Do the recent low ratings spell trouble for rising star Daniel Bryan?
The show's overall rating wasn't great—a rather flat 2.89—but the real story may be in the overrun viewership for the hotly anticipated Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton match, which performed badly in the main event slot.
As Dave Meltzer notes in this week's (subscribers-only) Wrestling Observer Newsletter: "The Orton vs. Bryan street fight gained 104,000 viewers, one of the lowest main event gains of the year, finishing at a 2.92 overrun."
Meltzer discussed the significance of this in how it pertains to Daniel Bryan's main event career, particularly coming off of last week's poor ratings for SmackDown (via PWTorch), another show built around the former World Heavyweight champion.
Talking about Raw, Meltzer explained:
The story of the show isn’t one that a lot of people will want to hear. It was a risk building the show around Daniel Bryan as the main character no matter how loud those in the building cheer for him. And his street fight with Randy Orton did a terrible overrun number, coming off it being the main event on the least watched non-holiday Smackdown show since it started airing on Syfy. For people who complain about John Cena, as a general rule, his segments deliver, particularly in the main event slot.
Sure, Daniel Bryan may be a phenomenal wrestler, a charismatic personality and popular with the crowds, but does that instantly transfer over to being able to carry the company as a draw?
Hulk Hogan was an absolutely abysmal in-ring performer during his peak years, and he's still, by far, the most well-known wrestler on the planet. Casual fans are usually going to pick star power over quality. Wrestling has always been that way.
As Meltzer mentions, it's easy to give Cena grief (I've done my fair share of it), but he has been the WWE's undisputed draw over the past 10 years, mainly because he appeals to many people outside of the base. And the company has been woefully unable to find a proper replacement for him.
WWE tried to get over CM Punk as an anti-authority babyface—sort of a cooler, less PG version counterpart to Cena—but he could never deliver anything close to the numbers that were expected. Indeed, he ended up playing second fiddle to Cena, to the point it even ended up as a storyline when Punk turned heel last July and complained about being shoved to the background.
While still popular with fans, Randy Orton is hindered by two wellness strikes. Per the rules, one more and he's gone. No wonder the company has been unwilling to push him—he's too much of a risk.
It goes on: Rey Mysterio is a physical wreck and has undergone so many surgeries on his knackered knees that it's hard to keep count of them any more.
Sheamus remains a great worker, but his character is an obnoxious bully (which would be fine if he weren't, you know, meant to be the good guy).
The Miz is popular—and is a far better ratings draw than he's often given credit for—but the company seems reluctant to go all the way with him. Chris Jericho is also stuck in the midcard.
Can Daniel Bryan be a top guy in WWE?
The company tried to get Mexican wrestler Alberto Del Rio over as a top face, but he floundered and few were shocked when he turned back heel earlier this month at Payback.
And if these early numbers are any indications, Daniel Bryan's attempts to be the company's No. 2 babyface may not pan out, either.
In the size- and look-obsessed world of WWE, the small, not very photogenic wrestler undoubtedly already has his critics. These recent ratings numbers won't help his cause one bit.
Of course, we can't blame Bryan solely for this.
Certainly, the scripting didn't help him. Just who on the writing team thought it was a good idea for him to ramble on at the beginning of Raw about how he wasn't "a hobbit"? That was practically on a Cena level of bad comedy. You'd almost think they were trying to sabotage him with promos like that.