WWE Drops The Ball With Hogan/Taker Returns

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The numbers are in for Monday’s edition of WWE RAW. For a show that was coming off the final pay-per-view before this year’s WrestleMania show, and one that also featured several major returns, such as Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Ric Flair and Brock Lesnar, one would have to consider the rating a slight disappointment. Monday’s RAW delivered a 3.31 final cable rating, with 4.65 million viewers. By comparison, the January 20th edition of RAW, which featured the return of Batista, scored a final cable rating of 3.46, with 4.86 million viewers. One simple lesson can be learned when comparing these two numbers — television promotion is still the best way to increase viewership.

It seems obvious enough, right? Apparently not. While WWE never intended for the news of Hogan’s television return to come out as a major news story when it did, according to reports, they did plan to make an announcement on the day of the show. What was never in the plans was for the company to hype his return for a week or two on their own television program. To me, that is absolutely insane.

The whole reason WWE stacked the deck for this past Monday’s RAW was to attract as many eyeballs to the show as possible, with the mindset that the more people watching RAW, the more people we have to advertise our new WWE Network to. With that being the case, wouldn’t the success of the Batista return edition of RAW teach them that a several week build on television to a big return results in higher ratings? And if so, knowing they have Lesnar, Flair, and more specifically Hogan and Undertaker, two of the biggest names in history, both of which haven’t been seen on WWE television for a long time, scheduled for the show, why wouldn’t they make that a big deal?

If Batista by himself can deliver a boost in viewership at the level he did, can you imagine how well Monday’s RAW would have drawn if the company wisely promoted the fact that they have all of these big names coming back all on the same show?

That’s part one of my beef with Monday’s RAW. Now, let’s get into part two.

Okay, so they screwed up in delivering a big number and basically wasted their only chance to squeeze a ratings draw out of some major returns. What’s done is done and nothing can change that fact. How about the fact that you only get one chance to make a first impression? In this case, they batted 50/50 (in my opinion).

I’m not exactly sure what I expected to get out of a Hulk Hogan return on RAW. I knew that he couldn’t get involved physically, I knew the major focus would be his “coming home” and the announcement that he was going to be the host of WrestleMania. Even still, I feel like WWE dropped the ball with the return of Hogan. I’m no fantasy booker, but maybe throw a top-tier mid-card guy out there and have him mix it up with Hogan to get whatever rub out of that situation that’s possible. Of course the issue there is you can’t really pay it off, because Hogan will not be having any matches. Regardless, there are creative ways around that.

The return of Ric Flair was basically worthless. He sat at a desk and put over Daniel Bryan, the same guy he buried at the WWE 2K14 symposium during his infamous drunken outburst last year. However, that’s neither here nor there. Once again, if you’re going to have a guy like Flair booked on the show in the first place, what’s the point if you’re not going to use his status and appeal to advance a character and/or story line? I guess I’m nit-picking with this one, but in my humble opinion, anytime you have Ric Flair scheduled for a television show, if you don’t put him in the ring and put a live microphone in his hand, you’re not getting the most out of him, which is what your goal should be. Otherwise, what’s the point of having him there? You didn’t promote his return, you did nothing with him, you might as well of not had him on the show altogether. Again, maybe that’s just me nit-picking. Who knows.

With The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar returns, I think they did a good job with that situation. Not a great job, but a pretty good job. Forget the fact that they didn’t promote the fact that Undertaker was going to be on the show when the goal in bringing he and Hogan back was to attract a big rating, because we covered that already. Looking at the creative side of things, I’m of the opinion that the beginning of the WrestleMania build to Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar was pretty good. At first, when you had Paul Heyman and Lesnar out there complaining about not getting a title shot, but instead getting an open contract, going as far as to call it a “consolation prize,” my initial thought was, “wow they sure are making this match with Undertaker seem important!” However, I forgot that we weren’t supposed to know a match with Undertaker was an option yet (even though we did). I guess the “consolation prize” was referring to Lesnar picking some random jabroni on the roster to slaughter in April in New Orleans. Then they spoke about making history, the gong hit, and they did a great job with their facial expressions in telling the story that “oh shit, we completely forgot about this guy!”

By the way, was I the only one shocked that they had Undertaker stab Lesnar through the hand with a pen? Seems a bit graphic for a PG product. Anyone I’ve brought up that point to seems to disregard it and say I’m not overly critical. To be honest, I know I am, all I mean when I say that is the “PG censor” went off in my head and I briefly thought, “damn that’s pretty violent for a kid’s show.” I didn’t have a problem with it at all, and actually found it pretty cool. It had me thinking back to The Godfather movie where Luca Brasi was stabbed in the hand.

One final point that I find comical. WWE is promoting next Monday’s RAW with the lure being “Brock Lesnar gives The Undertaker an answer.” Something like that. Didn’t he sign the contract on RAW before The Undertaker attacked him? Shouldn’t we, if we’re looking at things through story line logic, be waiting to see if The Undertaker officially agrees to a match with Lesnar, or if he just kicked his ass and left him laying? Okay, so I’m nit-picking like crazy this week. Sue me!

What did you guys think of Monday’s RAW? Do you feel WWE did a good job with the booking of the returns of Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar and Ric Flair? Leave your feedback in the “Comments” section below. You can also check me out on Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBooneWZR.

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