It was announced earlier this week that secondary national wrestling company TNA will be reducing its pay-per-view schedule (h/t PWTorch.com).
Like WWE, TNA ran one pay-per-view per month in 2012. In an age of saturated wrestling content, the overhaul is a brilliant move by the promotion.
The WWE could stand to learn from the less-is-more approach. WWE programming runs television shows on Mondays (for three hours), Wednesdays, Fridays and occasionally Sundays.
In an era where there is only one major player in professional wrestling, the onslaught of content is hardly in demand. Pro wrestling ratings have shrunken exponentially since 2001, when WCW went out of business. WWE's most recent answer to sagging interest was to add another hour to Raw.
It took Monday's return of The Rock for that unwarranted third hour to increase significantly in viewership. In fact, the last time the third hour performed like that in the three-hour
error era was on Raw 1000. That show also featured The Rock.
The WWE churns out 12 pay-per-views per year. In analyzing which events consistently draw money, one can discern the positive relationship between pro wrestling's fanbase and nostalgia. This concept was hard at work during Raw 1000—a nostalgia show with scores of WWE legends and reunions, resulting in the highest Raw rating in 10 years.
Traditional WWE pay-per-views—aptly named the big four—drew an average of 576,260 buys in 2012. Non-big-four pay-per-views drew an average of 197,000 buys (h/t Wikipedia; Based on released figures for 11 of 12 pay-per-views in 2012).
Naturally, WWE should do as TNA did and stick to airing significant pay-per-views where fan interest has shown to be at its highest.
If the WWE scaled back, it would be more justified in airing pay-per-view quality matches on free TV. This could counter the pay-per-view drought while potentially increasing TV ratings. More meaning (and dollars) would in turn be added to more well-thought-out pay-per-view offerings.
With the wrestling market beginning and ending with the WWE, it is TNA that seems to have the most logical business plan. The WWE is no stranger to borrowing from TNA (see Zack Ryder), and this is another instance where imitation could be the highest form of effectiveness.