WWE Raw ratings haven’t had a good run over the last several months, a problem the company is hoping will improve after setting up a Shane McMahon-Undertaker bout at WrestleMania 32 on April 3.
Unfortunately, for the sports entertainment company, that simply isn’t happening.
There was initial excitement when “Shane O’Mac” returned, and fans’ minds were momentarily blown when once-again evil Vince announced his opponent.
This followed two consecutive widely panned pay-per-views in Royal Rumble and Fastlane. Vince knew he had to do something big, and bringing back his long lost son for a one-on-one with Undertaker in Hell in a Cell made perfect sense.
But the Raw ratings are not bearing out that it’s a winning strategy.
The latest numbers (for the March 21 show) indicate that Raw ratings are almost as low as they have ever been, and off from last week, which in the wrestling world should not be happening the closer that you get to a big show.
For WWE, it doesn’t get any bigger than WrestleMania. Yet Zap2It‘s TV By The Numbers reports that Raw ratings were down from the March 14 episode, bringing in a consistent 1.2 rating that consisted of 3.466 million viewers in the first hour, 3.416 million in the second, and 3.317 in the third.
While a sagging middle is usually to be expected from an episode of Raw, the totals usually pick up for the third hour, which features the main event.
Instead, close to 100,000 viewers tuned out from hour two to three, a number that was down 149,000 from hour one.
This also lends credence to the criticism that many industry analysts believe the three-hour format hurts Raw ratings overall.
There are two main theories as to why Raw ratings are down.
The first, and biggest, is that the Roman Reigns vs. Triple H main event has failed to garner interest.
WWE is in a bad position with this main event heading into the big night. While the company could have capitalized on an underdog Dean Ambrose versus The Game at WrestleMania 32, they decided to go with the predictable choice of Roman Reigns, who has failed to connect with audiences and has actually seen what little momentum he had following his “snap” at TLC fade.
Fans went from wildly cheering Reigns’ brutal beatdown of Triple H in the aftermath of that PPV’s screw job to now cheering Triple H whenever he appears opposite Roman on television.
Monday night’s episode was particularly tough to watch as Reigns was continually booed by a disinterested Philadelphia crowd, almost as if it were speaking for the whole of the WWE Universe.
Secondly, the Shane-Undertaker feud has no real story to stand on.
The Shane McMahon-Undertaker has a morbid curiosity feel to it for many fans who are struggling to see how 70-year-old Vince McMahon can have any real power over a character like Undertaker, who is presented as a supernatural force — a man who can bend death to his will.
Why doesn’t ‘Taker tell McMahon to get him another whipping boy? After all, there never has been love lost between the two in the company’s established continuity.
As for Shane, he would almost assuredly have to win, or else the feud makes even less sense than it already does. This was the match that Vince scheduled to prop up the lack of interest in Roman and Triple H, and if it had a compelling story, it may have worked.
But many new fans aren’t that familiar with the Attitude Era — when this match would have really mattered — and the ones that would have cared then are looking upon the two performers with a “what have you done for me lately?” skepticism that is simply not getting this feud the pop that Shane’s surprise return first promised.
WWE could still pull it out, for certain, but Raw ratings are not a good omen, no matter what the tickets sold indicate at this point.
What do you think about the struggling Raw ratings, readers? Will they be reflected in a lackluster WrestleMania 32, or will the WWE still manage to put on a great show? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via WWE Raw screen grab]