Killing The Casual Fan
March 26, 2007 by Pete Cruise
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I consider myself a hardcore wrestling fan. With the exception of missing 3 Pay-Per-View's in the last 10 years, I have gotten every single major wrestling Pay-Per-View in North America. Yes, that includes the SmackDown shows. With 2 major promotions now running in North America, you have to wonder: "How long can the casual fan last in an over saturated market?"
Just for information's sake, let's do a little back history. Back in 1996, WWE was doing approximately 3-4 hours of TV per week. Along with one three hour Pay-Per-View per month, that works out to just over 220 hours a year. With ECW only running hardcore TV for one hour a week back in 1996, they only had close to 50 hours in total for a whole year! However, WCW much like WWF was running much the same TV schedule and also had close to 220 hours.
Now, let's fast forward to 2007. With WWE having 6-7 national cable shows (depending on where you are) and one internet show, the comparative results should be interesting. With over six hours a week (not including Pay-Per-View), WWE alone produces close to 370 hours of wrestling per year.
That is a difference of close to 150 hours. That total is excluding over-runs or commercial time. So, what made them expand to the point of adding 150 hours?
With WCW hot on the heels of WWE and adding 2 hours of programming to their Monday Night Nitro program, Vince McMahon felt that it would be in his best interest to put a second hour onto his WWF Monday Night Raw program. With which Ted Turner again countered later in 1997 with a third hour to Monday Nitro. McMahon, not one to be shown up, did one better. He extended his Pay-Per Views from 2 hours to 3 hours starting in September 1997.
From that point on the game of ,"Can you top this?" extended to Thursdays with Turner creating WCW Thunder in early 1998 and McMahon debuting WWF SmackDown in mid 1999. By that time ratings had finally came full circle. With the WWF being on top of the ratings game once again.
Now that we know about the history of why the programs were extended, what has happened to the angles and talent?
In 1996 WWF prided itself on being able to shock and challenge the viewer. With angles that involved racial tension, possible lesbian encounters, and backstage brawls. While all the while WCW was showing its viewers the epitome of gang warfare in the form of the NWO. Practically everything that WCW did from the years of 1996-1998 revolved around the NWO. It was a risk that creative was willing to take, and it worked.
By the time 2000 rolled around, the NWO was incredibly stale. Having split into 3 separate factions, and invoking havoc on 3 different shows, Fans were starting to get sick of the faction. Over in the WWE's camp, their pride and joy DX was seeing the same fate. Having debuted in 1997, DX was now only down to 2 members and fans were turning on them very quickly.
Since then we have seen angles in the WWE that have involved, sex with a dead corpse, multiple forced weddings, numerous surprise general managers, and so on. We have also seen Talent that would be "A" talent on a 1 hour show, reduced to mid-card status on a 2 hour show. The Tag Team division that was at one time, so diverse and rich in talent, is practically no existent. The humor in storylines and vignettes that was once there, is long gone. The length in matches has been shortened, and so has the excitement.
It is in this writer's opinion that wrestling isn't the same as it once was. It's worse. It's so bad, that one has to wonder if they can get themselves off of this sinking ship called "sports-entertainment". I wrote an article a few weeks back about Vince Russo. This column is more addressed to Vince McMahon. As he controls the wrestling world as we know it. The amount of programming may have gone up, but the quality has gone down. The amount of matches may have increased, but the intrigue in them has declined. Vince McMahon may have gotten a lot of press because of going public on the NYSE, but it the last 5 years not one hardcore fan could care less. Putting close to 400 hours of wrestling on TV in one year, is killing the wrestling fan.
Talent such as Chris Benoit, Booker T, and others are not being given the spots they rightly deserve. Instead those spots are going to people like MVP, Umaga and others. This isn't disrespect to the above mentioned wrestlers. Rather, the point being that the former mentioned wrestlers may still have value and valuable matches if there was only a small amount of TV time available.
In a perfect world, nobody would get sick of their hobby. Everyone could watch the same program all day, everyday, and not get bored. However, this isn't a perfect world, and this isn't the old WWF. This is the WWE where Vincent Kennedy McMahon is out to make money. That is the name of his game, and he will do it by any means necessary. So, I think that it is important to note that with close to 400 hours of wrestling in this year alone being produced, how important IS it to watch the next TNA or WWE Program or Pay-Per-View?
by Pete Cruise (Submit your feedback here)..
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