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Dr. Darin Davis

Minnesota independent pro wrestler discusses past experiences and the current state of pro wrestling

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Tag: Monday Night Raw

WrestleZone is crediting PWInsider with reporting that the WWE Monday Night Raw guest host concept may be finished after about a year and a half of pulling in celebrities to boost exposure to the programming. I couldn’t find the original story, but I found a similar one on the Bleacher Report.

I don’t know if either story is based on some “insider” comments, or just their observation that the guest host section has been pulled from the WWE web site.

When Raw first started using this format, I wasn’t sure what to make of it (Raw Guest Hosts Not About Ratings?). After a little more investigation, it seemed like an ingenious idea (WWE + Talk Show = Raw), but not without its flaws. A shorter-term strategy that didn’t have a clear longer-term payoff as far as an increase in ratings.

Since then I have been more critical (Monday Night Boos, The Highs and Lows of Monday Night Raw, WWE: Don’t Call Us Wrestling).

I guess this has run its course, which seems like a good thing. Although I don’t see the product improving anytime soon as a result of this, and I’m a little nervous about what “great” idea they’ll come up with next.

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.

Seems like having a different guest host on WWE Monday Night Raw each week is not about ratings, and not just as a cover for not choosing an official general manager. Sounds like more than a coincidence that everyone just happens to be on in time to plug their latest project.

Maybe I’m just stating the obvious here, but the way wrestling sites write about “guest host” and “ratings” together, it seems like they’re assuming that it is just a ratings game.

While Shaq and Seth Green may have caused a ratings bump, ZZ Top surely must have caused a ratings drop for their segments. Not because people don’t like their music, but because of how terrible the pre-taped (supposedly “live”) segments were during the show. Their music would play (minus the vocals), and they seemed to have trouble deciding whether or not they should pretend to play guitar at the same time, or just acknowledge that it wasn’t live music. Thanks for showing up guys- oh… you’ve got a new album out this week? Really? What a coincidence. Oh, and Seth your new season of Robot Chicken is starting? Guest host Jeremy Piven (and the little Asian dude with him) has a new movie coming out? Wow, thanks to everyone for taking time out of your promotional tour to stop by our little wrestling show.

I like Piven’s performance in the HBO TV show Entourage, and I will say that having a host “turn heel” was a novel approach, but an auctioneer couldn’t have mentioned their movie more times in two hours than these two guys did.

I’m curious what kind of $$$’s were exchanged for what is somewhere between an infomercial and product placement (too bad Billy Mays wasn’t still available). Probably worth it to the WWE financially (in the short term) even if the ratings suffered . A little publicity from the mainstream press maybe (yes, Monday Night Raw is still on Monday nights folks). But how many weeks can you do this before pissing off your audience?

Any predictions for who will be the next few guest hosts? If I took the time to scan the release calendars for upcoming films and CDs I could probably hazard a guess. They already announced Sgt. Slaughter will be coming out of the back office to host next week. I smell G.I. Joe‘s kung fu grip, though I wonder why they wouldn’t have done that on opening week (the new G.I. Joe movie opens on Aug 7th).