This week saw one of WWE’s big four PPVs, Summerslam. While not my personal favourite PPV (that would be the Royal Rumble), it is considered one of the premiere shows WWE will put on each year. I thought the show itself was pretty good, although I did question the placement of some matches; Big Cass vs Big Show on the main card but Usos and New Day relegated to the pre-show? Regardless, I found the main event to be everything and more than it promised. I loved how none of the four competitors backed down from one another. The destruction and man-handling of Brock Lesnar by Braun Strowman was great to watch and I think brought more to Brock’s character going forward, especially the desire and determination he showed by fighting back to win.
I watched Summerslam on the WWE Network. The show ran for just over four hours, but if we take into account the kick-off show, the whole event ran for six hours. It’s worth noting here that Summerslam wasn’t limited to one brand, instead showcasing the best of both Raw and Smackdown. While for the fan this will give the impression of a star-studded show, the truth is that it must be difficult for WWE to accommodate all of their talent. Look at it this way; there are eight separate titles between the shows, and that’s not including the 205 division. Throw in a few feuds without belts, and the PPV quickly becomes oversubscribed. The only option this year was to relegate (and I really mean that term) the Intercontinental and Smackdown Tag Titles to the kick-off show.
WWE is blessed with having perhaps the most stacked roster in the history of professional wrestling, both in numbers and in talent, but is this really best for business? Does this sheer amount of workers hinder the product? Let’s look at the pros and cons for having such a big roster:
Pro – You have the best in the business
WWE is the premier wrestling promotion in the world. They’re the big leagues. Ever since the end of the Monday Night Wars, WWE has never had real serious competition and it shows. They can pick and choose the best talent from across the globe and it must be hard to resist their pull. The roster employs some of the most talented performers in the world and WWE can showcase these men and women to draw massive houses and big money. Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, John Cena, Kevin Owens could all be main-eventing any show across the world. WWE know they have the cream of the crop and like any sports team, will keep their star players happy to benefit the team.
Con – You can’t keep everybody happy
Yes, WWE has top talent at their disposal, but the bar has been raised in the last 20 years as to the work ethic and desire these athletes show in the business. Long gone are the days of continuous heavy drinking, partying and substance misuse among guys living their lives in hotels and on the road. While I’m not saying everyone’s squeaky clean, the introduction of the Wellness Policy and a change in attitude among the younger generation, wrestling isn’t what it once was. Some prefer their PlayStation and X Boxes to beers and spirits. This results in a tremendous amount of hard workers and talented athletes that can’t all share the spotlight. For every Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe, there’s an Austin Aries or a John Morrison who will struggle to break through to the top table, despite being considered a main-eventer in other promotions.
Pro – You have depth to deal with injuries
WWE doesn’t rely on just one name on each brand to move forward. Yes, Brock is the champion, but should he be injured for any length of time, there are a number of suitable replacements who can carry both the title and the show in his absence. This leads me to a notion raised in many quarters; should WWE give time off to their stars to reduce fatigue and injury? There’s no question they can, but once someone gets to main-event status and becomes popular, they’re a draw and people will pay to see them. WWE may want to give some stars respite once in a while, but wrestling is a hard, unforgiving business that is a relentless, forever hungry animal that always needs feeding. Their intentions may be noble, but the business will always win, sad but true.
Con – You can have too much of a good thing
One aspect of WWE that has been rejuvenated and brought to new heights in the last few years has been the Women’s Division. While there were always talented women on the roster in years gone by (Mickie James, Trish Stratus etc.) the sheer number of excellent female wrestlers now is incredible. With Asuka and Ember Moon waiting to step up to the main roaster, as well as a select few from the Mae Young Tournament, WWE will soon have a plethora of Women’s wrestlers, yet they’re limited to one or two matches on each of the main shows. This issue is larger when it comes to the men. WWE has plenty of riches to play with, but not enough space or time to showcase them.
Pro – Merchandise sales improve
With so many stars on show and so many different stables, gimmicks and characters, WWE are able to capitalize on their popularity by producing various merchandise to sell to fans. They are able to cater for every taste and for every age range. Boys will lap up their multi-colored John Cena sweatbands, little girls will snap up their Bayley headbands while the older fans will pick up KO T-Shirts or the newly trademarked ‘3:16’ shirts – especially the older generation who remember the Attitude Era.
Con – You have to evolve into something more than a wrestling company
This may not be much of a bad point per se, but WWE has no choice but to explore, and more importantly, invest in different avenues of revenue stream to accommodate their talent. Once upon a time we had one weekly two hour show in Raw, and a PPV every month or so. Now we have a three hour Raw, two hour Smackdown Live, the 205 Division, NXT and a PPV nearly every two to three weeks. Add to that the specials such as Total Divas, Table for Three, the WWE Network and WWE Studios making movies, and you can see how a simple format has now expanded into a global monster that encompasses TV, Movies and the internet. That doesn’t come cheap.
What do you think? Is WWE’s huge roster a blessing or a curse? Has it forced WWE to expand into new markets and new horizons? Has this been beneficial to the company? What about NXT? Is it a conveyor belt of top talent that may struggle to find their footing in a crowded main roster? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.