WWE has always had stiff competition, whether it be on Monday nights or Thursday nights. Friday nights is statistically the least-watched show of the week, so SmackDown was at a disadvantage already when it was moved to Fridays from 2005 to 2015, though it did help boost ratings somewhat for each network it was moved to. Point being, ever since the advent of RAW and later SmackDown, the WWE has gone up against some of television’s heaviest of hitters in its time.
Fans often hear Michael Cole proclaim that RAW is the “longest-running weekly episodic television show in history!” Point is, for as long as WWE is on TV, it will always go head-to-head with juggernauts like the NFL or prime-network programming. And while that didn’t deter them one iota during the Attitude Era, ratings have consistently dwindled since WWE became a publicly-traded company geared more towards families and less towards the hardcore wrestling fan.
Even with the NFL on offseason hiatus, the WWE has still faced strong competition in the last few months. Both the NBA and NHL playoffs held games on Monday nights, Memorial Day is a traditionally low-rated show, and with the fourth of July landing on a Monday this year, WWE could be staring it’s worst ratings ever right in the face.
And though one should have nothing to do with the other, one of the biggest suffering elements within the WWE lately has been continuity. Vince McMahon and company have never admitted that tying up every loose end was a necessity as the sports entertainment industry allows for its fans to suspend disbelief. But for the followers who watch every single week, disjointed storylines and illogical booking can turn them off in a hurry.
The most glaring example of WWE’s brazen demonstration not to adhere to their own scripts involved Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. The storyline was to play out in a way that Shane would assume control of RAW only if he beat the Deadman at WrestleMania. It didn’t happen, yet Shane is running the show more than two months later. The only hint of the Undertaker has come in the form of reports that his relationship with Shane’s dad is virtually irreparable, and there’s a chance he has wrestled his last match.
There have been others over the course of the program’s history, with other recent blemishes like the canceling and undoing of the Ambrose Asylum talk show. And Monday night played out with two more glaring flaws that still may have been overlooked by the fan base.
First, late in the show featured a backstage segment featuring Kevin Owens, Stephanie McMahon, and Alberto Del Rio, as recapped by WWE.com. Del Rio entered the spot fuming mad, claiming that Owens called airport security to delay Del Rio’s arrival to the arena by five hours. In the storyline, it was supposed to be KO’s attempt to get Del Rio removed from the Money in the Bank ladder match on Sunday.
Trouble is, Del Rio appeared on the stage at the beginning of the show with the rest of the roster during the WWE’s tribute to Orlando. (In the picture above, you can see Del Rio on the far right-hand side next to Paige.) While this may have been another example of asking its fans to suspend disbelief, the backstage segment could have easily been re-written.
Then there was the contract signing between John Cena and AJ Styles. In their limited build thus far, the two have generated what’s arguably been the best aspect of the show each week, Monday night included. Hardcore fans may be okay with the WWE billing the match as a WrestleMania-worthy dream encounter, but the idea that it’s “15 years in the making” is a little far-fetched.
On the most recent episode of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer pointed out that 15 years ago, Cena was wrestling for Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) and Styles was still a year away from competing at the King of Indies tournament.
Fifteen years ago, John Cena and AJ Styles were relative unknowns who were neither a blip on the WWE’s radar. Ten years ago might be a more accurate timeline, with both still in the beginning stages of their respective rises in the business. Continuity might not matter to the casual fan, but it’s the little things adding up that make a big difference in the grand scheme.
[Image via WWE]