SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, May 14, 1998

Double-watching theory debunked

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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People often ask why I spend so many columns analyzing the business end of wrestling. The truth of the matter is that when you get as involved in sports entertainment as you must be to be reading about it on the internet, you have to look at it from a different perspective. Frequently, because of my contacts in one place or another, I know the outcome of matches, but I should still find a way to enjoy them, right? Well, this is it. This week's column will be a bit of a mish-mash between wrestling and the industry of wrestling, all of it based on this week's unopposed Raw.

As you probably well know, there was no choice in your wrestling viewing this week. I mean, assuming that Raw or nothing isn't much of a choice. So everyone watched Raw and it scored an 8.1 composite rating, shattering the old rating by over an entire point, and setting a new record for the overrun at 9.0. What does this mean, exactly? Well, three things.

First, it means that the double-watching theory is debunked. I shall explain. You see, there was a theory going around that there are not as many wrestling viewers as the ratings make it appear. Raw usually scores in the range of 6.0, and Nitro scores about 4.0 these days. In theory, that's a combined 10.0 for wrestling on Monday nights, right? Well, the way the Nielsen ratings works, it could mean a combined 6.0. You see, the ratings are divided into fifteen-minute segments, and to count as a viewer for one segment, you have to tune in for only six out of those fifteen minutes. As a result, one could in theory be counted as a viewer for both shows, which could mean that the entire viewership overlaps.

Of course, if one show isn't on and the other increases its viewership by two to three ratings points, I think it's obvious that the people watching Raw and Nitro every week are, in fact, separate people.

The second thing this means is that Raw has achieved a very, very prestigious position with that score. What it did is set a record for all-time cable viewing of a regular, weekly program. That's right, no other regular, weekly show has scored a higher rating on any cable channel. From the business perspective of wrestling, this is big news, not only because of what it says about the health of the business, but also because of what it means about the future of WWF programming.

Their future is even more lucrative, perhaps, because they actually beat out three networks on Monday during the 9:00-11:00 time slot (UPN, WB, and NBC). That means that as a network show, it could compete.

And that's the third reason that this rating is so meaningful. It means that executives at the networks are watching intently now. As much as they may frown on wrestling, I'm sure they worship almighty bottom dollar. If Raw can repeat this feat in an unopposed situation again, it could mean big things for their future.

Oh, and a fourth reason thrown in for good measure. A lot of those extra fans watching Raw were likely regular Nitro fans. Raw put on one of its best shows. Maybe it lured some more diehard WCW fans away?

The fact of the matter is, right now, that the WWF is strong and it's showing.

This is evident in their storylines. On the past two Raws, first Shane McMahon and then Shawn Michaels did something really interesting. They threw together a pay-per-view card in under a minute. Do you know what that means? It means the WWF has so many twists and turns going on flawlessly in their storylines that they can make a pay-per-view card at the drop of a hat with all matches meaning something. That's an incredible situation. It made for some great viewing on Monday, and I'm looking forward to next Monday for something even better.

It's a shame, too, because I thought that WCW was headed in the right direction. Slamboree, though, was definitely a step in the wrong direction as they strayed from what made them great, wrestling. They instead focused on having big names go against each other for no reason and offering no clean finishes (eight out of nine matches ended in interference). Ridiculous. Has Bischoff said enough is enough and taken the helm from Nash? Did Nash decide the company was healthy enough to go back to its old ways. Actually, to a certain extent, he's right. The 4.0 ratings they regularly garner are what they've always earned, so they aren't diminishing, but they aren't taking advantage of the boom created by the WWF and wrestling in general, and that's a shame. Because the WWF sure is, and the result if WCW stays where they are, even though it would be healthy as a company, would be a situation where the WWF was the 'big leagues' and WCW would be just what they were years ago - a good organization that can't really compete with the big boys.

Here's the mail.

Shawn Ramjit, from, writes:
*You are indeed a true class act. One thing before I go is sting a former 5-time world champion or 8-time world champ? Puhleeeze write me back on this one I have a $50 dollar bet on 8 times.*

Shawn, I really want to help you out, so let's see. First, I admit that I faltered and called him a 5-time champ, but that's because WCW kept beating that number into my head and when he won the strap again, no one really said anything about the number. Anyway, let's assume 5 times before Starrcade '98. He took the belt from Hogan then, and I guess you could say he won it again when it was held up and he had to face Hogan yet again. Then he lost it to Savage, thanks to Nash. More recently he held it for about two hours. Okay, I guess that makes 8. Anyone disagree?

Casagrande, from, writes:
*I remember reading something a while back about the great Bruno Sanmartino putting out a book that casts a bad light on wrestling. Do you know anything about this?*

Not about that particular book, per se, but I do have advice for you. I get a lot of email from people asking where they can get the Arn Anderson book, and I did a little research, and found that your best place for wrestling books is They just have everything. They even have Ted Dibiase's book, Everybody's Got a Price. Who knew? Anyway, I'd take a look there for the book you're looking for.

Scott Banzaca, from, writes:
*I'm a long time wrestling fan and have watched since the early 70's. I can tell you why the WWF is killing the WCW nowadays in the ratings. First off, if you total up all the hours that the WWF and WCW is on tv, the WWF is on 2 hours less than the WCW. But in the time the WWF is on television, they have more of the matches people wanna see. The WWF puts all the good matches on their prime time shows. The talent is about the same in each Federation. But in the WCW, they don't have the good story lines, and they don't have the good rivalies that they have in the WWF. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but the WCW has no idea what to do with Bret Hart! Goldberg is a major attraction, let's use him as such! So is Sting, people love to see Sting, but he disappears half the year and is never around to wrestle. This Ric Flair mental patient thing is just not a good story line. Steve Austin, The Corporate Ministry, and the newly formed Union have the WWF buzzing. As long as Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff can't come up with better story lines, and proper use of great wrestlers, they will always be second best to the WWF. They also need to dump the Lucha Libre wrestling acts.*

Hmmm, I'm not sure if I agree with your take in the situation, Mr. Banzaca. First, about your point concerning television time per week: I don't think that every hour really counts towards success. There's no doubt that WCW was spreading themselves thin when they made Thunder, but the truth is that no one really cares what goes on on Shotgun Saturday Night or WCW Saturday Night. The truth is, they're mostly recaps of Raw and Nitro and basically feature jobber matches, so I barely acknowledge its existence. As far as talent goes, I'd tip the scales toward WCW, myself. They're just being misused. The part about story-lines is mostly right, but Bischoff doesn't run the show as much anymore and I doubt Turner has anything to do with it. I agree that they're mostly mis-using Sting, Bret Hart, and Goldberg, and you're right, that could be the difference between a good fed and a bad one. But the Corporate Ministry, a good story-line? Ugh. And the WCW lucha libre acts are one of the best things about WCW. It's actual wrestling, and good enough to keep my attention for a few minutes, so I think it should stay. As with anything else, though, it matters whether its done well or not, not what it is.

Have a great week, thanks for writing, thanks for reading, see you in seven. Oh, before I go. I liked Scott Banzaca's email. Lots of bold statements to respond to. So next week, I would very much like if you would send me your thoughts on why WWF is booming and WCW is slumping. Later.

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