A Look at WWE Pay-Per-View Changes

Joe KirshenbaumContributor IFebruary 21, 2010

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 24:  World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon (L) and wrestler Triple H appear in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Due to a drop in pay per view buyrates, WWE has been making drastic changes to the pay per views.  The results remain to be seen, which will be covered in this article, but first we have to look at how it evolved to this.

The first WWF pay per view, the Wrestling Classic, took place on Nov. 7, 1985.  It was a precursor to the King of the Ring, a one night 16 man tournament, which made it a gimmick pay per view. 

The big five were later formed, as with WrestleMania's move to pay per view in 1986, the debut of Survivor Series in 1987, SummerSlam in 1988, Royal Rumble in 1989, and King of the Ring in 1993, the WWE had five pay per views, all but two, WrestleMania and Summerslam, were gimmick pay per views (much like now, only they have more pay per views).

In 1995, they debuted the In Your House concept.  They would sell cheaper, shorter, lesser caliber pay per views to blowoff interim feuds between the major pay per views.

It's also of note that no pay per view under the In Your House banner used the same name twice, which meant seven pay per views would change names annually for three straight years (compared to five each year in 2009 and 2010).

Meanwhile, WCW started offering top caliber pay per views every month, so WWF was forced to do the same.  So they were at the point where they had monthly high profile pay per views. 

By 1999, the In Your House name was gone, and they began repeating pay per view names from previous years.

In 2003, a year after the brand extension, WWE began doing brand exclusive pay per views.  They eliminated the King of the Ring (why they did that over Survivor Series is beyond me), and by 2004 raised the number of pay per views from 12 to 14, with "the big four" being for both brands, and each brand getting five of their own.

In 2007, they eliminated the brand exclusive pay per views, which resulted in an overkill of pay per views, having 14 a year.  Since 2007, it's been a gradual increase in gimmick pay per views, it wasn't something sudden.

In 2006, there were three (Cyber Sunday, Royal Rumble, and Survivor Series).  In 2007, there added two more (Vengeance/ Night of Champions and One Night Stand/ Extreme Rules).  By 2008, there were seven (No Way Out with the Elimination Chamber, Unforgiven with the scramble matches).

In 2009, they added two new ones (TLC and Hell in a Cell) and simply replaced two other gimmick pay per views (Cyber Sunday became Bragging Rights, and Unforgiven became Breaking Point). 

In 2010, there's only one more than the previous year, as two gimmick pay per views are being replaced (Breaking Point, Survivor Series, and Bragging Rights)

In the end, this is a smart concept for the WWE.  The fact of the matter is, basic B-level pay per views don't really have much of a draw.  Nobody's going to order a pay per view based solely on the name, with the exception of WrestleMania and SummerSlam. 

So by eliminating all of the non gimmick pay per views, cutting back from 14 to 12 pay per views (which is something WWE should have done the second they eliminated the brand exclusive pay per views, which could've been considered gimmick pay per views as well), is definitely the best move they could make, as the post-WrestleMania run of having four pay-per-views in 12 weeks following WrestleMania resulted in major overkill.

Some of the new gimmick pay per view concepts have worked (Elimination Chamber, Extreme Rules, TLC, Night of Champions, Hell in a Cell).  Even when the pay per views themselves sucked, they still drew in an appeal enough to draw in much higher buyrates than they previously have. 

And while some have failed (Taboo Tuesday/ Cyber Sunday, Bragging Rights, Breaking Point, scramble matches), and others (Survivor Series) have become hopelessly outdated, they will eventually find something that works every month.

It's a simple case of trial and error.  The WWE will continue to come up with new gimmick pay per views and test them out until they find 10 of them that work and they can do annually. 

It may take a few years, during which we'll have to suffer through some idiotic concepts and horrible pay per views. 

Sure, of the four new concepts, it's likely that two or three of them won't be continued after one year, but even if one or two works, then they can come up with a few new concepts for 2011. 

If they can come up with one a year that works, they will by 2013 have the strongest set of pay per views since they went from five to twelve annually.

In the end, it's a smart business decision by WWE.  They've already found five that have worked thus far (Elimination Chamber, Hell in a Cell, TLC, Night of Champions, and Extreme Rules) to go along with WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Royal Rumble. 

So in reality, they're only changing up four of the pay per views, which will be a test run.  If a pay per view works, then it will become a mainstay.  If it fails...

So what new pay per views will succeed and which ones will fail?  Let's take a look:


Wild Card:

I'm assuming this will be something along the lines of Raw Roulette, where match stipulations and opponents/ tag partners will be drawn from a stack of cards. 

This would actually be an interesting concept if it actually was random, but like Raw Roulette, it won't be. 

The main reason why this is destined to fail will be the same exact reason why Taboo Tuesday/ Cyber Sunday is destined to fail. 

Not knowing the details of each matchup heading into the pay per view limits the amount of buildup, and without proper buildup, nobody will care, and thus, nobody will buy.


Fatal Four Way:

Could be a potentially interesting concept, but with this one, it is much like past gimmick pay per views as Unforgiven 2008 (with the scramble matches), Survivor Series, Breaking Point, and Bragging Rights in which the "gimmick" of the pay per view wasn't significant enough to raise interest in the fans, and just resulted in some pretty bad matchups.   Much like those pay per views, Fatal Four Way will not make it either.


Money in the Bank:

This is definitely a pay per view that has a great chance of succeeding.   Looking at the new gimmick pay per concepts that have succeeded over the past couple of years, they all have one thing in common: they took a popular gimmick match, and revolved a pay per view around it.

First it was the Elimination Chamber, followed by Hell in a Cell and TLC, so Money in the Bank has a good shot at succeeding.

The one thing that concerns me about this one is what it means for the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania.  They need to change it up, make it differ from the match at Mania. 

Perhaps have a series of (non-ladder) matches where each match is for a guaranteed shot at any time for a specific title, or for just the main titles.  Hell, what's wrong with having two money in the banks anyways? 

Since Edge's first run as Money in the Bank winner where he carried the briefcase until January of the next year, nobody has gone past June to cash it in, so if there was a MITB match at Mania this year, it would likely have been cashed in by the time this pay per view is held in July. 

Or you can switch money in the bank with one of the pay per views later in the year.


War Games

As of right now, nothing has been confirmed, but word is going around that this former NWA, and later WCW concept is finally being picked up by WWE. 

This would definitely be an awesome concept, and a good way to keep the team concept that we had at Survivor Series into a format that is fresh and exciting.  This is definitely one that could stay for years to come.

Just keep it to one ring this time.

This new concept of having a themed pay per view every month, with the exception of the big two, is not really a new concept, but simply them coming full circle. 

And while they will continue to tweak the ideas, the end result in a couple years where will result in more desirable pay per views and more buys, which is WWE's goal in all this.


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