First of all, happy anniversary. I started writing this column five years ago yesterday and it’s wound up being a lot more fun than I was expecting. Thanks for reading over the years.
I wish I had something more fun to talk about for such an occasion but that’s not the case in modern WWE. Over the course of this week, WWE has implemented another idea to fix the television problem: there will be NO wrestling during commercial breaks. This one is a little bit different than some of their ideas, but that doesn’t make it any more problematic, which is what we’re looking at today.
Now, on paper, this is not a bad idea. Having the shows be a bit more wrestling centered is the kind of thing that can help the lousy creative, which would be a major relief at the moment. If nothing else, it would be a heck of a lot better than having the shows go to a break thirty seconds into the match. There is a nice idea there, but as usual, WWE doesn’t know how to pull off something that could work.
Before we get into the specifics, let’s get two things out of the way. First of all, this was a last minute Vince McMahon idea, with the edict apparently coming out of nowhere, meaning there was almost no time to figure out a way to make it work. Second, this isn’t an official rule. It’s not like the Wild Card Rule, which was not only announced but also pounded into our heads over and over. There are no official parameters to break here so if they want to change things on the fly, so be it. That makes a difference, but it doesn’t make the problem go away.
So what has the rule done?
In the two shows we’ve had since the rule was put into place, we’ve had an elimination tag match, a pair of 2/3 falls matches, a match restarted for interference, two matches that have been expanded after it ended in a hurry, and a series of short matches that didn’t have time to develop in the first place. It’s like we’re suddenly watching gimmicks a go-go and that makes for a rather weird experience. As has been the case so many times before, the good idea is crushed by bad execution.
Remember when those matches were like this:
That’s just on a pair of routine shows. How messy and insane does that sound just from the outside? Better yet, how does this feel for fans who don’t know what’s going on? Remember that the rule was never announced or even mentioned on television. If you were just watching the shows and didn’t follow backstage news, it seems as if the company has suddenly gone insane with their ridiculous amount of gimmicks and twists. It comes off like they’re trying to hide something, which is a really weird feeling for a pair of wrestling shows.
In addition to making the show feel weird, how strange does it look to suddenly have so many 2/3 falls matches? Doing multiple instances of the same stipulation is a weird way to go (ok maybe not in WWE, with their pair of cage matches on pay per view in a month) and it’s not the kind of thing that plays well on TV. This week on SmackDown Live, the two 2/3 falls matches were announced in the span of about ten minutes. How weird does that look from a viewer’s perspective?
The whole thing comes off as WWE not being able to make up its mind. It should be as simple of a case of either having longer matches (understandable given the amount of time that they have to fill every week) or choosing not to have wrestling during the commercials. Both of them may sound like a good idea but it’s not like either of them really seems to work in reality.
The problem with long matches is the fans don’t tend to have the attention span to make them work. How many people are going to be willing to sit through multiple fifteen minute matches week to week? They’ve learned that they can change the channel, watch something else for five to ten minutes, and then come back to catch the ending (assuming they come back at all).
At the same time though, how many fans are going to hear about two 2/3 falls matches in the same show and tune out because very little is going to happen? If you know that you’re in for at least one fall that isn’t going to end the match, how much of the rest of the match are you likely to watch? It’s the same problem with Iron Man matches: it doesn’t matter if you skip a good bit of the match because odds are you’re not going to miss what matters most.
Do you need to see anything but this:
Over time, the problem can go away if you retain the fans to understand that the long matches aren’t going to be taking place anymore. Get them used to the idea that they need to keep watching because they might miss something. You know, making the show exciting again. I mean, it hasn’t worked in the last several years but another attempt at it might not be a bad idea.
What is a bad idea is trying to make both sides of the situation work. By finding ways to keep matches going throughout the break without the matches actually going throughout the break (unless it’s during a split screen commercial on SmackDown Live, which doesn’t count because you can still see the match, which does at least make some sense), the fans are going to have the same reaction that they had before: they don’t want to sit through something like this for so long so they’ll move on.
Putting long matches on television isn’t exactly the best idea in the world in the first place. If you’re able to see these longer matches every week, what is the point in buying a ticket to a live show or watching the big pay per view matches? Couple that with the abundance of rematches we get week to week anymore (including a 2/3 falls match on this week’s SmackDown Live) and the whole thing doesn’t make sense, even if WWE seems to love the idea of such stretched out matches on television week to week.
This one needed to be 2/3 falls right:
In other words, WWE needs to pick a side on this and go with it (the harder part for them). Based on the recent amount of success, going with the shorter matches that can fit around the breaks sounds like the best of the two options, but I have very little faith in WWE to actually realize that as we move forward. While I can’t imagine that we’ll see more and more 2/3 falls matches, I’m almost worried to think about what they might do to keep up this idea.
Having a show where the fans can see more wrestling is a very good idea in theory, but that doesn’t mean that it works in practicality. The idea has only been going on for a few days now and so far, it doesn’t have the most promise. It’s certainly something that can be fixed up in a matter of time, but actually pulling it off is a little bit harder than it sounds. Granted there is only so much that can be done when the company has been given all of a day to figure a way around the boss’ latest whim. It’s not like it can’t be saved, but maybe it would be better to let it go through a bit of a break of its own.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the History Of In Your House.
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