You know what I realized recently? I haven’t been keeping up with professional wrestling these days. More specifically, I haven’t been keeping up with the WWE programs anymore. I haven’t really watched an entire episode of RAW or Smackdown for several month now. That’s sad because my brother actually subscribed to the WWE Network. He still does use it fairly regularly but I haven’t. I haven’t bothered logging in and I just don’t feel the need to do so. If you noticed, I actually skipped reviewing SummerSlam this month. SummerSlam! One of the WWE’s biggest pay-per-view programs in the year and I just didn’t bother watching it!
That got me thinking why this happened. Generally, it’s mostly because I had to cut some things out of my busy life and the WWE was one of the casualties. This leads me to the deeper question is why I stopped watching the WWE in the first place. There are several reasons why. There’s just too much WWE programming demanding your time, especially when there’s 3 hours of RAW and 2 hours of Smackdown each week. I also don’t like how they have to separate the entire WWE roster into RAW and Smackdown brands instead of just making them weekly shows where each WWE Superstar can appear. There’s a few more.
However, the item I would like to focus on is something which I think is one of the biggest reasons, for me, anyway. That would be the fact the WWE produces a pay-per-view each and every month. Oops! My mistake. If you include the NXT Takeover shows, there’s a whole lot more than one per month!
You might be asking this isn’t a big problem. You might even be questioning why this would be an issue in the first place. After all, the pay-per-views is where the WWE and the WWE Superstars usually put a lot of their effort to make sure the shows are worth your time and money. You would think I’d be glad we get these extravaganzas each and every month. If you said this during the early days of my wrestling fandom, I would totally agree with you. However, there appears to be too much of a good thing as these monthly pay-per-views seem to be causing more problems than you would think.
Let me take you back to a time when the WWE was called the WWF for World Wrestling Federation and they only produced 4 pay-per-view events. These would be Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. These shows were strategically placed as they would only occur after 3 months of each other. These pay-per-view specials still happen each year, with Wrestlemania being the tentpole that supports all of their shows. Times were simple then, I guess.
In between Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble, you had, well, just regular WWE/WWF programming. This was way beyond my time as this was before even RAW and Smackdown was a thing so I’m not sure how things were. What I can tell you is, because of how infrequent pay-per-views were at the time, they all seemed like big events. Wrestlemania was still the Show of Shows but fans still looked forward to SummerSlam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble because these were the shows where all the major WWE Superstars could be seen. All of them felt grand and spectacular.
What’s my proof when I wasn’t there? Well, I would say look at the footage. Try watching one of the old “big four” pay-per-views and you’ll see how rabid fans were then! They were all losing their minds! There was no need for the live audience to chant “this is awesome” because it always sounded like what was happening in the squared circle was awesome! Of course, it could be because they didn’t have immediate access to wrestling like we have now nor did they have shows like RAW and Smackdown where the top draws didn’t fight jobbers week in and week out. However, there was always a big game feel and that seems to be lost today.
A side effect of spacing out the pay-per-views was it allowed stories to be told in a much slower way. The WWE usually promotes pay-per-views to be the culmination of grudges. After all, there is a saying that professional wrestling is a lot like a soap opera and pay-per-views always seem like the best time to close out a feud or a storyline. As they had around 3 months in-between pay-per-views then, it allowed deeper storytelling as they had much more time to tell the story. It allowed time to breathe and absorb the motives and characters of every one involved. More importantly, however, this allowed things to build-up and escalate, which made you anticipate the next pay-per-view, where everything was going to be settled once and for all.
Contrast that to today’s pay-per-view schedule where you have around 4 weeks to start a feud, build up the story and the characters involved and the climax on the big show itself. It’s just not the same. The most recent example I can think of is the entire Roman Reigns vs. Finn Balor which just happened in Extreme Rules. Honestly, this kinda just happened in my book. There was no reason for Finn Balor to get this heated up against Roman Reigns. At least, the journey to get to that point didn’t seem earned. I’m mentioning this because this was actually a 2 month storyline if you include the time when John Cena replaced Finn Balor as Roman Reigns’ opponent for SummerSlam. They’re basically continuing a storyline that was actually an afterthought!
I also feel some pay-per-view events feel totally unnecessary. I like the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view but sticking it between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania is doing it a disservice as you can’t have an Elimination Chamber for the title without destroying your Wrestlemania card. Other shows feel so nondescript and have no identity so I don’t know why they’re supposed to be special. I get why Hell in a Cell has its own show. I also understand why Clash of Champions and Money in the Bank deserve their own pay-per-view. Shows like Fastlane, Payback and Backlash, though? You can cut them out because they’re like RAW and Smackdown shows you have to pay for!
Now, I’m not saying the WWE should go back to only having 4 pay-per-views a year. I don’t think fans weaned on getting 12 each year can take it. What I’m saying is they can reduce it to a more manageable number like around 8 or something like a pay-per-view every 6 weeks. I think the extra couple of weeks would allow for better storytelling. Also, having a less frequent pay-per-view event schedule would make each of them feel more special and would cut out a lot of the dumber pay-per-view shows which no one really cares for.
Even though I am complaining about the current structure of the WWE’s pay-per-view schedule, I’m not going to quit these shows cold turkey. I’m still going to tune in to them as much as possible. I’m going to put up a review for Extreme Rules tomorrow because I did see it. However, the painful truth is I’m just not eager to see all of them anymore. Unless the WWE absolutely makes them feel like the big events they’re supposed to be, I just might skip some of them. I have the strange feeling there’s a lot of wrestling fans who are on the same boat as I am.
Do you think there are too many pay-per-views in the WWE? Let me know in the comments section below!