Tonight’s episode of Raw could be the most important of the year for the WWE, as the show has a great opportunity to entice viewers to tune in during the run up to WrestleMania, with this week presenting very little competition from other television networks.
Obviously, there is the huge BCS National Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame that will directly compete with WWE’s programming, but apart from that, the other networks are putting on nothing but repeats.
This means there will be a huge number of people displaced from their usual viewing habits and who are likely to be channel surfing.
The WWE must seize this opportunity and produce a show that will hold the attention of tonight’s floating audience, one that will intrigue them enough to return for the special 20-year anniversary episode next week.
Hopefully the combined effort of the two episodes will see the WWE keeping some of this audience through the WrestleMania season and beyond.
Announcing the return of The Rock will certainly help in this process, as The People’s Champion transcends wrestling into popular culture in a way that no one else on today’s roster could possibly hope to do.
People who would not normally care about wrestling will stay on the channel just to see him, which gives the WWE time to impress those viewers as they wait.
The best way to truly intrigue new and casual viewers is to produce a show that is varied, one which combines three main features: 1) the more athletic wrestlers having high-octane matches, 2) relatively brief promos that feature plenty of back-and-forth talking between two or more individuals and 3) as many surprise moments as possible to help build excitement toward the Royal Rumble and on to WrestleMania.
It would certainly make sense to bring back Brock Lesnar or Triple H or even The Undertaker (or all three) if they are going to be featured in matches at WrestleMania. Their star power would certainly keep the attention of casual fans who may have happy memories of WWE from their younger days.
Even bringing in well-known faces for a one-off appearance might be worth their while. Chris Jericho has his new show, Robot Combat League, starting in February, so he may want to pitch, which could make him open to such a return.
Still, the WWE must not solely rely on outside star power, so highlighting some of the more soap-friendly storylines—such as the conflict between John Cena and his former love interest, AJ Lee—would be a positive move in attracting casual fans.
Making a big deal of the WWE Championship match should also be a priority, as being the champion is the reason why wrestlers compete in the first place. The recent history of high-drama championship matches taking place on the first Raw of the year nicely reinforces this notion.
Highlighting the achievements of CM Punk, whose rise to dominance may be unknown to some of the floating television audience, would be another way to keep these new viewers’ interest. There is no doubt that his storied year as champion is one of the more unlikely things to have happened to professional wrestling for some time.
This all adds up to a big task for the WWE, as packing so much into a show—and giving everything enough time so the individual elements do not appear to be rushed—will be almost impossible. Even being able to access some of the big names may be difficult considering their limited schedules.
If the WWE get all of this right, though, the company could capture new fans and build momentum toward WrestleMania. Such impetus may just be the catalyst needed for the WWE to produce its best possible programming, and that would surely be good for all fans, whether they are old or new.