WWE are one man (or major entertainment corporation) with too many masters. They have a million subscribers to the WWE Network, all of whom demand exclusive quality content that justifies their $9.99 a month. They also have to keep their cable companies sweet – such as Time Warner and Comcast, or the Rupert Murdoch helmed BSkyeB corporation – otherwise the all-important television market (which, despite what internet news sites would have you believe, is still a far bigger deal than the world wide web) would be cut off.
In an effort to create happy campers of both parties, WWE has significantly upped their quota of special shows and PPV (or PPV like) events. This past Sunday we had Elimination Chamber. Money in the Bank is just a week and a half away. Payback was just two weeks ago. I between that and the Chamber we had NXT: Unstoppable. Three weeks before that we had Extreme Rules and The King of the Ring tournament was just two days after that.
Did you follow all that? In the last couple of months we’ve had five major events. And considering we only had two days warning for KOTR, who knows how many we’ll have in the coming weeks. We don’t even know when the next NXT Takeover will be.
That’s too much. I love me some wrestling, but this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, it makes keeping up with WWE content a massive time commitment. Keeping up with the three hour Raw, Friday Night Smackdown, NXT and all the special events is a full time job at this point. The fan base is falling behind and viewers are becoming alienated by shows that are referencing events many of them don’t have the time to watch. Even if they just watch the special stuff and skip an occasional weekly show, they could miss important information and get left out of the hype train, lessening the impact of the matches it leads up to.
Secondly, it puts more pressure upon their performers by making them wrestle more, furthering the risk of injury and diluting the distinction of their appearances. John Cena set the standard of the fighting champion by wrestling week in, week out. If Seth Rollins is to keep that standard up, as athletes of his calibre are want to, this means he could be wrestling three times a week for at least two weeks out of the month. That’s hundreds of matches a year. This puts his body, and superstar status at risk.
As much as we hated him for it at the time, Brock Lesnar might have been onto something. By having such sparse appearances Lesnar made his matches, and his title, mean something; it also cemented his status a boss monster. Rollins matches are so frequent, they are no longer special. Which is wrong because they’re all so good.
This leads to WWE having to create moments to make all the shows unmissable, putting major moments on minor events. Just look at the Owens victory over Cena. That could have been a main event Champion vs. Champion match at a Summerslam PPV. Instead it was a mid-card match on a WWE Network event. Now, this could have been an attempt to surprize the viewer with a big moment at a time they were clearly not expecting it, or even a moment to declare that every Network Event is just as important as anything you order from Verizon or Sky Box Office. But even that can’t bring it in line with the prestige this moment deserved.
The on-demand nature of the network coupled with the length and frequency of the programming also has another unintended consequence. If people can pick and choose the parts of an event they want to see, then some superstars are going to be missed out. This is great news for a guy like Dean Ambrose, but terrible for someone like Adam Rose. If people can choose to skip his segments, it’s likely that fans will never give him the chance he needs to turn his popularity around. He could pull out the match of the century, but what does that matter when no one is watching?
The tracking information available to content creators in the year 2015 is more sophisticated than it has ever been. You better believe a ratings centric company like WWE are paying top dollar for such technology. This means that the top guys in WWE will continue to thrive while the lower and undercards cannibalise themselves.
I love WWE events. I love watching moments like the SHEILD *quote-unquote* reunite, Ambrose running off with the title, and Owens beating Cena. I just know that these moments are best when they are fewer and farther in between.