WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment has seemed to draw the ire of every single internet wrestling fan lately, and it’s been far from positive reactions. Seems like everybody has some sort of opinion about the way things are in the WWE and how they should be. Every fan wants wrestling to return to the “glory days” where guys like Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Stone Cold Steve Austin were household names. Days where vulgarity was the norm, and WWE could do no wrong thanks to a rock solid creative team. WWE rode this wave of momentum all throughout the 90’s and well into the new millenium, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with, owning the ratings and shaming other sports broadcasts. WWE had so much momentum rolling, that they were able to not only force one rival promotion to close its doors, but it was also able to buy out its next closest competitor. This started the current trend of WWE antics and the ever revolving door of talent that the wrestling giant has seen come and go over the years.
After losing one of its biggest stars to Hollywood, and another to foolish pride, the WWE was forced to look in previously unconsidered territories for their “next big thing” superstars. WWE seemingly hit the jackpot with a fresh crop of blue chip prospects out of their developmental territory, and this crop of superstars would lead WWE into a glorious new age of wrestling fueled by “Ruthless Aggression” and more blood than I can ever remember seeing in matches. From there WWE transitioned into where we’re at today, so lovingly dubbed the “PG” Era. WWE has grown up, toned things down, and instituted several big box policies to ensure the safety and well being of their performers. They have also gone full blown social media powerhouse, staying very relevant in the space of internet, marketing, and social media. WWE has dubbed its fans the “WWE Universe” and vows to hear every bit of feedback its audience has to give. There lies the problem – Todays wrestling fans have a certain ineptitude on the web, and there’s more information readily available than ever before. Smart marks or “smarks” as they’re referred to, know more about the ins and outs of the business than ever before and when their favorite superstar gets the shaft, they are more than vocal about it at live shows.
After signing one of the smarks most beloved acts in CM Punk, WWE seemed to have no idea on what to do with him. Punk was involved in several high profile feuds on the indy circuit, and was quite possibly the most over act in the business at the time of his signing. WWE put Punk under contract and immediately shipped him down to their developmental territory, where he toiled in obscurity until being called up for WWEs planned reboot for ECW. Punk ran with every opportunity given to him, but it wasn’t until he broke the 4th wall and started talking about actual backstage politics that kept him from advancing up the ranks. For the first time wrestling fans got to hear about the mindset that WWE officials had towards some of their performers, claiming that some were “too small” to ever make an impact in the business. Punk went on to enjoy one of the longest title reigns in the last 20 years, but it was ended abruptly by a returning Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. At this point, Punk was more than capable of heading into Wrestlemania and headlining it against whoever won the 2013 Royal Rumble. Someone in WWE management didn’t think that was “best for business” and instead we were treated to Rock v Cena again, after their previous battle was billed as a One-Time Only type of match.
Fast forward to the present, and the WWE has not only CM Punk, but also a guy by the name of Daniel Bryan who have been putting on wrestling clinics for the past two years, but they’ve both been forced to take a backseat for business’ sake. Daniel Bryan is riding a wave of popularity that I personally haven’t seen a wrestler enjoy in a very long time. Probably not since Stone Cold Steve Austin has a guy been so popular in every arena he goes to, with one major difference: Stone Cold was ALWAYS at the forefront of the WWE title picture, and always at the top of the card. Austin was a great wrestler, but make no bones about it, when it comes down to technical prowess, Daniel Bryan is better. So why would a person who is a phenomenal wrestler, and is ridiculously popular with audiences be consistently denied opportunities that a “lesser” talent get spoon fed to him?
Here’s where things start to become fuzzy. WWE first and foremost is a business. They’re here to make money, and lots of it. Stone Cold Steve Austin made Vince McMahon lots and lots of money. Both Austin and WWE enjoyed record PPV buyrates and merchandise sales at the height of Austin’s popularity. Ratings were never higher, and the WWE was piping hot. During the start of Daniel Bryan’s proposed championship storyline ratings for Monday Night Raw, Smackdown, and buyrates for Summerslam, Night of Champions, and Battleground were all abysmal, all during Bryan’s main event run. So now the question becomes, why is a guy that is so over, so ridiculously popular with the fans doing such mediocre numbers when he’s at the top of the card? Therein lies the problem with the IWC, and why WWE doesn’t “listen to the fans”. The fans chant for Daniel Bryan, and they buy the shirts but at the end of the day, when it matters most (at least for Bryan), the fans aren’t buying it (literally).
Here’s the fix: The WWE Network. By completely changing the way their PPVs work, WWE has found a way to alleviate themselves of both pressures. With WWE Network, all the WWE needs is to have 1 million subscribers, in order for them to break even. Every subscriber after that is pure profit and thus, less concern over PPV buy rates. Now, 1 million subscribers may not be an easy task by any stretch, but as popular as WWE has become once again, they should have no problem hitting that number. Especially considering the WWE network will be accessible on essentially any type of device, and will only set subscribers back $10 a month. This may not sound like a way to profit, but don’t forget the money that WWE will bring in with actual ticket and merchandise sales at live events, and house shows, and it suddenly becomes clear where the big bucks will come from.
While I do not belive the WWE network will be the be-all-end-all solution, I do believe it will be a bit of a fix. While guys like Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Dolph Ziggler may all be getting over looked now, I believe that once the WWE Network launches, and the initial pressure for obtaining high PPV buy rates die down, these guys will all enjoy the best runs of their careers.
Agree? Disagree? Otherwise? Let me know what you think in the comments below!