WWE has embarked on it’s second annual pilgrimage round Europe recently, and as always, has recorded and broadcast the flagship shows Raw and Smackdown from the UK. Unfortunately, as the UK is a whole 5 hours ahead of the east coast in the states this meant Raw had to be taped to be shown later. This can lead to a big problem for WWE as it means fans can post spoilers, and as we saw from the ratings this week, it means less people in the states tune in to watch Raw because a portion of the audience has already found out what happens and have decided therefore they don’t need to sit through a 3 hour TV show. The fact WWE has been here again got me thinking, why can’t we have another WWE Pay Per View in the UK? The above is a problem I acknowledge, but it was never a problem in the past for the company.
Instantly I want to say right now, I don’t think WWE should hold one of the ‘big four’ pay per views over here. For one it’s way too risky in destroying the buy rate. Whilst some of us in the UK are dedicated enough to stay up until 4am and watch a Pay Per View in it’s entirety live (That’s gonna be me one week tomorrow), the same perhaps cannot be said of fans in the US. Typically a WWE show starts around 8pm, so if that’s the case in the UK then on the East coast in the states that’s a 3pm start. Now, I’m not sure what all American families do on a Sunday, but I imagine it being a day spending time with the family. I’m not exactly sure an afternoon of wrestling is what the majority of the nation is willing to gather round a TV for to watch. I can’t imagine it going down well across the pond either if WWE decided to hold a Wrestlemania in the UK. That would hurt the buy rate of the show so it’s not even worth contemplating this.
While I don’t think it should be one of the big four, I don’t think it would hurt WWE to hold one of the more B-Level shows over in the UK. Yes, it still poses the same problem as the above, but it has less impact overall on WWE. While WWE views all it’s Pay Per views as an important way to generate revenue, I am pretty sure holding a show like Extreme Rules overseas is not going to hurt WWE or the buy rate that much. What WWE loses in domestic Pay Per View sales I am sure it would easily more than make up the loses through international sales in Europe. A lot of people forget WWE has a huge following internationally, which is why WWE regularly tours countries like the UK and Australia every year. In the UK TNA seems to have the bigger following, though this I believe is down to the fact they are on a free to air channel, and I think WWE fans in the UK are crying out to have our own WWE Pay Per Views like we used to on a regular basis.
What I am referring to happened back in the Attitude Era. Between 1997 and 2003, WWE held a total of 11 live Pay Per View events in the UK. These Pay Per Views were not really for the benefit of the US market, although I believe the majority of the events were released on VHS or DVD eventually. While these Pay Per Views were inevitably predictable in terms of outcomes for championship matches (There was only ever one title change and that was at One Night Only in 1997) they were still always a treat for UK fans to watch as it was something the majority of fans could watch live at home if they could not get a ticket. I believe the shows always sold well in terms of Pay Per View buys, but cannot be 100% sure. Since 2003 we have not had a live Pay Per View in over 10 years. While we not get to see Raw and Smackdown get taped, something I can only presume is more cost effective for WWE, people are always asking when WWE will be holding another Pay Per View in the UK. TNA have recently announced they will be recording some Pay Per Views in the UK during 2014, could this be the kick WWE needs to take back it’s hold on the UK market?
The last time I attended a live WWE Pay Per View style event was back in 1993 when WWE broadcast the UK Rampage tour. I think I can say having been to see a few live episodes of Raw (Both here and one live in the US), Smackdown, and having attended Wrestlemania 23, it would be nice to have the icing on the cake and attend a live Pay Per View in the UK. There feels like there is a call for it from the fans over here, and if WWE is serious about continuing to grow it’s audience here then this is something I feel they need to do. Yes you will have the spoiler problem if it is broadcast in the States, but as Nick Wildey mentioned in his latest article, Tape Delay Takes a Blow to the Ratings, on WWENews.Net, why can’t some fans simply either avoid the spoilers or just watch the show anyway? For me, the ones choosing not to watch are the more casual fans anyway, but if WWE booked these shows to make them worthwhile watching then will that surely not be enough to pull in the viewers?
One of the other big selling points for me is the fans and the atmosphere generated during live events in the UK. You only have to look at the night after Wrestlemania 29 when fans were Fandangoing to the Fandango theme. The trend became huge in the UK, pushing Fandango’s theme up the iTunes sales chart, and almost breaking the theme into the official UK top 40 music charts. I feel the fans in the UK add a unique atmosphere to any show. Just look at Raw and Smackdown this week, the fans were really into the matches and you could feel there was a real positive atmosphere from fans at the show, They wanted to be there, they enjoyed what they were seeing. It made the show that bit fresher to see the fans reacting how they did during Raw and Smackdown this week, it’s how I would love the crowds to be on WWE shows on a weekly basis.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part that WWE will hold another live Pay Per View here. Summerslam 1992 proved to be a huge success here, and the pay per views held since then have shown there will always be a demand in the UK for live shows, but WWE seems to have shied away from this happening the last decade. While the internet has played it’s part I’m sure the time delay is another reason why we will probably not see a live pay per view in the UK for some time to come. Until then, I will keep hoping the day will come, and will be one of the first in line for a ticket when it finally does.