It’s that time of year again. WWE ratings are starting to dip heading into the summer and the company is doing what they can to get a boost. Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to guess how they’ll react too. They’ll have some kind of event on TV, maybe a big star will do something unexpected, and they’ll bring back a legend or two to generate some interest. Oh, and expect a lot more Vince McMahon. The methods work, but in reality, they’re just patch jobs. Now, don’t get us twisted, we here at TheSportster love WWE, but there are some major flaws in their TV product, and we’ve been watching long enough to throw out a few ideas to fix the show. So, with that in mind, here are five things WWE needs to do to boost ratings (and five things they need to stop doing).
10 Do- More Wrestling
Depending on who you are, the phrase “Attitude Era” either brings about thoughts of a glorious past where WWE was at its creative zenith or it's a cringe-worthy part of the company’s history. Regardless, when going back to 1998, almost every episode Raw is War started with a European Title defense with X-Pac. Now, we’re not saying every show needs to start with a championship match, but we’re here to watch wrestling. Sometimes, that’s all you need to book to get us interested.
NXT is a perfect model for this style of thinking as well. While the show is significantly shorter than WWE’s main roster TV offerings, there’s a lot of wrestling packed into that one hour on the Network, and it's about time we get that on their bigger shows too.
9 Stop- Long Talking Segments
On that note, there’s way too much talking. Now, this does seem like the same as the last entry, but it’s a little different. We don’t want talking segments to be gone completely. They’re important parts of the show. Instead, we’d rather not see Raw start with a 20-minute promo. Actually, there’s no reason for any promo to be as long as a TV show.
Most of what is said in a long promo can be done in a much shorter, more concise segment.
8 Do- Make Matches Mean Something
Yes, we’re still going on about the matches.
While more wrestling is good, there should be a reason behind the fights. Sure, there will always be a throwaway bout or two on a three-hour show, but there is not a single sport where a game means nothing. Whether it’s some kind of point-based system, or a chance for a star to prove they can hang, giving a match some kind of meaning gives the audience something to invest in.
With five main roster championships on each show, it shouldn’t be hard to throw in a few title defenses or an open challenge every once in a while too.
WWE has one of the biggest rosters we’ve ever seen. Mix it up a bit and give the fans something fresh.
7 Stop - 50/50 Booking
A great way to make matches mean something is to make the results matter. If a superstar wins one match only to lose the next to the very same person, it’s difficult to build any kind of momentum. This is especially true when there’s a rematch the very next night.
In fairness, WWE has been doing a better job at ridding this kind of booking from their shows, but it still happens a little too frequently for our liking.
6 Do- Make The Superstar Shakeup A Bigger Deal
Every sport has a trade deadline and its one of the biggest events of the year. Whether its baseball, hockey, football, or basketball, fans love to speculate what moves their team will make and how it will impact the rest of the season. WWE, however, treats it like another night — except some wrestlers show up on shows they weren’t on before.
If the deadline was treated like a bigger deal, we could see this turning into a full-fledged TV event. In the weeks leading up to the night, backstage interviewers could speak to wrestlers, tag teams, or factions about the possibility of getting moved, how it will impact their careers and what they could add to the other brand. Not only that, but there could be some real drama played out between the general managers of the respective brands. It could make two nights of the year almost feel like a pay-per-view if done correctly.
Also, kill the “Wild Card Rule”. Kill it with fire.
5 Stop- McMahon Drama
Look, we love Vince McMahon and his dysfunctional family as much as the next wrestling fan, but they’ve been the focus of WWE’s programming for too long. Sure, when Vince McMahon comes out, people watch and he generates a reaction, but it’s starting to wear thin. There are only so many times he can get beat up to put over a new talent before it just doesn’t have the same appeal. Not only that but at his age, it's kind of sad when he gets physical.
That’s without mentioning Stephanie’s involvement in the show. Since the “Authority Angle” of 2013 took place, she’s the only competed in two matches and lost once. While that made for a cathartic experience when she finally got her comeuppance, it doesn’t excuse the five years of slaps and put-downs with no follow-up. She’s great on the microphone, but instead of getting involved, she should work as more of a promoter than an active star of the show.
Shane is OK, we guess. We like him.
4 Do- Free The Commentary Booth
WWE commentary is some of the worst around, and that’s not the talent’s fault. A lot of what they say comes across as unnatural and forced — and that’s because it is. Some of the best calls we’ve ever heard in the WWE came from an era when Vince McMahon wasn’t micromanaging every word said, and we sort of miss it. Let's go back to that time.
As it stands now, WWE commentary sounds like a big advertisement, and while that is their job, they can be less blatant about it.
3 Stop- The Camera Action
If you’re prone to motion sickness, WWE isn’t for you. In an attempt to make the action look more realistic, the promotion implements a lot of zooming in and out on moves. Mix that in with a comedic number of hard cuts around the ring, and you have a nauseating viewing experience. To make matters worse, Raw has a runtime of three hours and SmackDown Live is two hours. By Wednesday, after five hours of that nonsense, you have vertigo.
Instead, WWE should look at Lucha Underground and even their own NXT to show how a wrestling event can be broadcasted. Sure the former wasn’t wildly successful, and they had the benefit of reshooting certain spots, but the production value for that show is on another level compared to what WWE offers.
2 Do- Cohesive Story Throughout The Show
This entry is sort of a broad stroke for multiple issues with WWE TV, so expect a few issues brought up here.
WWE in the late 1990s worked because the experience wasn’t so segmented — there was always some kind of string run throughout the show. Whether it was Kane interfering in every match or DX’s ongoing issue with the Nation of Domination, Raw really felt like a living, breathing world. Now, both Raw and SmackDown feel like variety shows catering to everyone and attracting nobody at the same time. A common thread throughout the entire broadcast could fix that.
If that’s too much to ask for, some continuity would be nice. Ronda Rousey shouldn’t be able to come out and call wrestling fake while another rivalry is portraying the storyline as real. WWE overlooks details like this constantly, and it makes following the product difficult, to say the least.
1 Stop- Relying on Old Talent
WWE has a problem. They really like their past. Like, too much. Whether it’s the Ruthless Aggression Era star Brock Lesnar, WCW’s Goldberg, the New Generation’s Undertaker, the Attitude Era’s Triple H, or even The Rock, Vince McMahon trots his legends out far too frequently, and they’re treated as if they’re a notch above the current roster. Sure, a big return is always fun, but when it comes at the expense of everyone else, it’s a bad look.
We can write essays about Goldberg beating Kevin Owens, or The Rock embarrassing the Wyatt family, but the fact of the matter is, WWE has been very short-sighted with their treatment of their legends, and it’s starting to make their every-day stars look less appealing.