Last year, the Syfy Channel became the home of “Friday Night Smackdown”. The USA Network has hosted “Monday Night Raw” since October 2005. It was also the home of the series from January 1993 until September 2000.
Earlier today, WWE and NBC Universal announced “WWE Tough Enough” will be returning in April to set up a three-hour block of WWE television on the USA Network each Monday for at least 10 weeks.
The competition will entail 12 individuals vying for a spot on the WWE roster. The group of men and women will live together in a house in Los Angeles. Past Tough Enough competitions introduced viewers to wrestlers like Maven Huffman, Jackie Gayda, Chris Nowinski, Josh Mathews, Kenny King, Matt Morgan, John Morrison, Matt Cappotelli, Melina, Skip Sheffield and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin.
James Caldwell of Pro Wrestling Torch writes, “WWE Raw's TV ratings and viewership declined by over eight percent in 2010 compared to 2009. Raw averaged a 3.28 rating per episode in 2010, down from a 3.59 average rating in 2009.”
Tough Enough will likely help Raw’s ratings but the brands need to introduce another ratings hiker: Free agency.
The Monday Night Wars generated ratings because episodes were unpredictable. Today, viewers know that John Cena will overcome the odds and titles will rarely change hands on Mondays and Fridays.
If the brands introduced free agency, WWE.com could feature updates on Superstar contracts like Jack Swagger’s brand exclusivity ends on Feb. 21, or Evan Bourne could compete on Smackdown starting on March 11. Thanks to the annual draft, viewers are accustomed to Superstars working solely on one network.
General managers could entice Superstars by promising title shots or opportunities to compete with past tag partners. They could also offer other miscellaneous deals like WWE Shop partnerships and improved ring introductions.
Remember the MVP tunnel? I think viewers would find it comical if Daniel Bryan insisted on being delivered to the ring by way of a WrestleMania III mini ring.
In contrast, Superstars could rely on social media like Facebook and Twitter to learn of their supporters’ wishes. WWE closed the WWE Universe site on Jan. 1.
By introducing free agency and bringing back the WWE ticker and Picture in Picture segments, viewers would learn of new developments. The brands could also feature more in-ring interviews to further feuds and storylines.
Recruiting was a major theme of the Monday Night Wars. By emphasizing free agency, WWE executives may learn that making characters welcome could reverse the trend of 2010.