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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Startling Look at the Raw Ratings Decline

The March 16 edition of Monday Night Raw drew a 2.73 rating, its third lowest of the year. Not exactly a good sign headed into a WrestleMania where WWE may be gambling on a savior in the form of a wooden powerhouse, one largely unaccepted by most fans.

March 16 was the eleventh edition of Monday Night Raw in 2015, so I decided to go back to each year through 2006 (ten WrestleMania seasons, not to mention ten seasons back on USA Network) and see if there are any trends in the ratings decline. Are the ratings this year really as bad as they look?

Here's what the numbers show:

FIRST ELEVEN RAWS, EACH YEAR (All preceding WrestleMania)
(Ratings are courtesy of the archives on

Average Rating: 4.10
Average Viewers Per Show: 4,523,209
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.95
Average Viewers Per Show: 4,352,900
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.56
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,927,127
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.70
Average Viewership Per Show: 4,075,396
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.60
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,972,209
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.45
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,797,892
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.16
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,487,329
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 1

Average Rating: 3.30
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,639,605
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 0

Average Rating: 3.18
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,507,365
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 1

Average Rating: 2.90
Average Viewership Per Show: 3,194,798
Episodes Under 3.0 Rating: 8

What can we infer from the numbers?

-The 2008 decline can't really be pinpointed on anything specifically, but I'd lean toward the Benoit fall-out driving a number of fans away. This could explain WWE's move toward PG programming that summer (though sponsors were the bigger ticket), and their constant motive to 'put smiles on everyone's faces'. Hook the kids while they're young, though the TV ratings don't exactly stand up to the campaign.

-Ratings took a major dive from 2011 to 2012, despite the hype for Rock-Cena. I'd theorize blowing the "Summer of Punk" by jobbing CM Punk at four straight PPVs (including to Triple H, Alberto Del Rio, and The Awesome Truth) made Punk 'just another guy', and his World Title win at Survivor Series wasn't going to undo killing off Punk's rebellious act at its hottest.

-2015 can't be blamed entirely on Reigns when the numbers were dipping year to year, with 2013 the only recent year that trended back upward from one year earlier. 2013 going up is actually a surprise, given that Raw moved to three hours in mid-2012, and you'd think eight months of dragging programming would have burned the audience out quicker. Senselessly-long Raws are more damaging than Reigns' premature push, but sure, an uninteresting title challenger has a part in this cold WrestleMania season.

In any event, it's not a good sign all around. Not just for Reigns as a main eventer, but for the specialness of WWE's most important stretch of the calendar.

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