By Haydn Gleed
Dot Net reader Jeff Wyatt told interacted with Jerry Lawler at a convention over the weekend Lawler let claimed that there will be two monthly pay-per-views (or live network specials) per month with the exception of the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series. Immediately, there seemed to be a very mixed reaction to this on both ends of the scale from the great more wrestling and live shows to concerns of over saturation.
After initially feeling extremely negative regarding the brand split, I’ve now settled on a let’s wait and see approach. I find myself sitting in a similar position when it comes to the idea of WWE running two pay-per-views most months. Having lived through the concept previously, I remember for every Eddie Guerrero against Brock Lesnar at No Way Out 2004 moment, there are twenty Undertaker putting Paul Bearer in concrete at the Great American Bash moments. The first time around, it simply didn’t work and there are a million reasons for that. A number of those issues are still applicable today (over saturation, weak main event roster, etc.), but instead of dwelling on the possible negatives, let’s look at three differences this time around that could lead to more success with this concept.
1. The Network Even though it’s only two and a half years since the network launched, it feels strange thinking of a time without it. The biggest plus that WWE has got going for them this time around is that viewers have the control to watch when they want instead of feeling that every two weeks they are slaves to their sofa if they want to consume everything that WWE are throwing at them. Viewers will be able to watch part of the show live, and then some more the next day on their commute and finish it off before Raw. Or they can simply wait until they hear the reaction to the show and pick and choose what they watch from the show.
Added to this, is the opportunity for WWE to change up their PPV/Specials model as to not overexpose the product. Brian Fritz from Betweentheropes.com joined Jason Powell a couple of weeks ago on the member exclusive Dot Net Weekly audio show, and he threw out an interesting concept that I think WWE would be wise to listen too. The off brand PPV’s should be limited to two hours. By doing so, you are not having moments within the shows themselves that feel like filler. Long time fans are probably screaming, “What about In Your House PPV’s? They didn’t work.” It’s true, but my immediate argument in return would be look at the product at the time of these shows. This was a period where Clowns and Garbage Men roamed the shows, and although you had Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at the top of the card, the rest of the shows were brutal due to the gimmicks. In 2015 and 2016, we have seen NXT successfully implement the “quality over quantity” two hour model, and I firmly believe that this would be successful if implemented on the main roster.
2. The Price This is the biggest plus for the people as tight with money as I am. I’m sure the American readers amongst you will be able to tell me the cost of a PPV during the last brand split, but for me personally here in the UK it was £20 (roughly $30) per show, so paying that twice a month was torture for me. Now, for the same price that I am currently paying for the network, I will be in theory getting double the product. Obviously, you have to take into consideration whether the product will be watered down and if you are getting the same amount of quality over two shows etc, but that will be judged once the split occurs. For now, part of me is looking forward to double the bang for my buck.
3. The Talent One factor that I don’t feel gets talked about enough when having a conversation about the failure of the last talent split is John Laurinaitis. For newer fans who are not familiar with that name or only know him as the Bella twins’ stepfather, in the context of my point, he was the vice president of talent relations, taking over the job from Jim Ross around the time of the last roster split. He is also widely blamed for the influx of over pushed big men talent that were called up from WWE’s developmental system at the time. wrestlers such as Luther Reigns and John Heidenreich were called up despite clearly not being ready for the super pushes they were about to receive. The reason behind the call ups? Although it was never confirmed, the popular theory reported at the time was John was simply calling up these impressive specimen of guys to carry favor with Vince McMahon, who has in the past been accused (and has clearly been guilty over the years) of favoring bigger, more muscular wreslters.
This time around, although that bias may still be there, there is a feeling that it is no longer a as much of a hindrance if a wrestler is smaller than what McMahon would be used to, which in turn means there will be no favoritism on who gets called up from NXT. Speaking of NXT, there is essentially a roster of wrestlers who are ready for the main roster now, which means you have roughly ten men and women who could be plugged straight into Smackdown or Raw. Granted not all of them are going to be called up, but there shouldn’t be as much of a bias towards calling up not ready big men over talented smaller guys or women and decreasing the quality of the product.
So there are three strong reasons as to why this split will be different and could potentially work. I feel that with three hours of live Raw and two hours of live Smackdown each week (as well as countless new material on the network), WWE should go with brand specific network specials every other month. This would allow feuds to play out over a two month period, and lead to more excitement about each show. With that being said, I am looking at this decision, if that is indeed the way they go, in a half glass full manner and not simply writing off the idea simply because it failed in the past. Am I right to think that? Time will tell.
As always, feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss the brand split, or in fact anything wrestling related. You can find me on twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com