Monday Night Raw, WWE’s “flagship” show for 31 years, is on the move once again.
Outside of a five-year span from 2000 to 2005, when it aired on TNN/Spike TV, Raw’s television home in this part of the world has been the USA Network since its first episode on January 11th, 1993.
Now, for the tiny sum of $5 billion over ten years, Netflix has purchased the rights to Raw, taking the show off of linear television for the first time. It’s a big, bold move for both sides.
Initially, I had two other column ideas in mind for this week, and was ready to narrow it down when the Raw-to-Netflix news broke. This is too big of a story to ignore, though, so I had to change direction. Like everyone else, I have some thoughts on the news.
Some thoughts are based more in my own opinion, while other thoughts are based more in things that people like WWE President Nick Khan have already said publicly. Either way, here’s what has been bouncing around in my head, in no particular order…
The Potential For A Huge Growth In Viewership: Please excuse the basic, rudimentary math here, but USA Network is currently available to approximately 72.5 million households in the United States. In the United States and Canada, there are currently around 77.5 million paid subscribers to Netflix.
The key part of that previous paragraph is the “available to” part for USA Network. That includes people who have cable and satellite packages which include the USA Network, but who have never watched a single second of content that the channel offers.
Outside of the percentage of people who are “paid” subscribers to Netflix because it came with their cell phones, etc, almost all of those subscriptions for the service are active users who are there because they want to be.
For the calendar year of 2023, minus the year-end “Best Of” episode, Raw averaged a total of 1.714 million viewers.
Netflix handles their viewership numbers differently than cable does. For one, Netflix tends to keep things a little closer to the vest, but the numbers they do release aren’t quite the same. Instead of saying “Stranger Things was viewed in X amount of households by X amount of people” and things like that, the numbers from Netflix come out like “Stranger Things had X amount of total hours viewed in its first X amount of days upon release.” As an example, the Jenna Ortega-led Wednesday series featured a total of 341 million hours watched in its first week of release, and within the first three weeks, that number had topped the 1 billion hour mark. “Household” numbers are then guesstimated by dividing total viewing hours by the amount of hours a show has, and Netflix had an estimate of Wednesday “reaching” 150 million households during those initial three weeks of release.
Obviously, I’m not saying Raw is going to be on the same level of Wednesday, Stranger Things, Squid Games, Bridgerton, and other Netflix shows. I am saying that there is plenty of potential for Raw to pull in more than 1.714 million viewers every week on Netflix. That is especially so for the early days of the show on the streaming platform, as people who might not otherwise watch Raw will be likely to check things out due to sheer curiosity if nothing else.
AEW (And Its Fans) Can Breathe A Sigh Of Relief: Let me point out that I don’t think there was ever any real chance of Warner Bros Discovery winning the rights to Monday Night Raw. I know there was plenty of rumor and innuendo about it, and most of those rumors indicated that AEW could/would be in a lot of trouble if WBD “dumped” them for the bigger and flashier “brand.”
With that said, I know for a fact that many AEW fans had those thoughts floating around in the backs of their heads. What if WBD gets the rights to Raw? What if WBD decides it doesn’t want to have both AEW and WWE under its programming umbrella? What if WWE threw its weight around and said that AEW couldn’t stick around as a part of its deal? What if what if what if what if?
As irrelevant as those questions may have been before, they’re completely irrelevant now. WWE isn’t bringing its programming to WBD, and AEW can move forward freely without having to be concerned about that, even if, as I said, it was merely thoughts in the backs of minds.
The “Monday” Part Of “Monday Night Raw” Might Not Be Permanent: During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Nick Khan left the door open for a possible move that would take Raw from Monday nights to a different night during the week. Khan praised Raw’s key demo ratings against stiff competition from college football recently. Of course, Monday nights between early-September and late-December are dominated by the NFL’s Monday Night Football games, which continue to be ratings juggernauts year in and year out.
After praising the demo ratings, Khan would go on to say that if Raw stays on Monday nights, they’ll make it work, but he casually dropped a line about things working out for the company if Raw does move to a different night.
This is just my assumption, but I wouldn’t have even dropped that, casually or not, if the possibility of moving Raw to a different night wasn’t on the table. Whether it’s WWE’s idea or being requested by Netflix isn’t really relevant here. If Raw was absolutely, positively staying on Monday nights, I think NK would’ve made that very clear.
In the 31 years that Raw has been on television, it has aired a handful of episodes on different nights, usually because of things like USA Network’s coverage of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show back in the day. To think of Raw officially moving to another night is blowing my mind as I type this. Eric Bischoff likes to mention that wrestling fans are incredibly loyal, and that they will “find” their favorite promotion, no matter what happens to that company’s television shows. With that line of thinking, WWE’s loyal fan base will follow Raw to Netflix, and they would follow Raw if it jumped to any other night of the week. This could be a major test to see if that’s true.
The Potential For More Mature Content: First things first… I’m not, nor have I ever been, one of those people who scream from the mountaintops that WWE should bring back the Attitude Era, with blood in every other match, curse words in every promo, raunchy storylines, and everything else that came with the time period. That shit was amazing when I was a teenager, but as a grown man, there is only a very small amount of that stuff that holds up all these years later.
However, there is something to say about the realism that comes with professional wrestling storylines that have the leeway to get more mature. For example, if Roman Reigns and Randy Orton are having a super personal feud for the World Title, and Roman is involved in a segment where he punches Bob Orton Jr. in the face, how would you expect Randy to respond? Is Randy going to cut a promo where he mentions wanting to kick Roman’s “butt?” Or, is his anger going to lead him to say that he’s going to kick Roman’s “ass?” Even more than that, would he say that he’s going to “beat the shit out of” Roman? All that TV-PG stuff, with as much sense as it makes for advertisers and a “family friendly” atmosphere, did nothing to make those storylines better.
Again, I’m not calling for an overnight shift in WWE programming, becoming Netflix’s wrestling version of Game Of Thrones or Big Mouth. I’m simply looking for the word I used earlier… realism. Show me more “real” emotions from these wrestlers. Give me a believable level of “violence” in storylines. Have a Hell In A Cell match, or something along those lines, with a bit of blood because of the intensity and hatred that should be involved in stories of that nature.
The End Of Peacock May Be On The Horizon: Raise your hand if you’re a subscriber of the Peacock streaming service and are a big fan of it?
Those of you who have your hands up right now are dirty fucking liars.
Nobody enjoys Peacock.
The only people who have subscriptions to Peacock are those who have it for free from their cable or cellular providers, or people who have it specifically to watch things like WWE events, NFL Thursday Night Football games, or Premier League matches. Even then, those people still complain about Peacock’s layout, interface, and lack of key features that other services have.
The current deal between WWE and Peacock is set to expire around the time of WrestleMania 42 in 2026. Let’s say that the year-plus that WWE will be on Netflix by that point goes really well. Their relationship is great. The viewership for Raw is better than both sides could’ve hoped for. Netflix subscriptions continue to rise. Would that cause Netflix to pony up the money to bring the entire WWE video library and the capability to livestream WWE pay-per-views under their umbrella? Shit, why wouldn’t they? Netflix is already the biggest subscription streaming service out there. If WWE does make them even bigger, adding to their subscriber base, imagine what adding the rest of WWE’s streaming content could/would do.
That would put Peacock in a tough spot. While their subscriber numbers have gone up recently to close out the year, NBCUniversal’s losses related to Peacock amounted to $825 million in the fourth quarter of 2023. If you’re looking for good news, the Peacock-related losses for NBCU in the fourth quarter of 2022 was $978 million. However, imagine what losing the WWE library would do for them.
I would gladly cancel my Peacock subscription if they lost the WWE content, unless, of course, they were to acquire the AEW content or NBCU were to do something wild like buy New Japan, and so on.
The Way We Watch WWE Matches Could Change For The First Time In Decades: When the “Monday Night Raw to Netflix” news was first revealed, CNBC reported that Netflix’s ad-free subscribers were going to feel the true benefit of that tier, as they would get to continue watching matches during “ad breaks” that aired for the lower tier on the streaming platform. The report says that matches on Raw will be scripted around those breaks, allowing the ad-free viewers to continue watching matches, but also saying that the parts of the match that air during those breaks won’t ultimately affect the outcome of said match.
Also, if that means I don’t have to deal with picture-in-picture anymore, count me in. I’m so annoyed by that shit these days. If I wanted to watch chunks of a wrestling match on a small screen with no sound, I’d fire up episodes of Raw at church, thank you very much. The sound of commentary and the live crowds is a HUGE part of the overall television presentation, and without it, there’s a major disconnect that takes place.
Yes, that same disconnect exists when a show goes to commercial mid-match. No, that isn’t any better. I’m just getting tired of the picture-in-picture thing being a crutch that everyone seems to lean on more and more these days.
If I can be selfish for a moment, it will also make rating and reviewing matches on Raw a lot easier. As I said, the sounds and atmosphere of the live crowds and the commentary are a huge part of the presentation, and you lose a lot when that is taken away. If you’re going to give star ratings to matches, it’s a lot easier to do so when you witness 100% of the match like you would on pay-per-view.
The Unique Option For Streaming Means That Raw Might Not Need A Third Hour Anymore: But it probably will. I don’t see that changing. The fact that it’s even being discussed makes it worthy of inclusion here in this column.
When a third hour was added to Raw in July 2012, it was done to increase ad revenue for the company and USA Network. It has been well reported that Netflix is heavily driven by different algorithms, so if they use that type of data, the numbers could come back that a third hour isn’t as necessary as it was on cable.
There’s also a possibility that Netflix could tell WWE that they’re free to do as they wish, provided that what they wish brings a certain amount of eyeballs to the service every week. In that scenario, the likelihood of Raw going back to two hours increases. In 2015, Triple H was on an episode of The Broken Skull Sessions with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and during the episode, Trips said that he would move Raw back to two hours if he could make one change. His reasoning was simply that a third hour of television makes it “exponentially harder” to write and create. Even when Raw is doing well, we see that a lot. It makes perfect sense. If Triple H is going to have a major position of power in WWE now… much more than he had in 2015… could he finally get what he wants? Again, I don’t see it happening, but can anything really be ruled out in the wacky world of wrestling anymore?
Nick Khan Might Be The Golden Child: In August 2020, it was reported that Nick Khan was joining WWE as the company’s new President and Chief Revenue Officer. It was not his first business relation with the company, though.
In his previous job as a high-profile talent agent and lawyer, he was responsible for negotiating WWE’s television rights deal with NBCUniversal, ultimately landing the company a deal that was worth over $1 billion dollars.
Since joining WWE, everything he has touched has become nothing but more money for the company. This is an organization that has seen some incredibly fruitful years and “eras” through time, but even with all that, they’ve never done better and been bigger than they are now. Even better for them? There’s no end in sight, and they only continue to grow and find new ways to be financially successful.
Khan has made nothing but the best moves since joining WWE, and with everything that continues to happen around him, he seems to gain more power with each passing year. This could be me being a prisoner of the moment, but I think that, when all is said and done, he’s going to end up being one of the most important executives in the history of pro wrestling, completely changing the game time and time again.
WWE Has The Opportunity To Have Fun With Another Big Deal To Close 2024: WWE’s current deal with NBCUniversal expires in October of this year. I’m not sure if you’re aware of how time works or not, but October 2024 falls before January 2025. It has been reported that NBCUniversal will not extend the deal for a few months, and that Raw will, indeed, be leaving when the deal expires in October.
So… if Raw is leaving USA Network in October and isn’t going to Netflix until January, this means that Nick Khan will get to flex his muscles yet again and negotiate another television rights deal. This one will, of course, be a much shorter one, but that’s where the potential fun comes in. Some other cable channel? A different streaming service? Peacock getting the rental? Because it’s only a short-term deal, the suitors won’t have to put up an astronomical amount of money to win the rights, and that could open the door for some different options that weren’t in the running for the bigger deals because they didn’t have $5 billion to spend.
It’s going to be fun to speculate until we finally find out where Raw is going. My guess? Live-streaming on MySpace.
Well, That Vince McMahon Documentary On Netflix Sure Got A Lot More Interesting: For the past few years, Bill Simmons and The Ringer have been producing a Vince McMahon documentary for Netflix.
Recently, we were given an update from Simmons himself that the doc would finally be released at some point early next year. We had been told two things about the documentary. One, that it wouldn’t just be a puff piece about Vince, but that it would also cover the accusations against him in 2022 that would lead him to temporarily step away from the company. Two, Vince himself didn’t have power to control the doc, or to prevent certain information from being included.
That alone made people excited about seeing the documentary.
Well… then we got an entirely new set of accusations against Vince McMahon. This time, more detailed and disgusting, and also including accusations against other WWE employees, past and present. Almost instantly, Vince would hand in his resignation from TKO Group Holdings. He continues to deny the allegations against him, but he said that he resigned “out of respect for the WWE Universe, TKO, shareholders, and business partners.”
As recently as a week or so ago, the documentary was still filming product and conducting on-screen interviews. With the new treasure trove of information that has come out, do we have to wait even longer for the documentary to be released? Will Simmons and The Ringer continue with their promise to discuss every little detail, even if it paints McMahon as a terrible human being? Is there a possibility that the people behind the doc will feel that there is too much dirt now, and pull the plug on the entire operation?
This was already one of the most eagerly anticipated wrestling documentaries ever made. While there are undoubtedly going to be plenty of people who have made the decision not to give their time, money, or effort to anything that even carries the name “Vince McMahon” on it anymore, I have to think the anticipation for this doc has grown exponentially now.
The floor is yours, folks. What are your thoughts on Monday Night Raw taking its talents to Netflix? Do you think this will be a great move, or will it end up being a mistake? What do you think it means for the future of AEW and the possibility of AEW’s programming, either live or archived, ending up on a streaming platform? As always, feel free to hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, let’s move on to my Weekly Power Rankings before closing things out with the playlist of songs I was listening to as I put this column together.
Weekly Power Rankings
FTR & Daniel Garcia vs The House Of Black: Let’s take a look at the checklist, shall we? Collision? Check. Some variation of a tag team match? Check. FTR being involved? Check. 20+ minutes to work with? Check. When you have all of those things featured, you know you’re getting something special, and this was no different. A super fun brawl that really helped to continue building Daniel Garcia as someone who can really be a major player for AEW in 2024.
Adam Copeland vs Minoru Suzuki: Imagine going back in time to late-2018 and telling someone that, in a little over five years time, we were going to be treated to a match between Adam Copeland and Minoru Suzuki. They would never believe you. First and foremost, Mr. Copeland was retired and would be risking complete paralysis if he ever took another bump, let alone took the type of beating that Suzuki was going to dish out. Secondly, why the hell would Suzuki ever sign a WWE contract? There’s no way that’ll ever happen. Then, you’d tell them it wouldn’t happen in WWE. That person would ask if WWE really allowed Edge to work with New Japan, and you’d tell them the match wouldn’t happen for New Japan, either. By this point, the person would probably be looking at you as if you had a third arm growing out of the middle of your forehead. Adam Copeland not only returned to the ring, but would eventually leave WWE and continue his career with a completely new company, and that company would have a working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, allowing New Japan wrestlers to regularly make excursions to America and wrestle, and one of those wrestlers was Minoru Fucking Suzuki… I watched the match in 2024 with my 2024 eyes, and my 2024 brain still can’t believe it as I type this paragraph out with my 2024 fingers.
Cody Rhodes & CM Punk Having A Promo Battle: Two of the best “talkers” in the business finally had their chance to discuss their paths back to WWE, as well as to the Royal Rumble, and of course, to WrestleMania. This was so good. It was personal, without crossing any sort of lines. It was intense, without going too far overboard. Both men were able to take their shots at each other, without it looking like any sort of heel turn was on the horizon for either of them. Just a really entertaining promo from both men that helped to build the excitement for the Royal Rumble. (Writer’s Note: Since putting this column together, it has been reported that Punk may have torn his triceps in the Rumble and is possibly off to have surgery soon. This would be the third major injury Punk has suffered in the last 20 months. If he does have surgery, he’ll be pushing 46 years old when he returns. Are we nearing the end of his storied career?)
Monday Night Raw To Netflix: $5 billion. That’s all that really needs to be said, especially since I just wrote an entire column on the subject.
“Hangman” Adam Page vs Penta El Zero Miedo: One of these years, Tony Khan will finally realize he should be pushing Penta as a top-tier singles competitor. Maybe. Hopefully.
Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles vs LA Knight vs Randy Orton: People are starting to have problems with one-on-one matches involving Roman Reigns because of the slow pace those matches feature. Throwing an extra two names in this match helped in that area, and that let all three challengers look strong, even in defeat.
Bryan Danielson vs Yuji Nagata: This was Nagata’s first match in the United States since April 2022. It was his first match on television in the United States since May 2021. At 55 years old, he can still “go” in the ring. Of course, it’s easy to look good when you’re working with someone like Bryan Danielson.
Trick Williams: Did you hear that crowd pop for Trick when he debuted on Smackdown by coming to the rescue of Carmelo Hayes? The “Whoop That Trick” chants were loud and plentiful. You could make the argument that it was because of a “pay-per-view weekend” crowd, specifically one that was 200-some miles away from where NXT holds their weekly television show. While I’m sure that had something to do with it, I think it was a great sign that he was that over with a main roster crowd, especially without any sort of introduction to said main roster crowd.
R-Truth: Nobody in the history of pro wrestling has made me laugh as often, and as much, as R-Truth. His comedic timing is perfection. Everything he touches turns to gold. I would like to see him actually receive a push out of all this great work he’s been putting in.
Women’s Royal Rumble: Upon a second viewing, I think I was a little too harsh on this match in my Rumble review column. It wasn’t a classic or anything, but the level of entertainment was higher than I gave credit for. There were some fun surprises, including big returns and debuts. You had someone like Chelsea Green, who played her role to perfection, and was incredibly entertaining in how she sold the ass whipping she was receiving. Jade Cargill was in the ring for a grand total of 11:03, and yet, she seemed to set up no less than four or five future big-time matches with different women while she was there. On top of that, Bayley was the correct choice to win, and it sets up multiple lanes of good storytelling over the next couple months, depending on what direction the company wants to go in. In my review, I think I focused too much on the sloppy in-ring moments during this match, instead of focusing more on the overall entertainment value.
Men’s Royal Rumble: Honestly, I was also a little too harsh on this one in my review column. After watching it a second time, I think I may have focused on an overall lack of “big” surprises. There was plenty of drama, with multiple entrants being major betting favorites to win. Like Chelsea Green in the women’s Rumble, R-Truth and Dominik Mysterio brought the comedy to the men’s Rumble. Truth running to the ring and waiting for the hot tag from Dominik Mysterio was amazing, but holy shit, when Dom actually broke free from a Gunther Sleeperhold and did the dramatic dive to actually tag Truth in, I let out a legitimately hearty laugh. We even got the “2007 Rumble” ending with Cody and Punk essentially having a fun singles match once they were the final two, with the “feel good” moment of Cody winning. It wasn’t an all-time great Rumble, but better than I initially gave it credit for.
Logan Paul vs Kevin Owens: I still hated the ending of this one, though. Hated it. H-a-t-e-d it. The match itself was fun, but that finish was the deflating balloon, flying all around the room and letting every bit of air out.
Jon Moxley vs Lee Moriarty: There wasn’t a chance in hell that Moriarty was going to come out of this one victorious, but that didn’t hurt the overall quality of the match itself. It seems as if I say that a lot about AEW matches, doesn’t it?
Kayden Carter & Katana Chance vs Asuka & Kairi Sane: I truly believe that Carter and Chance should’ve had a longer WWE Women’s Tag Team Title reign than they did. 39 days isn’t very long. However, I can say that this title change made a lot of sense with what Damage CTRL is doing. This was a lot of fun, with both teams looking great and their tag offense shining bright.
Chad Gable vs Ivar: Hey, remember how fun Chad Gable’s storyline with Gunther was? It doesn’t seem like WWE remembers. Gable is still putting on good performances during his matches, but he doesn’t appear to be in a better spot than he was before. Too much comedy in the act, and he wasn’t even involved in the Royal Rumble. Rough.
Orange Cassidy vs Komander: For the 1,936th time, Orange Cassidy delivered an entertaining title defense on AEW programming. I would be willing to bet some good money that we’ll see more and more and more of those entertaining defenses moving forward.
Cody Rhodes, Rhea Ripley & Bianca Belair: Congratulations to the newest cover stars in the WWE 2K video game franchise. Cody gets the Standard Edition cover, while Rhea and Bianca share the Deluxe Edition cover. It would be really, really difficult to make a case about them not deserving the honor.
WWE’s Improving Roster Strength: With all the roster cuts that WWE had over the last few years, the company’s overall roster strength and depth took a major hit. Since then, they have continued to add a bunch of new and returning names, and they have grown some very deep divisions. With the returning and debuting names in both Rumble matches, the roster is continuing to get stronger.
Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods: While I’m still a fan of both men, the New Day act has really grown stale to me. Big E not being around has done them no favors, but there just wasn’t much of anything for them to do after everything they’ve accomplished. In recent weeks, though, they’ve shown a lot more serious side to their characters during their feud with Imperium. Even if it’s a temporary change, it’s still something, and I appreciate it.
Vince McMahon Is Gone, Part Deux: For the first time since 1953, there are no blood members of the McMahon family working for WWE in any sort of executive capacity. Even with the allegations that Vince faced a couple years ago, he was still around, even if it was in the background. Now, he’s gone, and you have to assume it’s for good. There are already rumors that Stephanie McMahon could be on her way back, but for the time being… no McMahons.
San Francisco 49ers: A bonus entry! Congratulations to my San Francisco 49ers for winning the NFC Championship Game last night, booking their trip to the Super Bowl 58 on February 11th. They will be facing the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of Super Bowl 54, which was won by the Chiefs. The 49ers haven’t won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl 29, ironically taking place exactly 29 years ago to the day, as of when this column is posted. Here’s to hoping that streak comes to an end.
This Week’s Playlist: “Selfish” by Justin Timberlake… “Doomsday” by Juice WRLD & Cordae… “Doomsday Pt. 2” by Eminem… “Knife” by Bad Wolves… “Break” by Alkaline Trio… “Black Star” by Static-X… “No Hope” by Static-X… “Dark Place” by Static-X… “The Dead Don’t Speak” by Lucifer… “Stories To Forget” by Words Of Farewell… “In The Clutches Of The Abyss” by Stone Horns… “Memories Back Then” by T.I., B.o.B., Kendrick Lamar & Kris Stephens… “Are You That Somebody?” by Aaliyah & Timbaland… “One In A Million” by Aaliyah… “(At Your Best) You Are Love” by Aaliyah… “Before I Let Go” by Maze… “Dope Man” by NWA… “Unconditional Love” by Hi-Five… “What About Your Friends” by TLC… “Baby-Baby-Baby” by TLC… “Free Me” by 42 Dugg… “You’re Makin’ Me High” by Toni Braxton… “Sittin’ Up In My Room” by Brandy… “Don’t Walk Away” by Jade… “Joy” by Blackstreet