Former WWF/E and WCW head writer Vince Russo has a theory on why that is, and why ratings have stayed in the same general range since the vaunted Attitude Era and the Monday Night War that he worked both sides of between Raw and Nitro.
In an article posted this week entitled, "Stop the Bull: The 'Real' Reason Behind the Raw Ratings", he explains. After stating at length that he will never criticize the writing on a pro wrestling show (since he knows from experience how difficult it is), he sets the stage for his argument:
Back in 2002, I almost went back to the WWE because I took it personally that, within the matter of a little over a two-year span, their ratings had split in half from the time that I had left-they had fallen below a 3.0. Today-a DOZEN years later-the ratings are still where they were then. When it comes to eyeballs on TVs every Monday night-half of the people are watching now, compared to when the "Attitude Era" was in full stride. Yeah-they'll fling every excuse at you. Primarily-the television landscape has changed with the internet, iphones, ipads, whatever-OK, good argument. HOWEVER-if that were the case, then why hasn't the NFL lost half its audience in the last 12 years? They're on TV, right? Other ways to watch their product are out there-just like in the WWE's case.
So why are they failing to recapture their late 90s heights of 4, 5 and 6 ratings points? Russo doesn't lay the blame at the feet of the PG era...or at least not exclusively:
We saw within a five-minute span on "Raw" last night why the ratings are HALF of what they used to be. In attempting to obtain ALL-the WWE has literally alienated, or "turned off" half their audience in the process. Don't believe me-see what the IWS community has to say about last night's "Raw" today. Yeah-they loved the Shield brawling with Evolution at the end-but, the baby bull-not so much. And what about the "families"? Oh, yeah, that bull thing was "cute", but John Cena swearing-not so much. Now, if you keep doing this week in, and week out, the things you "don't like" will eventually start to build, or add up-until all of a sudden-it's OK if we miss "Raw" this week. Well, this week turns into next week, and the next week-until they're not watching anymore.
By trying to be "all things to all people"-which they can't be-nobody can-the WWE has shot themselves in the boot. For every kid they are gaining, they are losing an adult, and for every adult they are gaining-they are losing a kid. It a switch-off, an exchange, a vicious cycle.
By trying to capture the largest potential audience, he believes WWE is alienating part of all of those audiences.
It's an interesting stance, but if it's right, I'm not sure what the solution is.
Just going after the 18-35 year old males? Will that grow the company?
Have different shows for different audiences? Would that include separate pay-per-views or live events? Isn't that cost prohibitive?
What do you think, Cagesiders? Is the former WCW champ on to something here, or is this more smoke being blown for a former insider trying to stay in the discussion?