Bragging Rights is this Sunday, and with the exception of the dismal December to Dismember ECW PPV back in 2006 that drew only 90,000 buys, it could well be the lowest drawing PPV in WWE history. Here's a quick look at why.
4 - Repetitiveness.
One of the main events at Bragging Rights is Kane vs. The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match, this will be the third time in 35 days that the two demonic brothers have gone at it for the World Heavyweight title on PPV, that's a PPV World title match every 11.7 DAYS. Unbelievable. We saw a similar situation with Orton and Cena last year where the two had four PPV matches in the space of 63 days (including 3 title changes in 42 days).
Now if this Undertaker-Kane feud was an incredibly original storyline with two fresh superstars it may be excusable, but it's not, these two have feuded on and off for 13 years. The addition of Paul Bearer just increases the sense of Deja Vu.
Although we have never seen Randy Orton and Wade Barrett go one on one on PPV before, and it is a fresh match-up, of the 10 PPVs WWE has held this year, Randy Orton has been involved in a world title match seven times. That is very frequent and does not even take into account the dozens of world title matches Orton has had over the last six years.
The focal point of Bragging Rights has been the 'big' Smackdown vs. Raw 14 man tag match, following hot on the heels of the 10 man tag match that main evented Summerslam, and a month before the Survivor Series PPV, you know, the one that was nearly cancelled because multi-man tag matches don't draw any more...
3 - Unconvincing Format.
Since the WWE decided gimmicks were what they needed to boost their ailing PPV business, most successful stipulation matches have been expanded into their own PPV, Fatal 4-way, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank, or considered, such as a Draft PPV or Streetfight PPV. Some of these have been more successful than others depending on the strength and rarity of the match. The Royal Rumble for example is still a draw based partly on its tradition and history and on the fact that it only ever happens once a year and always has the most important thing in WWE at stake i.e a Wrestlemania main event place.
Bragging Rights is based on the supposed rivalry between the Smackdown and Raw brands, a rivalry brought into existence with the 2002 brand extension. For a long time this feud was credible, both brands were distinct, with their own titles, PPVs, general managers, seperate rosters, announcers and referees. This gradually eroded with PPVs becoming cross-brand and talent appearing on each show constantly. Last year at Wrestlemania the Tag Titles were unified and at the last PPV the women's/diva's title were too, meaning all tag teams and divas now appear on both shows. The only time the rivalry is mentioned now is the few weeks prior to Bragging Rights; the Smackdown team features only one wrestler to have been on his brand for more than a year, Raw features two.
If a genuine sense of competition was established between the two shows throughout the year and they really were two seperate brands, this type of PPV could be something special, unfortunately it's not.
2 - Competition.
Coming the night before Bragging Rights is UFC 121. Now not only is UFC a PPV juggernaut, in fact, the only PPV juggernaught, and not only is it the night before a WWE PPV, but the UFC 121 card is also being headlined by the current UFC Heavyweight Champion and former WWE Heavyweight Champion, Brock Lesnar. The last time Brock Lesnar fought on PPV it drew a massive 1.16 million buys, UFC's 2nd biggest number ever, and the 2nd biggest PPV of 2010 so far, behind only the Mayweather-Mosley boxing match.
The last time WWE held a PPV in the same week as UFC was Wrestlemania which of course failed to do a million buys, it doesn't necessarily follow that the direct competition was what caused the disappointing number, lord knows WWE has managed to do bad numbers all year, competition or not. However that UFC 111 event did 850,000 buys, which will probably be 20-25% lower than this upcoming UFC PPV, and it also did not feature WWE alumnus Brock Lesnar. When asked to pay out $45 twice in one weekend, you have to factor in the dent that will be made by those opting for the UFC offering.
Not every viewer is interested in UFC of course, and not all those that are will be keen to splash out on PPVs in the current economic climate, luckily for them half an hour before Bragging Rights starts on Sunday is game 7 of the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and the Giants. The Phillies are reigning National League champs and were runners up in the 2009 World Series, and this deciding game will see who goes on to this year's World Series. But it's not like one of these teams comes from a city that is a wrestling hotbed like... Philadelphia or somewhere... oh wait.
Even worse Sunday night also sees the broadcast of a Vikings - Packers NFL match, the same league that has been kicking ass in cable ratings the past month.
1 - PPV Buys/TV Ratings Generally Down.
Several times in the last few weeks Monday Night Raw has dipped below the 3.0 mark in the face of stiff competition from NFL games. The Raw rating the week of Wrestlemania was also surprisingly low and many people wrote it off with the contention that WWE would be making a bunch of money that Sunday, which they did, although less than they wanted, and that a point in the ratings here and there didn't really matter. This is true to a degree, but it's a cause for concern when the product is not engaging the audience to a point where the final show before a big event is failing to attract viewers.
For people to spend what is a lot of money on a PPV they really have to be engaged and interested in the storylines and characters and falling ratings are an indicator that they aren't. What's important in terms of the PPV buys is the conversion rate, UFC's is very high, they don't have a regular TV show that does huge ratings, but when it comes to PPV they convert a very large percentage of their fans into PPV buys. WWE's is much smaller, and as the rating shrinks, so does the amount of viewers that they can convert to buyers.
Summerslam 2010 did around 350,000 buys, this is down 5% from last year and 35% from 2007, the other four PPVs since Wrestlemania for which information is available have all done under 200,000 buys, the worst of which was Fatal 4-way, which has the unenviable position of being the lowest bought WWE PPv since the previously mentioned ECW offering. TV ratings and buyrates have been trending down not only this year but for the past few years, along with boxing, wrestling on PPV has been left behind in the dust of Ultimate Fighting.
Joe Towner - October 2010