Week in Wrestling #13
Wrestling News From the week of
October 17 - October 23, 2015
WWE Ratings Problems Continue
WWE loaded up on Raw on 10/19, bringing back Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, and drew the company's lowest non-holiday rating for the show since February 17, 1997, with 2.20 rating and 3.35 million viewers.
The actual audience was up 80,000 viewers from the prior week due to a strong 1.59 viewers per home, the highest total of the year. Total viewers were in the same range as the show has been doing against football all season, and even though the competition was tough with baseball playoffs, the NFL and the debut of the "Star Wars" trailer. But this was a show WWE had been peaking for, including Austin, the biggest arena and merchandise draw in company history, appearing on Raw for the first time in four years.
The Austin return was largely a waste, in the sense WWE didn't advertise him as being on Raw anywhere except in Dallas until a little more than three hours before the show started. It's been constantly proven how breaking news on Twitter is a constant disappointment when it comes to sparking ratings, but that's a lesson that seems to go unlearned, with this being the latest example. Still, the other four were pushed all week on television, and the company had made the announcement of all the names several weeks ago. In addition, the company had heavily promoted Austin doing a podcast with Lesnar after Raw.
WWE front loaded the show, putting Austin, Undertaker, Lesnar and John Cena all in the first 30 minutes, before the football game started. The second hour opened with Michaels, and third hour with Flair. The television main event was a Shield reunion, facing a new version of the Wyatt family of Bray Wyatt & Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan (who replaced Luke Harper who had to miss television this week due to a non-wrestling related real life issue). While The Shield reunion really amounted to nothing, the idea that they did it on less than an hour build, it ended up like Sting's lone Raw match, main eventing a similarly lowest rated at the time Raw in modern history.
It used to be when things were bad, that WWE had the ability to make a phone call to Flair or Undertaker, and it was almost a lock that they would bring the ratings up. Now, with both on the show, and Austin, while the show obviously would have done worse without them, it made far less of a difference than any of them, let alone all of them, would have made in the past. And it probably won't get better because none were used in any kind of a memorable way.
Flair and Austin were clearly throw aways where there was no creative ideas for them. Michaels at least had a purpose, and Undertaker did a promo for his main event, but it was a disappointing go-home segment for the final Lesnar vs. Undertaker match. They also wasted the value of a heavily promoted Austin return's potential on the largely unadvertised segment.
Lesnar vs Taker this Sunday
Lesnar and Undertaker are not expected back this year after Sunday. Lesnar vs. Undertaker at Hell in a Cell and Raw this week were added dates where Lesnar was being paid extra. The belief was one of two things, either Vince McMahon had an amazing ace up his sleeve for Lesnar at WrestleMania so he felt he needed to finish up the Lesnar-Undertaker story, or whether it be ratings of the network number, he felt he needed that match this month. The network number would be weird because while WWE will be announcing the new number on 10/29, and the stock price is likely to fluctuate based on that number, the number announced will be as of 9/30.
The number the day of Hell in a Cell is somewhat irrelevant to stock price because the next number, which will come out in early February, will be the New Year's Eve number. So if Undertaker vs. Lesnar leads to a temporary rise, if people were buying just for that blow-off, those here today and gone tomorrow viewers, if they even exist, would be gone tomorrow.
Lesnar is expected to beat Undertaker to end the program, or lose due to a situation caused by whomever will be Lesnar's next major opponent. The one opponent that it was felt would mean more for Lesnar than anyone, Austin, has denied vehemently any shot of wrestling at next year's show. Many didn't believe him, citing the announcement of Lesnar on his podcast, and that it was taking place in Dallas, the city Mania emanates from. But there was nothing even teasing the slightest thing regarding a match. While some still cling to the notion there has to be a match because Vince McMahon wouldn't blow off Lesnar vs. Undertaker at a minor show unless he had something bigger, there isn't even a hint left that that's the case.
WWE losing stars for a few months
Of the top three babyfaces, Cena, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton, WWE could be without two of them for the next two months. Cena's final show will be at Hell in a Cell on Sunday, where he will defend his U.S. title against a mystery opponent. He is currently scheduled to return on 12/26, where he is advertised (meaning this will change many times over) for a series of holiday matches against Sheamus.
Orton, who has a history of shoulder problems dating back to early in his career, had been working of late on a bad shoulder, but not so bad that he couldn't wrestle. But in taking out the garbage to the curb this past week, the shoulder dislocated and he was in tremendous pain. It took three hours to pop it back into place. He was to have an MRI done to find out the extent of the damage, and if he may need surgery, so his prognosis is not determined.
Orton, Reigns, Ambrose and Kane were scheduled as the top babyfaces while Cena was out. At this point, either Dolph Ziggler or Ryback look to be the next people on the depth charts, and both have been heavily compromised as far as being headliners.
Hell in the Cell Preview
Hell in a Cell, on 10/25 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles is sold out with 14,240 as the total attendance, which is a good sign when the company hasn't been able to sell out Raws even when running some of its best markets.
Orton & Ambrose vs. Strowman & Harper match was pulled from the show and will be replaced on the pre-show at 7:30 p.m. with a King Barrett & Sheamus & Rusev vs. Neville & Dolph Ziggler & Cesaro match.
Besides Lesnar vs. Undertaker and Reigns vs. Wyatt in Hell in a Cell matches, the remainder of the PPV has Seth Rollins vs. Demon Kane, with Rollins putting up the WWE title, and if Kane fails to win the title, he loses his job as Director of Operations, Cena against a mystery opponent for the U.S. title, New Day vs. Dudleys for the tag team title, Kevin Owens vs. Ryback for the IC title and Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella for the Divas title.
Jerry Lawler did an interview at Comic Con and said there's a good possibility of Smackdown going live in January when it goes to USA. There has at least been talk of starting out with a live special, and there has also been talk of moving the show to Tuesday and going live. It would increase costs somewhat. Live on Thursday wouldn't make as much sense as that would be a huge cost increase, plus be somewhat worse for talent. The office would have to fly out to a new city twice a week instead of once.
So that's why if it does go live, Tuesday would seem to work best. You can look at the live vs. taped numbers for Raw the few times a year it is taped, and the occasional live Smackdown specials, not to mention the few live TNA shows and the ratings never show a difference. We haven't heard that's a sure thing, but do know WWE was looking at major changes come January, including some being worked on and not finalized.
Breaking Ground Premiere
WWE signed William Shatner to narrate "Breaking Ground," its 10-episode documentary that will be airing right after Raw on Monday nights starting 10/26 on the WWE Network. The show is patterned after "Hard Knocks," the very popular reality series on HBO about the NFL. They are offering the first episode for free on both their Facebook and YouTube pages, which makes a lot of sense to do, using the episode to try and push people to subscribe to the network for the remaining episodes.
The show will focus on the training and the background of talent in NXT trying to get to NXT television, and those on NXT, trying to get to the main roster. WWE and Kevin Dunn are producing the show along with 3 Ball Entertainment, which is the company that does Bar Rescue, Catch a Contractor and Sweat Inc. on Spike TV and Extreme Weight Loss on ABC.
Get your Selfie Sticks
Tyler Breeze is now on the main roster. There is at least talk of marketing Breeze "Selfie Sticks," which is why he's probably going to get a better push than one would have expected, since he's starting out with a feud with Ziggler and being managed by Summer Rae. They can call the team Summer Breeze, and come out to that song and have the best entrance music in the company, except they'll never pay the rights fees. Breeze can still use his Adrian Street copy entrance music.
Ciampa Close to Signing?
Tommaso Ciampa must be somewhere close to something. In the NXT Battle Royal for the No. 1 contender for Finn Balor's title, he was in pretty long, longer than most of the contracted talent. On the 10/18 Progress Wrestling show in London, after Ciampa lost to Mark Haskins, promoter Jim Smallman said that he had a conversation with a friend from Blackpool (which everyone took to mean William Regal) and that Ciampa's last show with Progress Wrestling would be on 11/29, where he'll face Marty Scurll. Ciampa then thanked fans for their support and said he would see them on TV soon.
Ciampa has told people that he hasn't signed with WWE and that this was just a teaser to build up the next show. Whether this relates to him or not, there is a lengthy process between an offer being made and a contract being offered, in the sense they go through all the medicals and background checks. Reports from several at the show all indicated they believed they had seen an announcement that he's going to WWE. The Tough Enough guys already went through that to get on the show, which is why them being signed was a shorter process than say, someone like Kevin Steen or Fergal Devitt, where it was a number of months between first hearing that they were going and their signing.
The reason Rowan was brought back to TV for the six-man tag is because they had booked The Shield vs. Wyatts as the TV main event and Harper had a family issue come up that wouldn't allow him to be at TV this week. He's not injured and despite what has been reported that there was a creative decision for Rowan to replace him on the show, that was not the case. Rowan had been back training for a return. It seemed a little quick for Rowan to be back after a torn biceps in June and that's usually a six-month recovery period after surgery, but he was back in four.
The 11/15 Genichiro Tenryu retirement show at Sumo Hall, where he faces Kazuchika Okada in a non-title match, is sold out. Even though he hasn't been in a major promotion in a strong way in years, Tenryu is one of the all-time legends of Japanese wrestling and even long past his heyday, his retirement show figured to be a major deal.
More on Alberto likely not being back for a second season of Lucha Underground, which is more than likely as one person close to the situation said, "Alberto is out as of right now," blaming money and creative for the downfall in the relationship. Alberto has told people in wrestling that he won't be taking any bookings after the end of November anywhere, because he wants to spend December with his family, although those close to him say right now it's all speculative as to whether he'll be back or not.
He has said to at least some people he's interested in being back with WWE for WrestleMania, and obviously that explains WWE starting to talk openly about booking plans involving him. He apparently has said he would rather have an advertised return than a surprise return. If that's the case, it'll be a huge blow to AAA coming so quickly after losing Myzteziz.