What will it take to turn around the WWE’s economy? A killer Wrestlemania.
In just over two months, the quarter century mark of the Wrestlemania juggernaut will be feted at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Needless to say, things are tough all over – and the WWE is not immune from the economic downturn. Buy rates and actual buys for the WWE pay-per-view product are trending down and the WWE stock closed Friday at 10.09 slightly more than half of its 52-week high of 19.86 and only slightly above its 52-week low of 8.76. Its does not take Bernie Madoff to figure out that, with these trends, WWE has seen better financial days. Their stopgap, immediate answer has been to slash payroll by wishing more and more worker-bees well in their future endeavors (putting them in lock step with just about every other multi-million dollar corporation). This can work for only so long.
The WWE needs to increase its *ahem* bottom line. They have, for all intents and purposes, cornered the market (much like the Hunt Brothers did with the silver market in the 80’s and the Duke brothers did with the frozen orange juice market in "Trading Paces") so the obvious answer is to increase sales.
So, how to jump start the Wrestlemania buy rate? I’m glad you asked Vince. I have three ideas:
1. Bring back the celebrities: Wrestlemania as a brand was made by the coterie of B-list celebrities who were used effectively and creatively during the show. Mr. T (God help us all) was IN the main event at Wrestlemania I. From there, we have seen Liberace, Muhammad Ali, a laundry list of NFL’ers in an "open invitational" (?) Battle Royal, Pamela Anderson, Alice Cooper, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Vanna White, Donald Trump, Run-DMC, Lawrence Taylor, and Floyd Mayweather. However, as of late, we have seen a dearth of celebrities at Wrestlemania. In the mid-90’s, the WWE decided to do a u-turn from this aspect of promotion citing, memorably, that the WWE superstars ARE the celebrities at Wrestlemania. That worked as long as talent like Stone Cold, The Rock and Vince McMahon (yeah, I said it) were headlining the show. Close-to-desperate-times call for close-to-desperate-measures.
Vince, you’ve got two months. Something tells me that Lindsay Lohan (provided someone, anyone, gives her a sammich) is in need of a payday. Ditto Kim and/or Chloe Kardashian, Kim Zolciak and Joe Francis (mix them up in the Vicky Guerrero / Edge storyline with Spencer Pratt & Heidi Montag = money), and Heather Mills (have her challenge Zack Gowan to a two-legged race at the Hall of Fame ceremonies). Let’s not forget the athletes. My God, Terrell Owens is a gift from the almighty himself. Same goes for Sean Avery, Michael Vick (if he can get a weekend pass for work release purposes) and Zidane (headbutt vs. headbutt vs. Umaga?). Finally, how about bringing in Randy "The Ram" Robinson? He could bring his Golden Globe and maybe his Academy Award. Have Stephanie break a gimmicked Oscar over his head.
2. Throw a bone to long-time fans: Its arguable whether the fans of the first Wrestlemania have watched Wrestlemania XXIV. One way to guarantee that the fans who were there in 1985 will be there in 2009 is to have a reunion of the talent. Not at the Hall of Fame – at the pay-per-view. Tragically, Blassie, Andre, Studd, Moolah, S. D. Jones, and JYD are no longer with us. But Hogan, Piper, Orton, Mr. T (again), Snuka, Orndorff, Richter, Kai, Lauper, Volkoff, Iron Sheik, Windham, Rotundo, Albano, Valentine, Jimmy Hart, the Sammartinos, Beefcake, Johnny Valiant, Steamboat, Borne, Bundy, Santana, and Buddy Rose are available. Forget about them working (even Hogan). Show them some love with a nominal payday and the added buys from the fans from 1985 would more than make up for it. Plus, you may just create some new fans (if the show is good enough) by bringing them and their kids back to fold.
3. Use what has worked: Picture this. The build up to Randy Orton vs. Vince McMahon has begun. Jim Ross has made it crystal clear that Stone Cold Steve Austin has wrestled his last match. That all but guarantees he will wrestle one more match. That match should be as a henchman at Wrestlemania. McMahon get attacked again by Orton and is "severely injured." But, Vince will not be denied. McMahon demands that he be allowed to bring a second to the ring – Bob Orton, Jr. (tying in the reunion promotion). Randy Orton agrees as long as he can have a second – Stone Cold Steve Austin. The hype gets cranked up and the match headlines the pay-per-view. During the melee, Bob Orton is layed out by Randy Orton ("The son just beat the father! My God, Randy Orton just punted his own father!!" The Cowboy gets stretchered out.) Vince, by now a bloody mess, and Randy Orton face-off. As Vince is lying prone in the ring and Orton prepares to finish him off, Austin, grabs a mic and verbally passes the I-Hate-Vince torch to Orton. "That sumbitch and me had some wars. But I ain’t never seen anybody, not me, not anybody, leave that bastard as bloody and beat as you did tonight. And you beat up your old man, too. That takes balls, son. I’m an ornery, Texas son of a bitch but even I know when its time to pass the torch. Randy Orton,….never trust a rattlesnake." At which point Austin jumps Orton and nails several Stone Cold Stunners leaving the Legend Killer unconscious. Austin stands in mid-ring catching beers to a thunderous ovation. He pours a beer on Vince’s body. He pours a beer on Orton’s body. He claps two beers together and salutes his homestate crowd. The show exits on a beauty shot of Austin standing in the corner silhouetted against the Titantron image of the entire crowd. There is still a McMahon vs. Orton feud to build from (since there was no finish) but the pay-per-view audience and the live crowd go home happy.
Those are my ideas.
*sigh* Something tells me we will get a live appearance by Saliva, Stephanie McMahon in the Hall of Fame and Vince McMahon in the beauty shot. And the stock will close below 9. And the buy rate will drop below one million. And more people will be wished well in their future endeavors.