Wrestling Doesn’t Matter Here – Ratings Do

Wrestling doesn’t matter here – Ratings do

“Why are they giving this match away on free TV?” It’s the phrase that I consistently read on the internet that grates on me the most (that and “John Cena sucks” but we’ll come to that another time). I’ve always thought that a good percentage of internet fans lived in hope that the 90’s will come back, and when I read them say those words, I know it’s true. What a lot of people don’t seem to realise – PPV’s don’t matter, TV does.

TV is the driving force of top level professional wrestling in the United States. The difference between TNA and ROH? One has a national TV deal, one doesn’t. Hence why TNA has a much larger following. Why did WCW die in 2001. It didn’t die because of bad booking, it didn’t die because of poor financial management, it died because the AOL/Time Warner merger took WCW off TV. Without TV, WCW was worth nothing, just a dead weight of debt. Why did ECW die in 2001? Because they got the boot from TNN and couldn’t find another network. Without TV, wrestling is dead.

Wrestlemania is the only real exception to the rule. The one night where a Pay Per View actually means something. The rest of the time, pay-per-views are just another date on the calendar. They make money, that’s why the WWE does so many of them. Regardless of whether you think 13 Pay Per Views a year is too much, if they’re all making a profit, why should anything change?

But that’s all Pay-Per-Views do. Look at the financial numbers. In the fourth quarter of 2010, WWE earned nearly three times as much revenue from TV (not including advertising) as it did from PPV’s. TV is where the money is at, now more than ever. Just take a look at TNA.

People say their PPV’s aren’t great. But they care about pay-per-views even less than the WWE do. Why do you think TNA builds up to a special impact every month, because they want to do a good TV rating. Spike are the reason TNA stays afloat. Their Pay-Per-Views are a distraction – at best. The only reason TNA are doing so many PPV’s is because (like most things that TNA like to do) it worked for WCW in 1997.

Wrestling companies are masters to their TV network, simple as that. If USA pulled the plug tomorrow, and WWE couldn’t find another semi-comparable network, they’d be under within 12 months. Not just through lack of revenue streams, through lack of visibility. If WWE ended up totally of TV, and say put RAW online, they’d still lose a big percentage of the audience would disappear. Because they won’t go looking for it.

It’s why we get all these big matches given away on free TV. The fault isn’t giving them away on free TV, the fault is not building to them properly. People criticise Vince Russo all they like for his booking style (and believe me, I’ll join the bandwagon if somebody is starting one), but the basic premise of trying to pop ratings is fundamental for modern wrestling companies. Is he doing a very good job? Probably not, but the premise is there.

That’s why the only way to enact change is to vote with your feet (well OK, your remote). If you don’t like what Raw is doing, turn it over. If you don’t why TNA are doing with Impact, turn over.  I put a post over on the Wrestlezone Facebook page (#cheapplug) on Tuesday asking what people thought about Raw. The response was prominently negative. But I’ll bet with good money they’ll all be back watching Raw next week.

Now more than ever people have a choice. Why people watch Raw (and Impact) so much, and yet criticise them so much is beyond me. By watching their product, you are effectively telling them they are doing a good job. If you turn off, you are telling them they are doing a bad job. Both WWE and TNA have their ‘sea-level’. For WWE (and more specifically Raw – they don’t care about Smackdown) 3.0 is the sea-level. If they start dropping below 3.0 they’ve dipped below the water line. If that happens, they will sit up and take notice and change things up.

For TNA it’s the same. They jumped over to the ‘Monday Night Wars’ at the beginning of last year (again, it worked for WCW in 1997). Their ratings dropped sharply. People said I don’t want to watch TNA up against WWE, and given the choice I’ll go with the latter. Within a couple of months the show returned to Thursdays.

If you don’t like Raw, Impact whatever, there is a simple solution – turn off. The internet is so great these days, if you want wrestling – you can find it for free, online. Two that I’ve started watching on and off are PWO Wrestling and NWA Hollywood. Completely free online, wrestling in it’s purest form. By turning off big companies, and switching to smaller guys, not only are you helping the Indys out, but you’re also giving the bigger guys a kick up the backside.

Let me tell you this for free – if you want WWE and TNA to improve, stop watching. Wrestling doesn’t matter – ratings do.

If you want to contact me you can email me at bobbybamber@gmail.com, or on Twitter over at @bobbybamber. You can also find some of my other writing work over at my new website www.bambermedia.co.uk.

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