WWE Pay Per View events have become a lot of things in the last decade including fractured, formulaic and freakin’ long…not to mention fairly predictable. I believe they could go a long way towards fixing this by changing one small aspect of the PPV system: Go back to individual events (outside of the Big Four of Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, Summerslam and Survivor Series) that aren’t based on a specific ‘gimmick.’
Money In The Bank features Money In The Bank matches. TLC brings us matches featuring Tables, Ladders and Chairs (and Stairs!). Elimination Chamber’s main event is the Elimination Chamber. It becomes so cyclical and boring as an audience, sorry, Universe member, that I can look ahead down the list and know exactly what I’m going to be getting all year. The only interchangeable part is the wrestlers involved.
In 1996, when WWE PPV expanded to more than a handful of shows in a year, every event had it’s own name and it’s own vibe. Over in WCW they would recycle big name events (mainly the ones they inherited from the NWA) but in WWE Wrestlemania was followed by Judgement Day or Backlash, which was followed by Unforgiven or Over The Edge, which led into King of The Ring, Summerslam, etc. These shows (for the most part) were built around Storyline themes as opposed to “one night only until next year unless we want to randomly do it again somewhere” rule changes or gimmick matches.
I understand from a corporate marketing perspective why WWE wants regularly scheduled and heavily branded events. It makes for easy merchandising, top-of-mind awareness, and so on. What it also does though is water-down those themes, gimmick and special matches because they become part of the norm. Seeing the Hell In A Cell cage lower from the ceiling used to cause goosebumps on the flesh of wrestling fans. Now, it just means it’s October.
No better example of this is this weekend’s Extreme Rules event on the WWE Network. It’s a show that’s promoted as “No Rules! Anything Can Happen! Chaos!” While there was certainly a time when an “extreme” match might include barbed wire, fire, bleeding or a crazy spot off a ladder or cage. In the PG Era however, Extreme means that Alexa Bliss finds a Kendo Stick under the ring and there might be a heavily padded table spot. This year there’s an Iron Man match, which is a match so extreme that it has a time limit. I don’t have a problem with any of that, just don’t try and sell it to me as “Extreme.”
(Incidentally, I would love it if “Extreme Rules” meant that the regular rules were just that much more dire. Like, instead of a DQ for outside interference, the interferer would be fed to sharks. Or electrify the title belt in a ladder match. These are also my suggestions for how to improve “American Idol” though)
Bring me back to the days of Mind Games, A Cold Day In Hell, and the Canadian Stampede where I actually believed and looked forward to knowing anything could happen because it wasn’t in the name of the show.
Do you think that WWE should ditch the ‘gimmick’ PPVs/Network Events? Let us know in the comments.