Who knew that the solution that Zack Ryder was spraying on his hair in his Z! True Long Island Story videos was ratings repellent.
That seems to be the case as of late, as ratings patterns for the cult phenomenon have not only been bad, they've been historically bad.
It may not be enough to suggest that casual fans simply change the channel when Ryder is on television, but rather they strap on a parachute and skydive from all things RAW.
The WWE's booking patterns as of late have been Internet friendly, to say the least. Zack Ryder's YouTube-centric success has lead him to the United States championship as he ascends up the card. Longtime independent wrestling sensation Daniel Bryan is the World Champion and balls deep in a captivating heel turn. Fellow former independent wrestling standout CM Punk is the WWE Champion for the second time.
Yet all three members of the Holy Trinity of the Internet Wrestling Community were featured in a six-man tag team RAW main event back on December 19th, and the segment saw one of the all-time low ratings trends. Bombed wasn't the word to describe the viewing patterns during a main even that seemingly was only watched by ROH fans and their dogs.
Not since 1997 had the ratings been that bad for a main event. Despite being in a position to be aided by an inflated overrun number—where new viewers tune in at the 11:00 p.m. hour (EST) in anticipation for new programming—that match drew a sorry 59,000 fans, as well as a considerable amount of panic from WWE's front office.
The poor showing was an indication that it was wrestling fans who had largely tuned out of RAW that night with much of the remaining viewership attributable to the new viewing audience.
The shrapnel from the ratings bomb on black Monday took the form of Zack Ryder being demoted to a mid-card love storyline with Eve, and as the powers that be reportedly considered taking the title off of CM Punk due to poor ratings, the WWE Champion has not been featured in the final segment of RAW since.
This past week of RAW, ratings continued to trend downward for Ryder and Punk, who were both featured prominently on RAW. While Punk saw a rare gain, it was a modest one of 128,000 viewers at the 10:00 p.m. hour that typically draws a much larger audience.
Zack Ryder was unable to mirror even modest success. In fact, Ryder once again caused a ratings riot as a terrible segment where he rescued Eve from Kane saw a trail-of-tears-like exodus of 544,000 viewers as the WWE went up against the BCS National Championship game.
Ryder will reportedly be off of television to sell injuries from a Kane chokeslam at the end of the show, but this is the WWE's equivalent to benching an ineffective player.
The consistently bad ratings for otherwise talented performers with a cult following such as Punk and Ryder is easily explainable. Their following, while passionate and informed, just isn't mainstream. Those loud, vocal males chanting "We want Ryder!' and "CM Punk!" in arenas nationwide at WWE live events represent only a fraction of wrestling fans in the grand scheme of things, not to mention the fact that they are not at their television sets to help the rating.
In the defense of Zack Ryder, he was saddled with some poor content this past week; however, the aforementioned six-man tag team match on RAW served as a coming-out party for Ryder, Bryan and Punk and few people RSVPed.
CM Punk and poor ratings have gone hand in hand for quite some time. Despite the critical acclaim for Punk's memorable shoot promo in June of 2011, subsequent RAW broadcasts centered around his likeness hemorrhaged viewership.
WWE would be ill-advised in overreacting to the ratings trends with wholesale changes at the top of the card as they move into WrestleMania season. The WWE has long since been criticized for having it out for talent that they did not make. This has been anything but the case as of late for the WWE, but their TV viewership has now suffered as a result.
Should WWE de-emphasize their cult-favorite trio of champions moving forward, it certainly will not be a lack of effort.