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Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - RAW's Viewership, Past WWE Brand Extension Mistakes, and More
By Mr. Tito
Jul 10, 2016 - 2:21:05 PM

Follow Mr. Tito on Twitter.com: @titowrestling

Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com. This is the column that consistently brings you wrestling content each and every week. Whether you agree with the points made here or not, you know that you're getting a column that is either entertaining or polarizing... Or has a fun Comments section. Either way, you keep coming back and whether you like me or not, I'm glad to have you...

So RAW this week did just under 2.7 million viewers on average for their entire show. You should give me the whole "it was Independence Day" excuse but you know what I say on Tuesday, July 5th? Most people were at work... Know what I saw for much of the weekend? Fireworks displays being held either on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday... I cannot recall one actually being scheduled for Monday, July 4th in my area. Most had to return to work on the following day (5th) and were likely to be home Monday evening. Just saying, more people were home on Monday night than thought.

As I've repeatedly said now... I don't recall Monday based Holidays or competition like NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL being cried about as excuses for lower ratings.

Fact is that if you had a GOOD wrestling product, people will find ways to watch it live.

Since early 2015, it is a FACT that Monday Night RAW has lost about 750,000 viewers. That's 750,000 permanent fans deciding not to watch RAW regularly on a consistent basis... Eyeballs on the screen to watch RAW's advertisers and also to buy WWE products. Gone. I've already proved that DVR viewership is actually DOWN for the WWE (between 50,000 to 100,000 delayed watches). Hulu's 10 million subscription base is negligible and I cannot find a Top 10 list for Hulu's top viewed shows where RAW is on it. On top of all of this, WWE attendance (excluding Wrestlemania 32, of course) is way down for 2016 versus 2015.

WWE is in decline, at least in the United States. It peaked on the RAW following Wrestlemania 31 when Brock Lesnar destroyed everything in sight and then disappeared when Stephanie McMahon suspended him indefinitely. Then, WWE botched Seth Rollins as WWE Champion with his petty squabbles with the Authority/Corporate Kane and getting repeatedly OWNED by United States Champion John Cena. To make matters worse, both John Cena and Seth Rollins disappear from the WWE between November (Cena made a brief comeback) and shortly after Wrestlemania 32. Damage has been done and Roman Reigns could not fill the void left by Cena/Rollins and a diminished Lesnar.

That being said, WWE's financials look OK... Why? Because the WWE is hooking their existing and remaining WWE fanbase onto the WWE Network. For $9.99, it's a damn great deal to get all 12 Pay Per Views, WWE Specials, NXT, and all of the old events that your heart desires. Better yet, it's keeping WWE fans away from pirating the WWE events. WWE's Pay Per View market, thanks to repeat increases in prices, was getting destroyed by illegal streaming. With the WWE presenting a high quality video product for a low price, they are convincing those who pirated in the past to becoming PAYING fans. It's exactly what I argued on January 9, 2014's Column:

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Furthermore with the WWE Network and it being inexpensive at $9.99 per month, the WWE might solve its massive piracy problem of its Pay Per Views. Much like the music industry did by investing heavily into Apple's iTunes to sell singles at a reasonable price (because full albums were starting to suck and enticed people to steal music instead), the WWE Network purchase makes many consumers who are streaming WWE Pay Per Views illegally into WWE customers. Fans who don't want to pay $50 or more for monthly Pay Per View can now be enticed to buy the WWE Network thanks to the additional content shown on the network. It's a win for both the WWE and fans. The start-up costs and servers for streaming will be a cost to the WWE, but much of the aired content is something that they are already airing on television or have aired in the past. WWE is very good at selling older content over and over again.

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So there you go... WWE Network is finally paying off. Things began to turn around about the time I joined as a member and that was mid 2015 when the FREE program became permanent. Much like Netflix and Hulu, giving away a free week or a month gets viewers hooked and then convinces them that it's acceptable to pay $9.99. WWE now has around 1.5 million total subscribers with a little above 1 million domestic United States subs. With that in mind, WWE has a nice ratio of 1 out of 3 RAW viewers being a subscriber.

WWE has to find ways to FIX its television product. They have become pure infomercials for WWE Network and Pay Per Views while RAW is being forced to be 3 hours long. Now, Smackdown is set to air 2 hours live on Tuesdays. WWE thinks that a "quick fix" will be the Brand Extension. Yikes, if the recent RAW ratings are any indication, the FULL roster isn't drawing so why should HALF of the roster each night?

Folks - I DO NOT want the WWE Brand Extension to fail. I do NOT want the WWE to fail. I'm a pro wrestling fan. I write this column that you come to enjoy, each and every week, for free because I'm a wrestling fan. I'm not doing this for my health as I stay up late nights to write this thing. To assume that I want the WWE to fail or the brand extension to fail is ridiculous. But if I see the WWE freight train about to derail, I'm going to call it. I'm going to predict it... That's my job here as a wrestling columnist. You expect me to make bold predictions and that's what I do. I've seen the previous Brand Extension and its ultimate demise... But I strongly argue that the previous brand extension during the 2000s had a thicker roster to divide into 2. Hell, WWE was divided into THREE rosters for a short while during the 2000s with RAW, Smackdown, and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).

But read into it however you will... I'm just so negative and a horrible human being for providing you with free entertainment. Something is bringing you back...

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MISTAKES OF THE PREVIOUS RAW/SMACKDOWN BRAND EXTENSION

OK - So the brand extension is going ot happen no matter what... What I plan to do is to watch both RAW and Smackdown for a few weeks. If it bores me, I'll go 100% WWE Network for the 2 Pay Per Views per month and just cover random topics in my columns. That, or if the brand extension is too insulting for me to handle, I'll just walk...

But AS A WRESTLING FAN, I'm here to help... What I'd like to discuss is MISTAKES that the previous Brand Extension of RAW/Smackdown (and ECW) made that caused the brand split to ultimately fail in the long-run. Lots of mistakes were made early on, in fact, while others were years in the making.

REMOVE McMahons from 1 Show. Smackdown from 2002 through early 2004 had lead writer and former ECW promoter Paul Heyman booking the shows. They were tremendous. It is a FACT that Heyman's Smackdown shows out drew RAW during this period of time. Heyman made the show unique but as 2003 wore on, the McMahons chipped away at his power and Smackdown's booking began to look more and more like RAW. Once Heyman was gone from Smackdown following early 2004, RAW and Smackdown began to look very similar. WWE must allow for 1 show to have a much different creative direction than the other.

Better way to make 2nd World Title. If you recall during 2002, Brock Lesnar won the WWE Title from the Rock and he headed to Smackdown to be exclusive there. Following that act, Triple H just appeared with the old WCW gold belt that became the "World Heavyweight Championship". No tournament, no nothing... At least try to make up a hilarious story like how the Intercontinental Title was conceived. And get a better name for the belt than World Heavyweight Championship. Stupid name...

You MUST have great tag team divisions. RAW's weakness during the brand extension was the weak tag division that it instantly had when the brands split. Smackdown, on the other hand, had a loaded tag team division. Gee, which show drew stronger during 2002-2004? Following 2003, Smackdown's tag team division diminished and so did the show's undercard.

Don't push the wrong guy to the Main Event. Goes without saying right now... But during the brand extension, RAW pushing Randy Orton to the World Title so early during 2004 AND as a babyface hurt Orton for years. Then, Smackdown repackaged Prince Albert into "A-Train" and tried shoving that hoss down our throats as a Main Eventer. Didn't work out... That being said, the brand extension did a GREAT job for Batista in building him up and giving him opportunity with a split roster. Smackdown would have been in bad shape following 2005 had it not been for Batista being built up well by the WWE.

Don't blend the RAW and Smackdown rosters unless it's a special occasion or if something is on the line. WWE did a great job at first by keeping RAW and Smackdown rosters away from each other during the early years. Then, when it mattered, they could have Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle as a special cross-promotional match. Early 2010s had Smackdown wrestlers appearing on RAW and then becoming regular RAW wrestlers for no reason. Titles became very confusing.

Don't have Annual DRAFTS... Have trades and rookie drafts!. WWE had annual drafts in attempt to shuffle the RAW and Smackdown rosters. Little did the WWE know that they had a different audience watching Smackdown on UPN/CW than RAW on USA Networks. Then, the drafts began to heavily favor RAW... Don't have drafts... Treat RAW and Smackdown like sports franchises who can make talent trades with each other.

But where I think the REAL potential is to incorporate NXT into the new RAW/Smackdown brands is to continue letting NXT be the developmental system. However, every May/June following Wrestlemania, there is a ROOKIE or DEVELOPMENTAL DRAFT that allows RAW and Smackdown "franchises" to pick NXT wrestlers to join their roster. Better yet, RAW and Smackdown brands can use draft picks to swap with existing talent.

No more "Diva Search" contests or "Tough Enough". Just don't have those on either RAW or Smackdown... Ever again. Are there any former members of those contests still on the WWE roster??!?

End the Royal Rumble confusion over title matches. Royal Rumble winners were actually allowed to pick which World Title they'd attempt to win. Problem was that this scenario caused RAW/Smackdown wrestlers to switch sides permanently because of the Royal Rumble title shot. Just confusing and messy.

And that's all I have for the moment...

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THE LAST WORD

No set topic tonight... Just random newsbytes to comment on instead:

- Chris Jericho's Podcast with Nancy Benoit's sister was very interesting. Worth a listen for insights into her sister's life and of course, the tragedy of Chris Benoit. The ONLY thing I didn't like was her bashing of West Virginia University as some "tiny school" or something like that after a doctor from there assessed Chris Benoit's brain. WVU is a Division I school who employs many Ph. D professors who obtained their degrees from legitimate institutions. I know several graduates from there and they are doing quite well in their professions.

- I LOVE the NXT Women's division mix of Bayley, Asuka, and Nia Jax. Such variety of characters, looks, and wrestling styles. So much fun...

- 2 out of 3 falls match between the Revival and American Alpha... Yes please, may I have another. I could watch those 2 teams wrestle each other forever. Tag team excellence!

- I have to say that it's pretty impressive that Vince Russo provides 5 podcasts per week. Say what you will about him, notably his WCW and TNA runs, but that's a lot of free content (please support his sponsors) for fans to enjoy.

- Here are my ABCs of Wrestling (in honor of the recent LoP Column series):

A - Awesome, a word that holds Miz back from appearing mature and serious as a wrestler.
B - Bayley, why isn't she on the main roster already? She's female John Cena who can attract a younger female fanbase to the WWE.
C - Cena, as John Cena is the best wrestler in the WWE today. Period. End of story.
D - Dash & Dawson, the Revival tag team from NXT. I love them! They remind me of Arn and Tully but a lot faster.
E - Eddie Guerrero, hard to believe that it has been over 10 years since we lost him.
F - I wish the WWE would put the "F" back to be WWF again. Stupid panda bears!
G - Gable - I love me some American Alpha as well.
H - Heavyweight - No more WWE World Heavyweight Title. Just WWE Title. Looks like we'll be seeing 2 World Titles again.
I - Independent Wrestling - Support your local indy promotion!
J - Jakks - I loved those WWE figures, much more than the present ones.
K - Konnan - I wonder what that former WCW great is doing these days? I really liked him. Great on the mic and he had a cool submission hold, the Tequila Sunrise!
L - Linda McMahon - If Donald Trump becomes President, I predict that she may become Secretary of Education.
M - McMahons - As polarizing as their modern decisions have been, you can't help but thank Vince for giving us years upon years of entertainment.
N - Nia Jax - Big fan of the wrestler and character. Glad that WWE is giving a thicker (no offense) female wrestler a real chance to succeed. I'm rooting for her!
O - Over the top rope. What I liked about NWA/WCW versus WWE is that the operated under different in-ring rules. For example, in NWA/WCW, throwing a wrestler over the top rope was an automatic disqualification. However, in WWE, you could toss wrestlers over the top rope and DQ was never called. Just a nice example of promotions differentiating their products.
P - Paul Heyman - WWE realizes that this guy has booking experience, right?
Q - Quiz - I once knew a backyard wrestler who was named "Quiz", which was a parody character of former WWE wrestler "Test" (Andrew Martin). Yeah, I had NOTHING for the letter Q!
R - Roman Reigns, R, R, R... Still baffled as to why he'd fail the WWE's Wellness Policy testing when WWE has handed everything to him.
S - Samoan Swat Team - During their WCW run as a tag team, they came out to John Carpenter's Halloween theme music. What badasses.
T - Titles - WWE has to fix their title scene and make them appear more credible, notably the midcard ones.
U - Ultimate Warrior, loved that Lebron James wore his shirt the day after winning the NBA Title. Amazing respect for a WWE legend while also dissing the Golden State Warriors and their Unanimous MVP.
V - Virgil - What's he been doing lately?
W - William Regal, damn he's so cool on NXT. If I were considering someone to run RAW or Smackdown as a figure head, I'd consider him.
X - X-Pac... I still love his "put that in your pipe and smoke it" line aimed at Eric Bischoff on the RAW following Wrestlemania 14.
Y - YES! YES! YES! WWE completely missed the boat on Daniel Bryan during 2013-2014. They had their new babyface draw or at least someone to back-up or complement John Cena. And they blew it!
Z - Zzzzzzzz to 3 hour RAW shows. Can't to it... I'm struggling to care about 1.5 hours on Hulu.

- STRONGLY recommend seeing the Jake "the Snake" documentary on Netflix. You'll gain so much love and respect from Diamond Dallas Page when seeing this documentary. He's a saint to the wrestling business.

And finally...

- Very interesting to see what happens with Brock Lesnar if he (a) wins or (b) loses his UFC 200 match. If he wins, I think the bigger story will be whether WWE will let Lesnar fight at future UFC events. Certainly, a win helps Lesnar's drawing strength in the WWE but losing won't hurt him either. Why? Well, he was once UFC Heavyweight Champion... That's legit. Disappearing for 4 years and trying to enter the octagon again is a tough task. Win or lose, if Lesnar competes well, the respect for him as a fighter just increases.

SO JUST CHILL... 'TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!

Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.

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