Pros and Cons of Splitting Up WWE SummerSlam 2020 into 2 Nights
When WWE was forced to abandon plans to hold WrestleMania 36 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic, it staged its biggest pay-per-view of the year over two nights at the Performance Center instead.
In order to make sure the event didn't feel squeezed by the switch to a much smaller venue and without a live audience, the show was split and marketed as being "too big for one night."
SummerSlam is WWE's second-biggest PPV on the calendar, but it will also be held at the smaller arena on August 23 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps WWE should consider following its WrestleMania template by spreading The Biggest Party of the Summer across two nights?
Let's examine the pros and cons and try to determine if this would be the company's best plan, or if it's something to be avoided.
Pro: SummerSlam Will Feel Like a Bigger Deal
The first advantage is the simplest: If WWE treats SummerSlam like a bigger deal, it will feel like a more important show.
As much as the "too big for one night" marketing was completely transparent, it doesn't mean it failed its objective. Plenty of people will have heard that line enough times and got their hopes up for WrestleMania.
By having two nights of SummerSlam, it will remind fans it's the second-biggest event of the year and something worth getting invested in—in theory at least.
Naturally, the card will have to reflect that and not include throwaway filler. But if WWE can market the event in a way where the party doesn't end after just one night, it can reinforce the perception that it is bigger than most PPVs.
Con: It Makes WrestleMania Less Special
SummerSlam becoming two nights would hurt WrestleMania in retrospect. It would take away what was special about that show and reduce its magnitude.
In order for the event to feel like it's The Grandest Stage of Them All, it has to offer something other pay-per-views don't have.
Once the so-called Big Four events (WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and Royal Rumble) turned into two-hour kickoff shows with up to five hours for the main card, the lines blurred. The Show of Shows was no longer as much of a standout.
As important as SummerSlam is, it should never be equal to WrestleMania. It should remain a close second and more on par with the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series.
Pro: It Could Replace the Preceding NXT TakeOver Event
Up until this week's episode of NXT, it wasn't certain if there would be a TakeOver preceding SummerSlam.
However, general manager William Regal has confirmed TakeOver XXX will take place on August 22, the day before The Biggest Party of the Summer. But that may not be the best thing going forward.
Nearly every time there's been a TakeOver directly before a main roster event, it has outshined what follows. The energy of NXT is so passionate and the talent so impressive that it sets the bar too high for the Raw and SmackDown teams to match or exceed.
SummerSlam 2020 will have to try to outdo the TakeOver event next month, but WWE should consider nixing those plans for 2021.
TakeOver shows are great enough to stand on their own. By staging SummerSlam over two nights, WWE can move major NXT events on the calendar and keep the focus on one show at a time.
Fans buying tickets—if allowed back into arenas by then—might attend both nights to ensure they get to see their favorite Superstars, rather than treat TakeOver like a bonus show.
Con: A Bigger Headache for Taping Schedules
Running pay-per-views is not an easy task. More planning goes into them than just writing down a list of matches, promoting them in advance and paying the wrestlers to show up and get in the ring.
These days, things are especially hard as the pandemic prevents everyone from gathering at the same time to knock it out in one go.
Having a second night for SummerSlam would double the production cost, worker time and the headaches that come with scheduling talent.
Taping in advance takes the edge off, but even that has proved difficult in recent weeks. Needing to make sure a second major PPV was locked down in such a tight window might not be worth the effort.
Pro: More Room on the Card for More Superstars
Naturally, the more time there is available on a show, the more Superstars can get on the card.
At roughly seven hours long, WrestleMania has made it possible for nearly every active wrestler on the roster to get a spot, even if it's just in a Battle Royal.
Had The Showcase of the Immortals been only one show this year, it likely would have been cut down in size. Several matches would have been given less time and some wouldn't have taken place at all.
Two nights of SummerSlam would allow room for around 16 matches to be featured, which means there's more chance someone's favorite Superstar will be competing. Plus, it will justify the matches that are on Raw and SmackDown each week but don't normally seem important enough for the event.
By making it onto the card, it will help boost the importance of those feuds. Television ratings might then increase as fans consider every rivalry to be a bigger deal.
Con: Quantity Doesn't Always Equal Quality
Having more matches doesn't necessarily mean the event will be better, though. If that were the case, WrestleMania IV would have been considered the greatest of all time because it had the most contests.
Committing to two nights means there must be at least a dozen matches across the weekend. Sometimes, however, WWE can't even be bothered to focus on more than two or three feuds at a time, and it shows that no effort or attention has been put on half the card.
SummerSlam doesn't need some rushed announcements of matches added a few days beforehand just to fill time. Worse, the last thing it would benefit from is having only a handful of matches announced up until show time, with The Bump acting as an information dump at the last minute.
WWE might fall into the trap of throwing filler matches onto the card just to eat up time, which would hurt the event's overall image.
A tight six-match show on each night, where everything is worth watching, is much more appealing than 10 matches where four of them could have been cut without fuss.
For example, WWE threw Liv Morgan vs. Natalya onto the WrestleMania kickoff in April. It meant nothing, was entirely forgettable, didn't match the big fight feel of other bouts and it's doubtful it helped convince someone to watch.
Pro: 2 Shorter Shows Are Easier to Watch
One way around the problem of having too much filler content would be to trim the shows for each night, which could be one of the biggest advantages of a split SummerSlam.
Every episode of Raw reaches a point when the three hours feel like they've gone on far longer. Some pay-per-views seem endless because they've even more hours to fill.
Having an epic broadcast is great for people who have the time to dedicate their whole day to the show, but that's not something everyone can or wants to do.
Some people would rather watch three half-hour episodes of a television series than one 90-minute film simply because there's a manufactured break every 30 minutes.
Instead of one six-hour marathon, there are plenty of fans who would find it easier to digest three hours of wrestling on successive nights.
Con: Fan Fatigue from Too Much Content
The way people perceive two equal things worded slightly differently can be astounding. Charging $5 for one product can often seem like a worse deal than getting a "buy one, get one free" sale for $10.
While some fans would appreciate a smaller show split over two nights so they don't have to dedicate as much time per day to watching, others would immediately look at that as twice the obligation.
If the television ratings are any indication, WWE fans are finding it harder and harder to justify spending time watching wrestling every week. It's rare to find someone who watches Raw, NXT, SmackDown, 205 Live, Main Event and all the other programming the company has to offer.
In an average week, there's far more than 10 hours' worth of material to watch. When there's a pay-per-view, that amount nearly doubles.
Many fans will likely only watch one of the nights, based on what's on the card. If their favorite is wrestling on the second night, they might not bother with the first.
Night 1 might also set the tone in a bad way. If it leaves people disappointed, they might not want to sit through another few hours of the second half of SummerSlam.
It's arguable Raw was better when it was two hours and WWE in general was more entertaining when there was only one show per week to watch.
Two nights of SummerSlam could see fans avoiding WWE for a while afterward for a break, rather than want to roll into three hours of Raw the following day.
Pro: Data Analysis for Planning Future Events
As it stands, WrestleMania is the only two-night show of its scale WWE has ever put on. There's no telling what that means for its future.
Could this become a regular thing? Will WrestleMania Weekend be spread out in a way that even more closely resembles San Diego Comic-Con or multi-day festivals?
Since it's only happened once, there's no telling how successful this was. Did fans tune in to see this particular card, the potential train wreck of the first coronavirus pay-per-view, or would they watch this setup again?
If SummerSlam was split into two nights, it would give WWE a chance to compare its performance and learn more about better strategies for the future.
Let's say the summer event was staged on Saturday and Sunday, like WrestleMania 36. If it performed better or worse, WWE could see what might have led to those numbers.
WWE could also experiment with having it take place over two Sundays. Would that improve the ratings between the pay-per-views, or would it be the same as two regular special events that have happened to be back-to-back weekends like TakeOver XXV and Super ShowDown 2019?
The more consumer data available and experimentation is done, the better WWE could plan if two-night shows are doubling the wins or merely splitting them in half.
Should WWE Split SummerSlam Across 2 Nights?
Ultimately, no. SummerSlam should not follow the WrestleMania method of being two shows. At least not this year.
TakeOver XXX happening the day before The Biggest Party of the Summer will already make many fans burned out and takes up that other day's slot.
It would be confusing and too much to ask for fans to maintain the highest level of hype for the television episodes leading up to these events and the episodes heading toward Night 2 on August 30.
Three PPVs and all that television in two weeks would be overkill, and there likely isn't enough talent available to book the number of matches needed. Even if there is, it's doubtful WWE would devote the necessary resources to properly build all those feuds to set them up for success.
For 2020, SummerSlam has to stay at one night or it will be watered down and likely fail, which will hurt WrestleMania's image and possibly hinder interest in a two-night WrestleMania 37 next year.
It's an idea that's worth thinking about for SummerSlam somewhere down the line but not this time. This year's Biggest Party of the Summer has to begin and end on August 23.
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.