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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - 2017 WWE RAW Has More Competition than 1990s WWE? Really? PWI 500 & More
By Mr. Tito
Sep 4, 2017 - 10:39:38 PM

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Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING exclusively / by yours truly, Mr. Tito. I always enjoy how that intro acts like fingernails to a chalkboard to many, but hey, you try being here since October 1998 and (a) still bringing the Chunder and (b) being as productive as I am. The old man can still bring it even if I occasionally yell "GET OFF MY LAWN!".

But because I've been around since the late 1990s, I feel that I have to protect that era. There are so many excuses as to why today's WWE product has (a) fewer viewers, (b) fewer butts in seats for live events (besides Wrestlemania), and before Pay Per View was eliminated, fewer Pay Per View buys (besides Wrestlemania). Each and every week, I post factual numbers on the state of the WWE product and many younger fans throw shade on me like "but but but Netflix", "but but but Hulu", "but but but video games", "but but but many Cable channels", "but but but cord cutters", etc. Tons of excuses. And then they'll point to WWE's Financials and just look at the normative numbers posted on those 10-Q and 10-K. You do realize that INFLATION has grown considerably since the late 1990s, right? You have to ADJUST for inflation to get a proper or "real" number.

To act like the 1990s WWE product didn't have competition is completely IGNORANT and void of any facts. To you 20 somethings who act like the 1990s decade was like the stone ages is hilarious. You do realize that we had many Cable channels, video games, the internet, and other entertainment options too, right? The 2010s has much more advanced technology with mobile devices and streaming, but much of the foundation of entertainment habits was present in the 1990s.

Let's cover some real facts, first...

(A) There are far more households with Cable/Satellite through 2017 than the late 1990s. During the late 90s, there are estimates of 70-80 million households that had access to Cable/Satellite. Through 2017, we're between 85-95 million even despite many cord cutters.

(B) Monday Night RAW's peak during 1999 saw the show regularly having between 6-8 million viewers per show and that trend continued through 2000 around Wrestlemania 16. RAW right now varies between 2.7 million and 3.5 million depending if Brock Lesnar appears.

(C) Studies have shown that teenagers and young adults aren't as active as they were 20 years ago. In other words, more are opting to STAY HOME rather than going out. Many of you insist that there's more competition and more devices to play with. Fine... But the fact that there are more individuals staying home during evening than ever makes them more available to watch RAW.

(D) More people in college than ever before. That 18-25 age group was a hotbed of wrestling fans that really got into WCW's surge in particular (RAW's demographics were grabbing more younger teenagers).

(E) Labor Force participation rate is DOWN significantly from the 1990s. In other words, those aged 16-19 who are available to work, looking for a job, and/or have a job is down from being in the 50-55% range to 35%. If you combine that fact with point (C), it suggest that there are fewer teenagers working part-time jobs YET they aren't spending their time going out. They are staying at home instead and thus could be available to watch pro wrestling.

(F) DVR viewing for RAW has declined from 400,000 to 500,000 per show to 300,000 to 400,000 delayed viewings since 2012. Reported previously in a column.

(G) Hulu has over 12 million viewers (previously reported as 10 million). However, RAW is not on their top 10 list for top viewed shows. If you use statistical sampling and assume the Nielsen Ratings share for RAW being viewed on Hulu, you're looking at around 300,000 potential viewers of the condensed RAW. Considering that RAW has lost 1,000,000 viewers since early 2015, that does not explain the full number lost.

Now, I'll give you WWE's YouTube channel as a valid excuse. However, everything besides the Main Event stuff gets 600,000 views at once. Plus, you're not factoring in repeat viewings. When watching RAW live, you are only counted once between 8-11pm on the USA Network. YouTube counts the number of times that the video is played by a user. Thus, someone watching a particular segment repeatedly is counted.

I've already crushed anyone's argument on why RAW's viewership is down. More Cable/Satellite access, people are staying home more often and fewer teenagers working, Hulu is insignificant, etc. I've argued those before.

But let's talk about the 1990s, particularly the LATE 1990s. There was more competition out there than the younger fans believe. Sure, you boast about your Netflix, DVR, Playstation/Xbox/Nintendo, Smartphones/Tablets, many channels... But the 1990s had much of that in place with the disadvantage of it being on a lesser technology. However, the 1990s had less restrictions and regulations in place.

THE 1990s HAD:

#1 Piracy, Lots of It. You want to talk about illegal streaming during 2017? Try illegal theft of Cable during the 1990s and lots of it. Many ordered Cable boxes that could unlock or "descramble" channels and the technology was not in place yet to monitor it. Many were able to buy the basic network channels package and then "descramble" access to any or all cable channels. Makes me wonder how well WWE's Pay Per View numbers would be if better regulations were in place. Furthermore with Cable, you could freely split the inbound cable connection to multiple televisions in your house. That is much more controlled now, as you must rent a cable box per each television. Not so in the past... Splitters did wonders and many who lived in close proximity would often share connections. Easy to steal cable and the website wouldn't get shutdown like it could now.

#2 - Video Games Speaking of piracy, how about that Playstation 1? If you want to even dare compare console gaming of today to the late 1990s, consider that the Playstation 1 sold over 100 units while the Nintendo 64 sold over 32 million. But consider this... Piracy for the original Playstation. Games for PS1 were CD-Rom based and could therefore be easily copied with CD burners. While you want to boast the availability of games for download on your console or mobile devices, you could get ANY game for the Playstation for merely the price of a black CD-R disk. Furthermore in the late 1990s, the rise of emulation of past NES and SNES games arrived play on your personal computer. That, and PC had its own share of gaming. The 1990s, following the success of the NES, saw the real boom gaming from just kids to teenagers/adults with multiple consoles filling the needs of gamers. First you had Genesis/SNES and then Playstation/Nintendo 64 (Sega was struggling in this era). In my opinion, gaming was equally as strong back then as it was now... You don't exactly see the free and open piracy of the Xbox One, Playstation 4, or Nintendo Switch as you saw with the first Playstation.

#3 - NFL Monday Night Football Unlike today, games were on ABC during the late 1990s. Even worse, the Monday Night Football game was THE prime time game showcased by the NFL. What you see on ESPN now is a complete shell of its former self. During the 1990s and early 2000s, ABC owned Monday Night Football and ESPN/TNT had the Sunday Night Football game. That Sunday Night Football game had weaker match-ups... Then during mid 2000s, television deals changed to have NBC air the Sunday Night game (which is now the best match-up) while ESPN now hosted Monday Night Football. The result? ABC's games up to 30 million viewers and ESPN's games are consistently under 15 million. The competition from the NFL is actually weaker on Mondays as it was during the 1990s. ESPN is getting bad games thanks in part to its political reporting on the NFL and the "Playmakers" mini-series, I believe.

#4 - Many Cable Channels back then. Everyone tries to suggest that there's too much competition on Cable/Satellite but it's not like the 1990s had like 4 channels. I distinctly remember pressing "54" to get Comedy Central in my local area. Thus, I had at LEAST 54 channels to choose between during the late 1990s (I believe I had around 63 channels back then in total). Plenty of options to choose from back then.

#5 - VCR Timer Recordings. Want to argue DVR with me? I can easily argue that more people had Video Cassette Recorders (VCR) in their homes than Cable/Satellite devices with enabled DVR. They could be easily programmed to tape RAW if you weren't home to watch it and better yet, VCR tapes could be re-recorded over multiple times. By the late 1990s, blank VCR tapes became very inexpensive. I could easily record RAW while I was watching WCW Nitro or NFL Football.

#6 - WWE was over-exposed back then. This one is easy... You want to complain about 3 hours of RAW now and 2 hours of Smackdown on USA Networks? Well, back during the late 1990s, specifically late 1999, you had 2 hours of RAW, 2 hours of Smackdown (UPN), Sunday Night Heat, Saturday/Sunday morning highlight shows, and then you had at least 2 syndicated shows. If too much WWE coverage is your excuse for lower numbers, explain why it didn't hurt the Attitude Era?

#7 - Multiple RAW highlight shows. Between the Saturday/Sunday morning shows, 2 syndicated shows, and what Sunday Night Heat became, you had plenty of ample opportunities to catch up on RAW. I know, it's not as convenient or on-demand as YouTube, but it's there and those highlight shows where highly rated at the time (hence why there were many).

#8 - Internet did exist back then, remember - Message Boards and Wrestling Websites. Everyone wants to brag up Social Media, but Message Boards were very popular back then as a form of interacting with wrestling fans... But here's a strong point that I'll argue... Wrestling websites. What you see now are the survivors of the Dot Com Bust. Wrestling News Board websites were actually plentiful and each were posting results of WWE shows. There were far more wrestling websites getting much more hits during the Attitude Era to potentially spoil any shows. Oh yeah, RAW back then was TAPED every other week, by the way... Think about that as a risk to the viewership.

And finally...

#9 - World Championship Wrestling (WCW) existed as head-to-head competition. Yeah, that's right... WWE had actual wrestling competition on Mondays during the late 1990s. While you could certainly argue that channel surfing helps boost both promotions, then what explains the WWE during 1996-1997 and WCW during 1999-2001 declining in viewers? They didn't help each other, they hurt each other as evidenced by WCW dying by 2001. During 1999 and early 2000, WWE still could do 6-8 million viewers per show despite the competition. WWE could be delayed by the freakin' US Open, too, so in addition to WCW, WWE could get usurped by its own network... Yet, Tuesday RAWs or delayed RAWs would still beat WCW in the ratings.

So as you can see, the 1990s had plenty of competition for your TIME... However, there were FEWER households with access to Cable/Satellite, more teenagers employed, fewer people staying home during the evenings, VCR recording devices, video game systems in place (piracy for Playstation, good God!), the internet existed, etc. The only true difference, in my opinion, are the clips. That's the real threat to WWE's television products, but what explains the LOWER attendance for live WWE events? What explains DVR declines for delayed viewings of RAW? What explains lower buyrates in Pay Per Views before Pay Per Views?

I can tell you easily... STARS.

Attitude Era had Steve Austin and the Rock whom I'd argue are on WWE's "Mount Rushmore of WWE" for all time major draws (along with Bruno, Andre, Hogan, and Cena). But the next tier of popular wrestlers was STACKED for the WWE back then with Undertaker, Mick Foley, & Triple H with many bit players like Big Show, Kane, and others to be soon elevated. Major midcard kept that kept growing through 1999 and exploded during 2000.

What does 2017 have? Well, you HOPE that Brock Lesnar and John Cena appear for more than the major shows. That's a prayer, in fact. After that, a major dropoff... WWE keeps trying with Roman Reigns but the guy cannot get over despite beating many big names cleanly (Punk/Bryan/Undertaker/HHH/Orton). Seth Rollins is good in the ring but his character is confusing. That is a consistent story with much of the current roster... Good in-ring performers but the characters are not magnetic to wrestling fans. And this Jinder Mahal crap. Isn't it funny how the WWE thinks that the United States wrestling fanbase cannot grow that they're resorting to impressing an entire other country in hopes for more revenue?

You can give me all of the excuses that you want... It's the FACT that the WWE hasn't created a major star since the infamous Ohio Valley Wrestling "Class of 2002" is what's killing the business. Why would the WWE have any interest in a 40+ year old Shelton Benjamin to come back while paying Brock Lesnar and Batista to come back? Why do they tolerate part-time John Cena and Brock Lesnar? Why does the WWE give so many chances to Randy Orton even if he has a Wellness Policy violation? The John Laurinaitis era of Talent Relations and the WWE Creative Team being full of yes-men to Vince McMahon have given the WWE long-term damage. Triple H is trying, but he cannot change what the Main Roster is doing under Vince's strict control.

The FACT is that the WWE has declined considerably since 2000 because they could not replace Steve Austin or the Rock in their primes. Brock Lesnar and John Cena have done well to keep the ship from really sinking, but both have NOT had strong supporting casts of main eventers. Everybody that John Cena has put over (Nakamura, Bryan, Punk, Owens, and Styles) have been pissed on by the WWE Creative Team while Cena has had to wrestle many stiffs on other Pay Per Views. Pushing Sheamus, Jinder Mahal, Alberto Del Rio, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns to be main eventers has failed the WWE. In each case, they weren't naturally over but given the ignorant premise that World Titles get wrestlers over. Wrong. That's NOT how the wrestling business works and someone as wise as Vince McMahon should know better.

What will "FIX" the wrestling business is the rise of the next all-time great superstar. Who will that be?

Well, that potential candidate is headlining WWE No Mercy 2017 with Brock Lesnar.


In my opinion, the WWE is making a MAJOR mistake having the Braun Strowman vs. Brock Lesnar at No Mercy 2017. That SHOULD be the Wrestlemania 34 MAIN EVENT that follows Braun Strowman successfully winning the Rumble match at Royal Rumble 2018. Instead, the WWE is going to, once again, force the issue with Roman Reigns to headline Wrestlemania 34 against Brock Lesnar. You know, his second Wrestlemania match against Lesnar (first one didn't help him get over) and it would make 4 straight Wrestlemania headlines. That's a joke and Roman will have nothing to show for it.

HOWEVER - Braun Strowman is showing some legitimate signs of growth. That Big Show vs. Braun Strowman match-up on RAW? Why would the WWE be doing that again? Well, the previous 2 matches on RAW actually "popped" 3rd hour ratings? Braun, when he headlines the 3rd hour, has been causing decent growth for that hour compared to most other times that sag underneath 3 million viewers. Recently, his in-ring segment with Brock Lesnar 2 weeks ago on did over 4 million views in just 4 days! The "controversial" promo between John Cena and Roman Reigns did just over 2 million. Think about that, folks... Strowman/Lesnar DOUBLED Cena/Reigns. And many have had in-ring segments with Lesnar but nobody has surged the viewership like when Braun Strowman appeared with Lesnar.

Strowman IS the next big draw, folks... But in my opinion, rushing the Lesnar match-up or even a World Title reign could be damaging. No Mercy 2017 could be an impressive short-term thing but it will do long-term damage.

If Roman Reigns is the guy to defeat Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 34, potentially in Lesnar's last WWE match (contract expires), then the WWE as a promotion will be circling the drain. Roman is "All American Lex Luger" all over again... Manufactured character that is forced on the fans yet cannot back it up in the ring or with good promo work. Roman doesn't deserve the Brock Lesnar win, let alone beating the #1 star of the WWE, John Cena. Only reuniting Roman with a babyface version of the Shield and letting him grow from that could salvage him.


STOP PUSHING JINDER MAHAL, the "Roman Reigns" of the Smackdown brand.

Want to grow RAW's audience, no matter what it airs on? Find and push REAL STARS whom the fans have accepted to be "the guy(s)". That simple.

John Cena, Rock, Steve Austin, Triple H, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and many, many, many others GOT OVER FIRST AS MIDCARDERS and THEN were promoted to the Main Event. Breaking that formula has KILLED the WWE's ability to create new drawing superstars.

Go watch the WWE Network's past shows if you don't believe me. Stop giving me excuses about the ratings or viewership. It is completely ignorant and void of the facts.



- I don't know what to make of the Undertaker rumors of a comeback, possibly just 1 match versus John Cena. In my opinion, Wrestlemania 33 should have been Cena vs. Undertaker as Roman Reigns wasn't capable of carrying the aged Undertaker. That match looked foolish. Cena would have bumped around like he was made of feathers and make the injured Taker look decent in the ring. I think it would be cool to have it headline Survivor Series to really help that show but I would hate for Undertaker to look bad on Wrestlemania again. If the Undertaker is going to feud with John Cena, expect an appearance at WWE No Mercy 2017 to attempt to attack Roman and failing... Taker hits Cena instead and that's what allows Roman to defeat Cena. That sets up Cena vs. Undertaker, IF IT HAPPENS.

But be careful what is rumored on the internet... Undertaker removed all of his gimmicked clothing at Wrestlemania 33, but maybe that was just his farewell Wrestlemania?

- On Baron Corbin, as it seems that he's in the WWE doghouse for things posted in Social Media. It is what it is... But can we do a little more research before rewarding a guy the Money in the Bank briefcase? That is a hot #1 contendership for the WWE Title and should be taken more seriously than it is. Whomever is carrying that should have the potential to carry the company on their back as a top star. Corbin, at this stage in the game, could not. Best that he's looked was against AJ Styles but who hasn't looked good against AJ Styles? In my opinion, unless you're a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, or Kurt Angle you should NOT even sniff the World Title let alone getting a shot so early in your main roster WWE career. Corbin wasn't burning the house down in NXT, so why would he be fitting as a WWE World Champion so early on the main roster? Let him continue to grow on the midcard and let him have a strong US Title reign before considering Main Event.

And now...

- Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) announced their Top 10 of their "PWI 500" on Jim Ross's podcast. I listened to the PWI reveal closely... First and foremost, there's more kayfabe into PWI's list than just measuring quality of performances. For example, they weigh in Wins/Losses and length of World Title reigns. Hence, the positions of Roman Reigns for Wins/Losses and Kevin Owens for the Title reign. AJ Styles has a combination of both, hence the higher position. Here's the top 10 for the PWI 500:

#1 - Kazuchika Okada
#2 - AJ Styles
#3 - Kevin Owens
#4 - Roman Reigns
#5 - Kenny Omega
#6 - Shinsuke Nakamura
#7 - Samoa Joe
#8 - Dean Ambrose
#9 - Bobby Roode
#10 - The Miz

For the first time ever, a Japanese wrestler tops the PWI 500. I laughed with the PWI editor told Jim Ross "would a Japanese wrestler on the cover sell magazines" which absolutely shows a bias towards the past lists. I'm sure that hardcore New Japan fans are ready to explode over that admission. However, hearing some honesty of how the PWI 500 is calculated and the cover admission made me reduce my "heat" over the list.

But that's not my list.

To me, QUALITY always defeats QUANTITY in most cases. Brock Lesnar is #1 to me, even though I heavily disliked his 2016 work before Survivor Series. His stuff with a 50 year old Bill Goldberg was awesome and it drew fans and his recent work with Joe/Strowman/Reigns has been superb. Just based on August to August, it's hard to argue against AJ Styles. He should be #1 because he gives you BOTH quantity and quality.

I've already argued my case against the New Japan folks... Personally, I would put Kenny Omega above Okada. While I believe that Okada is the better in-ring technician, Omega brings other intangibles to wrestling other than in-ring work. Omega would do well in the WWE whereas Okada's lacking of other intangibles on personality, charisma, etc. would affect his role in the WWE. I know, that's sad that my measuring stick is "how would they do in WWE", but that's the primary wrestling promotion that I follow and that's what matters to MY opinion.

I actually think that #6-#10 is a bigger "hot mess" than the top 5. Samoa Joe should be higher with consistent success in WWE and NXT. Shinsuke Nakamura as #6? How has that WWE main roster career gone again? Sorry folks, but I'm selling my Nakamura stock. The 2 Nakamura matches that have impressed me most were in New Japan against AJ Styles and the Takeover Dallas match against Sami Zayn. But again, who has bad matches with AJ Styles? Also, who has bad matches with Sami Zayn? Seriously... I'm not impressed, as his stiffer New Japan style cannot translate to the WWE. His WWE run has been a failure as an in-ring talent and I'm not afraid to admit that. And don't give me "he's better than Jinder Mahal"... Of course Nakamura is better than Jinder. Who isn't? But that doesn't mean Nakamura deserves the WWE Title either. He's going to turn 38 next year and he's forced to adjust his stiffer style to match WWE's lighter style. Good luck with that.

Bobby Roode has had a cup of coffee in NXT and he's #9? Like the guy and enjoyed his brief NXT run, but that high? The PWI editor did suggest that the magazine considers NXT as the #2 promotion in the United States so thus anyone main eventing at NXT will be held with high regard. Hence, Joe, Nakamura, and Roode at the top. So should we expect Drew McIntyre to be in the top 10 next year?

It's all subjective and congrats to PWI for scoring FREE PUBLICITY by putting out yet another PWI 500. That's the point and I fall for it every year.


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