UFC Primed to Hurt Upcoming WWE Pay-Per-View's Buyrate (Again)
The WWE's time honored SummerSlam pay-per-view emanates from Los Angeles, California (Big Nasty Country) Sunday, August 15. The decision to hold the pay-per-view from the Staples Center every year, made in 2009, adds to the tradition and prestige of one of the WWE's oldest and most anticipated pay-per-view franchises.
In recent years, the WWE has placed added emphasis on their annual summer event. Waiting for approximately one month from the date of the previous event to hold the pay-per-view in order to extend the build-up period, as well as holding a WWE Fan Axxess event (similar to the Fan Axxess events held during the week leading up to WrestleMania) as SummerSlam approaches, the WWE has done everything in its power to make SummerSlam the Wrestlemania of the Summer.
Enter the UFC.
To call the Ultimate Fighting Championship's growth 'exponential' would be a clichéd understatement. UFC has clearly become the new king of the box office when it comes to pay-per-view buys. The UFC's smartly booked (that's right, UFC has booking as well) real life feuds have translated to pay-per-view buys routinely hovering around the one million buy mark.
The UFC returns this Saturday, August 7th, after a month long absence from pay-per-view, with UFC 117. The UFC will be coming off the critically acclaimed (and box office juggernaut) UFC 116, featuring former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar in the main event against Shane Carwin.
The top mixed martial arts promotion in the world will undoubtedly bring residual momentum heading into a card that will be highlighted by a heavily anticipated title defense of one of their most controversial fighters in Anderson Silva.
With the UFC and WWE pay-per-views occurring so close to one another, one has to take note of what has become a rather unfavorable pattern for the WWE- UFC pay-per-views 'stealing' buyrates from WWE pay-per-views.
WWE WrestleMania 26 saw one of the greatest builds to a pay-per-view of all time. Bret Hart was to compete in his first WWE match in 13 years after a nasty falling out with the promotion all but guaranteed he would never be seen in a WWE ring again.
A hot rematch between the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels was set to headline the card, as the two would be competing for the first time since their instant classic from the previous year's WrestleMania. To make the match even juicier, Shawn Michaels' legendary career would be on the line.
The top two stars from this era of wrestling, John Cena and Batista, were to square off for the company's biggest prize of the WWE Championship.
This card was so stacked, it saw Triple H, whose last seven appearances at WrestleMania were contested for a heavyweight championship, in the middle of the card against promising upstart Sheamus.
With such a strong lineup, coupled with a great build, it should have been academic that this pay-per-view was going to draw over a million buys as it has done multiple times in the past.
Enter the UFC.
With UFC 111 occurring just the night before WrestleMania, many pundits felt that this was a bad move for the UFC. WrestleMania is a time honored tradition, and a juggernaut unto itself (sound familiar?).
Featuring one of its biggest stars in George St. Pierre, defending his Welterweight Championship in the main event, many felt that the UFC was wasting a big drawing opportunity to be diving into dangerous waters by featuring a pay-per-view on the eve of WrestleMania.
Apparently, Dana White laughs in the face of danger before threatening to fire it should it attempt to embarrass him.
Drawing an impressive, yet low compared to expectations, 885,000 buys, WrestleMania 26 was seen as a box office disappointment given its strong lineup. The close proximity of the UFC 111 pay-per-view was obviously to blame for such an alarmingly low figure for a WrestleMania.
And for those who subscribe to the delusional, almost tongue-in-cheek, Vince McMahon rhetoric that the UFC is not competition to the WWE (which is a whole other discussion of its own), UFC 111 outdrew WrestleMania 26 in Canada.
Despite the UFC pulling up the rear, and now passing the WWE in the pay-per-view business, many in the media who follow both pro wrestling and MMA, like myself, perpetually ask whether or not a given UFC pay-per-view will hurt a WWE pay-per-view's buyrate.
But perhaps it's time to begin asking a slightly different question.
With UFC 117 WWE SummerSlam, occurring just one week before after WWE SummerSlam UFC 117, will UFC 117 WWE SummerSlam hurt WWE SummerSlam's UFC 117's buyrate?
With UFC clearly the new king of the pay-per-view business (aside from the occasional epic boxing match that comes along once a year, if not sparingly), the discussion has changed to where a UFC buyrate is now being affected by that of the now slightly inferior WWE pay-per-view.
It doesn't hurt that the UFC now has pro wrestling overtones pumped into the build up of UFC 117 to peak interest.
With Anderson Silva, the above mentioned controversial champion, defending his UFC Middleweight title at UFC 117, challenger (and superior English speaker) Chael Sonnen has done a fantastic job in trashtalking the incumbent champion. Promising to "put [Silva] on his back and punch a hole in his face", Sonnen has added personality to this card with use of basic heel tactics.
To further help the build for UFC 117, UFC President Dana White has been implicated in the main event as he has threatened to take harsh action against Anderson Silva, who playfully ran away from his outclassed (for lack of a better word) challenger for two rounds in his last title defense, should Silva perform the same bizarre antics seen in fights he doesn't feel are on his level.
Many will be interested in seeing how Anderson Silva responds to such pressure, whether or not Silva has the balls to show-up the boss once again, and even whether or not Dana White will have the balls to follow through on his threats of firing Anderson Silva should Silva perform unfavorably in one way or another.
The added intrigue gives UFC 117 a great shot of at least flirting with the one million buy hallmark. With one month between pay-per-views, casual fight fans will have money to spend on a pay-per-view without worrying about money already spent on a previous card held in the not so distant past.
What would really put this pay-per-view in the cat bird's seat, would be to make Dana White the special guest referee for the Silva/Sonnen main event.
In a perfect world, for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 117 would top one million buys.
Enter the WWE.
With WWE SummerSlam on the horizon, and a notoriously competitive promotion ticked off about playing second fiddle in the pay-per-view industry, the WWE's traditional pay-per-view event that has been heavily invested in over the years, will likely keep the UFC from drawing one million buys.
So will the WWE hurt the UFC's pay-per-view buyrate? Absolutely. And as this epic battle for pay-per-view supremacy rages on, the question itself will always be open to interpretation
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