PWTORCH LIVECAST TUESDAY
HOSTS: WADE KELLER & JASON POWELL OF PROWRESTLING.NET
AIRED LIVE: OCT. 6, 2015
By Nick Gould, PWPodcasts Reporter
TOP SUBJECTS COVERED
– Raw viewership rebounds, though only slightly. Ratings remained at the same 2.3-level.
– Charity? Corporate brand awareness strategy? What is WWE’s relationship with Susan G. Komen really about?
– There’s no I in WWE. Does the ‘brand’ come above all else, and if so, does that do more harm than good?
– What is Stephanie McMahon, and why is she so angry!?
– The un-ending demise of Roman Reigns.
– What should, and what will, fill the gap John Cena’s sabbatical will create? Two very different questions.
– MSG, NXT, Joe/Balor, and much more…
SUMMARY OF SHOW
– (0:00) Intro Theme
– (0:31) Wade welcomes listeners to the show. Introduces himself, PWTorch.com, and the format of the show.
– (1:16) Wade informs listeners that this Thursday’s interview show will move to 7:00 p.m. EST, and that the guest will be Bob Backlund who will be discussing his autobiography ‘Backlund.’
– (2:36) Wade introduces Jason Powell from Prowrestling.net. Wade notes that he has mixed feelings on last night’s Raw, and that he was particularly enraged by Stephanie McMahon’s appearances. Wade asks Jason whether this was a step in the right direction or a better version of the recent poor shows. Jason feels it was the latter. He describes this week’s show as “weird” and explains that he found it difficult to take New Day seriously as the monster heels they were presented as to close Raw. Jason doesn’t mind WWE presenting New Day in this way, but feels that the more comedic aspects of their act need to be removed for this to work. Jason feels puzzled by the use of Brock Lesnar on Raw, and wonders why it seemed like a good idea to have him appear early in the show without offering viewers a hook to keep them watching after. Wade wonders whether this is WWE’s way of letting viewers know that they need to watch the show from the beginning, or as a way of getting viewers in before Monday Night Football starts. Jason feels that this doesn’t explain why WWE would not create a hook and/or bring Brock back later on the show.
– (5:43) Jason describes enjoying Rusev’s performance, as well as that of Summer Rae, as a positive from this week’s show. He feels that they are making the best of their storyline relationship and feels that a wedding segment some point in the future will likely draw viewers in. Jason wonders whether Rusev’s line regarding having gold around his waist foreshadows Rusev holding the U.S. Title in John Cena’s upcoming absence.
– (10:58) To the phones. D.J. from Miami is first up. D.J. asks whether the Rusev-Ziggler feud will be re-started if Rusev gets the U.S. Title. Wade feels either Rusev or Ziggler could beat Cena, and feels that Ziggler winning would help elevate him as a babyface. Wade recaps Cena’s upcoming absence, saying that he understands there to be no big scandal in the background, and that Cena is expected to be gone from after Hell In A Cell until at least late-December. Wade returns to the question, noting that Rusev chasing Ziggler could add an element of drama to the wedding angle. Jason feels that he doesn’t want to see more of a Rusev-Ziggler feud, but agrees that the suggested program could help elevate Ziggler. Jason also feels Cena’s absence might be good for WWE.
– (14:01) Nelson from Bronx, New York. Nelson wants to know why Wade and Jason think Raw’s ratings as low. Nelson explains that he feels it’s partly due to problems with the mid-card, and the stale nature of the product generally. Wade discusses the cyclical nature of wrestling’s TV viewership, and notes that we’re currently on the downward trend, while noting the roughly 10 percent drop attributable to DVR viewership. Wade does feel that there are many things that WWE could point to as reasons for low ratings which sit outside of their control, although he notes that the drop in Raw ratings in comparison to previous years would indicate a steeper drop than could be expected if WWE had a stronger product. Jason points out that Monday Night Football is a factor, but clarifies that it is no more of a factor this year than last. Jason feels that Raw being three hours almost makes it more of a show to DVR than watch live. Jason feels a focus on new/mid-card talent would help improve viewers’s engagement with the product. Wade agrees and feels that WWE doesn’t have enough wrestlers with a journey/mission for viewers to invest in or to fill three hours of TV, and that when pushes for new talent do eventually come, it’s often after significant damage has been done to the characters. Wade feels new, TV-ready talent needs to be brought in from outside WWE/NXT due to the problems with the booking of existing mid-card talent. Wade notes that Raw’s ratings are not yet in, although viewership numbers are up one percent from last week. Wade notes that WWE doesn’t have any characters, not even Lesnar, who pop ratings. Jason notes that viewership in the third hour again dropped significantly.
Back to Nelson, who jokes that ‘Old-School Raw’ episodes in 10-15 years time won’t be worth watching, and asks about the crowd reactions (or lack of) at the recent MSG show. Wade notes that reports from people at the event suggest that the crowd was louder than it appeared on the Network, and feels it was a mic’ing issue. Jason agrees, although feels that WWE bored the live crowd to a degree, and established from the start that nothing significant would happen on the show. Wade feels WWE gave people bigger expectations for the show than was needed, and feels they need to market such shows more clearly as being a ‘bonus’ opportunity to watch a live house show rather than building PPV-level hype. Wade is concerned by the subdued reaction to Lesnar wrestling at the MSG show. Jason feels some of the mystique around Lesnar has gone, partly due to him currently being babyface, which leads to a more predictable nature of his appearances. Jason notes that people would have responded more positively to the MSG show had it been presented as the house show it was.
– (32:12) Wade asks Jason for any notable topics coming out of Triple H’s conference call. Jason reports that Triple H made a point of talking about how much Vince McMahon likes the NXT product. Wade notes the report on Prowrestling.net of Charlotte’s tweet about fans’s reactions to the Divas Revolution coming off as annoying and missing the point of the fan’s concerns, and feels it doesn’t endear her to the fans supporting her and the other women wrestlers. Jason notes that Triple H covered the Iron Man-Iron Woman debate relating to the upcoming NXT show with Sasha and Bayley. Triple H reported that in discussions at NXT, Lita felt it might be more sexist to change the name of the match to ‘Iron Woman.’
– (35:13) Mike B. from Southern California asks about John Cena’s time off, and whether this is a build-up to the ‘Hail Mary’ of Cena turning heel for a ratings boost. Jason feels this would only happen if WWE could quickly establish a babyface to take Cena’s place, which seems unlikely. Wade agrees.
– (37:36) Steve from Fresno. Steve notes that he gets the West Coast feed of Raw and so usually looks up brief details of James Caldwell’s ‘virtual-time’ report on the show at PWTorch.com so that he gets an idea of what’s in store. This week, for the first time, Steve reports that he decided not to watch Raw and watched old NXT matches on the Network instead. Steve feels frustrated with the stale nature of the product and feels that a philosophical change is needed in WWE. Wade suggests that the lack of change so far reflects Vince’s belief that the ratings drop is caused by things other than the product itself. Jason is not sure whether this is the case, pointing to Lesnar’s appearance this weeks seeming to have been planned at short notice, as well as the set-up for the Rusev-Summer wedding, and New Day’s presentation as “world beaters” as signs that WWE might be responding to ratings by taking a ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ approach. Wade feels that Vince was already high on New Day, and feels that this was the show WWE would have produced if ratings had been at 2.6, so doesn’t feel any of this week’s developments were reactions to last week’s ratings. Wade feels Cena’s absence might lead to more focus being put on other characters by creative, although thinks it’s possible that this won’t happen! Jason fears that all the attention will be focused on Roman Reigns.
– (42:42) David from Houston asks if there’s any chance of Raw’s low ratings leading to WWE programming disappearing from TV somewhere down the line. Wade notes that Raw remains a Top 5 program on TV despite the drop in ratings, which leaves WWE in a strong position. Wade discusses WCW Nitro also being a top-rated show when cancels, and notes that it was cancelled because the cost of producing Nitro exceeded the amount they were able to charge for advertisers, and so became financially unviable, rather than being a ratings issue. Jason notes that USA Network is bringing Smackdown on board next year, so the medium-term future looks pretty solid. Jason feels the bigger worry for Vince would be the impact of lower ratings on his negotiating position when the TV deal comes up for renewal.
David also asks whether NXT could be added to the first hour of Raw to help address the ratings and crowd/viewer fatigue issue and attract new fans. Wade feels that this won’t happen, as if Vince felt NXT was the way to do things and the talent in NXT could draw ratings, then Vince would add them to the Raw roster rather than bring in any NXT-specific elements. Jason agrees this is unlikely, though thinks an NXT Title match on Raw might work. Jason makes the point that NXT would cease to be NXT if it was presented as a part of Raw. Wade notes that NXT might not have the same time or scope to develop characters and storylines if placed in a position where they were dependent on ratings. Wade feels the way to go would be to go to a tight two-hour show, although feels this won’t happen. Jason reports that he has noticed other signs of a downturn in WWE business, evidenced by the recent promotion of shows within a week or so that still had tickets left, particularly for a show in Chicago.
– (53:52) Bruce from Hollywood, Florida. Bruce asks whether Stephanie McMahon was a babyface last night. Wade jokes that she was a heel in odd-numbered segments and a babyface in even-numbered segments. Jason chimes in noting that she was angry the entire time! Bruce is worried that Stephanie’s fluctuating character will continue as a result of her involvement with the Susan G. Komen charity. Wade recalls a tweet of Stephanie’s from earlier this year “Philanthropy is the future of marketing. It’s the way brands are going to win.” Wade feels that the fact that Stephanie felt it appropriate to publicly associate her self with such remarks/sentiments is a reflection of her being immersed in the corporate mentality that she has lost touch with how other organizations such as the NFL promote their relationships with charities. Wade points out that WWE is directing people to WWE Shop to shop, rather than to the charity directly, which is not as magnanimous or selfless as WWE wants it to appear. Jason feels WWE need to reduce/limit the amount of charities WWE works with in order to help direct the focus of their efforts. Jason notes that a video package on the Raw pre-show promoting WWE’s annual Susan G Komen event began with Stephanie.
– (59:12) Jake M. from Aurora asks whether Reigns challenging Cena for the U.S. Title would help elevate Reigns, or whether this would be too desperate a move. Wade and Jason feel this wouldn’t be a great match, and that WWE should sit on a Cena-Reigns match for the future.
– (1:00:36) Mike from Brooklyn asks whether WWE could focus more on character development, and whether WWE would bring back Kurt Angle and if this would be good for them. Jason doubts that Angle would pass medical testing, and even if he could, Jason doubts whether WWE would trust him to remain ‘issue-free.’ Jason doubts whether WWE will take the risk of Angle suffering a significant injury in-ring. Wade doesn’t feel that character development is as much of an issue for WWE as the structure in which the characters are booked. Jason disagrees, and feels the current crop of mid-card talent is badly in need of character development.
– (1:04:50) Jonathan from New York. Jonathan notes that Raw has become the same show on repeat, just with the order of matches/segments switched around each week. He asks whether WWE is trying to kill Big Show by having him dominated by Brock. Wade clarifies that WWE are not trying to kill Paul Wight, although they are trying to position Brock Lesnar as a dominating force.
– (1:08:23) Shaun from Stamford asks about NXT and whether Finn Balor will turn on Samoa Joe. Jason isn’t sure, although he notes the popular theory that it was really Balor who attacked Hideo Itami some months ago on NXT. Jason doesn’t feel Balor should be turned at this stage, and feels that a Balor/Joe program could be best booked by letting fans decide the heel/face dynamic. However, Jason feels that a heel turn for Balor now might be best in the long-term, particularly as this would leave Joe as a top babyface in NXT should Balor be called up to the main roster. Wade would be hesitant to turn Balor, although agrees with Jason that it could work in certain circumstances. Overall, Wade feels Balor would work much better on the main roster as a babyface.
– (1:12:54) D’rell from Georgia doesn’t like WWE presenting its charity work in segments on Raw, particularly as his main takeaway from this week’s segment was the deficiencies of Reigns as a performer. D’rell wants to know where WWE goes with replacing John Cena in his absence. Wade likes the possibility of a real change, either from call-ups for Balor or Joe, or by signing Bobby Roode straight to the main roster. However, he feels that WWE will just take the approach of giving more time to Ziggler,Reigns, etc. Jason notes that call-ups from NXT generally get fed to John Cena eventually, so doubts the possibility of WWE building a call-up as a replacement for Cena.
– (1:15:15) Tom from Los Angeles brings up the even-steven booking, which he feels insults the intelligence of the viewers as well as this resulting in weak pushes for new talent except perhaps Randy Orton. Tom wonders whether this is WWE communicating to it’s performers that no one performer is bigger than the company, and whether it is a reaction to the success of people like The Rock and Brock Lesnar who ultimately took time away from WWE for other (sometimes ‘bigger’) projects. Wade feels Tom is right, and that WWE promotes its ‘brand’ above its performers, partly as a way of protecting the ‘brand’ against performers deciding to leave/go part-time with the exception of John Cena, which Wade feels ultimately hurts the ‘brand’ more than anything. Jason feels this is why Vince is reluctant to push NXT call-ups as strongly as he could.
– (1:19:53) Wade wraps up the show with details of upcoming Livecasts.
– (1:22:33) Outro.
SCORE & REVIEW
7 out of 10: As I mentioned in my review last week, I always find the Tuesday Livecast with Wade and Jason to be an interesting review of Raw, and a thought-provoking commentary on the wider issues around WWE’s core business. I also mentioned last week that issues outside the host’s control sometimes dictate the relative ‘quality’ of a call-in show such as this.
With this week’s Raw being more ‘carelessly average’ compared to last week’s ‘offensively bad’ offering, this week’s Tuesday Livecast suffers from not having the level of passion and immediacy to both the callers questions/comments and the hosts’s responses. That being said, pertinent issues from this weeks’ Raw were discussed in the usual considered and engaging manner, which made it another enjoyable show for me to listen to overall.
However, this week’s Livecast loses two points for me compared to my score for last week’s show. The reasons for this are as follows. Firstly, I felt Wade and Jason’s responses to some of the earlier calls, particularly Nelson’s call, were quite long and extended to a range of topics. Whilst the hosts’s responses were interesting and addressed relevant issues overall, I felt it condensed the show somewhat and led to later calls feeling more rushed. I feel that sometimes the Livecast could be better structured, going to the phones say 20-25 minutes into the show, rather than going to calls after ten minutes. I appreciate that this might sound strange, given that the show is a call-in show, but I think sometimes when the hosts go to the phones too early it results in the earlier calls being used as a prompt for a general discussion between the hosts, stemming from but not remaining related to the caller’s initial point and so losing focus. If this more general discussion between the hosts was consistently given it’s own slot from, for example, minute 10 (after Wade’s intro and plugs) to minute 25, it would then allow the hosts to be more focused in their subsequent responses to callers, and so more even in terms of time dedicated to each call.
Secondly, the other point lost is really two half-points. I knocked the first half-point off for what seemed to be an editing error during David’s call. David asked one question to begin with, the hosts answered, then David asked another question. The response to David’s second question began with the same answer to his first question, and on further listen it seems to be an editing issues rather than a technical glitch, because ‘TNT’ appears in the second version of the answer but not the first. The question was then played again, and we then heard the appropriate answer. I felt this editing was unnecessary, because the initial answer made sense anyway and the edited version did not add anything significant to the response, and so was distracting, which spoiled my enjoyment somewhat. The second half-point I took off, and it feels really bad to take a point off for this but I feel I should mention it, was due to some of the callers taking time to ask their questions/make their points, or doing so in a long-winded way, or seeming surprised to be put through to the hosts and taking a moment or two to collect themselves. All the questions asked were relevant, but the time it took to get to them, together with the more ‘rushed’ nature to this week’s show, interrupted the overall flow of the show.
Fans of the show and regular listeners, like me, will enjoy this week’s show overall, though perhaps not as much last weeks, and will probably find it easy to stick with the show despite the above difficulties. However, those who don’t listen to the Tuesday Livecast on a regular basis might want to just listen to the questions/topics they really want to hear and skip the other parts.