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Quick, going backwards, name the last ten WWE Champions, and the manner in which they won the title!
Well, let’s see here, Del Rio won last night in Hell in a Cell, Cena was the champ going in, he won it two weeks before from Del Rio, who won it at Summerslam from Punk, who had just got done unifying his actual belt with Cena’s interim title; Cena had beaten Mysterio in July for that belt, after Mysterio had won a tournament, who did he beat…..right, he beat Miz, almost forgot. They had a tournament because Punk had beaten Cena at Money in the Bank and then deserted the company. Uhhh, before that, Cena I think he…..yes, he beat Miz, but when…..oh, right, Cena won at Extreme Rules because he made that Bin Laden death announcement afterward. What are we up to, seven? Geez, that’s just the last five months! Miz had it for a while…..uh….around Survivor Series I think he cashed in on Orton, and Orton won it from…..damn it, who DID Orton beat? 2010’s kind of a blur. SHEAMUS! He beat Sheamus in that six way. Of course, I can’t tell you any other matches from that show, but oh well. Sheamus beat….did he beat Cena?
Yeah, at something called “Fatal Four Way”. In June of last year. I probably would have remembered it if Sheamus was given a Mark Henry-like dominant reign, but what can you do?
Hang on, I need some Tylenol. Or, as Martin Landau enjoyed in Ed Wood, a shot of morphine with a Demerol chaser.
There, I feel better. As my blood pressure alleviates, let’s examine the hubris of WWE, who apparently justified Cena’s defeat of Del Rio at Night of Champions by using “lagging ratings” as an excuse to change the belt.
Since June 20, 2010 (the night Sheamus won the WWE Title for the second time, kicking off this ten reign run over less than sixteen months), Raw has aired around seventy episodes. Only six of those shows have had a rating better than 3.5. Of those six, five of them were as part of the build to WrestleMania 27, which featured a man that had been champion for over four months going into the show (The Miz)
So right now, it looks like WWE’s argument that “title changes mean ratings” is, well, kinda faulty.
Let’s further examine that point by looking at the ten title changes and comparing the ratings from the show before the change, to the show afterward, just to see how that logic holds up.
(WARNING: Justin’s about to get all ‘numbery’ on you!) 1. Sheamus (Won 6/20/10 at Fatal Four Way) Raw 6/14: 3.4 Raw 6/21: 3.52 Analysis: Of course, the main event also saw The Nexus (still fresh in their takeover role) screw Cena over, so the rating bump (slight as it was) may be due to fans wanting to see the story continue. In either case, Sheamus and his title win were made secondary to the story.
2. Randy Orton (Won 9/19/10 at Night of Champions) Raw 9/13: 3.02 Raw 9/20: 2.8 Analysis: No wonder so many fans bitched when Orton shafted Christian in May.
3. The Miz (Won 11/22/10 on Monday Night Raw, final match) Raw 11/22: 3.3 Raw 11/29: 3.1 Analysis: Raw was three hours on 11/29 for the King of the Ring tournament, and three hour shows tend to drop off due to fans forgetting about hour one. But still….
4. John Cena (Won 5/1/11 at Extreme Rules) Raw 4/25: 3.47 Raw 5/2: 3.45 Analysis: I don’t even know how to explain this, since John Cena is everything golden about WWE, according to the press releases.
5. CM Punk (Won 7/17/11 at Money in the Bank) Raw 7/11: 2.9 Raw 7/18: 3.23 Analysis: Maybe there’s something to that “Summer of Punk” mantra after all.
6 and 7. Rey Mysterio and John Cena (Both won interim title 7/25/11 on Monday Night Raw) Raw 7/25: 3.21 Raw 8/1: 3.31 Analysis: There was also CM Punk returning just after Cena got the interim title, and the logical build to Summerslam, so a slight bump is expected. But given that changing the title is “big ratings”, I’d expect more than a .1 increase.
8. Alberto Del Rio (Won 8/14/11 at Summerslam) Raw 8/8: 3.08 Raw 8/15: 3.27 Analysis: Quite a jump, but it’s not likely for Alberto. The shocking ending of Summerslam, complete with Kevin Nash’s interference and the associated screwjob, made for episodic television. Del Rio was merely in the opening match of Summerslam before his shocking cash-in. But hey, I’ll give them credit here.
9. John Cena (Won 9/18/11 at Night of Champions) Raw 9/12: 2.72 Raw 9/19: 3.01 Analysis: I’ll give WWE the victory here, but if they think the 2.72 is on Alberto’s head (and not, say, the cooling off of CM Punk’s definitive summer/push, and same ol, same ol Cena in the main event), think again).
10. Alberto Del Rio (Won 10/2/11 at Hell in a Cell) Raw 9/26: 2.93 Raw 10/3: TBD Analysis: So Raw cleared a 3.0 again, and WWE can give Cena credit, but the rating sank again the following week?
Coming off of that last point, title changes are like “whippits”: they’re a cheap high for a desperate person. And if Vince McMahon or Kevin Dunn or Triple H or whoever are so desperate to try and have Raw hit the 3.5-4.0 plateau again, then this past year indicates that a new champion, without a good storyline build, means nothing and WILL NOT get you there. In fact, in many of those cases, the ratings simply sank again after the “cheap high” for one week.
In three cases, the rating dropped with a new champion. In only two cases did the rating increase .29 or more.
Is any of this worth it?
The fans should believe that the champion is going to be hard to unseat (as a babyface) or will get his comeuppance (as a heel). If the title changes constantly, who do the fans buy into? Why even HAVE a championship if it doesn’t mean anything? And if Del Rio loses at Vengeance back to Cena, will it mean a damn thing?
Last night, Cody Rhodes revealed that he will carry the old style of Intercontinental Title, and the fans in New Orleans roared their approval. He mentioned past champions like Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, and Steve Austin, all to increasingly louder cheers, because fans remember them in the champion role, and they (by seeing Cody hold the IC Title aloft) remember when titles meant something. If WWE wants its near-fifty-year-old WWE Championship to mean something, they better start treating it as such.
The ratings can be a demanding pimp. Just don’t make the WWE Championship its cheap whore.
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