The People’s Column: WWE PPV buys down, Where is the chase?

Dear friends, welcome to another People’s Column and to what has been a very busy week of writing for me. Those of you that read my blog regularly will recognize this and likely be disappointed that it is not a new column. Time being what it is this week, I must give you this post and hope that you enjoy it. As always check out for all sorts of wrestling thoughts. Right now I’ll be talking about the upcoming faction war in TNA and who could be Team WWE’s seventh man at Summerslam. Now, on with the blog!

Last week WWE reported their quarterly earnings. This always makes for a newsworthy day, since it tells of the success or failure of the pay per views from the quarter. This quarter buys were down vastly from the same pay per views in the previous year. The most striking figure was the Fatal Four Way show doing only 143,000 buys. I believe that much of this has to do with the lack of a specific championship chase.

For my entire life, I remember watching wrestling. My earliest memories are from the beginning of the nineties with Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior dominating the scene. As much as I enjoyed wrestling at the time, I was not hooked. In fact, it took years for wrestling to truly hook me. That would not happen until 1998.

At the beginning of 1998 wrestling was reaching a fever pitch. I caught one pay per view with my brother and was instantly addicted to the product. That show was the 1998 Royal Rumble. For months “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had been fighting in the upper card. He always seemed just inches away from the championship, but could never quite get there. All of that changed when he went on to win the Royal Rumble match.

It was not necessarily the match itself that hooked me, it was the chase that began. Shawn Michaels was the champion and he was arrogantly taunting Austin, telling him that he will never win the title. The more Austin was told that he could never win the big one, the more I wanted to see it. My brother and I rode this momentum and ordered No Way Out and Wrestlemania XIV just to make sure that we didn’t miss a moment of this.

We did not miss another pay per view for the next two years. It was not quality action that made us order these shows, nor was it an excess of money (my brother is ten years older than me and was on disability with a broken wrist that kept him from working at the time), we ordered because we needed to see what would happen next.

The original hook for us was the chase. It endeared us to the characters because we saw them reaching for their goals and wanted to see every twist and turn until they accomplished them.

In June, Rey Mysterio, a fan favorite, won the World Heavyweight Championship. He has hovered around the title scene for a few years, but there was never any indication that he would win the big one again. On top of that, he was never made to look like a legit threat to the title.

There is a lot of value to telegraphing a win a little bit. No one buying Wrestlemania XIV thought that Austin was going to lose that match. They bought because they wanted to see the crowning of a new era. They continued to buy shows because they were a part of that era now. They felt for the wrestlers and they had invested themselves in them.

A good chase is one of the most important things in wrestling that is being overlooked today. As a fan, why should I have bought John Cena’s rematches with Batista at Extreme Rules and Over the Limit when I had already seen Batista tap out to Cena at Wrestlemania? No matter what, I always knew that Cena would go over and if he did not, that Batista would lose the title in the next couple months anyways.

Fixing this is as simple as taking a young star (Kofi Kingston?), building them up, giving them quality rivalries and quality wins on television and pay per view, then they should be given one big win in a number one contender match (like Jeff Hardy vs Triple H at Armageddon 2007) and build the show as the moment that a star’s journey could culminate.

Let me know what you think. I believe that this is an important aspect of WWE programming that seems to be fading away. Tell me how you feel about it and how you think WWE could improve that. I don’t think this is the only reason that WWE’s profits are declining, but I do believe it is a major one. Also, remember to check out for more original thoughts like this one.

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