This year's Survivor Series was one of the most eagerly anticipated PPVs in recent years. Not least because it would see the face of the company being fired, it potentially offered something far more interesting and substantial than previous events had. In many ways, however, the annual Thanksgiving event was an utter disappointment, not living up to its wild promise and giving, rather, Monday Night Raw all the drama the following evening.
Under the current system the WWE offers fans four free shows per week and 13 PPV events per year. This hectic, monthly PPV schedule exists largely due to the hangover from the 1990s' Monday Night Wars, where the WWE was forced to continually up its quota of live events to keep up with the emerging threat offered by WCW. This was 15 years ago, however, and we now see the WWE largely disinterested in its small-time competitors, focusing rather on it's own, in-house affairs.
Inexplicably, though, this paradigm still exists. It means that week-to-week we generally won't see a title change hands and will see story lines and matches manufactured for fruition in three to four weeks in the future. Viewers will sit bemused as superstars defer their aggression for a future date rather than dealing with it there and then - instead, we witness cheap shots and attacks and odd feuds are developed.
The system is good for business, however. It makes no sense that once you've built your empire that you start to knock it down and I understand that. The WWE now dominates Sports Entertainment and has got there by building an audience who want to go to live events and want to consume content on many different media formats. The WWE Universe is prepared to (and expect to) pay for the privilege of watching WWE events from the comfort of their own home, once a month.
What is taken for granted, perhaps, is that as consumers of the product we become accomplished readers of it; we understand the inner workings of it and start to see patterns emerge. So much so that what stings, what hurts the most is when the product doesn't deliver or doesn't pay us enough respect. Simply put, at Survivor Series we were let down.
Questions marks must be raised over this year's event: not one title changed hands; matches were predictable and the best wrestling that took place wasn't in the either of the main events.
Perhaps I'm too traditional; perhaps I pine after the old days a little too often. But it seems to me that today, we rarely get finality or a sense of closure at a PPV event: the WWE would rather continue feuds and story lines into the weeks following the show making these events little more than money-spinners. Often a match that took place on Sunday will appear again Monday night on Raw or Friday night on SmackDown and often we are delivered a more exciting outcome. So why pay the money?
Survivor Series this year left all the glory to be scooped up by Raw: John Cena's (kayfabe) farewell speech; Cena's interference in Orton and Barrett's rematch and most of all Miz's cashing in of the Money in the Bank briefcase. Real drama that could have happened at the previous night's PPV event was instead given to us for free. Raw was a more enjoyable and satisfying show than Survivor Series because we were given some answers rather than given little more than what we already knew. To boot, we're now treated to a 3-hour King-of-the-Ring tournament on Monday night which will offer us some of the best in-ring technicians battling it out for the crown. Again, for free.
If the PPV events continue to disappoint, something has to give. It seems unjustifiable to offer the same product again and again to fans who want to see value for their money. Offering an event where nothing changes and all that happens is the inevitable is hugely unsatisfying and ultimately not worth paying for.
So what is the answer? More than anything, the WWE needs to lose the grinding treadmill of the PPV schedule. The WWE needs to help itself; it shouldn't give itself the headache of having to create interest in another PPV event every three weeks, where up until the Friday before they are still shoe-horning in matches to fill up the bill. Rather than little and often, the WWE need to build to these events. There is nothing more frustrating than watching knowing that title can't change hands now for four weeks or that two superstars will feud with each other indefinitely because they are booked to wrestle the following month on PPV.
The overriding factor will always be money. Losing PPV events will lose the WWE money, but there has to be more to it than that. The WWE needs to take pride in its output; it needs to respect its audience and most of all it needs to look after its legacy. We're not being spoilt with so much content; we might just be being fooled.
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