Vince McMahon wants to change the product in the face of terrible ratings. But will this small changes lead to a big boost in viewership?
Several wrestling news sites have reported that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon isn’t happy with the current product. He was said to be particularly upset over how low the ratings were over the last few weeks, with the episode that aired during the U.S. Presidential debate being particularly concerning.
In response to this, Vince is said to be in the process of making changes to how the product is presented. A small example was that the fans are now being referred to more as simply ‘fans’ and less as ‘the WWE Universe’.
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For some people, this is a small victory, as the expression ‘WWE Universe’ was irksome and artificial. The ironic part is that Vince is getting rid of the ‘WWE Universe’ term less than two months after the new WWE Universal Championship was created.
So what will the belt be called now, the WWE Fan Championship?
Vince is believed to have other changes planned, but in reality, unless they’re radical transformations, he won’t have much success. WWE’s weekly broadcasts have reached historic lows recently, as the show struggles to compete with a myriad of competitors. Fall is usually a low-ratings period for WWE, as the company struggles to compete with Monday Night Football and new seasons of primetime television shows on various other channels.
It just so happens that this year, the Presidential debate has taken an interesting turn, with many more people tuned in to see the shenanigans of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton than those who want to watch Monday Night RAW.
The main reason RAW has become so stale is the terrible writing, yet Vince continues to ignore this. Fans of all ages have smartened up in general, but the writers still view them as idiots. Suspending one’s disbelief when watching a wrestling show is harder than ever, especially when the people involved in the business itself don’t even commit themselves to kayfabe.
Take triple H for example. He’s supposed to be a monster heel, yet he gets cheered by the overwhelming majority of the audience. This is because he simply doesn’t care that he plays an on-screen evil boss on RAW, and then shows up as the benevolent godfather of NXT two days later.
When the fans begged WWE to sign Cedric Alexander, HHH showed up and nodded in approval. That’s what a babyface does, not an evil boss. But hey, if it gets fans to tune in, it doesn’t matter if it violates WWE’s own storylines, right?
Then there’s his wife, Stephanie McMahon, on whom RAW always appears to be focused. She appears in more segments than anyone else, even the supposed top heel champion Kevin Owens. She berates anyone who contradicts her, from supposed faces like Mick Foley to heels she should be supporting like Jericho. If Vince is wondering why fewer people tune into RAW, it’s because it has, in many ways, become the Stephanie McMahon show.
That’s not even the worst part. Stephanie plays this evil boss on RAW, but appears in EVERY charity video WWE produces. Again, we see the bad writing on RAW come into play. The best TV programs have clearly-defined characters and storylines for them. They don’t shift the writing to fit a character’s real-life personality.
Imagine if Game of Thrones aired a charity commercial featuring Jack Gleeson sobbing over starving children in Africa moments after he ordered Ned Stark’s head chopped off. That would kill the character’s presence and ruin the show’s magic.
But this is a regular occurrence on Vince McMahon’s RAW. Stephanie’s character would dominate the show, despite not even being a wrestler. Then they’d air something charitable to pat themselves on the back and Stephanie would be the focus of that adulation and charitability. Fans want to watch Vince’s show for wrestling, but are instead treated Mick Foley droning on about Stephanie as a child.
Then you have the fact that there’s incredibly little long-term planning for the majority of the roster. Vince changes his mind frequently on the most of his roster, and remains unnaturally stubborn on a select few he wants pushed to the moon. This leads to all the focus being on Vince’s favorites, with much less on those who need the rub.
Finally, Vince needs to realize that a wrestling show cannot succeed if it’s written by Hollywood writers that don’t know anything about wrestling. Wrestling is a unique entertainment medium that requires unique writing and knowledge. Someone that writes for TV sitcoms will have a difficult time translating the peculiarities of scripted TV sitcoms onto a live wrestling program.
Sadly, unless Vince realizes that these problems persist, RAW’s ratings won’t increase that much. Even if he made the show nothing but three hours of spectacular wrestling, that won’t matter if the writing sucks. As long as RAW remains overly-scripted with interchangeable characters exchanging pre-approved lines that sounds 100-percent manufactured, RAW’s ratings will either stay where they are now or continue to drop.