I was going to use this week to talk about romance in wrestling and how almost no star afflicted by it can survive its corrosive touch. But I couldn’t let this go unremarked upon.
The Beast In The East was announced in May but nobody really knew what to expect from this network event on a foreign soil. Its kind hasn’t been tried in years outside of North America.
Once upon a time, before we had Raw and Smackdown in the UK, the then WWF hosted a series of PPV’s called Rebellion and Insurrextion that were UK exclusive. Americans could only get these on imported DVDs.
Since then though, there have been no PPV’s outside of the U.S., its Commonwealths or Canada. There have been two major reasons for this. The time difference would alienate the American audience, and the IWC would broadcast the results to them before a more palatable broadcast time.
In 1992 WWF got their second biggest attendance ever with that year’s SummerSlam in Wembley Stadium. But it was taped the previous day. That just isn’t viable in a world of news alerts and Twitter updates.
No way would you be able to find out that Davey Boy Smith beat Bret Hart in a massive hometown (well home country) upset, simply by watching the event all the way to the end. Believe me, as an English wrestling fan, keeping away from the results of WrestleMania until after work the next day was a task too Herculean to complete. The results were pasted all over the WWE website, which houses the WWE Network, and my only way of watching the event.
But now with this PPV, WWE have shown they are again open to this kind of major non-American event. Look at the line up of Beast In The East. Both Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho are making appearances. For Brock this will be his first match since WrestleMania, and Jericho’s since last year.
The weird thing is that these appearances, as major as they may seem, are non-cannon to the rest of the WWE product. There has been no mention in any of the broadcasts I’ve seen of Jericho returning or Lesnar facing Kofi Kingston. This is a massive change in how WWE have been operating recently and it could continue into the future.
This deal they have with Japan’s J Sports to broadcast the event live must surely have been the catalyst for these Megastars returning. Imagine what could happen if they did the same for Sky Sports to have an exclusive PPV that is aired on a prime time slot in the UK? With their clout they might get The Rock or maybe even Sting back.
Even bigger news is that neither Brock’s first match in months or Jericho’s all year is the main event. The main event is Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens for the NXT championship. Lesnar’s name might be on the Marquee, but NXT has trumped him, Jericho, and John Cena to be the focus of the main event.
This is huge news for Finn Balor, who, while being one of NJPW’s hottest stars, is still an rookie in the minds WWE’s creatives. This is WWE showing some surprising humility by really tailoring their event to the live audience.
Instead of trying to shove their vision down the throats of an audience that have massive cultural differences, WWE are embracing the needs of the fans in Japan. If only they would provide the western hardcore market the same service.
The quality of the wrestling should be better as well because the expectation is that as the Japanese audience doesn’t speak English, then it is the in ring action that will have to make up for the lack of story. This means it could be WWE’s first real attempt at an indie like show where the wrestling is the only marketable asset.
If this show is a success, who knows what doors it might open or what ways of thinking it might encourage? Personally, as this is the first WWE event I’ve been able to watch live without fear of falling asleep at work the next day, I’ll be tuning it to see how right my predictions are. And if I am right I encourage all you lot to watch too.