Raw's Falling Ratings and CM Punk: Punk's Fault, Fan's Fault or WWE's Fault?
Before I start this article, I just wanted to say that I haven't written for Bleacher Report for some time. This has been partly because of work commitments and my writing career beginning to take off in other mediums, but that's not the main reason.
I've felt alienated from the IWC and other writers on this site now since September for a few reasons. The main reason is some of my feelings towards some writers on this site who hold the belief that their opinion about wresting is somehow more truthful and definitive than everyone else's.
It's an attitude I've seen in forums and websites the last few days since I saw the following published on a wrestling website called ewrestlingnews.com:
WWE officials are considering taking the WWE Championship off CM Punk due to 'terrible ratings patterns' for his weekly segments on RAW.
The matter was broached prior to Sunday's WWE TLC pay-per-view event, which saw Punk ultimately retain the strap in a Triple Threat Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match against Alberto Del Rio and The Miz. The trend of lackluster ratings for his segments continued the following night on RAW as the program's overrun, which saw the Straight Edge Superstar, Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder overcome The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler, only gain 59,000 viewers.
One sources notes: "That's almost impossible given people tune in to see the following show, which basically meant wrestling fans must have been tuning out in droves (they were during the first half of the match but then started gaining at 11 p.m., but hardly gained anything)."
The main event garnered a 2.67 cable rating (2.55 for the first half of the bout). That is by far the lowest-rated main event on RAW in 2011 and possibly the lowest since 1997 for a non-holiday show in its regular time slot.1
I've seen some comments trying to explain this issue by claiming that WWE fans don't appreciate real wrestlers while others have attacked and disrespected CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Zack Ryder. Perhaps these fans have forgotten what wrestling is supposed to be about—drawing money and an audience.
Those claiming WWE fans don't know anything forget that their money has made and keeps the WWE as a multi-million dollar company. They forget that the audience is always right. Those attacking the stars seem to forget that, however they feel about the wrestlers from Cena to Ryder, it's the WWE that makes them stars as well as the fans and themselves.
As the title suggests, I think that the problems with the ratings are more than just this idea of a war within the WWE between sports entertainment vs. wrestling, which some IWC fans perhaps cannot get away from, at times myself included.
To blame the fans or to blame the wrestlers is not the answer. Bashing the WWE isn't new; the problem I will talk about may have contributed to these rating issues in Punk's segments.
The issue I am writing about has been written and spoken about before; it is sometimes forgotten behind this desire that some IWC's have for the "wrasslin' Revival" and their personal dislike of wrestlers.
NONE OF THE PREVIOUS OR ANY OF THE FOLLOWING IS AIMED AT ATTACKING A MEMBER OF THIS SITE OR THE IWC.
These are the thoughts of a wrestling fan and a writer attempting to express how perhaps the issue of long-term storylines and the WWE's issues of creating new stars has been one factor in why the ratings in CM Punk's segments have dropped. This is my opinion, not definitive truth.
First, consider that after TLC, for some of us, Christmas seemed to come early. Not only did Punk retain the WWE Championship, but Daniel Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship and Zack Ryder finally won the US Championship. Three of the IWC's favourites won.
This past Monday night stood out, almost as a representation of a new era for the WWE perhaps, in the minds of some fans. I can only speak from experience in saying that, yes, even a small part of me hoped for the "wrasslin' Revival" that I mentioned earlier.
Raw's main event perhaps could have been viewed by some as a symbolic rise of the new stars, and then the ratings came in. For some fans then, perhaps we can see how and why they have come to the conclusions they have given the levels of emotion in this long war against sports entertainment.
But consider the ratings for one minute and think, is CM Punk really the star he stood be?
Look back a few months and we have the famous CM Punk promo that started this all just before Money in the Bank. It was the hottest angle in wrestling for a while that got everyone talking and what happened? Firstly, he regained the title. Kevin Nash attacked and Del Rio stole the title.
In the next weeks, the plan, as we heard, was to use Nash to put Punk "over" as it were and solidify him as a main eventer. Wasn't he now technically a main event guy with the belt? The simple answer for me was no.
Think of the biggest stars in wrestling: Hogan, Austin, Rock and Cena. Consider their careers and how they became main event guys.
Hogan beat the Sheik but when he body-slammed Andre the Giant—that was it, he was made for life. Austin went against Bret Hart and the Iron Man match again made Austin. Even Cena, it could be said, was made first by beating JBL and then later in beating Jericho, Angle, Triple H, Shawn Michaels—or his superhero-like ability not to lose clean—but something made him.
Has Punk really been "made" as it were into a main event star? Has Punk in recent years had a storyline that likewise made him immortal? In some ways, you can't have the match without the good storyline to keep the viewer interested in the wrestler or the match.
Going back to Nash we were treated to a storyline that started well, with Punk owning Nash on the mic and then all of a sudden music hits and here's Triple H. I don't hate Triple H but I do have to agree with one of the guys from Wrestling Roundtable who said Triple H "stuck his big beak into it"2 It was another angle that was over; it had, to some extent, hurt the buzz and interest in Punk.
From here the storyline suffered week in and week out; Nash was forgotten. Triple H vs. CM Punk began and, while in some ways ended well for Punk, he lost. As Paul Heyman said:
"I thought CM Punk and HHH (and all the others involved) put on one helluva show. It took 3 Pedigrees and a Jack Knife to beat Punk. I know a lot of people are pissed CM Punk got pinned, but if you're going to get beat, isn't that the way to do it? As with everyone else, it's all in the follow-up (right, TNA?). Let's see what they do tomorrow night on Raw."3
Heyman was right, that moment could have been used to cement Punk's legacy and status in the follow-up, but instead nothing happened. He's now in a feud it seems on a weekly basis with John Laurinitis and—while he has the belt—he appears no different than any of the other hot-shotted world champions that had the belt this year.
Punk, in a sense, has delivered. Last month, Punk's merchandise outsold Cena's, which obviously shows Punk's potential to draw a crowd and fans, but not everyone is sold on him as the ratings show.
Despite his new status within the WWE, how long ago was it that the fans saw Punk leading the new Nexus or starring in other flat storylines?
Punk's promo did perhaps have the potential to elevate him to the level of a star but the follow-up and story-lines have let him down. This perhaps has affected his ability to bring ratings with some fans, who have seen an inconsistent character since May.
The shoot, in a sense, wiped away a lot of his recent past misuse but the stuff with Nash and Triple H had somewhat failed to make the man.
Yet the issue so far has been that, while Punk has received support and won the world title multiple times this year, his star has not been solidified. The man who once looked different to John Cena and the other wrestlers has in some ways become just as conventional and just as stuck in the same routine. Interest has perhaps faded.
The wrestler can only take themselves so far without long-term creative help and planning. The example of Zack Ryder shows how, despite a slow build with his feud with Ziggler, his recent US title win has helped his own acceptance with more mainstream and casual fans but at the same time has put some pride and prestige back in the US title.
Given that Punk's first title reign since he returned lasted only a few seconds, what does that say about the title and the man himself?
Punk last year would go on to pin John Cena three times in a row in matches on Raw. Something unprecedented it seemed in the WWE universe, couldn't that for example have made Punk too? This is just an example of how creatively WWE could have built Punk up to be something greater. This could have been his moment, if you will.
Hopefully, however, a storyline will emerge that helps Punk gain both mainstream acceptance and bring in ratings. Punk is a great wrestler with a lot of fans and support—maybe the reason some fans are not staying tuned in to his matches is to do with the WWE not giving them a story-line—a reason to care.
Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment, like the article or even check out some of my previous works at: http://bleacherreport.com/users/443018-james-staynings/archives/newest?rel=nofollow
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