Much of the internet wrestling community is scratching its collective head this morning over how WWE booked last night, September 15th's episode of Raw. And not just the usual "they gave away a clean finish to match we're supposed to pay for on Sunday" or "they did what to Bray Wyatt now?"
Running the go home angle for the Night of Champions main event, John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar's rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over the first hour and a half of the Raw was specifically designed to counter ESPN's broadcast of the National Football League (NFL) match-up between the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles. John Cena mentioned as much at the beginning of their running angle, and his stating that the story would peak at "halftime" was intentional. Wrestlezone reports that Vince McMahon and company went so far as to fill 15 - 20 minutes with commercials, promo videos and backstage segments in order to ensure that the champ and "the champ" came face-to-face during the mid-game break over on ESPN.
There's questionable logic to that ploy. On the one hand, you're positioning your big sales pitch for the show that requires a subscription or pay-per-view (PPV) buy at a time when you have the chance for the most eyeballs. On the other, you're telling your North American audience it's okay to tune out until halftime, so go watch Colts/Eagles and come back when they start talking about Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice again. This is a point raised on Twitter by our own Eddie Mac, via a post that allegedly comes from a former WWE employee. It might help sell $9.99 WWE Network subscriptions, but it might not make the folks responsible for advertising sales at USA Network very happy.
According to another report, however, this one from Mike Johnson over at PWInsider, WWE had considered that. Opening the show with Cena and Paul Heyman, and establishing their story as a series of ongoing segments, was specifically to keep eyes on Raw until halftime. In the time since Lesnar's title win at SummerSlam, the Nielson minute-by-minute ratings spike for any segment involving John, Brock and his advocate.
Creative's plan, therefore, was to create the running story to encourage the greatest number of viewers to stick with Raw to see their favorite story, or at least flip back often to check if Heyman or either of the championship combatants were on screen.
Once the decision was made to structure the show in that way, it was subsequently decided that the end of Raw could be given over to other angles that will be featured on this Sunday, September 21st's PPV, Night of Champions - specifically the Shield break-up feud between Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins as the main event match and the patriotism-themed Rusev vs. Mark Henry as the closing segment.
It's an interesting strategy. Personally, I'm not sure I agree with it, but I am encouraged that the powers-that-be are making some data-driven decisions to fight King Football, and I'm especially excited that a by-product of that is some upper mid-card workers and stories getting a chance in the spotlight.
Myself, I would have booked Dolph Ziggler and The Miz's Intercontinental title feud or the program featuring Sheamus and Cesaro fighting over the United States title in those slots rather than giving Reigns a win over Rollins on "free" TV or anything involving Mark Henry standing tall, but hey, at least most of the folks booked for the last half hour-plus of Raw were newer names.
Now, if someone could give me a semi-logical explanation for the handling of The Wyatts...
What do you think of WWE's booking philosophy for maximizing the NoC 'go home' show against a hot football game, Cagesiders?