After a pretty strong build during late February and early March, the 2013 Road to WrestleMania appeared to be really picking up some pace.
High-profile developments such as the return of The Undertaker, the blood-stained scuffle between Triple H and Brock Lesnar and of course The Rock’s intense “point-counterpoint” confrontation with John Cena saw a real increase in optimism ahead of this year’s Showcase of the Immortals.
However, that optimism has since begun to waver.
The absence of the WWE Champion as well as the rather limited interaction between the company’s other top feuding stars has seen Raw’s momentum stutter somewhat.
And it shows in the ratings.
As reported by PWInsider.com, Raw attracted an average audience of just 4.26 million this past Monday night–down from 4.8 million the previous week.
While that’s still a respectable enough figure for the WWE, it is by no means the sort of number that they would be hoping for with less than three weeks remaining until the biggest show of the year.
To put the figure into perspective, it is the joint-lowest viewership that the WWE has posted this year, tying with the February 11 episode of Raw—which was incidentally the go-home show to the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
More worryingly still, the first-hour average of 4.25 million was lower than that of some shows from way back in October and December of last year.
Does the dip in ratings reflect the quality of Raw in recent weeks?
So is it time for the WWE to really start panicking?
Quite possibly, as it could be the start of an unavoidable decline.
Within a month, viewership will naturally be expected to drop off due to the cyclical nature of the WWE. Without the drawing power of the part-timers, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the company to average over 4.5 million viewers as they have been doing as of late.
Thus, the fact that the ratings are slipping already poses a real issue for the WWE.
If we take a look back at last year’s performance, the corresponding show of 2012 yielded a much healthier 4.82 million viewers.
But there is a silver lining for the WWE in all this, in that The Rock is scheduled make his much-needed return to WWE television next week on Monday Night Raw.
Of all the returning part-timers The Rock is arguably the biggest draw of the lot, and thus his return could single-handedly provide a significant boost to Raw’s viewership and put the show back on the right track.
But having said that, the Brahma Bull’s return look set to unfortunately coincide with the disappearance of Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker.
So could the absence of the Deadman and the former UFC Champion negate the positive impact of Rocky’s return?
Does the dip in ratings mean it is time to panic for the WWE?
Perhaps, but I think given the make-up of the WWE’s demographic, the impact of a returning Rock should be more effectual than Lesnar's and ‘Taker’s departures.
Only time will tell of course, but if Raw posts another lackluster rating next week then the WWE will find itself in a truly worrying situation indeed.
WrestleMania season is traditionally the key time for the company to post its highest ratings of the year, but at the moment it is starting to look like something of a missed opportunity.
But what do you make of Raw’s falling viewership?
Is it a mere blip?
Or are the falling figures a problem for the WWE given that WrestleMania is just weeks away?
Comment below with your thoughts on this matter, as well as any opinions you may have on the article itself.