Sports Entertainment On Life Support: The Great Gimmick PPV Predicament
Throughout sports entertainment history, the various wrestling promotions have offered their loyal fans a brief window through which they were able to witness the grand theatrics and athletic competition that we today surely take for granted.
It would seem, that before Wrestlemania left its mark in sports events history, that an idea of having up to 12 grand spectacles a year seemed like such an alien concept.
Of course, the fans always had house shows to go to, where they showed their support and were able to witness some of the greatest matches to have never been broadcast on TV.
But the idea of having one large event (with a card that could be hyped weeks beforehand thus ensuring a large audience and correspondingly, large sums of money that would be made from said event) seemingly jumped to the forefront of the minds of McMahonagement.
After the resounding success of Wrestlemania III, WWE expanded and eventually created a PPV per month schedule; a business model they would follow from the late '90s up until 2003.
Ever since, the total number of PPVs has fluctuated, increasing and decreasing with the highest being 16 in 2007; for our purposes, let's consult last year's number: 14.
The model of a pay-per-view is such that it has about three to four weeks of build-up before the event so that there is seemingly sufficient time to create interesting rivalries that fans would pay to watch unfold at these supershows.
With 14 shows in 12 months, the opportunity to build new feuds and end old ones would make one think that this should be sufficient for fans and newcomers alike to be invested in the product.
And yet, WWE continues on with its recent hobby of throwing things at the ceiling to see what will stick (even though they aren't the only ones who like playing that childish game).
This definitely has more to do with their PPV buys than it is to do with offering fans something different every time and thus consequently taking the word 'speciality' out of the term 'speciality matches'.
But in all honesty, gimmick PPVs have been around for a while and wrestling aficionado have been able to enjoy these PPVs immensely when they are emotionally invested in the feuds on the card.
The Royal Rumble, for example, remains of the original four large PPVs of the WWE known for its annual 30-man over the top battle royal.
That's the thing, though: When fans are willing to pay to see interesting matchups, an added clunky element of having to go through a gauntlet of gimmick matches drains all of the originality and longevity of the matchups.
That is why the company is spending their time trying to fit each and every fan favorite into such matches; coincidentally, this will lead to all potential matchups to be exhausted.
With the recent shift to PG, the WWE has also tried to shift its company in almost every aspect, and it is certainly understandable why.
However, introducing new gimmicks to PPVs that would be counterproductive to their shift are not only noticeable but quite alarming; the risk of blood and injury have subsequently increased with such match concepts as Hell in a Cell, Tables Ladders and Chairs and as recent as the Money in the Bank ladder match, which has been incorporated into its latest PPV offering.
So, while the fans will certainly shell out the cash for a pay-per-view event of a company that touts its TV rating as being 'PG,' their offerings do not seem to indicate that it is a family-friendly company.
Yes, I do realize they have trainers to attend to wrestlers if they ever get busted open, but why add that factor which only slows down the pace of an electrifying match and puts the action on hold when it can be avoided in the first place?
For a company that caters to relatively young audiences, such an example certainly isn't a good one.
I can comprehend why the WWE would shake up its PPV timetable and spice it up; their recent PPV buyrates have not lived up to their expectations so they have rightfully decided to reinvent their PPVs for 2010 to see whether or not their average PPV buyrate tops the numbers produced in the past year.
If not, then where do they go? Will they stick with the formula that brings them a considerable amount of profit but not the amount they would like?
Or will it be time to finally realize that all they have to do is look back in the past at the brilliantly played out storylines and begin to rebuild the theatrical spectacle that the lights, the ring, the wrestlers and the rivalries that combined to form?
I sincerely hope it's the latter.
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