Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A New Era For Wrestling Is Dawning

A new era has begun in the WWE and where it started will trace back to this weekend in New Orleans. You got to see many young talents be given a larger position in the company from Cesaro, The Shield and Wyatt’s all being treated on a different level. We also saw the next wave of NXT being set up to make their way to the main roster. The official debut of Rusev with a squash of Zack Ryder was perhaps the least of these. You saw the NXT Women’s Champion appear and on her first night ended the 295 day reign of A.J Lee. Paige on her first night like Gail Kim did on her debut in WWE becoming the Diva’s/Women's Champion respectively. In addition we saw vignettes for both Bo Dallas and Adam Rose to soon be part of the mix as well.

The crowd the night after Wrestlemania has become the standard of what all crowds the rest of the year will be measured against. They are energized and will make noise no matter what you put in front of them. It is a party like atmosphere that has become some what of Holy Grail for wrestling fans. You watch from home and can’t help but want to be a part of the party.

There is a lot of division on having the Undertaker’s streak end but maybe it is the best way to symbolize we are at the start of new era. You can certainly take issue with who ended the streak but maybe this is a way to start making the transition to Wrestlemania being about current stars and not stars of the past.

Daniel Bryan sits at the top of all this change that is fixing to happen and his success will likely have a big impact on if this changing of the guard is going to happen sooner or later. You can see by subtle little things that this time is different for Daniel Bryan he is truly being given the ball. He will have a lot of support though with so many people on the rise.

What people need to understand though is while the hardcore fans see all this excitement to come the numbers are not there yet. The WWE released the first numbers on the WWE Network which were not terrible but not over the top. An article in the New York Times goes in depth on this but basically WWE announced they have 667,287 people on the WWE Network. They have set a goal to have 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014. The stock for the WWE did not react well to the news after being at record high levels dropped $4.12 to a per share price of $23.90.

The WWE Network has only been launched domestically in the U.S. It is hard to think they can grow that number unless wrestling experiences a major revival that we have not seen in a long time. In addition very little info has been out there about the future of where WWE programming will be on traditional broadcast television. The WWE’s window to deal exclusively with USA Network has come and gone. No word on anything since in terms of other companies getting in the mix to get WWE programming.

Even talk from Vince McMahon that he might someday consider selling his majority stake in the company. As far as the WWE Network goes I would suspect they will attempt to speed up launch of the network internationally in places like here in Canada and U.K if there is any danger of missing that million subscriber’s target. WWE at the announcement of the launch of the Network stated that they would be looking at going international by end of 2014 or spring of 2015 so it would not be a big leap to get it going in the fall.

As far as those T.V deals go and where WWE lands there has been speculation that they could double or even triple their rights fees. This is something that seems crazy when you consider the drop off in viewers from wrestling’s boom till now. Still Raw has become not unlike pro sports in it is something that they will say is appointment television like live sporting events and can’t be missed. After years of trying to stress the WWE is about entertainment they now have pulled a 180 degree turn and trying to consider themselves sports. The various sports leagues have been getting record numbers for rights fees and that is only expected to continue with the NBA’s T.V deal in 2015. Even lesser sports like NASCAR and MLS Soccer have netted pretty attractive numbers recently.

You may find all of this business chat boring or not concerning you but in the end it does. I hate to break it to you but just like in the last number of decades you have had it driven in your head that sports is a business so is the WWE and wrestling in general. With WWE being the most complex of those companies in wrestling business to truly understand. 

So at the end of the day Daniel Bryan and all these young guys will only go as far as the company being profitable and succeeding will take them. I would suspect with T.V deal still in the works the ratings for WWE Raw will be examined and mean the most they have since the Monday Night Wars.

As far as the rest of the wrestling world they need the WWE to be successful in order for them to be to some extent. The days of anyone challenging the WWE in a serious way are long gone. If the WWE creates or draws back older wrestling fans that befit everyone as it trickles down.

The truth is 2014 will be a very important year for wrestling and where it is heading. While the product is getting more exciting in not just the WWE but in other places it all comes down to people buying the product. You can have the best product in the world but you need people to consume it for it to be truly deemed successful.