Pick a soapbox, any soapbox! Step right up and wage your complaint about professional wrestling’s product, despite the fact that we all continue to a) watch, b) stay interested, and c) discuss it. When I look at the Wrestlezone Forums now-a-days, so many threads take a position of complaint. Here’s the short list of discussions I’ve seen – more than once – as of late:
Bring back the attidue era. Bring back the TV-14 rating. Unify all of the titles. Turn Cena heel. Turn Punk face. Turn Edge face. Turn Orton heel. Bring back McMahon. Make Shane the GM. Make HHH the GM. WWE should buy TNA. TNA is better than WWE. WWE is better than TNA. Have fewer pay-per-views.
It’s enough to make your head spin. But the last one is interesting. Several posters on the forums, as well as a number of the other columnists on these pages, have extolled the virtues of going back to 4-6 pay-per-views per year instead of the 12-13 we have now. You can trace it back to the mid-90’s; WWF had Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble. Quarterly PPV’s. They added King of the Ring in the early Summer to allow Wrestlemania to be a blow-off event while building something for SummerSlam. Then WCW started adding more PPV’s, even getting up to one a month. WWF responded with the "In Your House" series, and eventually, both companies settled on 12 per year. That meant 24 in all.
It was (I believe) Mark Madden who recently said that it’s no longer about the PPV’s, but about the social aspect of the event. Professional Wrestling fans seem to come together like no other sports or entertainment fans in the world. Except soccer. Only we usually won’t shank each other after a match.
But let’s see here – UFC 108 took place on January 2nd, 2010. UFC 124 will occur on December 11th, 2010. That’s 17 "UFC’s," all but 4 have been on PPV. That’s 13 pay-per-view events for WWE’s TRUE competition, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. So why aren’t fans of Mixed Martial Arts telling the UFC to do fewer PPV’s? Even with Strikeforce and other competing MMA companies out there?
Simple – UFC has carved a strong niche because they have done what boxing USED TO DO. They mastered the art of the weight class. And don’t forget, weight classes are an amateur wrestling invention. Perhaps the world is most interested in Brock Lesnar and the UFC Heavyweight Championship, but when George St. Pierre fights Josh Koscheck for the Welterweight crown in a few months, I promise you the buy rates will be significant.
Pro wrestling has ALWAYS been about the big dudes and the high impact. But seeing the success the UFC has had with just its Light Heavyweight Division, AND the success WCW once had with its Cruiserweight Division, it makes you ask – why hasn’t the WWE re-created a weight class below the heavyweights?
For my money, there are SO MANY viable athletes who would not only fit into, but benefit from, a weight class system for 220-lbs and under. Evan Bourne, Rey Mysterio, Justin Gabriel, Kaval, Daniel Bryan, Primo, Tyson Kidd, Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder, Chavo Guerrero, Caylen Croft, and Curt Hawkins are all 220-lbs or under, and a few others are REALLY close. So many of them are toiling in mid-card obscurity, getting pops for their one-big move (Shooting Star Press, anyone?) and then being squashed by the big guys. Only Mysterio has managed to bust out of that mold, though one could argue for Bryan as well.
There are a handful of things WWE could do to make the Light Heavyweight / Cruiserweight division not only relevant, but a major draw for its high number of PPV’s:
While there may never be 5 weight classes in professional wrestling – a sport forever dominated by the "big men," I think there’s a clear market for a 2nd weight class in the WWE. You just need to do it right. That way, maybe there’s more of a draw for the 12-13 PPV’s per year. Instead of looking at what TNA is doing…pay attention to Dana White’s masterpeice.