Going Back to the Future in search of WWE Ratings

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On Monday, World Wrestling Entertainment’s premiere show RAW continued to build towards the Royal Rumble on January 24th. This is an important event for WWE and the WWE Network because it begins the build towards their biggest and most lucrative event of the year: WrestleMania. It’s also important because of the way numbers have been slipping with WWE. Ratings are down, attendance at house shows is down, and subscriptions just aren’t what they had hoped they would be.

Going Back to the Future in search of WWE Ratings

WWE has been trying to come up with new ways to get viewers to tune in and come out in droves, but nothing seems to be working. This Monday demonstrated WWE’s latest strategy for bringing old viewers back and hooking new viewers in, rehashing angles from the past. This is nothing new in, not only WWE, but professional wrestling in general. In fact, legendary manager Jim Cornette has talked about the “seven year rule” in which everything can be reused if it has been seven years since it was last seen on television.

If this is indeed the rule, then WWE followed it on Monday, but looking at the three examples presented, was it the best thing to do for business? First, Christ Jericho made his return to WWE in what is becoming less and less of a surprise. Therein lies the first issue. The last time we saw Chris Jericho was in October for Hell In A Cell and the Madison Square Garden special. We actually see Jericho more frequently than Randy Orton. He’s treated like a special attraction but the truth is, he feels more like the Big Show and less like The Rock.

While that is a minor complaint, the bigger issue is the content of Jericho’s speech. While his band Fozzy has had enough content to create a greatest hits compilation, I never thought I would be writing the same thing about his promos. Jericho interrupted the New Day and proceeded to rattle off all the catch phrases he hasn’t used since the early 2000’s. Calling someone a jackass? Check. Claiming he’s here to save the company? Check. Telling his opponents to shut the hell up? Check. Finishing off telling us how we’ll never eeeeeevvvveeeerrrr be the same again? You know the answer. While it was fun to hear those words again, it was also jarring in a sense considering it was something we haven’t heard in years.

Anyone looking to go back further in time only needed to wait for the main event which saw Vince McMahon referee a match featuring WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns in which the intent was made very clear that the owner of WWE planned to cheat the Big Dog out of his title. If that sounds familiar it’s likely because it came directly from WWE’s biggest angle ever, pitting Stone Cold Steve Austin against the evil emperor of WWE, Mr. McMahon himself. It seems that WWE is hoping that by putting Reigns in the role once occupied by Austin that his popularity will grow. To be fair, it does appear to be working with a large segment of the crowd, so one cannot blame them for going this route.

To put the cherry on the nostalgia sundae, after the main event, Mr. McMahon announced who Roman Reigns would be defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against at the Royal Rumble. The entire WWE roster, as Reigns would put his title up for grabs in the Royal Rumble match itself. Those familiar with Austin’s history will remember this being the same story as the 1999 Royal Rumble match. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the coming weeks, Reigns was appointed the number one spot, just as Austin was before the new millennium.

The new twist on the Rumble match this year harkens even further back in WWE lore. In 1992, after a controversial finish to a World Wrestling Federation Championship match that really wasn’t all that controversial, it was determined that the title would be held up and decided at the Royal Rumble, giving it to the winner. That year Ric Flair would win his first WWF Championship in what many consider to be the best Rumble match of all time. Will having the same gimmick this year finally garner a positive reaction from those in attendance? Or will WWE’s attempt to write it’s future by raiding it’s past backfire with comparisons and standards almost impossible to live up to?

The reaction online to WWE’s retro active booking thus far has been positive. Let’s hope they continue to be smart with their booking. If they aren’t and things take a sudden turn, they may be left garnering a reaction similar to the Royal Rumble matches in 2014 and 2015, two points in their history I’m sure WWE would rather their fans forget.