WWE ratings continue to dwindle as the demand for professional wrestling appears to be at an all time high.
The natural question is why are the ratings dropping while the sport continues to flourish? If the McMahon family or anyone inside of WWE had the answer they would surely do whatever it takes turn that trend around. With the announcement of a deal between All Elite Wrestling and TNT the stakes in the sports entertainment world couldn’t be higher. The model the WWE is using is antiquated and stale. Without some immediate meaningful changes in programming, WWE risks losing its stranglehold on the wrestling universe. Let’s look at some simple changes that can improve the brand and invigorate the fan base.
1. Combine Raw and SmackDown
Monday Night Raw is the flagship of the organization and all creative hands should be on deck to make this program a “will not miss” for fans. The question is how? The show should be shortened from 3 hours to 2 hours. The focus needs to be on the quality of content rather than the amount of time. The third hour is typically the lowest rated hour of Raw so why not eliminate it and make the rest of the show better? The WWE has tremendous in ring talent but they are spread thin between both shows. The Wild Card Rule, implemented by Vince McMahon is an attempt to put the most relevant and dynamic wrestlers in front of audiences. Take it a step farther and have the entire roster available once a week on a premier wrestling program that utilizes the best the WWE has to offer. With shorter time to fill the focus can be on character development, story telling, and fan retention, rather than on filling two time slots on two different nights. Five hours a week is a lot to ask of fans and both shows suffer as a result. Raw deserves to be treated as a weekly celebration of the sport we all love and follow. Leave the fans wanting more at the conclusion of each episode rather than waiting for it to end or tuning out before the show ends.
2. Eliminate some of the pay-per-view events
Having one pay per view per month doesn’t allow enough time for the build up to the event. Matches such as table, ladders, and chairs are tired and lack any real intrigue anyway. I would advocate for having 6-8 pay-per-view events per year which would allow for adequate story development and eliminate some of the lack luster events. The shows to be eliminated are debatable but my suggestion would to eliminate the following shows: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, Elimination Chamber, Fastlane, Extreme Rules and Backlash. Evolution was needed to bolster the Women’s division but in time it will no longer be needed as the division has shown it can stand on its own as evidenced by main event match at WrestleMania 35.
3. Focus on the future and celebrate the past
WWE has a rich history of larger than life characters who have shaped the world of professional wrestling. Certainly these contributions and performers should be recognized for what they have meant not only to the WWE but the world of sports entertainment in general. Having said that, the WWE must work harder at developing new talent and creating compelling characters with new and original storylines. Constantly bringing back icons such as The Undertaker, Goldberg, Kurt Angle, and Triple H into the ring inhibits creative growth and is lazy development. The legends deserve to be celebrated and there is a place for them to act as ambassadors for the brand. The name recognition these superstars carry should serve to bridge the gap between the old way of doing business and the new and improved vision the WWE needs to set for the future. Their value can not be overstated but their place is not in the ring. It is time to be more creative with the next generation of wrestlers while improving the brand in the face of intense competition from outside companies.
4. Designate an “off season” like other sports
This would allow wrestlers some needed time off to recover and recuperate while allowing the anticipation of the upcoming events to build. This would give the writers more time to develop storylines and characters while allowing the performers time to work on new moves and perfect their in ring technique. This off season can be used to build the brand by focusing on philanthropic activities to build consumer loyalty and good will. During the off season the WWE would be able to showcase NXT as well as spend time with the athletes at the WWE training center. Television shows have successfully kept viewers engaged at the season’s end by using cliffhangers and sports leagues keep fans involved through various social media platforms, tv, radio and print speculating about the upcoming season. The WWE could combine several of these tactics to retain fans while giving a needed break to their performers.
5. Go Global
The WWE has made several trips abroad to grow the brand and this must continue. Last week the WWE was in the UK which was a shot in the arm for the brand as the rowdy passionate fans welcomed and embraced their favorite WWE stars. With the success of New Japan Pro Wrestling and their alliances with Ring of Honor it is imperative that the WWE continue to reach out to fans across the globe. More shows must take place outside of the United States to attract new fans to the brand. When the Modern Day Maharaja, Jinder Mahal was getting his push there was an influx of fans from India supporting their superstar. This type of global branding can lead to interesting story lines as well as increased viewership and revenue from new fan bases. The WWE must be careful to reach out to new regions outside of the States and not continue to cater only to the same select geographic regions time after time.
As the largest wrestling company in the world the WWE has the resources necessary to attract new fans from new markets throughout the world. When the brand travels to new areas it shows a commitment and allows for a fans to make a connection with their favorite performers. The WWE is facing unprecedented challenges from wrestling companies worldwide. The wrestling community is on fire with news of All Elite Wrestling’s upcoming Double or Nothing show in Las Vegas and the media deal with Warner media to air AEW matches beginning in the fall of 2019. Now is the time for the WWE to act in order to stay atop the ultra competitive sports entertainment industry. It is incumbent on them to attract new fans and retain current fans while trying to improve their product. The “this is the way we have always done it” model is a recipe for disaster. The WWE must change their current model in order to stay on top. There are many young and hungry organizations that will be happy to meet demands of today’s wrestling fans.
Fans today have more wrestling options than ever before and those that ignore the wishes of the consumer risk alienating their fans.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ngtriplett. Thanks for reading!