Recently, on the premiere episode of Vince Russo's new podcast right here on Wrestling Inc., Nuclear Heat, Russo talked about the declining Monday Night RAW ratings, among other topics. According to Russo, WWE ratings have been declining steadily over the last 15 years because the WWE creative department is stagnant. Russo suggested that Vince McMahon putting pressure on the WWE writing team to churn out better content is an empty gesture when all they want to do is write things that appeal to McMahon himself. Writing a variety show to entertain a 70 year old rich man is bound to alienate many people within the WWE fanbase.
"All the writing team is trying to do is please Vince McMahon, so they can keep their jobs." Russo continued, "the WWE audience does not consist of 70 year old rich males! That's not the audience! So if you have 25 writers writing for that demographic, to make Vince happy, to get a chuckle out of Vince, to make sure that their jobs are secure, the rest of the audience are going bye bye. And that's exactly what happened. "
Russo said that the creative department at WWE has been going through the motions and he suggested that complacency has become an acceptable standard within the company.
"I worked with Vince McMahon. I worked with Triple H. I worked with Stephanie McMahon. These are not ignorant people by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, these are very smart, very educated people in the wrestling business, so all that's left is arrogance," Russo added, "you can't tell a viewing audience in 2015, with hundreds of choices on a Monday night that 'you're going to watch this and you're going to like it' because if they don't like it, they're going to tune out and they're going to watch something else and that is exactly what [has] been going on week, after week, after week, after week."
Russo stated that the wrestling matches on WWE Monday Night RAW are too long and too numerous to appeal to casual fans.
"All of a sudden sports entertainment has turned into pro wrestling and this didn't happen overnight." Russo purported, "if you are not a wrestling fan, you are not going to sit there and watch a three hour show of which two and a half hours is wrestling! You're looking for the storylines, the backstage promos, what's happening out of the building, the character development, that's what you are looking for if you are a casual fan."
Also, Russo claimed that no performers and no characters on WWE Monday Night RAW are really getting over with the fans.
"Somehow, someway, the WWE has convinced themselves that if you put two wrestlers out there in that ring, and the wrestlers have a good match, then the wrestlers are going to get over. Somehow they've convinced themselves of that. Was Hulk Hogan a good wrestler by any stretch of the imagination? Wrestling alone is not going to get anybody over! I don't care who you are!"
Russo argued that the popular refrain the likes of Triple H will espouse, that 'it's a different time', to justify the plummeting ratings, is invalid because so many other television shows still put up great numbers.
"I think what Triple H is saying [by saying, 'it's a different time'] is that there are other ways for fans to watch the WWE as opposed to on television; they can DVR it; they can watch it on their computer; they can watch it on their iPad, their desktop, their laptop, whatever. I think that's what Triple H is referring to, but if that's the point, then why is any show drawing [good] ratings, Triple H? Why did Breaking Bad draw [strong] ratings? Why is the Walking Dead drawing [strong] ratings? Television shows are still drawing impressive ratings doing things the old school way, so the theory of, 'it's a different time', you can take that and put that where the sun don't shine because that doesn't cut the mustard."
In Russo's estimation, a 1.9 rating is the danger zone where USA Network will start to ask questions.
"We are down to a 2.3 [rating]. We are very, very, very close to the danger zone. My recommendation, Vince McMahon, go back to what brought you to the dance!"
Russo exclaimed, "it was Vince McMahon himself who told me, face to face, 'Vince, if it's good, they will watch it.' That is a quote direct from the genius himself, the mastermind, Vince McMahon, as he said it to me some time around 1999. The problem is they are not watching because it isn't good!"
Russo said that McMahon should watch programming from the Attitude Era to remind himself about how to develop characters, tell stories, and get the audience emotionally invested.
"During the Attitude Era, we worked toward the numbers, we worked with the numbers. It wasn't our opinions. Our opinions didn't matter. Vince's opinion doesn't matter. Stephanie's, Triple H's opinion, nobody's opinion matters. All that matters are the hard facts that you have and those are the ratings."
In addition to discussing WWE Monday Night RAW's continuing slide in ratings, Russo talked about Seth Rollins not being over with the fans, Dixie Carter's "big announcement", and many other topics. You can check out the premiere episode of the show on our audio channel below. You can also download the episode directly by clicking here. If you want to subscribe to the Wrestling Inc. audio channel, you can do so through iTunes as well as our RSS feed, which you can use to subscribe through any podcast app.