WWE Raw Back In Major Ratings Trouble After Falling 15% Amid Return Of NFL

WWE Raw MSG Ratings Steve Austin AEW

WWE Raw's viewership sunk 15% despite an advertised return from Stone Cold Steve Austin in Madison Square Garden.

Credit: WWE.com

WWE Raw aired a special broadcast from Madison Square Garden, a building which is no stranger to fostering a culture of losing as the home of the New York Knicks.

And after failing to sell out its home arena amid reportedly disappointing ticket sales, WWE—and for that matter the Garden—took another loss Tuesday as Monday’s edition of Raw fell 15% despite the built-in appeal of a live broadcast from the world’s most famous arena and an advertised appearance from Stone Cold Steve Austin.

WWE’s steep tumble, of course, coincided with the return of NFL Monday Night Football, which boasted a double-header featuring a back-and-forth thriller between the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints. The wildly entertaining game became the first in the history of Monday Nigh Football with multiple lead changes in the final minute of the fourth quarter. A second Monday night game, where the Oakland Raiders prevailed over the Denver Broncos, aired shortly after.

Raw’s viewership of 2.130 million barely eclipsed a June 10 broadcast of 2.125 million, giving Monday’s broadcast the distinction of having the second-lowest non-holiday viewership in history. There’s a very real possibility that Raw’s viewership could routinely fall under two million this fall, something that has not happened all year and last happened during Raw’s New Year’s Eve broadcast which garnered viewership of 1.968 million.

This is scary news for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a novelty show—WWE’s emergency glass case during times of ratings turmoil—essentially bombing.

Though it may be tough to stomach or swallow, there’s a very good chance that Raw’s viewership from this past Monday actually represents a high mark of the fall season. A heavily promoted show from Madison Square Garden featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin is the type of episode designed to pop one of the bigger ratings of the year. Not only did that not happen, but one could only shudder to think just how low viewership will go when Raw returns to its paint-by-the-numbers formula next week—in Knoxville, Tenn.—and beyond.

Another school of thought could be that WWE went to the well one too many times with Raw 25, Raw Reunion and now #RAWMSG—all of which featured appearances from Steve Austin. Perhaps airing these shows in such close proximity has hurt the novelty of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but if that’s the case it’s even more cause for concern as WWE does not have very many alternatives for a short-term ratings boost.

Further complicating matters is WWE reportedly moving forward with what could be an ill-advised draft in anticipation for SmackDown Live’s big move to Fox.

The strict boundaries of WWE’s most recent brand split—like all that preceded it—eventually disappeared in favor of the ambiguous Wild Card Rule once the promotion struggled with viewership and was pressured to have top stars on both shows. With low ratings sure to continue to rear their ugly heads during football season, handcuffing each brand to certain stars is certain to result in the same ratings turmoil that forced WWE to institute a Wild Card Rule to begin with.

It’s shaping up to be a long fall as WWE’s radioactive flagship will be made to compete against the NFL, the NBA and postseason play from the MLB.

Perhaps competition from AEW will create a new narrative that rises all boats.

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WWE Raw aired a special broadcast from Madison Square Garden, a building which is no stranger to fostering a culture of losing as the home of the New York Knicks.

And after failing to sell out its home arena amid reportedly disappointing ticket sales, WWE—and for that matter the Garden—took another loss Tuesday as Monday’s edition of Raw fell 15% despite the built-in appeal of a live broadcast from the world’s most famous arena and an advertised appearance from Stone Cold Steve Austin.

WWE’s steep tumble, of course, coincided with the return of NFL Monday Night Football, which boasted a double-header featuring a back-and-forth thriller between the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints. The wildly entertaining game became the first in the history of Monday Nigh Football with multiple lead changes in the final minute of the fourth quarter. A second Monday night game, where the Oakland Raiders prevailed over the Denver Broncos, aired shortly after.

Raw’s viewership of 2.130 million barely eclipsed a June 10 broadcast of 2.125 million, giving Monday’s broadcast the distinction of having the second-lowest non-holiday viewership in history. There’s a very real possibility that Raw’s viewership could routinely fall under two million this fall, something that has not happened all year and last happened during Raw’s New Year’s Eve broadcast which garnered viewership of 1.968 million.

This is scary news for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a novelty show—WWE’s emergency glass case during times of ratings turmoil—essentially bombing.

Though it may be tough to stomach or swallow, there’s a very good chance that Raw’s viewership from this past Monday actually represents a high mark of the fall season. A heavily promoted show from Madison Square Garden featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin is the type of episode designed to pop one of the bigger ratings of the year. Not only did that not happen, but one could only shudder to think just how low viewership will go when Raw returns to its paint-by-the-numbers formula next week—in Knoxville, Tenn.—and beyond.

Another school of thought could be that WWE went to the well one too many times with Raw 25, Raw Reunion and now #RAWMSG—all of which featured appearances from Steve Austin. Perhaps airing these shows in such close proximity has hurt the novelty of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but if that’s the case it’s even more cause for concern as WWE does not have very many alternatives for a short-term ratings boost.

Further complicating matters is WWE reportedly moving forward with what could be an ill-advised draft in anticipation for SmackDown Live’s big move to Fox.

The strict boundaries of WWE’s most recent brand split—like all that preceded it—eventually disappeared in favor of the ambiguous Wild Card Rule once the promotion struggled with viewership and was pressured to have top stars on both shows. With low ratings sure to continue to rear their ugly heads during football season, handcuffing each brand to certain stars is certain to result in the same ratings turmoil that forced WWE to institute a Wild Card Rule to begin with.

It’s shaping up to be a long fall as WWE’s radioactive flagship will be made to compete against the NFL, the NBA and postseason play from the MLB.

Perhaps competition from AEW will create a new narrative that rises all boats.

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I've been a pro wrestling columnist and video blogger for a leading national sports website since 2010. I graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara wit...