Judging by the word-drool that fills the comments section below this column, most of you appear to like WWE’s booking. A lot.
I understand. For many of you, WWE is the only wrestling you’ve ever known. You think there’s only one way of doing things, because you’ve only seen one way of doing things. You believe the McMahons are infallible. If they do it, it’s right.
I understand why you think that way. But you’re wrong.
Even though WWE is making lots of money – mostly because they’ve figured out and maximized every ancillary revenue stream – it’s not a very popular product. In fact, the wrestling industry has never been less popular. The proliferation of the IWC and WWE’s big-time feel obscure that fact, but it is a fact.
I know most of you don’t like to pay attention to facts, but here goes:
*During the height of the WWE-WCW Monday Night War, the combined viewership of Raw and Nitro often topped a 10 rating. These days, the Raw rating occasionally tops 3.0 and mostly hovers around 2.8-2.9.
Question: Where did all those people go? Answer: They don’t watch wrestling anymore. Conclusion: Wrestling is A LOT LESS POPULAR.
Some people were just WCW fans. That’s something Vince McMahon would have done well to figure out when he bought WCW and staged that sham “invasion.” The smart move for business would have been to absorb all of WCW’s contracts, maintain WCW as a separate promotion, maintain Nitro as a separate TV show, and gradually have a competitive invasion, not one that served an agenda.
But the McMahons have done nothing but serve agendas since they day they bought WCW. Hence the declining popularity.
*Before WWE started going national in 1984 and wiped out all the territories, there were far more wrestling fans than there are now. Far more wrestling fans than there were during the peak of the Monday Night Wars. There were 30-40 shows every weeknight, more than that on weekends, many of them well-attended. Every territory had its own TV show, and most were well-watched.
Wrestling was a much more highly-regarded staple of TV back then. The shows weren’t as well-produced as WWE, but had a certain regional touch that WWE lacks. They could be tailored to their audience. A national promotion must be generic. Regional promotions were booked and produced to appeal to that region.
McMahon-style wrestling is not the be-all and end-all. It’s merely an option. It was better when there was more than one option.
So, no matter what your inexperienced eye’s affinity may be for WWE’s current product – who I am to tell you what to like? – the end result of WWE’s takeover of the wrestling business is the industry being far less popular. It seems bigger because of the presentation and because the monopoly puts WWE in the mainstream on far more references. But wrestling is far less popular.
When 68-year-old Vince McMahon leads the charge back against his own corporation, it will be the wrong move. When McMahon “saves” Daniel Bryan, making him his stooge in the process, it will be the wrong move. When the main event of WrestleMania revolves around “the family,” it will be the wrong move.
But you will embrace it like a long-lost lover. Not your fault. It’s all you know.
There is only one way to judge the success of wrestling. The Raw rating is stagnant. The SummerSlam buyrate was way down. So, you tell me.
Follow Mark Madden on Twitter: @MarkMaddenX