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THWD: The case for a WWE off-season
by Tink Holloway on 3 May 2008

My goodness, how long ago does Wrestlemania seem already!? Despite the WWE’s attempts to link everything they could at Backlash with WM24, the night felt far detached from the bright lights of the Citrus Bowl. It’s a shame that there is so little time to take in what happened at the biggest event of the year. Before you could blink, the following evening’s episode of Raw has happened and laid the foundations for the coming weeks programming. Even during the show itself, the WWE were promoting next month’s pay-per-view, already looking to their next big money event. As a consequence nothing lasts in wrestling anymore, one day JBL is just about beating Finlay in a ‘Belfast Brawl’ (denying poor Finlay and Hornswoggle any redemption over Layfield whatsoever) the next JBL is in a top line feud and on course to headline Backlash with Cena, Orton and Triple H. Worst of all for me though is the lack of closure you get from being a wrestling fan and this has led me to think maybe it’s time the WWE had an off-season?

Contrast the fast fading memory of Wrestlemania 24 with the lingering images of Superbowl XLII. A fascinating season which saw the NFL take matches to the United Kingdom for the first time ever, culminated in a fantastic match between the undefeated Patriots and the underdog Giants that was settled in the final seconds of the game when The Giants scored a touchdown with just 35 seconds left on the clock. It was a fine conclusion for the season to sign off with and people were talking about it for ages afterward. It was allowed to live in the memory because there was nothing more to quell the fans’ thirst for more action and as such it fed the anticipation of the next season. People were now eager to see how the Giants would defend their title and whether or not the Patriots would be as dominant again along with the interest in the preparation of a new campaign for all the other franchises.

If after Wrestlemania, the WWE had taken a two month sabbatical then professional wrestling would be looking ahead to a new season with the same eagerness. A massive crowd of over 70,000 were on hand for a tremendous show which included the swan song of Ric Flair, another thrilling Money In The Bank Match and a dramatic main event in which the Undertaker went 16-0 after pinning Edge for The World Title. This event capped another controversial year in the WWE after the Benoit double-murder suicide and the ensuing steroid scandal. After such a good show, an off-season would have meant that when the WWE returned, the anticipation levels would be much higher. The WWE would be able to kick a new season off with an episode of Raw that could be hyped up in the same way that any other sport’s body promotes their first day back.

Look at all the coverage the NFL draft has received this week. Why couldn’t the WWE draft be the same? Speculation could be rife as to who the general managers of Raw and Smackdown would draft to their rosters out of the ‘free-agents’ available. Storyline details of the lengths of certain superstars contracts could be added so that at the end of a season, those people would then become ‘free-agents’ themselves. For example, on the road to Wrestlemania it could’ve been made clear that Batista was coming to the end of his contract with Smackdown and in the off-season, general managers Vickie Gurerro and William Regal were preparing to bid over his contract. In reality Batista has no new options on the blue brand and therefore the WWE could use this story line reason to justify the switch and breathe new life into the character by putting him on Raw. Here it is clear to see how an off-season can have both a commercial and a practical use.

The 2 months could also be taken to scout and hire talented individuals rather than people who are unsuited to doing what they’re currently paid to do, it seems the WWE has little time for this at the moment. Example in point- the dreadful Mike Adamlee being promoted to ECW’s new play-by-play commentator. Even if you believe that Joey Styles’ removal was warranted, surely there was someone out there with more natural aptitude for such a role. Given a two month break and less pressure to find an instant replacement for their commentary troubles, the WWE might have been able to search and find the next ‘Jim Ross’ rather than settle for the nearest ‘Scott Hudson’.

Aside from the promotional possibilities and the anticipation factor, an off-season would also provide the personalities and athletes of the WWE with some vital time off. Over the last few years the number of significant injuries of the roster has been massive and cost WWE commercially and critically on a number of occasions meaning lost revenue and an inconsistent product. If the roster had a 2 month period to rest up their minor, nagging injuries accrued over the past year, they will return fitter and healthier and more able to do the job. At a time when more and more people are calling for better working conditions in WWE, and a strengthening of the ‘Wellness Policy’, wouldn’t a two-month break for the entire roster go some way in satisfying these calls and in the meantime allow employees to spend quality time with their families, a situation that currently doesn’t exist?

If the WWE wanted to maintain a 12 month working product then how about, Raw’s off season starts after Wrestlemania and then returns at the start of June and Smackdown’s off season starts after Summer Slam and ends at the start of November? That way everyone would get 2 months off, the WWE would always have at least one-brand going (and would have both going for the important November to March, road to Wrestlemania stretch), and both brands would get a two month period where they took centre stage and were able to get their characters, storylines and product over to the audience. More energy could be put into their promotion and execution and would prevent the WWE’s product from getting overexposed due to the sheer amount of television time it currently occupies.

In the past coming off of Wrestlemania as the champion has pushed certain wrestlers on to a red hot streak. Bret Hart’s victory at Wrestlemania 10 was designed to set him up as the figurehead for the company, Austin ’s win at Wrestlemania 14 proved to be the catalyst for the WWE catching and eventually beating WCW in the Monday Night War etc. But these days Wrestlemania is used solely as the culmination of the WWE’s year and no longer as the platform to build the next big thing. This years WrestleMania main event was won by The Undertaker, a man who, despite his undoubted ability and popularity (how rare it is to say both of those things about a wrestler these days!), is not going to increase his star power by coming out of the event as ‘the man’. These days Wrestlemania is simply the big money pay off of the year and thus to conclude a WWE ’season’ at Wrestlemania would make perfect sense.

2 months isn’t a very long time but it could make the world of difference to the health and wellbeing of the superstars, increase the profits of the opening weeks of the ‘new season’, decrease the growing criticism of the WWE from outside the company regarding the working conditions of it’s staff and recharge even the most jaded wrestling hack’s interest in the product. Most importantly for me personally however, would be the feeling that there was finally some closure. Far be it from everything starting up again on the next night’s Raw, after a year’s worth of matches, angles, storylines and disputes, Wrestlemania would signify a genuine climax. How much more satisfying would that be.

Number of views: 7527

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3 Responses to “THWD: The case for a WWE off-season”

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