EDITORIAL: What “hotshot” options does Vince McMahon have to solve Raw ratings woes?

With Raw ratings down, and Monday Night Football’s double-header looming, could Raw fall below 2.5 on a non-holiday, something that hasn’t happened since before the Attitude Era boom period? If it does, should Vince McMahon be concerned enough to look for options he normally wouldn’t consider? If so, it could be a really fun fall, but realistically, what could be done?

I wrote in last week’s PWTorch Newsletter (available online for VIP members; link to sign-up page) a scenario for initiating a sensible, non-hot-shot approach to up Raw’s ratings. But what about the other option – hot-shotting? What options are there?

-Sign big name talent or bring back old names: Finding a way to get Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, and, heck, Goldberg onto the roster in short order might be impossible, but it’s pretty much the extent of the options he has that might have some short-term impact. In the case of Hardy, maybe his return would make a difference for more than a few weeks since by all accounts he’s healthy and clean enough to work full time. Now, TNA might have something to say about this, but if Hardy wants to go to WWE, and if WWE was willing to buy out Jeff’s remaining contract term, TNA could use the money and maybe would listen. Jeff could almost immediately become the no. 2 babyface and there’d be a wide array of strong fresh match-ups with Hardy. On that list: Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, John Cena, Roman Reigns (if Reigns turned heel), Dean Ambrose (if he turned heel), and Bray Wyatt.

-Bring in some Japanese talent and do some sort of invasion angle: This is far-fetched and hardly a sure bet to work, but there are some really intriguing possibilities here, although the Japan invasion would have to position the Japanese wrestlers as heels, and they’d need a heel spokesperson, and there’d have to be some sort of unifying narrative that would bring together WWE’s top babyfaces and perhaps unlikely alliances with certain heels. It’d be different, and there are some really talented options from the Japanese scene, especially New Japan, who could carry themselves as stars out of the gate.

-Go back to Attitude Era R-rated content, with USA Network’s permission and approval from their main sponsors: They’d need to actually market this as “The Return of the Attitude Era” to get people’s attention, and then find a way to safely and wisely promote enough aspects of the Attitude Era to make it pass as a real return, yet stop short of having things like Vince McMahon making Divas grovel at the feet of a man or do stage strip tease dances or having wrestlers hit each other with unprotected chairshots to the head. There is plenty, though, they already sneak in now and then, and they’d just need to do it more often and market it.

-Turn John Cena heel: I think you should not do this – and Vince McMahon will not do this – under any circumstances unless there is someone in waiting ready to sell similar merchandise and sell tickets as the lead babyface of the company. Who is that? No body is positioned like that or really even near that. Roman Reigns has come up way short of the lofty expectations and trajectory he was on earlier this year. Dean Ambrose is practically a mid-carder at this point. Chris Jericho isn’t full time and is too old to be that guy. Cesaro is among those with potential who have been “defined down” too much to be pass as a top babyface even if Vince committed to a monster push right now. Randy Orton? No way. You’d almost need Jeff Hardy back to make this work, or…….

-Do a full-fledged NXT invasion or influx of talent: Finn Balor could be a potential replacement for John Cena as a lead babyface, but that’s not something you can hotshot with any assurances it’ll work. I’m a huge fan of Balor’s potential on top. I think he has a great mix of Jeff Hardy and John Cena traits that could click really well and get over with kids, women, and men. So WWE could bring in several NXT names individually, sprinkled over a month or two, including Samoa Joe too, or do an invasion angle. While I’m bring up invasion angles, I’m not a fan of them generally. It’s hard to pull off and make work because you have the awkwardness of having to decide which faction is made up of heels and which is made up of babyfaces, and if NXT are faces, do they go after WWE babyfaces or just heels, and if they go after just heels, where do the main roster babyfaces stand on it? So my preference would be to add Balor, Joe, and two or three others to freshen up the roster. It wouldn’t matter, though, if Vince didn’t believe in them and decide to really push them like they were huge stars. If he felt that way about anyone in NXT already, he probably would have already elevated them. Any addition from NXT isn’t going to instantly spike ratings, but a few weeks of Balor could be all it takes for him to take off as a hot new stars, and if he took hold quickly, that would open the door to consider a Cena turn. But if they turn Cena heel, they have to do it right and they better hope it works. It could be a huge, but if it isn’t huge or is executed poorly, it could really do damage.

What other ideas do you have for a hotshotting that WWE could do in the next month that might spike ratings? I know there are long-term options that could build to a stronger product and improve viewership over the course of months or a year or more; I’m interested in ideas right now that you think would have a chance to spike ratings immediately, within a few weeks. Email me ideas to wadekellerdotcom@gmail.com or post your comments below!

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