The ratings for WWE programming continue to sink towards record lows, certainly the lowest they have been since 1997, but Vince McMahon doesn’t seem to care much. According to reports, he feels the company is healthy from a financial standpoint, and the fact that the antiquated Nielsen system pegs Raw and Smackdown closer to TNA Impact than they perhaps have ever been is immaterial to him. You will hear the spin, and some of it is truthful, that DVR, YouTube, Hulu, cord cutting and the web in general is hurting ratings across the board, and while all of that may explain the phenomenon, Vince seems to be ignoring the bigger picture. Or at least not letting on that it is bugging him. There is a clear erosion of the WWE fanbase at some level. And the lack of urgency or “can’t miss” feel of WWE TV is the key driver. At the end of the day, if the product WWE was offering was truly engaging its fans or target audience, none of that spin would be needed. I watch football games live because I need to know what happened as it happens. In 1993,1998, 2000 or even 2008, I watched Raw live because I wanted to know what happened as it happened. That appeal has faded. You can miss weeks or months of programming and not really miss a thing. Great matches happen every day of the week and if you miss one, it is easy to track it down and watch it later. Wins and losses don’t matter, so who cares if you see it in real time any more? It reduces the matches to pure exhibitions. And when that happens, it erodes the urgency or desire to make Mondays at 8PM appointment programming. The problem there? Out of sight. Out of mind. It becomes easier to forget to catch up or life gets in the way and the show quickly moves to your DVR trash bin. Wrestling fans are creatures of habit and the easier you make it to kick the habit, the less successful you will be long term. Hell, they can look at their most successful recent events and see that the biggest interest comes at times when theoutcome of the match meant something. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H. Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar. The Royal Rumble. The results of those matches meant something. Sadly they are now in the minority. Why would I be attached to Dolph Ziggler or get excited that he wins a match when he will lose three days later and neither result gets him anywhere but the treadmill he has been marching on for eight years? The issue is that WWE has completely lost sight of what made them this successful and instead of really examining the problem that is leading them down this path of eventual failure, they continue to throw spackle over the holes and keep marching along. Spackle will only get you so far. At some point you need to fix the wall.
The League of Nations idea is a pretty cool one. I love big heel stables and having one that isn’t clearly led by The Authority is a change of pace. Plus, there is a natural tie-in with all the members being foreigners. The issue is that it didn’t exactly build organically. If this had started back in the summer and slowly built momentum to the point that they help Sheamus cash in and then set out as pure protection for the despised champion, the company may be set up for a better winter. Instead, it feels rushed and forced. Honestly, you have to assume it won’t last very long once Sheamus inevitably drops the title. I want to believe otherwise, but it is getting much more difficult to do so.
Once thing most fans will agree that the company has done right lately is the direction of the WWE Network. They finally seem to have figured out the best way to utilize this amazing tool by catering to both current and old school fans. Over the past two weeks, they have dropped in a load of old school territory content, something die-hard fans have been begging for. It is a no-brainer and a cheap way to increase subscriptions and cash flow without much overhead cost. At a time where many fans are becoming disenfranchised with the current offerings, the company can still cash in on them by placating their hunger for old school content.
Creed was fantastic. Go see it. They did the Rocky franchise proud and Sylvester Stallone certainly deserves all of the Oscar buzz he is getting. He was tremendous as the aging Rocky Balboa. Michael B. Jordan gets high raise from me as well and I look forward to the inevitable Creed II.
If you didn’t check out this week’s Kevin Kelly Show, please do. I feel it was one of our best episodes to date with a lot of talk around WWE’s issues as well as concerns over the future of NXT. Kevin then chatted with Christopher Daniels, who talked plenty about his past and future plans. Until next time!