When it was reported that this past week's RAW had the lowest ratings in 15 years, it really got me thinking about how low WWE is going to let things sink before they make a big move to turn things around. It almost seemed like the angle they ran that took AJ Lee out of the GM position was setting up a change, but Vickie Guerrero replacing her for the time being was just more of the same old same. But in reality even a big GM shake up isn't the one solution that can fix the much bigger problem.
Why do you think Ryback has such a buzz lately? If you notice, he's really the only guy who comes out with pure intensity; no smiling, no slapping hands, no corny jokes, just ass kicking. When the WWE got red hot in the late 90's, it seems WWE was full of these type of characters. In their own unique way, guys like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and even Vince McMahon were just a FEW characters that brought attitude in that era that was pretty much all serious, all edge, and all business. Now that WWE is keeping things family friendly again and it has taken the edge off almost every guy in the company.
Sheamus is the worst current example in my eyes. Here's a guy who made an impact as a heel and because of his ass kicking "I love fighting" character, and fans got behind him and he got over as a face as well. But as is the case with most every face turn in the past few years, Sheamus is no longer an ass kicker, but a smiling, joking, all around nice guy. I think this effect is what turns fans (especially young male fans) away and prevent them from connecting with characters. Ryback is the only true ass kicking character we've seen in years and we've seen the buzz he has created. If Ryback had similar characters to work with, even more buzz would surround 2 bad asses getting in the ring and seeing what happens.
THEN there's John Cena. What else can be said. Is there any match involving John Cena against a current star that interests you? Aside from a match with Ryback or an Undertaker Wrestlemania match, Cena has feuded with and been in multiple angles with every other top guy in WWE. WWE refuses to turn him heel due to his merchandise sales, so basically we have a Hulk Hogan in the 90's situation where everyone has had their fill of the top good guy, except Hogan turned heel and set the business on fire again. Until WWE sees that a huge move is needed, Cena's character will remain stale and only see interest in him jump when someone like Brock Lesnar or The Rock are paired with him.
CM Punk is the one guy that has the attitude in him and if wasn't for the PG environment, could really shine by not being held back. Punk's comments last summer about needing change seemed to be an outcry from Punk himself to bring things back to the Attitude days, but no real change was made. Now Punk is the champion with Paul Heyman by his side, but other than Ryback, there is no one truly interesting to challenge Punk until The Rock returns.
Overall, I believe RAW's ratings are in the toilet due to boredom. There aren't enough characters we care about. Sheamus vs. CM Punk being pushed as a huge champion vs. champion match has been done many times and it feels meaningless now. Monday's "biggest lumberjack match ever" saw the crowd falling asleep until Ryback made his appearance. If WWE wants to bring things back up, major shake ups are needed. Vince McMahon returning to TV gave a temporary spike because Vince brought that edge back, that "let's just fight" mentality. It's the same no-nonsense approach that gave MMA such a boost in interest the past few years. Give us more guys with edge who just want to fight and kick ass and give us less smiling nice guys, then watch the interest return. Seeing the same played out guys in matches 2 or more times a week in some cases is just plain overkill.
The real question is, can WWE change? WWE's anti-bullying and other do-gooder campaigns are making their entire roster just a bunch of nice guys and girls, and that just won't work since this is the WRESTLING business after all. With their focus on being a family friendly public company, can they do what is necessary to bring back interest? I think that will all depend on how low they sink; we all know that if Vince McMahon sees failure on the horizon, SOMEthing will get done.