As soon as the announcement/storyline about Roman Reigns showing up on Raw started up over the weekend, most of us figured it was a ratings ploy. WWE’s television numbers have been a big topic of conversation. And not just among us wrestling fans, but among television industry executives as well.
So that not only Roman’s appearance but the entire new “Wild Card Rule” instituted by Vince McMahon on the May 6 Raw were part of a strategy to get the ratings up isn’t a surprise. What stands out from the report about the move from Dave Meltzer on the latest Wrestling Observer Radio is where McMahon and his TV partners stood in the debate about how to address the numbers.
Vince allegedly didn’t want to give up having separate rosters on separate shows, but Fox (which will begin airing SmackDown in October) and NBCUniversal (owner of USA Network, the current home of both the red & blue brands, and where Raw will stay after SmackDown moves to Fox Fridays) want WWE’s biggest stars working both shows.
“Fox wanted more storylines that are going to be on both Raw and SmackDown. You know, NBCUniversal was real upset about the ratings especially in the third hour and was asking questions about: ‘Our ratings are this, this, and this - why’d we give away Roman Reigns?’
So the pressure’s on that the top stars work both shows. So it’ll be different guys. I guess it’ll be four guys on both shows in theory.”
In the short-term, the biggest hit may be to WWE’s Monday night blue brand house shows. Live event gates are down, just like the ratings. Trying to sell tickets without names like Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston and Becky Lynch won’t be any easier. We’ll probably see more “postponed” SmackDown events like yesterday’s Corbin, Kentucky show.
In the long-term, Fox and NBCUniversal may be in for a shock. Lately, none of the men & women currently working full-time for McMahon have been able to move the needle like John Cena, The Rock or Steve Austin have over the last couple decades. Having even the most well-known names working both shows may not be the silver bullet TV execs think it is.