This is Part I in a three part series on how WWE’s flagship program Monday Night Raw can be successfully changed for the better, a discussion brought about by an ongoing decrease in television ratings.
Certainly there are a myriad of things that could impact and improve WWE’s flagship television show, Monday Night Raw, but for this argument’s sake it has been narrowed down to three. The first being the increase in meaningful title matches, which of course means, titles must actually change hands. There has been plenty of historical moments throughout the show’s run that prove just how valuable this is to the fans that watch and therefore the show itself.
Currently, most significant title changes only happen during the monthly WWE specials (or as formerly referred to, pay-per-views). This absolutely ruins the credibility of even needing to watch Monday Night Raw. If the viewers know that they don’t need to watch the show in order to see a title change hands, why even bother?
One of the most exciting segments of Monday Night Raw during 2015 has been John Cena’s US Title Open challenge. This segment had been exciting because it gave viewers new, fresh matches pairing John Cena with wrestlers he had not often been seen (or ever been seen) up against. Unfortunately, it lost its edge as he would enter feuds and everyone soon realized that he would not be losing the title on a Monday to someone he was not feuding with, if he already has a scheduled match that Sunday at the monthly special. However, the element of surprise was there to be taken.
As it now stands, Alberto Del Rio made a surprise return at Hell in a Cell to win the US Title from John Cena during the challenge. A surprise return and a title change? That’s the kind of excitement Raw has been lacking and certainly would lend the show the credibility its been searching for that says, “Anything can happen.” Why waste such moment on a monthly special after constantly booking the challenge on Raw? This again states to the audience, “Monday Night Raw is not important enough.”
A look back into the history of Monday Night Raw will show that title changes have played a prominent role in viewership. If fans actually think a title can change hands during this show, of course they will tune in. As opposed to today’s environment where a match is booked a month out and viewers already feel they will know the outcome of a Raw title match booking.
In its infancy, Raw featured a shocking title change when Marty Jannetty defeated Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental title during a feud of former tag team partners. The IC title would be center stage again when Razor Ramon would win for the first time during a tournament for the vacant title. It was also on Raw that Chris Jericho won the IC title for, at the time, a record 8th time.
There was a time where title changes weren’t just for the mid-card levels either. The Heavyweight championships (World, WWE and current) were defended and changed hands in manners that played significant roles in Raw and WWE’s history. It was a championship match between Mankind and the Rock that changed the momentum of the Monday Night Wars as WCW announced a prerecorded first ever title win for Mankind airing January 4, 1999. WWE never lost the ratings war again after 600,000 viewers switched from Nitro to Raw.
That wasn’t the only heavyweight championship title change during the coveted Attitude Era either. The Rock would win back the title on Raw just over a month later. Stone Cold Steve Austin won the title twice during that era on Monday Night Raw and Triple H would win his first ever WWE championship on the flagship show.
Thanks to the Money in the Bank briefcases we’ve seen other first time heavyweight champions in CM Punk, the Miz and Dolph Ziggler. Dolph Ziggler of course had one of the most memorable cash ins of all time when he cashed in on Alberto Del Rio on the Raw following Wrestlemania 29.
Since 2001 there have only been a handful of heavyweight title changes on Monday Night Raw. In the modern era there haven’t exactly been enough mid-card title changes for someone to need to take his or her shoes off to count either. Are title changes the only reason Raw struggles? More than likely not, but having more of them and in a significant manner brings back a credibility to the program that will keep viewers from just checking out the highlights on the internet. Want to win back the fans WWE? Have people win titles on Raw.