It is no secret that WWE pay-per-view buy rates have been in decline in recent years. This is, of course, understandable as people find themselves with less disposable income to spend on things like PPVs.
But WWE can't just blame its fledgling PPV business on the current economic situation. There are problems with WWE's PPV presentations and schedule that make its events seem less special, and less worth paying for.
So far WWE seem unwilling to radically change how it markets pay-per-views, but if Vince McMahon and Co. want to increase not only their profitability but their quality, they need to refine their PPV schedule.
With that in mind, here are 10 ideas of my own to do that in such a way to make every PPV seem like an important event that fans feel they need to pay for.
On the face of it, this might seem like a crazy idea; after all, how can you make more money from fewer money-making events? (I'm sure this is the thought-process of WWE management).
However, the fact is that asking people to buy a PPV almost every month is going to put people off buying all of the annual events. There was a time in the last year, between Night of Champions and Hell in a Cell, where there were three PPVs almost within a single month. Especially in economic times like these, very few people are going to buy up to three PPVs a month!
Also, the fewer PPVs there are in a year, the more anticipated each one will be; while the more there are, the more repetitive they may seem. Less is more.
All of this means that if there were to be fewer PPV's in a year, each surviving one would draw higher buy rates. I'm sure WWE could even slightly increase PPV prices for these events to make more money from them. If there were fewer events, fans probably wouldn't even mind slightly higher prices if they were paying them less often.
This is another way to make WWE PPVs seem unmissable. The 'Big Four' (Summerslam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania) are always highly anticipated and should be making huge amounts of money.
The Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania will never struggle to draw big numbers, but in recent years Survivor Series and, to a lesser extent, Summerslam, have struggled to draw blockbuster numbers.
The fans expect and deserve big pay-offs at these events, and one way to guarantee this is to increase the build-up to these events. By not having a PPV the month before these PPVs and guaranteeing a roughly two-month build-up, not only do you help fulfil my previous suggestion, but the events are made to seem like really big deals again, and people will be even more willing to part with their money to see them.
The first PPVs to be culled should be the ones, like Over the Limit and Fatal Four Way, that are basically just filler for the year because WWE seems intent to have monthly events.
These events are treated as less important by WWE, and this is also clear to the fans watching. They provide the odd decent title match, but nothing really shocking or interesting will ever happen at these smaller events, exactly because they are the smaller events: WWE would rather wait to have the most iconic moments occur at the bigger events. It is for this reason that these smaller PPVs draw so poorly.
With this in mind, why not just cancel the smaller PPVs and thus make every PPV a blockbuster event.
Now, I must admit quite enjoying TLC this year, but that is one of the PPVs that would be culled if I was in charge - after all, you can have TLC and ladder matches whenever you want that way!
The problem with the match-specific PPVs (Hell in a Cell, TLC, Money in the Bank) isn't really that they are not profitable, after all, being guaranteed, for instance, two Hell in a Cell matches has to be a decent draw. The real problem with these PPVs is creative.
Up until roughly last year, the two most special, iconic stipulation matches in WWE, and in wrestling generally, were the Hell in a Cell match and the TLC match. That isn't to say they have lost all of their iconic status, but now that there will be at least two of them every year, at the same time, they seem a lot less special.
Time was that when Vince McMahon (or whoever the authority figure was at the given time) said '... and it will be Hell in a Cell!', the fans knew not only that a feud was coming to boiling point, but that they could expect a brutal, dramatic match that would be genuinely iconic. Now, Hell in a Cell is booked at the same time every year, no matter what the storyline is, and as there are two of the matches, the viewer is no longer guaranteed that feeling that thy are witnessing wrestling history.
Remove the match-specific PPVs and WWE would be guaranteed a spike in buy rates for any PPV that involves either a Hell in a Cell match or a TLC match.
The cashing-in of the Money in the Bank briefcase is always a highlight moment, and the ladder match in which the briefcase is won is equally unique and exciting.
However, now that we have the Money in the Bank PPV, not only do the matches at that PPV seem less special, but there is the problem of having the whole concept lose something of what makes it so exciting. Having two Money in the Bank holders detracts from the title of being 'Mr. MITB' as it is now a monicker that has to be shared with another.
So instead, i'd lose the Money in the Bank PPV and hold a mid-year MITB match at WWE's other marquee event, Summerslam. Not only would this be good creatively, but it would help draw even bigger buy-rates for Summerslam.
Was I the only one that liked Breaking Point last year?
Earlier, I said that WWE should drop match-based PPVs, but I think they should keep the more generally themed PPVs that have a general atmosphere or theme without requiring the same matches every year.
Marquee events aside, PPVs without a theme are just names. The themes make them more unique and memorable. Extreme Rules is perhaps the best example of this. Without the gimmick, every year it would be an almost meaningless PPV, but with it, every year the fans know they can expect a night of brutality, sacrifice, and extreme rules.
Similarly, Breaking Point had a unique atmosphere to it regarding the idea of submission.
By keeping PPVs with general themes, each PPV would be ensured to be distinctive and unique - something that is crucial to drawing big buy rates.
I was baffled when WWE changed the recognizable and somewhat entrenched name of No Way Out, a name which still fitted the theme of the PPV, to the more generic Elimination Chamber.
This suggestion is a simple one. Generic names like Elimination Chamber, Fatal Four Way, and to a lesser extent, Extreme Rules, inspire little interest in the event. They say nothing about the psychology of the event and so don't really inspire people to buy the PPV.
Plus, there is simply no point to having such bland names!
There are a couple problems with Bragging Rights as it is.
Firstly, while it is quite cool to see RAW superstars take on Smackdown superstars, the draw of that feature is lost because the matches are meaningless. Other than a trophy we see for the next week, nothing happens as a result of the main event, and so viewers are guaranteed to receive no big stories or twists.
Secondly, it is currently right before Survivor Series, another team-based PPV, which makes the elimination stipulation of both PPVs seem less special and therefore, may be hurting PPV buy rates.
So why not separate the two and give Bragging Rights real excitement and meaning by combining it with a draft. The draft is a highlight of the year for many, so why not make people pay for it?
Imagine the storyline possibilities too! Just one example is someone being added or removed from a title match at the last minute because they have been drafted on the night! And that's just one suggestion.
Now I want it made clear that I am generally very pro-PG. It is not the cause of any problem in WWE, and it ensures more interesting, storyline based wrestling as opposed to a reliance on gore.
Nonetheless, I think PPVs should be a place to push beyond that. If wrestling fans know that WWE PPVs would return to TV-14, they would know they could expect something a bit beyond what they usually see on television and that, as emotions come to a head, there will be no holding back. This would again make PPVs more anticipated and garner higher buy rates.
I wouldn't want an over-reliance on blood or cursing, but the use of it at the right time could make the event all the more unique and all the more successful.
This one is a bug-bear of may wrestling fans: investing time and money in a PPV only for it to end in a DQ or something equally meaningless.
Now I understand that there are times when a non-definitive or controversial finish can be important for the storyline, and shocking in itself, but most of the time, we want to see someone win or lose one way or the other.
If this doesn't happen, and needlessly so, it only makes fans question why they're spending money on PPVs and whether they want to in the future.
Here is how I would like to see WWE reschedule their PPVs. Nine PPVs is still plenty, but each one would seem distinctive, important, and 'must see', especially with that TV-14 rating!
Bragging Rights (including draft) – April
Night of Champions - May
Summerslam (including a MITB match) – July
Anarchy (Previously Extreme Rules) – August
Survivor Series - October
Breaking Point - November
Royal Rumble – January
No Way Out (previously Elimination Chamber) - February
Wrestlemania - March