The Bucs Fan
After one year of generally poor, unmotivated television from the World Wrestling Federation, the WWF seems to have finally gotten on the right track. They have brought in a legend and his two cronies (who are hardly small names themselves) to reform the New World Order, putting them on a mission to destroy the WWF.
However, the reasons behind the past lackluster year remain subject for debate. Some say too many face and heel turns contributed to a poor product. Others say the WWF was never able to get back on track after the five month absence of the Rock while he filmed his next movie, the Scorpion King. Still more claim the slump is merely part of a cycle the WWF is stuck in.
But the real answer lies a bit deeper. The real reason for the sudden drop in quality after years of exciting television is the WWF's monthly pay-per-view system. Any problem the fans have with what they see on their television each week can be attributed to the WWF holding 12 pay-per-views each year.
Many people think there are too many title changes today, that the Fed crowns a new champion too often. But perhaps what you should be looking at is not time spent as champion, but at title defenses. In his six month run as WWF champion last year, Stone Cold Steve Austin defended his title more than Hulk Hogan did during his first run as WWF champion, which lasted four years. Part of the reason for this is because Austin had to defend his belt on TV more than Hogan. But even with just PPV title defenses, Austin probably is close. Because Hogan didn't have a stiff competitor coming after his belt every month like Austin, his reign was naturally longer. Besides, with so many shows to put on, with each of them having to seem as or more important than the last, title changes become a tool to make viewers feel like they've seem something memorable. This has lead to hotshotting of titles, especially the lower card ones.
Another tool to keep viewers hooked is the heel/face turn. Last year, Kurt Angle turned face when the WWF ran out of opponents for Austin, only to turn heel again two months later after a two week WWF Title reign by helping Austin win a match. If it weren't for the monthly PPV, Angle's face run wouldn't have fizzled out so quickly.
Another victim of the monthly show is the rivalry. No longer can epic feuds last years, because after three months the matchup is already stale. The Dudleys versus the Hardys could be a famous feud, but nobody wants to see it anymore because they have fought several times on PPV, plus too many times to count on free TV. The same can be said for Edge and Christian versus the Hardy Boyz and Dudleys vs. Edge/Christian. For every Austin/McMahon feud, there is a Regal/Edge that will seemingly never end, despite them only fighting one-on-one a handful of times.
But for the WWF to go with the obvious solution-cutting annual PPV's in half or maybe even down to four or five-would be a tough decision. I think they would make about the same amount of money should they cut down on shows but raise the price a little. With more time to build feuds, the buyrates should go up.
How to do it is also tough. They could do what WCW did when they cut Nitro from three to two hours in 2000-be honest. They released a statement saying it would better enable them to tell good stories on their program. They could tie it into the alleged promotional split after Wrestlemania, with each side taking six shows with two months between each. Or they could simply make the change without mentioning it. Whatever they decide, it will just make writing easier for them.
To close, here is a chart showing the number of title changes happening each year (in two year intervals) since the WW(W)F's inception in 1963 when Buddy Rogers became the first champion. Some notes: the LHW title was not defended domestically until December 1997, so I did not count it until then. Also, the IC Title was introduced in 1979, the Euro in 1997, and the Hardcore in November 1998. Enjoy.
Year Changes World Tag Team IC Euro Hardcore LHW Women's 1963 5 2 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1965 2 0 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1967 2 0 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1969 1 0 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1971 4 2 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1973 5 2 3 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1975 3 2 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1977 2 0 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1979 5 2 2 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1981 8 1 5 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1983 4 1 2 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A 1985 8 0 4 1 N/A N/A N/A 3 1987 4 0 2 2 N/A N/A N/A 0 1989 6 1 3 2 N/A N/A N/A 0 1991 7 4 2 1 N/A N/A N/A 0 1993 11 3 4 3 N/A N/A N/A 1 1995 16 1 4 8 N/A N/A N/A 3 1997 22 6 6 6 3 N/A 1 0 1999 60 11 15 11 8 10 N/A 5 2001 84 5 15 12 6 37 7 2