4 Ways to Regain WWE Fans' Attention Amid Ratings Slump

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2020

4 Ways to Regain WWE Fans' Attention Amid Ratings Slump

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    Willy Sanjuan/Associated Press

    It's no secret WWE has a ratings problem.

    The issue has bogged down WWE for years. While the company has done some brilliant adapting with its back against the wall during the coronavirus pandemic via taped matches lacking live audiences, ratings continue to be an issue.

    So much so, CEO Vince McMahon has had to talk about the issue. However, WWE has a habit of putting out some of its best work in response to competition or a crisis. And it's longstanding issues rather than the circumstances that continue to be the catalyst for these ratings mishaps.

    Luckily for WWE, there's always a way to rebound and regain fan attention. The nature of the business permits it. Here's a blueprint to get fans back and invested.

Cut Raw Back and Consider an Offseason

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    A Raw broadcast is too long.

    It was too long before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the show into an audience-less format, and it's too long in its current state. Maybe WWE feels its historically talented roster deserves the shine of a three-hour show, but it just doesn't work.

    Roster usage is a part of that problem, so it fits here too. The idea of a traditional sports offseason wouldn't make a ton of sense. But phasing out some Superstars into an "offseason" during which they don't appear for a string of months could work.

    Think about the overexposure of someone like Seth Rollins. Maybe fans don't harp on him as much if he's gone for three to six months. And everyone knows just how amazing big returns are for the business—somebody coming back from a hiatus creates a special moment.

    These two can work in tandem to help fans. It shouldn't be more attractive for fans to seek out YouTube summaries of what happened as opposed to watching a live show, and never-ending prominent placing for Superstars shouldn't force fans into souring on them.

Stop with the Obvious Skippable Time Periods

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    WWE fans are smart. They know when they can check out and when to hop back in to see things actually happening.

    Fans know WrestleMania season is a big deal. They also know some dead periods in the schedule that still include pay-per-views don't offer too much. They even know which episodes of Raw or SmackDown have an outside chance of featuring something big like a title change.

    Back in, say, the Attitude Era, every week felt like a major event. Who needed pay-per-views? It was must-see television because titles were at stake and no one knew what the top Superstars would do.

    Now? WWE has the Money in the Bank briefcase as the only major thing that threatens to dramatically shake up its broadcasts. But even that has been iffy after so many teased cash-ins and outright failed attempts.

    WWE needs to do more for the dead periods of the calendar, not just pump up big names and dream matches for shows in Saudi Arabia. A pervasive element of the unexpected needs to feature heavily in every show or fans just won't have a reason to watch.

Respect the Viewer

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    Back in 2019, Vince McMahon explained massive ratings nosedives by pointing to the absences of names like Roman Reigns and John Cena.

    It was an unfortunate look behind the curtain that confirmed some of what a lapsing fanbase already knew: The company remains entirely too past-oriented or stuck with one or two names as ideal headliners.

    While Drew McIntrye's run as WWE champion has been refreshing recently, the counterpart to that was slapping a the universal title on a briefly returning Goldberg, derailing Bray Wyatt for no reason in the process, and then having him lose it in a boring match against Braun Strowman that was originally set to feature Reigns.

    It doesn't help that when WWE does throw fans a bone and roll with the Superstar they get behind, it usually ends in catastrophe. Besides Wyatt, think of how Kofi Kingston's amazing run as champion ended with an absolute squash at the hands of Brock Lesnar as SmackDown moved to Fox.

    That, by the way, occurred so Lesnar could feud with Cain Velasquez. Lesnar went right back to Raw, and Velasquez has since been released.

    Given such a product experience there, why would fans invest precious time?

Lean More into What the Fans Want

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    This really isn't something that should have to arise on a suggestions sheet for a company as big as WWE.

    Yet here we are.

    Some of the commentaries about pushing the Superstars fans want to see pushed apply here. This can't be a universal thing; there are stories to tell and bad guys to build. But fans shouldn't have to have a struggling Reigns or Rollins repeatedly thrown at them as they have in the past while up-and-coming talents with big fanbases float around the midcard.

    This applies to match types too. Throwing big names into tag team matches does not make a good tag team division. Nor does seeing those seemingly random big names thrown into teams for the sake of filling out a card classify as a must-see match.

    Luckily for WWE, it struck gold with the innovative, cinematic Undertaker match at WrestleMania, and given the fan support, that should continue to be a staple of programming. If not, it would be another example of WWE stumbling on to something special only to overlook it.

    Again, there are always exceptions to these sorts of ideas. But failing to ride the wave and even ignoring fans rejecting something isn't something that can happen moving forward. Not with a ratings problem at hand.

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