This whole WWE Monday Night Raw guest host idea (where they have a different guest be the “general manager” of Raw each week) seemed like “stunt casting” to me. Other than a little media attention, I couldn’t really see what the WWE was getting out of it. On top of that, the guests weren’t necessarily fans, but celebrities that just happen to have something to plug. Freddie Prinze, Jr? Seriously? What has he been in lately (other than Scooby Doo and Sarah Michelle Gellar)?

I wrote about it a little over a month ago (Raw Guest Hosts Not About Ratings?) but until I saw an article in Variety it wasn’t clear what they were trying to do. According to the Variety article, the WWE has basically inserted itself into the talk show circuit. If you’re a celebrity with something to promote, after you’ve been on Leno, Letterman, Conan, and Fallon, you head on over to Raw to get in a two hour plug.

My first reaction was that it seemed brilliant from a marketing and ratings standpoint. They may be reinventing or creating a new genre even.

From the article:

“We wanted a different way to get our product out there and talked about,” Stephanie McMahon, WWE’s executive VP of creative development and operations, told Daily Variety. “Tying us in with celebrities in Hollywood raises our awareness and gets a variety of people talking about us, which is always a positive place to be. Hopefully it will translate to new viewers.”

“They have something to promote, and we have the platform they need,” said Chris McCumber, USA Network’s executive VP for marketing and brand strategy.

Outside the ring, WWE is gaining considerable exposure, with ESPN having heavily covered [Shaq] O’Neal‘s appearance on “Raw.” Clips from the show were played when [Jeremy] Piven and [Seth] Green did interviews on yakkers like “Live With Regis and Kelly,” “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Wrestlers are also getting invited onto the shows as a result of the tie-in with Hollywood talent.

Given how successful the guest hosts have been, WWE plans to continue having them appear on “Raw” at least through the end of the year, and possibly up to WrestleMania 26 next March.

But after thinking about it a little more, it seems like only a short-term strategy.

Sounds like Raw ratings are up, but the problem is the product they are putting on is crap, mostly due to how they’ve been tailoring the program to the guest.

They are getting more people tuning in than they normally would (ratings up 10% at the time of the article), and some of those people would not normally watch wrestling, but they are tuning in to watch a turd sandwich.

“Hey, thanks for tuning in. This programming will be worse than what we would show on a “normal” week, but we hope you still like it and will continue to tune in after we abandon this ratings stunt.”

Raw is supposed to be their flagship show, but their ECW and Smackdown programs have better content. What’s their strategy for keeping an audience after the guest host thing ends? They run the risk of losing nearly all of the new viewers and some of their old fan base.