One of the biggest concerns that we hear about the WWE is how much content they have to produce on a weekly basis. Three hours on Monday, 2 hours on Tuesday, 205 Live and other shows. This is often seen as a burden instead of a blessing. The RAW Roster page currently has 81 people on it. That includes announcers, backstage people, and others who aren’t “wrestlers”. Let’s say of the 81, there are roughly 55 wrestlers. Smackdown Live’s roster page has 57 people. The same sort of situation so let’s say it’s closer to 40ish. So currently there are roughly 100 superstars across 2 television shows that can be given airtime.
Now, before we go much further, let’s also add in that for each hour of TV there are around 10 minutes of commercials. So RAW really has 2.5 hours to cover and SDL has an hour and 40 minutes. So it’s more like 4 hours and change instead of 5 full hours. Let’s call it an even 250 minutes between the two main shows. 250 minutes for 100 people is almost 3 minutes per person on average. Now, let’s not be silly and think that Zack Ryder needs the same amount of TV time as Finn Balor or Seth Rollins. Nothing against Zack but he has his role in the WWE, but Balor and Rollins are bigger names.
The largest obstacle WWE faces is the creative team and Vince McMahon in particular. Vince dictates who should and should not get TV time each week. Nevermind the fact that everyone at the show is getting PAID in some way shape or form for being there, some are still relegated to dark matches or to getting a payday for no action at all. What ends up happening is that a small percentage of the 55 RAW wrestlers are the ones that actually get to appear on TV. Not only that, they appear for fairly large amounts of time…every single week. Back to Seth Rollins, he’s on a hot streak right now, but if he keeps being given 20-30 minutes of time each week for matches and interviews, eventually the character burns out. Viewer fatigue is a real thing. People get tired of seeing the same people on their screens, having the same matches, and giving similar interviews.
I remember back in the early 90s, seeing the Undertaker on TV was a HUGE deal. I remember the first WWF Superstars that I saw him on. He wasn’t on RAW every week. He wasn’t cutting 10-minute promos and then wrestling for 20 minutes. His appearance consisted of his entrance, him squashing a local guy, and the show ending. Eight to ten minutes tops and you were left wanting more. I know those days are long gone, but it’s still possible to make wrestler appearances feel special and no I’m not talking about the Lesnar “work 5 days a year” plan either.
WWE needs to do a couple of things to fight off the overexposure they’ve created. First, unless they are injured, 80% of active wrestlers need to appear on TV. They don’t have to talk. They don’t have to do an angle. Some guys on the roster need to be allowed to go out for 10 minutes, have a good match, and lose. The best way to do this would be via tag matches. With the Authors of Pain joining the roster, there are plenty of potential low-end tags that could be fed to them before they move on to the higher end teams. The Revival. Slater/Rhyno. Titus/Apollo. The B-Team. That’s 4 weeks’ worth of matches. Do they need to be in consecutive weeks? No. This serves two purposes. First, the AoP get some TV exposure so fans can become familiar with them. Second, these matches eat up TV time while helping advance a team. If you add a pre-match video package or post-match interview, these can easily take up 8-10 minutes of time. Sprinkle a few of these sorts of matches throughout the show (even with top talent) and the show will have a better pace.
WWE has been trending towards using tag teams more, especially on RAW. Witness Hardy/Wyatt and Ziggler/McIntyre. Teams composed of mainly singles wrestlers who are working together. This is a great way to use talent. They get exposure without being overexposed. You’re not getting a 10 minute Matt Hardy match, instead you get 5 minutes of Hardy and 5 minutes of Wyatt along with 10 minutes of the other team. No one wrestler has to carry the attention of the audience during the match. Tag matches and multi-man matches are also less taxing on the performers. More use of these sorts of matches could lead to fewer injuries. It also makes singles matches more “special”. McIntyre’s first singles match on the main roster should be a big deal. In fact, if WWE wants to make him seem special without outright saying it, have him only wrestle singles matches on PPVs. You want to see Drew 1 on 1 against someone, you’ll have to watch the WWE Network to see it. The same could be done with other stars as well. It needs to be subtle, which is not something the WWE is particularly good at.
This type of booking is similar to what New Japan wrestling does. For the most part, big singles matches take place on PPVs. They aren’t going to have the IWGP title defended on a TV show. You’re going to have to pay to watch that. Granted, with Lesnar, the only way you’re getting a WWE Universal Title match is on PPV, but that same line of thinking should apply once the title changes hands. With lower tier titles on each show, there should be no shortage of potential title matches throughout the month. I’ll cover this point in a future article and lay out how the WWE should book its titles.
Back to Rollins. WWE should have Seth defend the IC title once a month on RAW and then in a singles match at the PPV. That’s two title matches a month. During his other 3 appearances, he can work multi-man matches or “squash” matches against lower-end competition. Seth may actually be the best guy to use with up and coming talent. He can make the other guy look good while losing, which is a skill in and of itself. Should there be 5 Seth Rollins singles matches on RAW each month? No. What about 2 15 minute matches a month along with some 6 man matches and maybe a 10-minute match with a young talent? That seems more reasonable. This way Seth gets to shine and still put on great matches while not burning out the fans.
With TV negotiations for SmackDown Live scoring a huge deal ($205 million per year, for 5 years. That over 1 BILLION dollars for one show!), it’s important that WWE makes sure their product is strong and the audience is not becoming tired of the talent. Reducing the amount of time the main talents are on TV, using more tag team matches, and making singles matches relevant and important would go a long way to increasing each brands talent base and depth while also providing more fan interest down the road. One of the many issues with Roman Reigns is how often he is on TV and how much time he is given each week. Pulling back on those “opportunities” slightly would help with the reception he gets each week. It’s not going to solve the Big Dogs’ problems, but that’s a discussion for another day.