Doctor's Orders: Exploring the Topic of a WWE Off-Season
By The Doc
Aug 25, 2014 - 7:35:34 AM
The Snowman is a genius
At various points throughout my decade as a wrestling columnist, I have encountered the argument that WWE should have an off-season. It is a fundamentally sound idea. Not a single other sport and entertainment entity is featured all 52 weeks of the year.
Professional wrestling stands alone, wearing their non-stop schedule like a badge of honor, but there are reasons why no one else goes all year round but WWE. In sports, it’s primarily because of injury risks. American football, especially, takes such a toll on the human body – the equivalent of 30 car accidents per game – that it would be unrealistic to expect more than a 4-5 month season. Football executives in the college and pro ranks want the game on your minds, so there are numerous activities from spring games to the NFL draft to 365 day per calendar TV coverage to keep it at the forefront of your consciousness, but it is usually not at the expense of the players’ health. Unions play a key role, there. All major American leagues have Player Associations to look out for the athletes’ best interest.
Another reason is that, simply put, there are a lot of things in this world that occupy our attention, as fans. Again, American football understands this better than any league in the world. NFL and NCAAF present a product that is riveting and leaves its viewers wanting more. Their ratings are absolutely fantastic.
Soccer/football, hockey, basketball, and baseball leagues have seasons that span at least half of the year. In the eyes of many, they’re all too long. Their schedules have lengthy periods of dragging on. Soccer/football can be given somewhat of a pass for a lesser number of games per competition. For instance, the English Premier League has 38 games – 54% less than the NBA and NHL and a whopping 77% less than the MLB. Fewer games mean more meaning per game and greater bearing of individual matches on the year-end standings. Soccer teams play multiple competitions in a season, granted, but the grand total of games played by the top teams every year does not come close to their basketball, baseball, and hockey counterparts. So, the bottom line is that football (either kind) follows the principle of less being more.
WWE was a lot more like UEFA (Europe’s soccer governing body) in its schedule back in the day. We had to wait an entire week to watch and maybe, on occasion, we’d get multiple shows per week. However, Smackdown came along and then ECW became a third brand. Today, with WWE Network, wrestling can be on as often as you want it to be. God Bless those of you that have the time to pay attention to all of that, the same as He can those of you that can watch even half of your favorite team’s games in other sports (soccer excluded due to shorter season). Personally, I can watch 17 weeks of football, but I can only watch the beginning, Christmas, and Playoffs of the longer-seasoned NBA. Based on TV ratings, most people in the United States would agree with me. Since WWE has become a “league” with “too many games” and is based in a country where sports fans have made up their minds that only small windows of the long “season” are worth their undivided attention, it has simply become difficult to consistently maintain a high interest level for wrestling all the time. Even in the entertainment industry, for those of you that dislike the WWE-Sports comparison, Hollywood peaks, financially, with Summer Blockbusters, while television series run just over 20 episodes for the top shows.
As wrestling fans, we are the only enthusiasts on earth expected to devote the product’s full calendar to our lives. The word “fan,” as it relates to being a supporter, has two common etymologies: one is short for “fancy,” as in a person who fancies a certain team, sport, hobby, etc, while the other is short for “fanatic,” which suggests a far more extreme following. Last year, I wrote a column that broke down into categories the different types of wrestling fans. The origin that relates fans to mere fancy better describes a more casual WWE viewer. Something like WWE Network surely is geared more toward the diehard, zealotic, fanatically inclined WWE devotee.
WWE’s entire fanbase is made up of the total weekly domestic television viewers plus the total weekly international television viewers. We know from reliable sources that WWE’s current American TV audience is about 4-5 million people. Using the old, pre-Network model, I will make the argument that the people that buy WrestleMania-related PPVs (including Royal Rumble) are a mixture of domestic diehard and casual fans extrapolated from the TV audience, whereas the vast majority of the domestic non-WrestleMania pay-per-viewers would make up the core section of the fanbase that we could classify as “diehard.” We’ll add to the diehard category those people that have a real interest in the non-Mania-related PPVs but could not afford the hefty $45-55/month price tag (the Network should help us determine a more accurate figure for the number of worldwide diehard fans).
If you are a fan that watches every week on TV and maintains at least an interest for every monthly PPV, then you spend an enormous amount of time dedicated to WWE. Take me, for instance. My total wrestling viewing per year is 52 weeks of Raw + 12 (or however many) PPVs + an estimated equivalent of an additional 2 hours per week watching old footage for book and column projects + 12 weeks of Smackdown (during Mania season). That’s just viewing. If you add in an hour per week for podcasts + 2 hours per week for column writing + an hour per day on discussion with you guys + 2 hours per week reading about wrestling + 2-4 hours per week listening to wrestling podcasts, that’s an exorbitant amount of time spent on wrestling.
Research has shown that the age-old saying about “absence making the heart grow fonder” is true. Even if you love something or someone, the studies report, taking a little bit of time apart brings greater awareness and perspective to the relationship. Constant interaction leads to negative feelings such as anger and resentment. In other words, a little distance is actually quite healthy. Too much of anything can become a bad thing. Even if you love your job, for instance, you need to take a vacation from it multiple times per year to avoid getting burned out. Hell, even though you love your spouse and children, it’s a good idea to take a little bit of time away from each other every so often. Seeing as wrestling is the only sport/entertainment industry that does not offer its fans a break, should we, as fans, recognize that we can become overexposed to it?
There are certain absolutes about WWE that you learn after years of spending so much time following their ins and outs, one of which is that they will very likely never (EEEVVVER) implement an off-season. Modern health science has made it easier to endure the rigors of their schedule on their performers’ bodies. Perhaps the best that can ever be achieved, from the wrestler perspective, is the creation of a “WWE Superstar Union” that cultivates a movement toward mandatory time off the road, reduction during minor injury concerns to being on TV only without working matches until PPV bouts, and the like.
However, just because WWE is unlikely to deviate from being a yearlong sports entertainment entity does not mean that we cannot implement our own off-season from wrestling. Frankly, it would be a healthy idea. You can make it for however long you want and you can define it however you would like. It could be for a month or for three to six. It could be cold turkey or it could simply mean scaling back your viewing habits. It can be whatever you need it to be. I know that, for me, my massive reduction in wrestling viewing following WrestleMania XXIV opened the door for WrestleMania XXV to infuse me with a huge dose of renewed passion for the product, ultimately leading to this column becoming a weekly feature on LOP for several years running. I was about to tone it down again in 2011, but “The Pipe Bomb” was dropped and it kept me going for another three years. Now, the time has come to downshift again. I will still drop the occasional column and the podcast has given me an outlet to keep open a line of dialogue with LOP readers/listeners, but it will be WrestleMania Season before I get back into the old groove with my next Mania tribute, The Road to WrestleMania Countdown: Ranking Every Wrestler in WrestleMania History.
So, what are your thoughts? QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think it would be better for you, as a fan, if you took a self-imposed break every once and awhile?
Until next time, here’s to bodyslams, planchas, slobberknockers, and dropkicks…
Wednesday at 5PM EST - The Doc Says...”Roman Reigns is Not the Only One Who Can Stop Brock”
Brought to you by The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment (Kindle Edition), this week's episode of "The Doc Says" explores the probable and possible options for the man that WWE will choose to defeat Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Is the list long or short? Is it very obvious or is there still room for surprises? Doc explores, analytically and cleverly. Also, Doc offers his Paul Heyman Raw Win of the Week and Brie Bella Raw Fail of the Week.
Popular Wrestling Internet Radio with LordsofPain