Looking At Why WWE Raw’s Ratings Are Down

WWE now has to combat the ratings juggernaut that is Monday Night Football.

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

In 2017, the NFL's flagship broadcast averaged 10.8 million viewers per game, and even though that was its lowest average since 2007, it was still well ahead of WWE's No. 1 show, Monday Night Raw. A look at Raw's 2017 viewership archive shows that the red brand routinely averaged fewer than three million viewers last year, and in 2018, that number has dropped to an all-time low. The July 9th episode of Raw averaged just 2.470 million viewers, the show's worst average viewership in its 25-year history.

While Raw's record low viewership can be attributed to a wide variety of factors, not the least of which is a dip in the show's overall quality, there has to be internal concern within WWE about how far that viewership could fall when it has to consistently go head-to-head with Monday Night Football. Over the last couple of years, one tactic WWE has used in an attempt to keep fans around amidst the stiff TV competition in the fall is a "battle of the brands" around Survivor Series, but more must be done this year.

There is undoubtedly a significant portion of WWE fans who prioritize the NFL from September through December each year, but with arguably its most talented roster of all-time, there are plenty of things WWE can do to minimize the number of fans who tune out of Raw and into Monday Night Football. And it all starts with the booking.

Here are five major storylines WWE can do on Raw to try to fend off the NFL this season.

One Last Run For The Undertaker

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

WWE is reportedly hoping to use The Undertaker "four or five times" this year as "The Phenom" finally seems healthy enough to take on an increased workload.

Although rumblings of Undertaker vs. John Cena at SummerSlam obviously didn't pan out, The Undertaker will lace up the boots again at Super Show-Down next month after wrestling at WrestleMania 34, the Greatest Royal Rumble and a recent Madison Square Garden live event. Based on the way Undertaker has largely been used only for major pay-per-views over the years, WWE clearly views him as a massive draw, and indeed, the last time WWE built a TV show around a pre-advertised appearance for him after a lengthy layoff, SmackDown's viewership increased by more than 800,000 viewers.

If WWE is looking for The Undertaker to provide a boost to its TV ratings and viewership, that's likely exactly what he would do, depending upon whether his return is announced in advance and/or what type of storyline it will lead to. After his one-off match against Triple H, there will no shortage of potential storylines waiting for "The Deadman," who has a ready made rematch with Cena waiting for him and could also ignite (or reignite) a feud with a star like Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor or Roman Reigns. There is also buzz that we could get Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels one last time.

Because there is no telling exactly how much gas The Undertaker has left in the tank, fans will react to virtually anything and everything he does from this point forward as a big deal, so with WWE needing some additional star power to boost interest levels this fall, Taker's return and potential feud with a returning Michaels or a top Raw star during one last run to WrestleMania could go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

The Wyatt Family Reforms

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

With The Shield getting the band back together, the trio needs another legitimate trio to feud with, so why not The Wyatt Family?

With Rowan sidelined due to injury, Harper falling out of SmackDown's storylines (due to Rowan's injury), Bray Wyatt reportedly in line for a change in character and Strowman recently turning heel, the stage is set for Wyatt, Strowman and Harper to reform one of the best stables in recent WWE history. Indeed, the Wyatts proved to be a big hit during their initial run on the main roster, when they were selling more merchandise than names like Evolution, Batista, Hulk Hogan and even The Shield, and could certainly be even more successful now.

Wyatt is now a former WWE Champion while Strowman is one of the biggest stars in the business and someone with a proven history of drawing well, as, according to F4WOnline.com, he main evented more shows that attracted at least 10,000 fans than anyone in WWE last year. Stables, of course, have become a lost art in WWE, but the Wyatts have had more success than most factions that have been formed this decade and would be a welcome change to a Raw show that needs a jolt of excitement.

Not only would this be a great way to use Wyatt's often overlooked talents, but it could help solidify Strowman as a villain while giving the underrated Harper a substantial storyline at a time when he probably won't get one as a singles star on SmackDown. What's more, The Wyatt Family's undeniable popularity, combined with fans' thirst for nostalgia, could potentially make a reincarnated version of the trio a huge viewership and merchandising hit at a time when WWE could use some more of them.

The Rock Ignites A Feud With Roman Reigns

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

All of the signs are pointing toward The Rock returning to WWE in the near future.

The Rock apparently wants to make it happen, has recently been mentioned on WWE TV multiple times, reportedly has an "open dialogure" with the company about coming back and even said himself that he "can't wait" to return. After failing to bring him back for WrestleMania 34 to team with Ronda Rousey, WWE now must shift to a different potential return storyline for The Rock, who should have no problem attractiing fans to Monday Night Raw.

The Rock, who recently became the highest paid actor in history, brings with him a massive fan base that consists of 114 million Instagram followers and recently was ranked as the world's second most recognizable pro wrestler behind only Hulk Hogan. With The Rock's fame reaching epic proportions this year as he's his solidified himself as Hollywood's top star, it only makes sense that WWE would want to bring him back for one last feud that culminates with a major WrestleMania 35 match.

Although a rivalry between The Rock and Brock Lesnar would be the biggest possible feud WWE could do for "The People's Champion," Lesnar's uncertain WWE future means the company should go with the next best thing: The Rock vs. Reigns. With "The Big Dog" firmly positioned as the face of the company and being a ticket-selling draw, it makes sense for WWE to feature him heavily, even if a small pocket of fans continues to resist his push. If WWE wants to create electricity and excitement for its programming this fall, then pairing the polarizing Reigns with a returning Rock is a surefire way to do that, especially if it takes place with the Universal title on the line on the grand stage of WrestleMania .

It, of course, would pit two of the biggest stars in the business in a family feud that would ensure that fewer fans tune out of Raw and into Monday Night Football. And guess what? This match is reportedly penciled in as the WrestleMania 35 main event, which means WWE could kick it off in the near future and likely boost TV viewership substantially.

The Return Of John Cena

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

Like it or not, John Cena is a draw.

He's been called WWE's biggest draw since the Attitude Era, appears to be a much bigger draw than Reigns and has a history of single-handedly improving both live event attendance and TV ratings. Especially at a time when he rarely appears on WWE programming and his star power is growing thanks to a budding acting career that his him following in the footsteps of The Rock, Cena is a much bigger mainstream star than ever before and should prove capable of improving TV viewership and the WWE Network subscriber count whenever he comes back.

With Lesnar set to be away from WWE (at least for a while, but maybe for good) and Raw having to withstand the onslaught from Monday Night Football, bringing back Cena is an absolute no-brainer of a decision that, if booked right, could be a big ratings hit for WWE. Cena, after all, could have a number of potentially intriguing feuds with stars like Strowman, Seth Rollins or even Drew McIntyre on the red brand, and even though he still has his fair share of haters, it's hard to deny that his feuds almost always feel special in a way that isn't true about most of the company's other top stars.

At this stage of his career, there is no telling how much or how little Cena will be around from this point forward, so obviously, it would benefit WWE to take full advantage of what time he does have left by putting him in as many marquee feuds as possible. Although Cena is not currently advertised for any future WWE dates beyond Super Show-Down, that may change as we could see him back sooner than expected, especially if Raw's viewership begins to tank in the near future.

The Shield Implodes

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

WWE appears to be committed to a full-fledged reunion of The Shield.

Although some believe that the group's 2017 reunion, which was short-lived because of Reigns' illness and Dean Ambrose's injury, was just a way to get Reigns cheered, it did work in that regard but also provided Raw with an entertaining storyline involving three of its biggest singles stars. Given the way that temporary reunion tour fell apart due to unforeseen circumstances, however, there is a widespread belief that WWE is giving it another go with a legitimate reunion, and we really can't blame the company for trying.

The Shield has a history of drawing strong TV ratings and selling a ton of merchandise (both as a trio and individuals), so their reunions will move more merchandise (WWE has already released three new Shield t-shirts) and create more buzz and excitement than most other major storylines do. What's more, reforming The Shield has paved the way for one of the three stars, likely Ambrose, to turn heel, which could potentially lead to a very intriguing storyline that could carry Raw during the NFL season and ultimately give Raw the top heel that it desperately needs.

One of the biggest issues with the red brand in 2018 has been its lack of a true No. 1 villain, and a four or five-month run for The Shield that leads to the creation of Raw's next mega heel (Ambrose) would make The Shield reunion an instant success story. If WWE wants to end its rating woes for more than just a few months, it needs to create more compelling programming, and that all starts with the creation of better antagonists because a top babyface is only as good as the heel he's feuding with.

Knowing that, WWE must seriously consider ending this The Shield run with another implosion, which could be a ratings hit and a storyline one as well.

Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to @ForbesSports, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.

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WWE now has to combat the ratings juggernaut that is Monday Night Football.

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

In 2017, the NFL's flagship broadcast averaged 10.8 million viewers per game, and even though that was its lowest average since 2007, it was still well ahead of WWE's No. 1 show, Monday Night Raw. A look at Raw's 2017 viewership archive shows that the red brand routinely averaged fewer than three million viewers last year, and in 2018, that number has dropped to an all-time low. The July 9th episode of Raw averaged just 2.470 million viewers, the show's worst average viewership in its 25-year history.

While Raw's record low viewership can be attributed to a wide variety of factors, not the least of which is a dip in the show's overall quality, there has to be internal concern within WWE about how far that viewership could fall when it has to consistently go head-to-head with Monday Night Football. Over the last couple of years, one tactic WWE has used in an attempt to keep fans around amidst the stiff TV competition in the fall is a "battle of the brands" around Survivor Series, but more must be done this year.

There is undoubtedly a significant portion of WWE fans who prioritize the NFL from September through December each year, but with arguably its most talented roster of all-time, there are plenty of things WWE can do to minimize the number of fans who tune out of Raw and into Monday Night Football. And it all starts with the booking.

Here are five major storylines WWE can do on Raw to try to fend off the NFL this season.

One Last Run For The Undertaker

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

WWE is reportedly hoping to use The Undertaker "four or five times" this year as "The Phenom" finally seems healthy enough to take on an increased workload.

Although rumblings of Undertaker vs. John Cena at SummerSlam obviously didn't pan out, The Undertaker will lace up the boots again at Super Show-Down next month after wrestling at WrestleMania 34, the Greatest Royal Rumble and a recent Madison Square Garden live event. Based on the way Undertaker has largely been used only for major pay-per-views over the years, WWE clearly views him as a massive draw, and indeed, the last time WWE built a TV show around a pre-advertised appearance for him after a lengthy layoff, SmackDown's viewership increased by more than 800,000 viewers.

If WWE is looking for The Undertaker to provide a boost to its TV ratings and viewership, that's likely exactly what he would do, depending upon whether his return is announced in advance and/or what type of storyline it will lead to. After his one-off match against Triple H, there will no shortage of potential storylines waiting for "The Deadman," who has a ready made rematch with Cena waiting for him and could also ignite (or reignite) a feud with a star like Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor or Roman Reigns. There is also buzz that we could get Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels one last time.

Because there is no telling exactly how much gas The Undertaker has left in the tank, fans will react to virtually anything and everything he does from this point forward as a big deal, so with WWE needing some additional star power to boost interest levels this fall, Taker's return and potential feud with a returning Michaels or a top Raw star during one last run to WrestleMania could go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

The Wyatt Family Reforms

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

With The Shield getting the band back together, the trio needs another legitimate trio to feud with, so why not The Wyatt Family?

With Rowan sidelined due to injury, Harper falling out of SmackDown's storylines (due to Rowan's injury), Bray Wyatt reportedly in line for a change in character and Strowman recently turning heel, the stage is set for Wyatt, Strowman and Harper to reform one of the best stables in recent WWE history. Indeed, the Wyatts proved to be a big hit during their initial run on the main roster, when they were selling more merchandise than names like Evolution, Batista, Hulk Hogan and even The Shield, and could certainly be even more successful now.

Wyatt is now a former WWE Champion while Strowman is one of the biggest stars in the business and someone with a proven history of drawing well, as, according to F4WOnline.com, he main evented more shows that attracted at least 10,000 fans than anyone in WWE last year. Stables, of course, have become a lost art in WWE, but the Wyatts have had more success than most factions that have been formed this decade and would be a welcome change to a Raw show that needs a jolt of excitement.

Not only would this be a great way to use Wyatt's often overlooked talents, but it could help solidify Strowman as a villain while giving the underrated Harper a substantial storyline at a time when he probably won't get one as a singles star on SmackDown. What's more, The Wyatt Family's undeniable popularity, combined with fans' thirst for nostalgia, could potentially make a reincarnated version of the trio a huge viewership and merchandising hit at a time when WWE could use some more of them.

The Rock Ignites A Feud With Roman Reigns

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

All of the signs are pointing toward The Rock returning to WWE in the near future.

The Rock apparently wants to make it happen, has recently been mentioned on WWE TV multiple times, reportedly has an "open dialogure" with the company about coming back and even said himself that he "can't wait" to return. After failing to bring him back for WrestleMania 34 to team with Ronda Rousey, WWE now must shift to a different potential return storyline for The Rock, who should have no problem attractiing fans to Monday Night Raw.

The Rock, who recently became the highest paid actor in history, brings with him a massive fan base that consists of 114 million Instagram followers and recently was ranked as the world's second most recognizable pro wrestler behind only Hulk Hogan. With The Rock's fame reaching epic proportions this year as he's his solidified himself as Hollywood's top star, it only makes sense that WWE would want to bring him back for one last feud that culminates with a major WrestleMania 35 match.

Although a rivalry between The Rock and Brock Lesnar would be the biggest possible feud WWE could do for "The People's Champion," Lesnar's uncertain WWE future means the company should go with the next best thing: The Rock vs. Reigns. With "The Big Dog" firmly positioned as the face of the company and being a ticket-selling draw, it makes sense for WWE to feature him heavily, even if a small pocket of fans continues to resist his push. If WWE wants to create electricity and excitement for its programming this fall, then pairing the polarizing Reigns with a returning Rock is a surefire way to do that, especially if it takes place with the Universal title on the line on the grand stage of WrestleMania .

It, of course, would pit two of the biggest stars in the business in a family feud that would ensure that fewer fans tune out of Raw and into Monday Night Football. And guess what? This match is reportedly penciled in as the WrestleMania 35 main event, which means WWE could kick it off in the near future and likely boost TV viewership substantially.

The Return Of John Cena

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

Like it or not, John Cena is a draw.

He's been called WWE's biggest draw since the Attitude Era, appears to be a much bigger draw than Reigns and has a history of single-handedly improving both live event attendance and TV ratings. Especially at a time when he rarely appears on WWE programming and his star power is growing thanks to a budding acting career that his him following in the footsteps of The Rock, Cena is a much bigger mainstream star than ever before and should prove capable of improving TV viewership and the WWE Network subscriber count whenever he comes back.

With Lesnar set to be away from WWE (at least for a while, but maybe for good) and Raw having to withstand the onslaught from Monday Night Football, bringing back Cena is an absolute no-brainer of a decision that, if booked right, could be a big ratings hit for WWE. Cena, after all, could have a number of potentially intriguing feuds with stars like Strowman, Seth Rollins or even Drew McIntyre on the red brand, and even though he still has his fair share of haters, it's hard to deny that his feuds almost always feel special in a way that isn't true about most of the company's other top stars.

At this stage of his career, there is no telling how much or how little Cena will be around from this point forward, so obviously, it would benefit WWE to take full advantage of what time he does have left by putting him in as many marquee feuds as possible. Although Cena is not currently advertised for any future WWE dates beyond Super Show-Down, that may change as we could see him back sooner than expected, especially if Raw's viewership begins to tank in the near future.

The Shield Implodes

Credit: WWE.comCredit: WWE.com

WWE appears to be committed to a full-fledged reunion of The Shield.

Although some believe that the group's 2017 reunion, which was short-lived because of Reigns' illness and Dean Ambrose's injury, was just a way to get Reigns cheered, it did work in that regard but also provided Raw with an entertaining storyline involving three of its biggest singles stars. Given the way that temporary reunion tour fell apart due to unforeseen circumstances, however, there is a widespread belief that WWE is giving it another go with a legitimate reunion, and we really can't blame the company for trying.

The Shield has a history of drawing strong TV ratings and selling a ton of merchandise (both as a trio and individuals), so their reunions will move more merchandise (WWE has already released three new Shield t-shirts) and create more buzz and excitement than most other major storylines do. What's more, reforming The Shield has paved the way for one of the three stars, likely Ambrose, to turn heel, which could potentially lead to a very intriguing storyline that could carry Raw during the NFL season and ultimately give Raw the top heel that it desperately needs.

One of the biggest issues with the red brand in 2018 has been its lack of a true No. 1 villain, and a four or five-month run for The Shield that leads to the creation of Raw's next mega heel (Ambrose) would make The Shield reunion an instant success story. If WWE wants to end its rating woes for more than just a few months, it needs to create more compelling programming, and that all starts with the creation of better antagonists because a top babyface is only as good as the heel he's feuding with.

Knowing that, WWE must seriously consider ending this The Shield run with another implosion, which could be a ratings hit and a storyline one as well.

Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to @ForbesSports, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakeoestriecher/2018/09/06/5-major-storylines-wwe-must-do-to-combat-the-nfl/

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