Inevitably, and as many had feared, the WWE have found a way to rationalize taking Daniel Bryan out of the Main Event–at least for the time being. The buzzword this time? Buyrates. You’ve see the story and many of you have commented on it. I’ll quickly refresh your memory and inform those who may not have seen it:
“There’s a feeling that Daniel Bryan was on top for a few months and WWE’s pay-per-view buyrates have been down during that period. The feeling among upper management is that Bryan isn’t a larger than life wrestler and that’s what fans want.”
The story goes on to say that for that reason, Khali, Harper, Show, and bigger wrestler are being featured more with the idea that these type of wrestlers will help generate an uptick in buyrates. Khali will be a part of the reason that buyrates increase, because after all, “larger than life” wrestlers tend to get the biggest pops of the night whenever they wrestle, right? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Allow me to take a breath before I continue laughing….In all fairness, I think the WWE is missing the boat here, and by boat, I mean missing the central concept they need to increase buyrates. The buyrates will move when the writing and booking get better, the PPVs aren’t too numerous, and the prices aren’t increased. It’s that simple. In an economic landscape that hasn’t still completely re-emerged from the Great Recession–sure companies are doing well but they’re hoarding money instead of strengthening the economy by spending it and many workers are overworked and grossly underpaid–increasing the amount of PPVs offered in a year (along with the price of some of them) will not convince people to buy a 3 hr pay-per-view that in some instances has become a glorified episode of Raw.
Speaking of glorified episodes of Raw, the WWE has to give consumers a reason to want to purchase a PPV through good stories. Some feuds are overdone (we see the wrestlers square off too often before the ppv match so there’s little interest in said ppv match), some feuds aren’t given enough of a build, (two weeks is not enough to get buy-in from fans), some booking is transparent (finishes are predicted a mile away), and some booking is generally uninteresting. This ties in somewhat with not overdoing the PPV schedule, because with sufficient time, creative can make good booking decisions, although it’s rare. These are all legitimate factors that drive down buyrates, not the size of a wrestler in the Main Event. These factors are ones that affect every level of fan, from casual to hardcore. If the WWE wants to increase buyrates, they have to start delivering at each pay-per-view. That’s how you hook the casual fan and maintain the hardcore ones. Yes, it’s tough but what casual/hardcore fan will continue to buy these PPVs after feeling slighted by paying hard-earned money to see lackluster PPV after lackluster PPV?
The idea that larger than life characters appeal to more people would have some merit…if this wasn’t the WWE. Every character in the Main Event can be classified as “larger than life.” It’s the WWE’s calling card. Being literal with the “larger than life” term itself and saying that physically bigger wrestlers will attract the masses is also a wrongful assumption. No offense to Show, who’ll go down as one of the greatest big guys ever, but does anyone else remember the paltry buyrate for December to Dismember a few years ago where Show was the main player? Or the relatively lackluster buyrate for Survivor Series 2011, when Cena and Rock teamed together? These are but a few examples from recent history that show that wrestlers (no matter how loved or hated they may be) are not necessarily tied to inflated or deflated buyrates. Some will write off December to Dismember because of the myriad issues rampant with how the WWE framed and presented ECW as a 3rd brand, but there was no getting around Survivor Series 2011. The biggest star the WWE’s had since Hulk Hogan (no one has transcended wrestling as well as the Rock) came back to team with its Golden Boy and the PPV still didn’t do as many buys as they wanted. That speaks to a larger issue not with the wrestlers, but with the force behind them.
With the booking issues mentioned above and the recent examples of PPVs that fell flat, the WWE should realize that their issue with buyrates doesn’t come from a problem that they have with certain stars, but more so with other factors, namely booking, scheduling, and price points. Don’t penalize good wrestlers for things outside of their control; keep the product strong, improve the writing, and address the factors that really drive down buyrates.