The British Conundrum: Why WWE Gives Us Brits the Runaround
For many of my readers across the pond, this is probably not going to be of much relevance.
You people are not forced to submit to the barrage of bumper ads glamourising the upcoming Raw/SmackDown UK tours, numbering at four or five per hour, whether it be Superstars or WWE Experience.
I admit, you probably have to sit through other mind-numbing commercials or regional plugs for events, but sometimes it feels like they make a special exemption for us Brits here and suck out extra airtime to make way for yet another plug for the LG Arena show or the Odyssey Arena shows that I have no intention of going to.
That said, I quite enjoy the fact that they are promoting a British show instead of another non-WWE commercial. It's nice to know there are regional differences between the programmes. My problem is more the events they are booking, specifically the main events.
The biannual nature of WWE's UK tours means that literally the week after one tour is finished, there's another one being booked and promoted. Specifically, these events are being promoted with predetermined main events, main events which are announced months in advance. There are several problems with this.
First of all, WWE cannot look into the future and guarantee the billed superstars won't retire, be injured or maybe violate WWE policy and be suspended. Look at SmackDown's UK tour. It has been focused heavily on The Undertaker. Every main event featured The Undertaker, and the man himself even featured in the commercials, giving a pretty cringe-worthy "Generic Deadman Promo No. 452" speech.
Many had speculated that this tour was being billed as a "parade lap" for The Undertaker's inevitable retirement in the next few months, with 'Taker leaving before the next tour, and that this was designed as a "last chance to see" farewell tour to The Undertaker's UK fans.
However, just two or three weeks before the UK tour commenced, The Undertaker suffered an injury which not only forced a rewrite in his Buried Alive title match with Kane, but also a hastily restructured card which swapped a World Heavyweight Championship match for a non-consequential six-man tag match.
This is another downside to main events determined months in advance. At the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, many speculated that The Undertaker would finally get his revenge and end the feud with Kane once and for all.
However, we savvy UK fans already knew that this wasn't the case because the two were booked to continue their feud in the UK in November with a Belfast Brawl between the two and a Steel Cage match in Manchester, both for the World Heavyweight Championship. As well as this, they were booked to face the Big Show at many of the other dates.
Why would WWE Creative book matches in a feud which was determined to be dead and over a month or two before, unless they intended to continue it until November?
Similarly, the Raw tour has suffered a same fate, with Orton being booked to face Wade Barrett for the championship, before facing John Cena and Sheamus the next night for the title in a Triple Threat match, then facing Barrett yet again in a match the night after, with Bret Hart the Special Guest Enforcer.
Fittingly, this match is a rescheduled one, as it was meant to be John Cena facing Orton in the Bret-as-Enforcer match, as months of endless trailers led us to believe. Cena hasn't been injured, in fact he's facing Orton the night before, so why was he removed from the match?
The obvious explanation would be the ongoing storyline between Orton and Barrett, but surely these storylines have been planned months in advance and WWE Creative knew they would have to change it nearer the time?
So why on earth would WWE sell an event for months on a match that they knew was never going to take place and was going to be rescheduled anyway? I can sympathise with the makeshift replacement card on SmackDown in the wake of 'Taker's injury, but for Raw, if anything, it's false advertising.
In a similar manner, every World Heavyweight Championship match on Raw features Randy Orton, the champion, and sometimes he faces competitors the next night who weren't in the title match from the night before. Therefore, to ensure the matches that are billed go ahead, Randy Orton must retain in all of them.
Yes, there are repeat matches on the tour, but curiously there are always enough matches for Orton to lose the title and retain it just in time for the tour ending or for a new challenger to get his shot.
Similarly, every match on SmackDown featured either The Undertaker or Kane, ensuring that either of these people would have ample opportunity to retain their title in time for their return to the USA.
In fact, bar one or two matches where there was usually a quick return of the belt when back in America, there are never title changes in the UK. Ever. Look at all the old WWE pay-per-views in the UK, barring SummerSlam, and you'll see that it's obvious that these title matches are nothing more than exhibition matches designed to appease a baying crowd.
Where else would X-Pac be given a shot at the Federation's biggest title and still find his match relegated to second-highest on the card, behind a non-title Fatal 4-Way? And only in the UK could Edge possibly win the WWE Championship by pinning Paul Heyman in a handicap match. (Thankfully, he didn't.)
But why does WWE treat its UK fans with such contempt? It's clear there is a rabid fanbase in the UK. The oft-cited SummerSlam '92 at Wembley Stadium attracted the second-largest audience ever at a WWE event (Behind WrestleMania III, although many believe that SummerSlam's attendance was actually higher, with Vince's hallowed "93,000" figure for WM3 being overstated a little and that the SummerSlam attendance was actually downplayed. Such debate still rumbles on.).
WWE's annual pay-per-views were always sold out, the tours to this day remain packed and Superstars will regularly comment on the enthusiasm of the British crowd.
This seems to work against the British crowds, though, because jet-lagged superstars tend to give below-par performances and predictable, boring matches are booked as WWE Creative knows that the baying masses will lap up any old guff, so enthusiastic are they about seeing the likes of Cena, Rock or Hogan (because this isn't a new practice, it's been going on ever since the '90s).
However, there is another simple reason why UK events are so lacklustre and uneventful. The reason why there are never any title changes is because the WWE do not want to offend their American audience, who always seem to take it personally when something important like a storyline development or a title change happens somewhere else apart from America! Even though the tireless UK fans are willing to stay up till five in the morning every month to watch WWE pay-per-views, it also seems that Americans are unwilling to watch one pay-per-view in the afternoon.
The time difference has stopped WWE from capitalising on the success of SummerSlam and other UK-only pay-per-views and giving the UK its own meaningful pay-per-views with title changes, a proper build-up and a genuine pay-per-view feel to it.
I loved Rebellion and Insurrextion, and their predecessors No Mercy and Capital Carnage. In the UK, they were promoted to the hills, and you genuinely felt you were watching an exciting pay-per-view, even though they weren't that meaningful. It baffles me why WWE treats the UK like dog dirt, even though it always delivers a pumped-up, involved crowd and great profits, just for the sake of its American audience.
WWE, we don't ask for much. All we want is an actual pay-per-view with title changes and storyline developments, not WrestleMania. Continue your tours, but bill main events properly and not so in advance that they give off massive spoilers and have to be torn up when one of the superstars is sidelined.
Make a clear, concise list of main events for each date which are different from each other, and use normal storylines to dictate these events.
It's not rocket science!
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