Pros and Cons of WWE Having an Offseason
Recently on the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast, Jon Moxley spoke of the idea that WWE would have to change the status quo by introducing an offseason or cycling Superstars in and out.
While all major sports, as well as all television shows, have an offseason, WWE's concept of sports entertainment oddly avoids both the sports and entertainment side of this by going full force all year.
The world of professional wrestling is undergoing a wave of change, with the indies on fire, AEW pushing for some new business models and WWE struggling to keep its fanbase, so the idea of an offseason is worth talking about.
But like anything, there are pros and cons with this notion. Let's take a look at both sides of the argument.
Pro: Wrestlers Have More Time to Heal
The most obvious positive out of this is that wrestlers would have time to rest up and heal from their nagging injuries, which could prolong their careers and lives.
Without being on the road all the time, they could sleep and eat better, work out with less of a grind and relax.
This would be beneficial not just on the physical side but with mental and emotional health as well, as everyone could spend more time with their families and take a break from being their over-the-top personas in the public eye 24/7.
WWE has remained adamant over the past few calls with investors that one of the reasons ratings were down was because of a lack of star power from people missing time because of injuries. While we know there are more problems contributing to that than the lack of Roman Reigns on every single show, it's not a good thing for anybody if Superstars are injured.
More time away from bumping and traveling, even if it were for just a few weeks, could go a long way in keeping the talent healthy and happy rather than being burned out or out of action with injuries.
Con: Major Loss of Revenue Across the Board
The biggest negative that prevents this from happening is how much of a hit WWE would have to take on making money, which is the business' ultimate goal.
Without putting out the product, the revenue stream would inevitably go down across the board. Ticket sales would be gone during this offseason, which also means a downgrade for merchandise sold at shows.
When something is in full swing and on everyone's minds, that is when they are most likely to buy toys or merchandise, so during the offseason, WWE merchandise wouldn't fly off the shelves as much.
Also, television networks pay such huge amounts in part because they are getting a live weekly show as opposed to something that will be replaced with reruns or midseason content.
Fox and NBCUniversal would never give WWE as good of a deal, and WWE wouldn't make a dime from commercials and other advertisements while there is no show to promote on.
WWE would be paying everyone—the wrestlers, the camera crew, everyone in catering, set production team and others—to do nothing. The writers couldn't script shows that wouldn't be produced, the website team would have little to no updates and the YouTube channel would get no hits if an entire month's worth of content was recaps and nothing new.
There's no monetary incentive for WWE to want to take time off the schedule.
Pro: Less Burnout on Creative
Now, more than ever, WWE has an overabundance of programming, making it practically impossible to watch everything the company churns out, especially if you are a fan of other wrestling organizations and have to prioritize your time.
Between Monday Night Raw, SmackDown Live, 205 Live, NXT, NXT UK and Main Event, there are nine hours of weekly televised in-ring action alone. This is not including the pay-per-views, of which there seems to be a never-ending supply, with new specials coming out pretty much every two weeks.
But that's not all. There are the house shows on the non-televised live event circuit, WWE Network shows and even social media material.
With so much going on, WWE has fallen into a rut, resorting to repeat matches and dragging out storylines just to not have to do as much work. Feuds are dragged out for several months so the writing team does not have to think of new stories, which means the quality is also stretched out.
Less is often more, and since WWE feels the need to have someone like Shane McMahon on both Raw and SmackDown every week talking about Roman Reigns for a month, it's already been run into the ground, and every good idea is used up before the pay-per-view. Then, WWE feels there is so much invested in it that it has to carry over the storyline into another event, so everything just repeats.
With an offseason, the writers could relax and think of fresh concepts, brainstorm new ideas and not have to fill as much programming, even if it's the garbage we see so often.
Con: It Ruins Momentum and Relevancy
When WWE is bad, it's excruciating. But when something is good, fans can't wait to see what is going to happen next.
Imagine if the offseason of 1996 was scheduled to start right after King of the Ring, when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin cut his famous Austin 3:16 promo. He might never have become as popular as he was.
Becky Lynch went from being an extra in the WrestleMania 34 Women's Battle Royal to being the top star in the company a few months later because momentum was on her side and WWE was able to keep her in the limelight while she was injured. That wouldn't have happened if there were no Raw or SmackDown from September until December.
If a wrestler started to become popular just before the offseason, only to have to take time off, they would likely have to regain that support all over again, as WWE wouldn't be able to capitalize on it and go with the flow.
That applies to staying relevant with the times too. While lots of attempts from WWE to stay current are cringeworthy, if something big is going on in society, the live Raw and SmackDown episodes can reflect that almost immediately, which couldn't happen if it occurred during the offseason.
Pro: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
With an offseason, fans would grow to miss WWE and eagerly anticipate its return. This is why such a big deal was made about The Phantom Menace and The Force Awakens from the Star Wars series, as enough time had passed that people weren't suffering from fatigue or overexposure.
There is always more of a general, widespread interest at the start of a new season of football than a random midseason game, and the same could apply to WWE.
During that offseason, Monday nights would feel empty without Raw, and people would yearn for its return.
However, that is assuming the last season was good enough that viewers were left wanting more, as this is a risky game to play.
Con: Losing Fans During the Offseason
If the previous season ended poorly—especially if the whole thing was bad—WWE would have to try significantly harder to convince that audience to forgive and forget and to give the product another chance.
There would need to be a hook at the start of every season to reel in viewers, and if that failed to deliver, fans would distrust these promises and not buy into the next season being a change of pace.
Giving fans a break allows them to get comfortable with the idea of not watching WWE, and winning back people is much harder than keeping them once it's become a routine.
As soon as WWE isn't their focus, they can become distracted by other things they enjoy more and choose to do instead of watching.
Without WWE giving them their wrestling fix, they would look elsewhere at the competition, and if AEW, Impact or anyone else offered just as good a show, if not better, those fans might choose to stick with that company instead of coming back.
This is especially true if the last WWE season was awful and a month or two had passed with fans having nothing to do but talk on the internet and ruminate over how bad everything was, which would just build resentment. There would be no chance that something good could come along the next week to help heal the wounds of what happened the week prior.
And that's not factoring in how the wrestlers might catch the acting bug or work on other projects to distract them and convince them not to want to return during the next season.
Pro and Con: Instituting a Beginning and Conclusion of a Season
By default, WWE would have to have an official start and end of a season, which presents positives and negatives.
On the plus side, it could allow for more story arcs to develop and play out with a true conclusion, as well as more structure to the overall storytelling.
But the start would need something big, which would have diminishing returns, and the end would imply some sort of major blow-off, like how most sports build to a championship game or how television show's finale is often the big battle of the season or something along those lines.
This could be fun, but it could also be counterproductive, as it could lead to a problem where fans feel like they don't need to watch WWE until the end.
Just like how there will always be bandwagon fans who watch baseball more during the World Series and suddenly have a team they root for despite not having watched a single game all year, WWE would follow suit.
WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of WWE, but the month leading up to that shouldn't be the only time in a year when fans care about pro wrestling, while events like SummerSlam become pointless stepping stones leading up to the big event that people can read the results of on Twitter.
Con: All the Unknowns in Setting This Up
What time of the year would WWE's offseason be? There's no weather to factor in and determine it, so when would be the best time?
How long should the offseason be? Is one month too much or too little? And does that apply to everyone or just the wrestlers and the production crew responsible for putting on the in-ring shows?
If it doesn't apply to non-wrestlers, what should the video editing staff and others do in the meantime? Do they get paid to do nothing, or do they have to learn other skills to do in the meantime?
How does this offseason work with wrestlers who were missing time from injuries? What about their contracts?
Do championship title reigns count during that time off, or does the count of days as champion stop during the hiatus?
All these questions and so many more would have to be addressed, and there are no obvious right answers, so it would take years upon years of experimentation for WWE to find the right formula, if that is even possible at all.
This is why this issue is not as cut and dried as looking at the positives and saying it should be done. Anybody can say they would love to work a job wherein they didn't have to show up as often and still got paid, which would be great for all sorts of reasons. But the negatives and risks are why WWE hasn't implemented an offseason and may never get around to it.
Instead, it seems the only compromise is trying to cycle talent, give people time off and have certain wrestlers not have to participate at as many house shows, but even that doesn't solve the problem of burnout from a viewer's perspective.
It's a delicate balancing act that nobody has found the proper solution to, but in the interest of helping both fans and talent, as well as improving the overall quality of WWE's business model and sustainability, it's always worth discussing and trying to find new answers.
Hopefully someone will crack the code sooner or later and all parties can benefit from the positives this would yield without suffering from the backlash and potential pitfalls that make it such a risky endeavor.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.