Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SummerSlam: Where Are the Matches?

The wisdom of the Philosoraptor applies to SummerSlam
SummerSlam is a scant four days away. WWE usually has anywhere between seven and ten matches for its pay-per-view events. Naturally, you'd think that they would have announced at least six of them by now, right, if not more? Yeah, about that. The SummerSlam microsite only has four matches announced. Granted, one of them is maybe the most important match in WWE this year in terms of shaping the future of the company, but at the same time, just as man cannot live on bread alone, I'm not sure you can entice people to order a PPV based on one hot main event alone. Even more glaringly, the other matches announced are Randy Orton vs. Christian, Sheamus vs. Mark Henry and Beth Phoenix vs. Kelly Kelly. The matches are listed in descending order of how much pizzazz they have in terms of getting folks who aren't raging wrestling dorks like myself to order. Which is to say, my guess is the amount of people who will order this based solely on the fact that Beth Phoenix is booked against Kelly Kelly wouldn't outnumber the people who voted for Mickey Mouse in the last Presidential election.

What's even more fascinating is the number of names that aren't booked for the card yet. Alberto del Rio, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler, all to name a few, all are guys who could get people to buy, and yet, here we are with four days left, and none of them have announced matches. Furthermore, two matches that were suspected for the event were settled pretty definitively on RAW for varying reasons. Truth defeated Morrison clean as a whistle for unknown reasons, and Mysterio/Miz was probably postponed from the card because of ReyRey's knee tweak from this past weekend. Regardless, even if three of those four competitors make the card, there's a missed opportunity for getting people invested in what's going on during that three hour broadcast.

Contrary to popular belief, people rarely plunk down substantial money to see people appear at places with no defined role. Yeah, WrestleMania's big selling point was that The Rock was going to host, but I think we can agree that promising the biggest star from the last 10 years to appear after a seven year hiatus is way, way, way different a circumstance than promising that The Miz is going to be there when he's been around almost constantly for the last five years.

People want a reason to pay WWE money. The way you do that is through wrestling matches, not by promising appearances. There's a reason why the WWF had its biggest ratings offset from its biggest number of PPV buys by a couple of years. In 1998, they were all about guys just doing stuff, showing up and being unpredictable. That lends itself to TV because it's free, and you can easily change the channel from RAW for one ZOMG SHOCKING MOMENT to Jersey Shore for another without any real emotional investment. But the real fans? They're there because of the wrestling. In 2000, the WWF built towards wrestling matches through real feuds and the promise that one guy was going to kick the crap out of the other guy for what he did on television.

I won't sit here and get into a lecture on economics and say which model is better, because having a mix of both is a good thing. That being said, to use the Jersey Shore analogy, do you think that show would be nearly as successful if MTV made it a monthly PPV series and charged $60 a pop for it? If you say yes, then you greatly overestimate the public's supply and demand curve for shock television. When it's the cost of your cable bill, demand is high. When you have to pay a half-day's salary after taxes to watch it, demand is low.

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe the number of people ordering for Punk/Cena f/ Trips is going to be a rousing success. Maybe the number of people who order just because it's SummerSlam will be a big number. But I still would rather see my PPV events become places where the smorgasbord of wrestling is advertised beforehand so I know what I'm getting into and what I can look forward to.

That is, unless this is it, and we're getting four matches that'll all be 40+ minutes, which is tantalizing in its own way for two of them, iffy for one, and totally, mind-blowingly horrific for the Divas affair, unless at the last minute Kelly Kelly is subbed out for Nattie Neidhart, Sara del Rey or Kana. Then, 40 minutes would be a good goal, yeah?

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