An interesting conversation broke out on Twitter this Saturday night. In the midst of UFC 152, people started talking about pay-per-view oversaturation. It’s not a problem unique to one promotion, and it’s not an opinion held by a scant few people. There has been a vocal contingent for years decrying the continued devaluing of pay-per-views as they appear more and more frequently. I’m among them, and I thanked those who started the conversation for proving I’m not alone or crazy–I’ve been saying this for years. This isn’t a column about UFC though; it’s a column about pro wrestling.
Criticisms of WWE come and go, and by and large they tend to fade over time and re-appear with astounding, clockwork like precision. Whether it’s the ability to develop talent, the PG or Not-So-PG nature of the content, selection of champions, or any of the other litany of grievances typically leveled against the premiere wrestling promotion on this planet, we tend to pick and choose which ones to focus on in an alternating rotation.
One that never tends to go away, however, is the continued existence of lackluster pay-per-views which all too often have flat, uninteresting builds and fall with an equally audible thud once they air. Last week’s Night of Champions isn’t an exception, really. On the show, we graded it out somewhere in the range of a “B” but if it were to be stacked up against some of the better pay-per-views in history–or even against the top two or three this decade–it was a bland, uninteresting show filled with feuds we’ve seen forever and ever ad nauseum; A “C-” on a generous day.
Make no mistake, this is squarely on the shoulders of WWE. They’re the ones that began running pay-per-views monthly instead of quarterly (or less if you go back far enough), and they’re the ones whom never seem to have quite gotten to the point that their product booking has caught up with their product’s now vital–and unending–television cycle. Revenues are up, but that’s on strong merchandise sales, not rising buy-rates. Those are still down, and were long before CM Punk was champion.
They’re also the ones who continue to carry a massive roster where very few people see any significant ring time. Their midcard is all but non-existent and as such there isn’t much to look at beyond the top two or three feuds–helping make programs turn staler, faster. That may be changing soon though, thanks to the tag team division and something we discussed last week.
Toward the end of last week’s In the Room, the discussion turned to a perceived and believed conflict in the halls of Stamford: Triple-H wants to push the midcard and develop a more complete program, Vince either doesn’t want to or simply doesn’t remember how (it doesn’t really matter which). With that in mind, what happened on SmackDown this past week is all the more interesting. Instead of keeping Team Friendship as purely a source for comic relief, they started to develop a program with a new tag team: Cody Rhodes, a bonafide title contender in his own right, and Damien Sandow, one of the more over new characters to show up in years.
This excites me, and if you’re a fan of either tag team wrestling or of strong midcards, this could mean WWE has finally found a solution to their largest nagging problem. This teased feud, coupled with the rumors of a reformed Nexus and the apparent alliance between Slater, McIntyre, and Mahal, could be indicative of a more dramatic shift in philosophy: Instead of trying to build a monumental number of singles feuds, most of which won’t get room to breathe, perhaps it would be easier and more effective (from WWE’s perspective) to re-form a strong, deep tag team division.
It would make sense. For all the (I feel unwarranted) hoopla and nostalgic poetic waxing the Attitude Era receives, it was still built on a top heavy system with little to no strong midcard. In fact, the last time WWE had a truly deep card on a consistent basis was the late 80’s and pre-Raw 90’s when tag team matches were much more common–plentiful even. The large roster WWE carries warrants it, and their creative process seems to obviously need it.
So how does that tie into the opening, where I talked about stale pay-per-views? A strong, consistent, deep tag division does wonders for that. With more active feuds, there are more ways and opportunities for new faces to make their way into your top three or four singles pictures: The WWE, World Heavyweight, Intercontinental, and United States title programs.
It’s a win-win for everybody, and the move to more tag teams can only be a benefit. I hope I’m not wrong when I say this, and I hope it’s this kind of forward thinking we can continue to see as the Helmsley-Levesque philosophy continues to gain more and more of a foothold in WWE booking and business. WWE will never reduce the number of pay-per-views, but giving them more opportunities to not be stale, repetitive, and predictable is better for WWE, better for its employees, better for us fans, and better for the sport we love so much.
Let’s just hope Stamford agrees.
– It has been exactly a year since Ring of Honor began its broadcasting deal with Sinclair. I live in the nation’s third largest media market, and I still don’t have the programming. I do have a Sinclair station. This is beyond mismanagement, though that’s nothing new for any company where Jim Cornette still has control. If the RoH ship is to be righted, one of the steps that must be taken is to rid the company of washed up dinosaurs like him.
– Remember Ted DiBiase Jr?
– If I were Natalya, I’d be getting the hell out of dodge. If Phoenix’s departure is to happen this quickly, it means ol’ Nattie will be next on the block for angles like “Santina Marella.”
– Congratulations to my buddy Adam Testa and the rest of the guys at AAPW based out of Southern Illinois and the greater St. Louis area. They had what was, by all accounts, a great program featuring a match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Kudos to any small promotion that can pull an class act together on a consistent basis. More promotions should be about being a complete operation, and not either just about the business, or worse, only about “the passion.”
Thoughts Completely Unrelated to Wrestling
– I miss my hockey, and the Blackhawks, and I hate Gary Bettman.
– New Girl is a terrible show. Not as terrible as Glee, you’re a bad person if you watch that, but still terrible.
– There is no soda superior to Big Red. Fact.
I <3 The 80’s Song of the Week
Steel Panther – “Asian Hooker”
Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @wrestlekingray. To get his column on your website, email firstname.lastname@example.org.