So, we may not be completely done with all of our WatchaMania shows (thanks to PROGRESS’ traditional release delay), but there’s a lot to be taken from this past weekend.
Less Is More!
We touched upon this in some of our reviews, but it felt like a lot of promotions running over WrestleMania weekend were taking advantage of the increased pool of talent that was available to them. In moderation, that’s a good thing, but unfortunately it led to cards that were bloated, with matches that just didn’t have time to breathe.
Out of about 130 matches we’ve seen over ‘Mania weekend (that is, everything bar ROH and PROGRESS), there were 35 matches that were more than straight-up singles or 2 vs. 2 tags, with the WrestleCon-hosted shows being the “worst offender”. Now, on the surface, having multi-man matches isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you factor that in alongside the time restraints that a lot of shows had, it quickly becomes a waste. Case in point: the scramble match on the Pancakes and Piledrivers match had more men than minutes it lasted, with it being the only match of the entire weekend for four of the folks involved. That’s not exposure, it’s just an annoyance to your holiday!
The flip side of that is promotions adding extra matches just to get bodies in. With the exception of ROH, every promotion was sharing venues, and as such had a limited timeslot. So with that in mind, why in God’s name would you book a nine match card for your 135-minute timeslot, when there was no way that would led to truncated matches that invariably whetted your appetite for something that wouldn’t be delivered for quite some time?
Turnaround is Key
Not everyone can do iPPV, not least for cost reasons. In years gone by, it’s become a running joke that come WrestleMania season, usually reliable services take a bath. It was the main reason I opted to go with FITE.tv for my iPPVs this year, and before a bell had even been rung, the decision paid off.
Much like PROGRESS’ iPPV last year, the sheer demand for a show (in this case, GCW’s Bloodsport) led to the WWN site collapsing under its own weight. Not having bought the show via WWN, I can only assume that what caused it was a repeat of what happened with the PROGRESS show – that is, customers who’d bought the show were waiting for the link to the show to appear… leading to the constant refreshing overwhelming their servers, effectively a self-inflicted denial of service attack.
So, with the aim of it being “just like a chapter show”, PROGRESS opted to stay away from the WWN iPPV format, or even the “live to tape” formats that WrestleCon used, and stick with their tried-and-true format of filming first, editing later. Problem is, when the world and its dog had their shows out to watch before WrestleMania had started, being the odd one out is pretty isolating.
Of course, as much as fans have been impatient in their wait for the PROGRESS NOLA shows to drop, it could actually work in their favour – after all, if you’ve seen everything that made tape over WrestleMania weekend, be it from WWE, WWN, WrestleCon or Twitch, then chances are you’ll not quite have the appetite for two more shows that fit well into ongoing storylines, as opposed to supercards.
By the way, we couldn’t fit this in elsewhere, but didn’t the production of some of those live-streamed shows really make you appreciate the glossy look of some of the European indys?
If you wanted to watch wrestling in the build-up to WrestleMania, you had limited options: either you were in New Orleans, or you were at home and forced to pick between whatever WWN streamed, whatever was on Twitch, or wait for HighSpots to turn stuff around. While Fite.tv had a bundle deal for the WWN stuff, it invariably led to a lot of the same faces in different combinations. That’s not to say the guys involved were bad, but it’s quite hard to stomach when you peer outside and see a variety!
Speaking of variety, one thing that comes from so many shows from the same “group” is that you see the same venue way too much. Bloodsports. EVOLVE. Mercury Rising. Joey Janela. SHIMMER. All had the same basic venue set-up, with the same looping logo above the entry way and the random video screens by the sides, which seemed to play old Windows Media Player visualisations that rarely fit anybody’s characters. Mix that in with a building that seemed like a soulless gymnasium to the home viewer, and it’s already a turn-off for a certain section of viewers.
The last few years have seen a steady increase in the number of shows that have been promoted in and around the area of WrestleMania. While this year we didn’t have the shambles that came with that Florida indy that booked a load of luchadors, then cancelled because of low ticket sales, we did see that perhaps the saturation point has come as far as when it comes to the perceptions of shows with a “low effort” in promoting.
In the run up to the shows, WWN’s advance ticket sales were being charted – showing that going into the weekend, Beyond’s advance sales were the weakest of those counted, while Joey Janela’s Spring Break crushed 1200 tickets before hardly anyone had arrived in New Orleans. The live picture sort of mirrored that, as shows that went head-to-head with WrestleCon’s flagship events were killed at the gate.
Of course, there was one massive outlier there in the form of Style Battle, whose numbers weren’t charted… but then again, we didn’t need to as the show ended up coming nowhere near breaking into triple digits. Sure, the big issue was that it was head to head with NXT and ROH’s shows in a distant third (and in terms of atmosphere, perhaps fourth behind Axxess, and fifth behind just getting drunk).
The end result: a show that had horrible optics, and was an uphill struggle for all.
So, what’s to blame? Well, scheduling for one… but when you have the two ends of the spectrum inside 24 hours, it’s obvious. “Just a show” doesn’t draw, not when you are beyond saturation point, nor when you just throw the shows on a schedule. Look at the attention generated by Joey Janela’s Spring Break, for instance. That show was just as much a “supercard” as anything else put on this past weekend, but with the buzz they created, it was among the most keenly anticipated shows of the weekend.
Bottom line: you can’t get away with saying “hey, we have a show in the same town as WrestleMania” and hope to sell tickets anymore. You need to have a proper hook to promote with if you’re going to stand a chance drawing against the rest of the crowd, be it WWE’s fan festivals, ROH’s offerings, or even visits from the likes of Rev Pro and PROGRESS. Simply being “chapter whatever of our show” isn’t going to cut it anymore… and if you can’t cut it, perhaps it’s not worth the risk of “being a part of it”, just because all the cool kids are?
The big thing that was called out this year was the sheer lack of women’s matches… taking SHIMMER 100 out, and over the course of WrestleMania weekend (on the indy scene), there were just the four women’s matches: a women’s tag and a title defence at PROGRESS, the SHINE title match at the WWN Supershow, and the Fight Club: Pro title defence at the Pancakes & Piledrivers show.
Last year, WrestleCon held a separate women’s supershow, which apparently fell by the wayside this year due to politics… which wasn’t replace in the line-up. So, if you’re not a fan of SHIMMER, or can’t get invested because of their infamous time-lag between shows and releases, then you were out of luck.
Given how much ballyhoo was made about WWE’s “women’s revolution”, it’s quite telling that the closest thing to it at ‘Mania this year was Beyond’s intergender show.
Next year, WrestleMania’ll be in the New York/New Jersey area – which will provide an interesting conundrum for indy shows in the area. The last time ‘Mania was there, there simply wasn’t the number of indy shows running that weekend that there was now, and although the Meadowlands Expo Center (where WrestleCon ran in 2013) can hold 5,000 fans, it’s not known yet if anyone has taken up that site for 2019 – or if everyone else is looking further afield.
Despite WWE saying that WrestleMania is in New York, it’s likely only going to be only NXT and the TV specials that’ll be in New York – which ought to make it easier for indy shows to run within the same area (bar any running on Sunday morning!). As to whether they all decide to run with combinations of the same names or not will remain to be seen.