WWE knew it would be a challenge when it made the decision to expand Monday Night Raw, its flagship show, to three hours earlier this summer.
Most viewer surveys and polls indicate that it’s difficult enough to sit through two hours of any type of show, much less a three-hour production, even if it’s one of the most highly rated programs on cable television.
The challenge becomes even greater this week when Raw goes head-to-head with Monday Night Football’s regular-season opener.
And, if last week’s showing is any indication, it could be an uphill battle for Raw.
The show scored a disappointing 2.83 rating for three hours — down 10 percent from a 3.14 rating the previous two weeks. It was the lowest overall rating since May 28, and the three-hour average of 4.20 million viewers was the second lowest since Raw went to its new format on July 23.
Raw featured a strong main event between John Cena and Alberto Del Rio, but WWE’s best hook didn’t land until the final 10 seconds of its three hour and 10 minute marathon Monday night.
And, not surprisingly, WWE used two of its most engaging characters to pull off the big reveal.
The visual of C.M. Punk getting into a car driven by Paul Heyman at the end of the show will undoubtedly lead to an increase in viewers when Raw signs on Monday night.
Punk and the always controversial Heyman, who up until now has only been seen on TV representing Brock Lesnar, are two of the best talkers in the business. A potential alliance involving Heyman, Punk and Lesnar presents some intriguing possibilities.
Heyman could work wonders in turning Punk into a full-fledged heel. Thus far the WWE champ and self-proclaimed “Best in the World” has done his best to turn fans against him. He has attacked The Rock, kicked Jerry Lawler in the back of the head and beat down “The King” inside a steel cage.
But nothing will get him real heel heat like hitching his wagon to Heyman.
More than just a mouthpiece, the incendiary Heyman has managed some of the top acts in the business, and has an incredible penchant for making fans love to hate him.
The brusque New Yorker is so good that he could have turned Mr. Rogers heel — in his own neighborhood.
His “Dangerous Alliance” in WCW during the early ‘90s included the likes of Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko and the late Rick Rude.
Nobody plays the role of the sports-entertainment pariah better than the outspoken Heyman, and although Punk is more than adept at handling his own in-ring business, the former Paul E. Dangerously will only make the arrangement that much better.
Heyman has long been an advocate of Punk — dating back to Punk’s days in Ring of Honor and his early run in WWE’s version of ECW. It was Heyman who recommended Punk to WWE and helped him get his start with the company.
He feels that Punk, who signed with WWE in 2005, could have been a great fit in the old ECW where he was the driving force behind the revolutionary outfit.
“That’s what a lot of the ECW originals say,” Punk said in a 2006 interview. “I’ve been accepted at the old ECW Arena, the Hammerstein Ballroom and Philadelphia seems to like me. From Tazz to Paul Heyman to Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer, they all say I’m the only guy they’ve seen so far who would actually fit like a glove in the old ECW.”
Heyman earlier had deflected rumors that an alliance with Punk was in the works.
“C.M. Punk and I have not pitched the idea of being aligned to anyone,” Heyman tweeted. “If we did, you wouldn’t know about it.”
“C.M. Punk doesn’t need an advocate. Nor a spokesman. Nor a representative. That’s not his character,” added Heyman, alluding to his more business-oriented relationship with Lesnar.
Heyman, affectionately referred to as “The Mad Scientist,” is savvy enough and has been in the business long enough to realize that the wrestling business thrives on the element of surprise. That’s what helps drive ratings, and that was a major ingredient during the red-hot Monday Night Wars during the ‘90s.
“Enjoy the ride. Watch it unfold. See what happens. For the first time in forever, we have people guessing what comes next,” says Heyman.
Raw needs strong, compelling content to fill its weekly three-hour time slot, and the formation of a possible faction with the high-energy Heyman at the helm would be an excellent way to begin.
-- Former WWE champ Batista (Dave Bautista) said last week that he’d be interested in returning to WWE if the right opportunity arose.
Batista, who is making his MMA debut Oct. 6 in Providence, R.I., said on Spike TV’s “MMA Uncensored Live” that he left WWE on good terms and that the door was always open for him to come back.
“Let’s hope the whole PG thing blows over so I can go back and do wrestling the way I like to do wrestling,” said Batista, who mentioned Brock Lesnar as a possible opponent.
-- Another former WWE champ-turned-MMA fighter, Bobby Lashley, has been announced as one of the top fighters for an upstart MMA promotion with a cable TV deal.
Lashley is advertised for the initial MMA World Series of Fighting card Nov. 3 in Las Vegas as part of a new deal with NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).
-- A blast from the past match will pit Jerry Lawler vs. Sid Vicious in a New Experience Wrestling show Sept. 29 during the Mid-South Fair in Southaven, Miss.
Vicious’ son, by the way, was cut last week from CBS’ “Big Brother” reality show.
Frank Eudy, son of former WWE champ, was voted off during Thursday’s episode.
Eudy’s identity as son of the famous grappler was revealed on a recent episode and included a sit-down interview with Sid discussing his relationship with his 28-year-old son.
-- Old School Championship Wrestling will present “Tag Wars 6” on Sept. 16 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
The event will showcase a tag-team tournament to determine challengers for OSCW tag champs Legit (Brandon Paradise and Bradford Steele).
Top matches include former Flock members Raven and Lodi squaring off for only the second time ever; Josh Magnum vs. John Skyler in a Ladders Match for the OSCW heavyweight title; and Reginald Vanderhoff vs. Ms. Harden in a Manager vs. Manager Match.
The show begins at 5 p.m. Doors open at 4:30. Adult admission (cash at door) is $10; kids 12 and under $5. For more information, call 743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.