Back when the shine was still on the CM Punk ascension, right after Money in the Bank, actually, WWE had a choice to make. They could let Punk sit out for a prolonged period of time, build him up virally and have him come back when the theoretical fan demand for him had reached a fever pitch, or they could bring him back sooner, strike while the proverbial iron was hot and have him at the top of the card for their second biggest pay-per-view of the year.
Then, they set up a match between Punk and Kevin Nash at the end of said PPV, only for that match to “fall through” for whatever reason, be it storyline or for real. This caused them reportedly to move up the Punk/Triple H match they had planned for Survivor Series to Night of Champions.
The problem isn’t a new one. People have been complaining about oversaturation of pay-per-view events for years now, how they don’t have the money to shell out for 13 events a year (13!) or that the number of PPVs has really done a number on the care WWE has taken to build each individual feud on the weekly television. Rehashing that territory would be doing just that – rehashing. Still, that reasoning as to why WWE needs to cut back is reaching critical mass. Why so? It’s because a decrease is sorely needed so that new stars can have time to have their own memorable moments, and so that every one of these events is must see, especially if WWE is adamant on remaining at the current price point for each individual event.
Think about how much better of Punk would be right now if there wasn’t such a high count of PPV events. If SummerSlam was on August 28th instead of August 14th, they could have sat him out for two more weeks to do viral stuff and really whip fans of all denominations into more of a frenzy as to whether he’d come back or not.
Sure, three weeks doesn’t sound as tantalizing to some fans as three months, but it’s better than eight days, for one, and two, the reaction at Money in the Bank warranted more than a delayed return. I feel like three weeks would have been a perfect medium between “striking while the iron was hot” and “selling the angle that Punk might not come back”.
Then, what if there was only one pay-per-view event between SummerSlam and Survivor Series instead of the scheduled three? There would be a lot more time either to get Kevin Nash’s physical clearance in order or to build a better story than what’s going on now if the whole Nash-is-fired stuff is part of the angle. That way, you wouldn’t need to bump Triple H/Punk from Survivor Series all the way up to now, and you certainly wouldn’t need to hastily put in a “win or you’re fired” stipulation to try and build more suspense for the outcome.
Granted, the idea to take any PPV off the schedule, whether it’s just one event or whether it’s anywhere in upwards of five (which would give you an ideal 8 in my opinion) may not be appetizing to WWE at this point. Pay-per-view doesn’t really have a lot of overhead, and they make back a lot of money on even the low drawing installments. That being said, I have to wonder what the business logistics would be of having 13 so-so-to-good drawing events against having eight really well-built events that all do at the very least 200K buys would be.
Even if it’s a wash for them in the short term, wouldn’t attempting to build a stronger audience with the prospect of word of mouth, positive reviews and better coverage from fans in the media, from peons like myself all the way up to folks who have more of a boomstick like Bill Simmons and Michelle Beadle, be worth it in the long run? Wouldn’t it be better to have a stronger build to fewer PPVs while guys like Punk, Alberto del Rio, The Miz, R-Truth, Sheamus, Christian, Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston and Cody Rhodes all develop stronger personalities and gain more of a folklore and emotional equity that would not only make crowds react to them more strongly, but want to pay money to see them as much as possible?
Furthermore, wouldn’t you want to rehabilitate or enhance the images and the emotional equity of guys who are already over? No matter what anyone says, no one can’t improve as a character. John Cena brings in fans now, but what if he was part of a really memorable story that ended up becoming embedded in the WWE’s mythos? You don’t think that wouldn’t enhance business and maybe make fans who weren’t initially Cena fans reconsider and buy something with his likeness on it?
Staying the course would be a recipe for failure, and it would damn CM Punk and others of his ilk to a career of irrelevance. Why not do everyone a favor and slim down?
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.