roster’s richest prizes and it became irrelevant to the world.
With John Cena’s U.S. Open challenges, the integrity of the title is slowly getting back and with Kevin Owens finally getting some gold, the Intercontinental title might become significant too.
14 Lack of Patience by the Creative Team
The WWE creative team has time and again pulled the plug a bit too early on some very promising gimmicks. From the organic push that Zack Ryder got from his internet fame to just being sidelined abruptly, Bo Dallas’ interesting gimmick from NXT to Raw and then being washed away because Vince McMahon did not find it entertaining anymore it has happened very often. The creative team really needs to start showing some patience with these potentially good gimmicks.
13 Over-dependence on John Cena
This is probably a controversial point since John Cena brings more money to WWE than any other superstar on the roster. But when you put all your eggs in one basket, you tend to ignore the others. John Cena can give you a great promo and a great match but he cannot possibly pull an entire three-hour show on his own; he needs support. The WWE put so much effort into Cena that they failed to build up anyone else close to his crowd pulling-power and that is beginning to backfire now, especially in Daniel Bryan's absence and following CM Punk's departure. By the way, both those guys got over organically with the fans, rather than the machine pushing them.
12 The Downfall of the Divas Division
The Divas division has been in shambles in recent years. Ever since the likes of Trish Stratus and Lita left the company, WWE has struggled to rake in eyes on the division. The quality of wrestlers went down and so did the quality of matches. The Divas title became irrelevant and the recent Divas revolution lost direction halfway down the line. With NXT, there is still hope that the Divas division will eventually regain its glory but it is probably too early to call.
11 No Enticing Storylines
Storylines are probably one of the biggest factors which keeps a fan involved with your content every week. You cannot leave loose ends, nor can you drag a storyline till it bores the fans. We had many rivalries where things were just left unsolved like the Zack Ryder-John Cena-Kane fiasco and then we have had those which just do not seem to end, eventually draining out the quality out of the whole feud like the Dolph Ziggler and Rusev battle with Summer Rae and Lana acting as trophies to win.
10 The PG Era
This is yet another controversial factor, though very relevant. Converting the fans who were used to seeing blood, violence and Divas flaunting their bodies into being a PG content lover was never going to be easy and the aftereffects of the PG Era of WWE are still visible. Regular fans in the 18-34 money making demographic lost interest in WWE and so subsequently the ratings and the viewership decreased.
9 Bad Booking Decisions
Okay, where do we begin with the bad bookings? John Cena burying a very hot Nexus? Or the fact that CM Punk’s WWE reign was ended by a part-time wrestler like The Rock or as if that wasn’t bad enough, The Rock went on to lose to title to John Cena the following WrestleMania. Or the time when the red hot crowd favorite Daniel Bryan was missing from the 2014 Royal Rumble match or the fact that a returning Batista won that Rumble match. Or last year when Dolph Ziggler cleared the ring in the 2014 Survivor Series match and then got pecked down the card immediately rather than getting a push after his heroics.
The list goes on. The WWE has botched their bookings in ridiculous manners over the last few years and there is no way the fans appreciate bad bookings.
8 Not Giving a Push to Deserving Superstars
The WWE at present probably has one of the best set of wrestlers in the last decade or two, but the fact that many deserving superstars are not getting a push is nonsensical at times. Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Wade Barrett, Rusev, pick any one of them and they’d probably do justice given the right push to the top. It is frustrating at times, as a fan, to look at such immense talent in the roster without them getting a push.
7 Targeting the Wrong Audience
It might be true that no age-group buys WWE merchandise more than young kids but it is also true that no age-group watches WWE more than the 18-34 age bracket. Ever since the PG era kicked off, the adults have severely lost interest and the WWE somehow ignores this fall and continues to pander content to the kids. Yes, it was a good move to get more families into the WWE universe but you just cannot make it a kids show. The adults pay for the tickets, they fill the arenas and they pay for the merchandise that the kids want. WWE really should respect that fact and entertain the adults and not just the kids.
6 Part-timers Headlining Pay-Per-View Events
The Rock and Batista headlining WrestleMania, Undertaker in the main event at SummerSlam against Brock Lesnar and then Sting challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight title at Night of Champions. Seriously what is up with WWE and part-time wrestlers being main-eventers at PPVs? Yes, big names sell to the audience but you have a set of regular superstars working for you week-in, week-out, year after year who deserve to be in main events. Are WWE trying to tell us that the current roster is so irrelevant that they need part-timers to attract the audience? Either way, it is not the best signal to send out to the fans.
5 The Internet
The Internet’s vast growth over the years, has hampered the WWE in many ways. People get spoilers instantly, people are able to watch events online rather than on TV or rather skip through parts (which seem boring to them) unlike earlier adds on to diminish WWE’s overall popularity. Plus with so many keyboard warriors expressing their ideas, it can easily influence the thinking of a common fan of whether to watch or to ditch the show.
4 Making Shareholders Happy Rather than Fans
WWE has shares in the market, the company is public and now there are shareholders who need to kept happy. Before going public, WWE had complete freedom. They could write content, pull off antics which, though ethically questionable, guaranteed entertainment to the fans.
Today, they have a constraint and it is to keep the share value high while keeping the people investing money happy. The storylines are written such that the merchandise sales and the WWE subscriptions do not get affected and hence even prevent some storylines with great potential from happening. *cough* Cena heel turn *cough*
3 No Competition
The highest ratings and popularity of WWE came during the Attitude Era and the thing which created that sort of entertainment was the competition from Eric Bischoff’s WCW. The fact that WWE had to step up their game to compete with someone, made them create content which is unparalleled probably even today. But today, WWE has no such competition. WWE’s dominance is so far out-of-reach for other companies that regardless of how great their wrestling is, those companies may never catch up to WWE’s stature in the coming years and this lack of competition has sort of made WWE complacent.
2 Lack of Top Stars
Think about this, from the present roster, apart from John Cena and Seth Rollins who can possibly wear that WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Roman Reigns maybe? But that is where the list ends. With Daniel Bryan injured, Lesnar won’t performing at Raw or Smackdown, there is no other ‘top guy’ in the company at the moment. There was a point in WWE when we had The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Jericho, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, even Kane and Big Show (when these two were actual monsters) who could have held the main title and WWE had options. WWE no longer has that luxury and it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
1 Predictable Results
The fans are not new to the concept of WWE and how things happen. We know what is going to happen next in most cases and you cannot keep feeding us what we already know. And this has got worse in recent years. We know championships won't hands on Raw or Smackdown. We know regardless of who answers the John Cena U.S Open challenge, Cena will keep the belt unless it is a pay-per-view event, we knew that Sting wouldn't walk out as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion against Seth Rollins and we all know Demon Kane winning it at ‘Hell in a Cell’ is highly unlikely too.
The quality of matches is not the point of discussion here, it is the end result that is the problem. It is so obvious how the match is going to end that it flushes over any in-ring magic that the superstars produce. The sense of unpredictability and surprises has been lost among fans and when you know the climax of the movie, it sucks out some of the excitement out of the match.
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