WWE Raw Has Been Really Bad Lately, and the Ratings Are in the Toilet

Ryan Glasspiegel

Alexa Bliss has been one of the lone bright spots on WWE Raw since Braun Strowman became sidelined with an elbow injury, but her segment on Monday was literally unwatchable. She brought out Bayley’s fourth grade teacher, who said she had to bring her Dad to class or she’d cry. Bayley’s former best friend and ex-boyfriend — and who knows or cares if they were really who said they were or not — started making out with each other in the ring.

Commentator Booker T summed it up for everyone: “This is hard to watch.”

It was all a stupid idea. The audience was consummately bored. When WWE fans boo a bad product, Vince McMahon and crew sometimes delude themselves into believing that this is a heel drawing a desired reaction, but there’s a big difference between that and “this is boring” chants. Nevertheless, even WWE had to know this segment was atrocious, because I had to venture away from their YouTube channel to find it.

It might be unfair to pick on one segment like this. WWE has to try to creatively come up with hours upon hours of original programming per week, and when they take creative risks some of them are going to flop. That being said, this was as bad as anything they’ve done in recent memory, and the aggregate Raw program is a complete chore to watch these days. Don’t think viewers haven’t noticed: Raw is being rapidly tuned out.

As Dave Meltzer noted last week, almost every week brings a new record low (in the not against MNF or on a holiday classification). He shared this table, via Wrestling Observer staff writer Paul Fontaine:

This week, Raw averaged 2.689 million viewers in the first hour, 2.681M in the second, and 2.468M in the third. These are really bad numbers! While you can kind of rationalize that it was Memorial Day, it’s not like it was the fourth of July where you’re outside watching fireworks at night. Most cookouts are over by the time Raw starts and it’s actually a pretty good time to settle down and watch some TV before the work week begins anew. To support that point: Stanley Cup Game 1 ratings were up over 20% from last year.

WWE Raw has some major structural problems. When you compare it to Smackdown — which is by no means perfect, but is widely regarded as a far crisper product — the next day, the easiest thing you can see is that the show would be more enjoyable if it were two hours instead of three. WWE brass has given no indication that they think sacrificing that third hour of still-high-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things viewership would be for the greater good.

The three performers whose ascent WWE has invested the most in over the past five years are former Shield-mates Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns. Reigns is a main eventer, even if they did get there by shoving him down our throats and inadvertently creating a formidable heel whom they’d booked as a fan favorite. However, he’s not exactly someone who’s going to draw in a casual audience. His promo skills still have not developed.

Ambrose and Rollins are also not very strong on the microphone, and generally have stopped resonating with the crowd during their air-time. They are supposed to be babyfaces but there is no compelling reason to cheer for them. When you have situations like this, they try to save Ambrose by mixing him up with The Miz, who is great. But then it becomes like a drowning situation, and The Miz has gotten brought back down with Ambrose.

The build for the Fatal 5-Way match to become the number one contender for Brock Lesnar’s Universal championship at Extreme Rules this Sunday has been wholly underwhelming. As Cageside Seats noted, when they just announced that all the performers were in the match without making them have to “earn” a right to compete, it eliminated any stakes for the last few weeks. Instead, there are bunch of haphazard HEEL vs FACE mishmash tag matches and promo scrums. Riveting.

In the women’s division, we mentioned before that Alexa Bliss has generally been strong, but hit a big speedbump this week. Bayley’s character needs some development because people are starting to lose interest. That is also true of Sasha Banks, but instead of turning her back heel where she was most compelling, they have her mixed up in a cruiserweight division love quadrangle feud. The women’s revolution is in full effect!

The good news is that WWE will presumably pull itself out of a lull as SummerSlam season comes into the picture. Braun Strowman should be back, despite the six-months-out prognosis WWE announced. John Cena will return soon. While he was most recently a Smackdown participant, Raw needs him way more right now. The genre entails making up the rules as they go along, so why wouldn’t he be on Raw? Hopefully the writing will tighten up as one of the year’s bigger events approaches.

Even with Strowman injured and Brock Lesnar and John Cena on their hiatuses, WWE’s product should be better now. They are loaded with talent and story possibilities. Hopefully it improves dramatically very soon.