On July 5, 2021, Monday Night Raw saw its lowest number of viewers since its first episode on 1/11/1993. This drop-in viewership has left many fans questioning whether wrestling is losing popularity.
Is Wrestling Losing Popularity?
Overall, wrestling is losing popularity, due to questionable booking practices and lagging storylines. There have been many other issues with the WWE product causing fans to change the channel and leaving them to wonder if it will get better.
This decline in popularity has been noted by the fans, WWE leaders, and the media. Let’s go into more details about this loss in popularity and where wrestling goes from here.
Why Is Wrestling Losing Popularity?
Wrestling is losing popularity because of questionable booking practices, unused talent, and the lack of captivating storylines. WWE has alienated much of its previously loyal fanbase, and the media has noticed.
WWE Lacks Pushed Talent and Intense Storylines
In the words of wrestling legend Gerald Brisco regarding WWE losing fans, “We had heat, and they’ve got interest now.”
If you’re a hardcore wrestling fan, then you know exactly what Briscoe is talking about. If not, let me break it down for you.
“Heat” in the context of wrestling is often a strong, negative reaction given to wrestlers from the fans, but the quote used is a more broad term to mean a strong crowd reaction. Gerry may have a valid point in this quote, as WWE hasn’t been known for its popular storylines for a while now.
When you watch Raw and Smackdown each week, you’ll see many of the same wrestlers in a lot of the same matches. Many of these matches are so randomly chosen that it leaves fans baffled as to why these two wrestlers are even facing each other.
Big-name wrestlers like Asuka and Charlotte facing off should be something Pay-Per-View worthy. Instead, fans have seen that match multiple times for free on cable television. Things like this leave fans scratching their heads and wondering where that special main-event feeling got lost in the WWE.
Meanwhile, there are multiple men and women just sitting in the locker room waiting for their chance. Wrestlers like Aleister Black, the IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce), and Buddy Murphy are just a few examples of talented wrestlers who sat in the back waiting for their turn.
However, Raw and Smackdown gave fans the same talent they saw the week before without progressing storylines.
Questionable Booking Has Alienated Loyal Fans
WWE left Aleister Black sitting in the locker room for a long time despite Black having proven himself in NXT.
Finally, they decided to move forward with him and gave him weekly video packages leading up to his in-ring premier. He premiered on Smackdown attacking Big E and setting up a decent start to an angle.
As fans breathed a sigh of relief at something new and someone different, WWE decided to pull the plug on Black, as he was let go in a round of budget cuts soon after his re-debut. So, the angle was never finished, and Big E was forced to move on to a new opponent.
This example is just one of the many odd and inconsistent booking choices made by WWE officials.
When Did Wrestling Begin to Lose Popularity?
Wrestling began losing popularity when Vince McMahon bought out all of his competitors. With the fall of WCW and ECW, McMahon no longer felt the pressure of keeping fans because his product was the only product.
The resulting complacency and lack of creativity have led to the loss of popularity with wrestling.
If you ask most hardcore wrestling fans when wrestling started to lose popularity, most would probably say something regarding buying out the competition or the PG era. Both are valid reasons, but they may be tied together.
In 2001, Vince McMahon bought WCW and ECW fell apart months later, which was the year that WWE’s competition was eliminated. There were no more Monday Night Wars or surprise appearances on rival shows to be found after that purchase, and for McMahon, that created a level of complacency.
Since he no longer had any real competition, Vince could essentially do whatever he wanted without worrying about viewers going to a different wrestling show.
He had the wrestling world basically in the palm of his hand.
Next, the PG era was where a lot of fans left their love of wrestling behind. The PG era saw the massive push of John Cena and the newly kid-friendly promos and matches. Compared to the Attitude era, WWE lost swearing, blood, sexual innuendos, and other hardcore aspects that fans came to love.
Vince was no longer trying to keep his fan base. He wanted to reach kids with his product this time around.
It worked for a long time, and there was barely a child to be seen that didn’t have a neon green or bright orange Cena shirt. Kids brought their parents’ money with them, so, the loss of some hardcore fans didn’t affect Vince’s wallet.
He had his superhero in Cena.
Many fans complained and stopped watching WWE altogether, but Vince knew that Cena would draw in new fans. This was the first era that Vince seemed to turn his back on hardcore fans in favor of casual fans, which continues even now.
Will WWE Become More Popular in the Future?
There is no simple answer to this, but it is possible that WWE could become more popular in the future. A lot has to change before WWE reaches the popularity it had so many years ago.
For many fans, the future of WWE now looks bleak, and it’s hard to see a way out of the boring storylines and overused talent. However, it is possible for WWE to make a strong comeback if one of the following scenarios happens.
Vince Could Sell the Company
If Vince finally decided to hand over the reins to someone else, there is a good chance that WWE could bounce back. A popular theory says that Vince is holding back the company by running it like a dictatorship where every decision either comes from him or is rejected.
If this is the truth, then selling the company could change that style of management.
Something Could Cause Vince to Feel Threatened
With the rise of All Elite Wrestling, many fans have jumped ship and found a wrestling show that they enjoy.
If AEW continues to succeed, then that may cause Vince to feel the pressure of true competition like he did during the Monday Night Wars. This level of threat may force him to be more creative with storylines and show off more of his talent that is currently sitting in the back.
Money Flow Stops
With Raw viewership hitting an all-time low, many fans wonder how much money the company is making right now. The return of crowds will certainly help get the bills paid, but if fewer fans show up to events, then money will be affected.
If Vince is watching his money, considering his age, he may feel the need to change the direction of storylines if the money stops flowing.
The difficult truth is that wrestling is losing popularity. Over the years, many fans have parted ways with their passion for many different reasons, but one thing we can all agree on is that we all hope it gets better.
Wrestling has been a part of many of our lives for so long. Let’s hope it gets back to the popular show we once loved.
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- Inside The Ropes: Gerald Brisco Reveals Why He Thinks WWE Is Losing Fans.
- 411 Mania: WWE Rating Steady, Viewership Hits All-Time Low
- Wikipedia: WWE Raw
- Wrestling Inc: WWE Sinking In Popularity Called Out By Top Media Outlet
- Wikipedia: Heat (Professional Wrestling)
- Cinema Blend: 28 WWE Superstars and Other On-Air Talent That Left The Company in 2021