Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw will feature an extremely rare sight: The Undertaker wrestling on a show that isn’t WrestleMania.
“The Phenom” hasn’t done that since 2010, but he’s scheduled to wrestle his first TV match in three years on tonight’s Raw when he teams with Kane and Daniel Bryan to take on The Shield.
It’s pretty obvious why the WWE decided to do this. CM Punk is set to be off of TV for a while and The Rock is gone as well, so having Undertaker wrestle on free TV is a way to generate interest and spike the ratings at a time when both tend to be down.
I’m certainly not upset with the WWE’s decision to let The Undertaker wrestle on TV because it’s been so long since we’ve seen him do that.
But wouldn’t the company be better off saving this match for pay-per-view?
After all, Raw’s ratings don’t matter nearly as much as some people tend to think they do. Sure, they matter—that’s why they’re there to begin with. But spiking the ratings for one night ultimately isn’t going to do a whole lot for the company in the long run.
Generally speaking, Raw’s ratings tend to stay pretty much the same. In 2012, the show averaged a 3.0 rating (according to gerweck.net), and as expected, the numbers tended to be a bit lower in the fall during football season.
Overall, though, Raw is going to have a big viewing audience no matter what. It’ll spike here and there, bottom out from time to time and so on and so forth, but in the grand scheme of things, the ratings are usually going to be in the same range just about every week.
The shows that do pop higher ratings tend to feature part-time attractions like The Rock, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, but ultimately, do those temporary ratings increases matter? No, not much—if at all.
The WWE likes to generate buzz on social media and pop its ratings by having rare moments take place on Raw, and that’s clearly what it is trying to do with The Undertaker’s match on tonight’s show.
But here’s the thing: The WWE is already locked in with its advertisers and the USA Network, and the amount of money that it will make from tonight’s Raw is already set in stone.
That’s not going to change if Raw gets a 2.0 rating or if it gets a 3.5. If Raw’s ratings were consistently low or consistently high over a lengthy span, then yeah, that would certainly affect how much money the show will make for the WWE.
But ultimately, high ratings for one Raw show isn’t doing much for the company, especially when the company could make more money by saving its “big moments” for pay-per-view instead.
That’s exactly what the WWE should do with The Undertaker’s match against The Shield.
There’s no doubt that this is a huge moment and attraction for the company. The Undertaker is one of the WWE’s most must-see legends, and being that he tends to only wrestle at WrestleMania these days, seeing him wrestle in any non-Mania match should be treated like a really big deal.
So, why not save that match for Extreme Rules, where it could pop a huge PPV buyrate?
At roughly 50 bucks a pop, PPVs are one of the WWE’s biggest money-makers. If, let’s say, 250,000 people decided to purchase Extreme Rules without The Undertaker wrestling on it, that’s an astounding $12.5 million generated from the show, 40 percent of which goes to the WWE.
But if, for example, Extreme Rules were to generate 285,000 buys with Undertaker competing on it, that’s a whopping $14.25 million generated. The difference between an Undertaker-less PPV and one with him on it? A huge $1.75 million, nearly half of which will be profit for the WWE..
I think you see the point here, and it’s an easy little equation: The Undertaker = More PPV buys = More money for the WWE.
The Deadman’s match with The Shield is going to be a major attraction no matter when or where it takes place. But if you’re the WWE, you obviously want to use that match to make more money off of it.
There’s no better way to do that than by having it take place on PPV at Extreme Rules and not on tonight’s Raw.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!