December 17, 2005
Low PPV numbers spur upgraded cards
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
WWE pay-per-views were once the epitome of must-see TV.
While the major U.S. networks could brag about the number of viewers who tuned in on any given Thursday, WWE managed to convince almost half a million people to part with $35 apiece for the privilege of watching its product each month.
But since the introduction of additional single-brand shows in 2004, the WWE PPV cash cow has started to lose its lustre. With a pay-per-view every three weeks -- or every other Sunday, if you count TNA's offerings -- fans started picking and choosing the better shows from the over-saturated schedule.
With such heavy production demands, it was inevitable WWE would churn out the occasional stinker but lately it seems like a must-see PPV is the exception, rather than the rule.
The next few months will see that trend reverse, as WWE launches a run of major events that they hope will reignite the 'pay' and 'view' aspects of the genre.
It starts tomorrow night with Armageddon, headlined by the resurrection of the Hell in a Cell gimmick. Randy Orton and the Undertaker, who have feuded on-and-off for 10 months, will finally settle the score in what will likely be a brutal and bloody battle inside the steel structure.
It's one of the most dangerous matches in WWE, not so much because of the actual match format, but due to the high expectations of carnage.
Images of Mick Foley crashing through a table after being thrown fifteen feet from the cage roof are still fresh in fans' minds, so when the Cell stipulation is used, the wrestlers involved always have big shoes to fill.
In early January, another gimmick main event will spike the interest in the New Years Revolution PPV. The Raw-only event will be headlined by an Elimination Chamber match, between WWE champ John Cena, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Carlito and Kane.
Chamber matches are always fun but the real story is whether WWE will keep the title on Cena. The fans are slowly turning on his pandering wannabe-Rock character but WWE is reluctant to take the belt off him or have him turn heel because his merchandise sales are through the roof, and he's super popular with the female and teenage segments of the audience.
Whatever happens with Cena in the Chamber will set up the third red-hot pay-per-view in a row, the Royal Rumble.
Traditionally one of WWE's big four annual events, the Rumble will take place in Miami on Jan. 29. The main event will be the 30-man over-the-top-rope battle royal, with the wrestlers entering the ring at two-minute intervals. The Rumble is always a big deal, since the winner will earn a place in the world title picture at Wrestlemania.
Which brings us to 'Mania itself, April 2 in Chicago, with a line-up that is already starting to come apart at the seams.
The planned dream match of Hulk Hogan vs. Steve Austin is in doubt, since neither man is willing to lose.
The idea of elevating Ken Kennedy to the world title picture has been nixed since Kennedy suffered a back injury and required surgery.
World champ Batista was expected to hold the belt until the big event but that too is up in the air since a lat tear is forcing him to limit himself in the ring as he attempts to rehab the injury.
And even the planned John Cena vs. Triple H match is a 'maybe' at best, since it's unclear if the audience will buy Cena as the top dog for much longer.
But no matter what goes wrong, WWE always delivers on Wrestlemania Sunday. Last year's event did a record-setting million pay-per-view buys and ranked as one of the best shows of the year, despite a weaker line-up than usual.
And if WWE can just keep that creative momentum going beyond the annual supershow, the post-Wrestlemania slump could be a thing of the past, and WWE pay-per-views may regain that must-see status.