Why the Build-Up and Hype to WWE PPV's Are More Important Than the Actual Show
Last night's Raw telecast was a perfect example of how the build-up for pay-per-view events plays a more critical role than the marquee shows themselves. In order for the WWE to reach maximum selling power, the month in between shows must generate an insane amount of hype.
The road to Extreme Rules began the night after WrestleMania. As The Rock exited stage right after defeating John Cena, former UFC champion Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE after eight years away from the company.
It was amazing to hear the massive crowd reaction when his music hit and he walked out onto the stage. Wrestling fans from around the world converged on Miami for the year's biggest event, so it was a more in-tune crowd than usual, and that helped generate a huge pop for Lesnar.
At that point, Extreme Rules was in great shape. Usually the PPV immediately following WrestleMania struggles due to a lack of star power. With The Rock, Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels all leaving, it appeared this Sunday's show was destined to fail before Lesnar saved it.
Attacking Cena right away gave the build-up immediate momentum and helped keep casual fans interested when they would usually start flocking away in big numbers.
Who will win at Extreme Rules?
There was no chance the WWE could keep every person from the record-breaking WrestleMania audience interested, but the company came as close as possible. The hoopla, both inside the WWE universe and from the mainstream fans, was enormous.
Things continued to progress nicely leading up to last week's epic Lesnar interview. His rant about being tired of Cena's attack resonated with the crowd because it's the same promo approach The Rock had been using for the past year with a boatload of success.
It added even more intrigue to the upcoming match and the WWE knew it struck gold with the interview because the company proceeded to show it several more times on both Raw and Smackdown, including twice on yesterday's go-home edition of the red brand.
Allowing Lesnar to spout off about coming back to legitimize the company and being unstoppable helped the hype train keeping rolling around, but it's important to note that the interview was taped well in advance and didn't put any pressure on him.
Did last night's segment ruin the PPV's hype?
The same can't be said about last night's debacle. Lesnar was sent out to demand some changes from the company in a segment with John Laurinaitis, and it couldn't have gone worse. His work on the mic has never been his strong suit, so it was surprising to see him get thrown into a no-win situation.
It's no surprise the Detroit crowd quickly became restless as Lesnar stumbled his way through the segment, even going as far to chant “You suck!”
That wasn't what the creative team had in mind when it sent him out there. It was hoping he would build off the interview. Instead, the entire contract signing—which was the main selling point of Raw—turned into a mess.
All of the momentum build-up in the preceding three weeks was quickly halted as the WWE universe grew tired of Lesnar's underwhelming performance. After a nearly picture-perfect build, it basically got wiped away in the span of 15 minutes, and that will surely hurt the Extreme Rules buyrate.
The ending of Raw—which wasn't saved by Cena's eventual appearance—likely lost fans who were on the fence about buying the show. If the company turns the event into must-see television, like it did with WrestleMania, the numbers will reflect that.
What's more important?
Up until last night, it seemed like Extreme Rules would fall into that category, but the final segment made it seem like anything but essential viewing. Exposing Lesnar's biggest weakness right before the PPV put an end to the hype and was a terrible way to finish the build.
What happens in the match will always be secondary to what happens on Raw, when a larger portion of the WWE universe tunes in. Telling a good story takes precedent over action, and that won't change no matter who comes back.
When a build-up crawls to the finish, it limits a PPV's upside. Lesnar learned that the hard way last night, and the WWE will get another reminder when the buyrate gets reported.
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