In a troubling sign of what could be more things to come, this past week’s WWE RAW ratings took a tumble. What is more troubling is the ratings pattern for a main-event which lost viewers for a match featuring four of the top five WWE superstars.
I haven’t written as much on the ratings lately because quite frankly, they are generally a non-story to me. However, I do take notice when a show over or under performs in its weekly rating. This week’s disappointing RAW ratings are certainly worthy of a story.
The 10 PM is regularly a strong slot for the program. This is where the strong matches or big promos/angles go down and grab viewers who are switching channels or just out of habit know to turn on RAW at 10 PM for a big moment. Fans either didn’t get the memo this past week or just weren’t at all interested in a match that featured three of four guys that the company is expecting fans to pay to watch on Sunday at WWE TLC 2011.
A big tag team match featuring Randy Orton and WWE champion CM Punk vs. The Miz and Alberto Del Rio lost 146,000 viewers. According to Dave Meltzer on his F4Wonline.com podcast, it is almost impossible to lose viewers in that spot. The last time anything disappointed in that time slot was back on January 24 when The Miz wrestled Edge in a champion vs. champion match. Even then, the match didn’t lose viewers (although it did lose the teenage demo), but only gained 42,000 viewers which at the time was considered a disaster.
This has the potential to be a huge story. This match featured three of RAW’s four top stars, as well as the number two star in the company. What is most significant here in my opinion is what kind of impact this will have on CM Punk. I just wrote a story about Vince McMahon’s commitment to CM Punk. While that was all well and good for a week or two, this kind of ratings pattern could change his decision by the weekend.
I don’t want to tip my hat but I am working with several WWE bloggers on the website on a 2011 WWE Year in Review blog. I am strongly leaning towards CM Punk’s disappointing (or lack of) impact on business as my top out of the ring story. I know I am opening myself up for some Punk hate mail from fans, but the bottom line here is that as strong as the company has pushed him since June, he is not bringing in the numbers that are expected from a guy in that position.
Before you start to scream “Slammys” at me, I think it is fair to point out that the main-event of the very same show between John Cena vs. Mark Henry gained 745,000 viewers. A little over 900,000 people found this match more interesting than a match that on paper should have been a pay per view main-event. What this shows me is that no matter how much you scream and complain about John Cena, your voice is the voice of the minority of RAW fans.
I am certainly not putting all of the blame on Punk. As a matter of a fact this goes back to something I wrote about when discussing the hurdles Punk will have at becoming a successful drawing champion. The idea of taking two guys like The Miz and Del Rio who have been beaten down for the last few weeks and expecting fans to all of the sudden buy into them as championship threats is just ignorant. To me, this was like a glorified squash match. Unfortunately the devil’s advocate would point out that Cena never loses this many viewers in the ring no matter who he is wrestling.
This also tells me that while it would be fun to turn John Cena heel and I would love it, it would be a terrible business move. Take a look at what happened over ten years ago when the company turned Steve Austin during a time he was drawing bigger numbers than Cena. The fans immediately rejected it, his impact on business declined, and both he and the company will tell you today that it was the wrong time for business to have made the turn. The same can be said about turning Cena today.
The company would need a super strong babyface to take Cena’s place if they turned him heel. Back then the WWE had The Rock full time, but not even the Great One could salvage the poor move to turn Austin. Punk and Orton would have been the likely candidates to get that call in this case. However, I think it is fair to say that these numbers as well as recent pay per view numbers indicate that neither guy can draw anywhere close to the numbers that Cena does.
If there is anything significant that came out of this past week’s RAW it was that the company would be fools to turn John Cena at this time and that CM Punk’s place as “the guy” is hardly safe.