Inside WWE’s historically-low Raw TV Rating, including what can be learned from 20 years ago

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.

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WWE Raw is close to falling below a 2.0 TV rating at some point this year after drawing a 2.03 rating on Monday night.

It’s unlikely that comes next week for a post-PPV episode, especially without NBA Finals competition like this week.

From the Research Department, the June 13 Raw episode was the lowest-rated in the last 19 years, dating back to March 3, 1997 – an episode a few weeks before WrestleMania 13.

The Mar. 3, 1997 episode scored a 1.9 TV rating against WCW Nitro, which scored a 3.4 rating.

The poor rating led to WWE changing things up at WM13, including famously double-turning Bret Hart and Steve Austin to try to make up for poor interest in the Sid vs. Undertaker feud headlining WM13.

From PWTorch Newsletter #431 covering the March 10, 1997 Raw the following week: “The most important segment of Raw when it comes to both the short term (Wrestlemania) and the long term (business the rest of the year) began the second hour. Jim Ross interviewed Ken Shamrock. Ross announced that Shamrock will be special referee in the Austin vs. Bret match. …WWF management, just in the last two weeks, has committed themselves more than ever to building around Steve Austin as one of the top three wrestlers (along with Bret and Shamrock), moving him above Sid and even Undertaker in the unofficial hierarchy.”

One year later, the March 2, 1998 Raw leading into WM14 for Austin vs. Shawn Michaels scored double the TV rating – a 3.8.

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There were also episodes in Fall 1996 that scored similar 2.0 ratings. Plus, the tied all-time-low TV rating in the history of Raw was a 1.8 on October 14, 1996.  That led to big changes for Raw trying to compete against WCW. Some might sound familiar.

From PWTorch Newsletter #412 in October 1996: “With Raw’s crashing ratings, Vince McMahon put himself back on camera to try to give Raw a ‘major league, must see’ feel again. He wasn’t alone in thinking that. As good as Kevin Kelly was, the lack of McMahon’s presence made the show seem less important.”

The Oct. 14, 1996 Raw featured Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin in a match advertised as “perhaps the biggest match ever on Raw.” But, it was before Austin got that Top 3 status in March 1997 and one-and-a-half-years before Austin vs. HBK at WM14 officially kicked off the Austin Era.

Then, in November 1996, Raw slid back to a 2.0 TV rating. This prompted USA Network to agree with WWE on changing things up battling WCW Nitro.

From PWTorch Newsletter #414 in November 1996: “Bret Hart’s return and the advertised return of Mr. Perfect to the ring on the Oct. 21 Raw drew an improved, but nevertheless disappointing rating of 2.6. The WWF hoped Bret’s return would be a momentum builder. The next week, with the Bret Hart-Steve Austin “live debate” as the primary hook for the show, the ratings slid back down to a poor 2.0 rating.

“It was the 18th straight week that Nitro beat Raw. Until Nitro expanded to two hours, the shows were nearly even. What became alarming was the recent margin of victory for Nitro and the fact that Bret’s return to the WWF only shot ratings up one week. That prompted USA Network to finally agree with the WWF’s desire to shift Raw’s timeslot; USA decided to move it an hour earlier.”

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