Lately, ratings for Monday Night Raw have been disappointing. They have hovered around a similar mark to how they have all year, which has been lower than previous years, rather than receiving their usual WrestleMania-season bump. There have not been any catastrophically low ratings, they simply are not very impressive.
Discussion about this has tended to result in the consensus that some blame lies in the hands of the unexciting story behind the Daniel Bryan/Sheamus feud and some lies in the fact that The Rock and John Cena's feud has been dragged out too long. There seems to be a general view that the general manager feud is really, really boring, too.
Some fans have the view that Rock's promos have not necessarily been the best of his career, and early in the Triple H/Undertaker feud many fans stated that the third encounter between the two men did not overly excite them. That latter issue has been somewhat cured by the addition of Shawn Michaels to the mix, with many fans feeling that the storyline now contains the most depth of any current WWE narrative.
I think all of this misses the point of the Road to WrestleMania. It is all about selling WrestleMania to people. People tune in during the preceding months to check out what the WWE is showing on TV, and decide if they want to buy the rather expensive WrestleMania PPV.
It really is not worth tuning in unless that is your intention, because the WrestleMania atmosphere pervades throughout, and any non-WrestleMania-based feuds (such as Cena/Kane) tend to be fairly uninspired during this time, as all attention is being focused on the build for the Showcase of the Immortals.
This year is different. The Rock vs. John Cena was announced a full year ago. Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk was hinted at on Twitter since July I think (possibly even earlier, feel free to comment and let me know when their very first exchange happened).
The Undertaker vs. Triple H featuring Special Guest Referee Shawn Michaels (boy what a long title for a match) has arguably been building up since February 2009 when Taker and HBK's WrestleMania feud first began, and Triple H first entered the frame in February 2011.
Fans already know what the biggest matches are on the card then. In the case of Triple H vs. The Undertaker, though, the match is Hell in a Cell, and Shawn Michaels has been added. It is still a rematch from last year, and also a match that happened back at WrestleMania X7.
I believe Daniel Bryan, Zack Ryder and David Otunga are the only new men to WrestleMania this year (from the matches announced so far, at least). I would suspect this means that most fans have decided if they intend to purchase the WrestleMania PPV package or not, and those who intend not to are simply not tuning in at all, having already gained such a solid understanding of what to expect at the event.
What does this mean for WWE? Essentially it means not to worry about WrestleMania, as that event will do fine, and not to worry about their long-term ratings, as this is a result of their booking style rather than the WWE product's declining popularity. However, they should try to avoid such a situation in the future, as TV ratings are very important, of course.