Ed Note: AA is pleased to welcome one of the best WWE bloggers on the web, Arda Ocal, for coverage of the squared circle for the first time. In his debut column, Arda examines this weekend's Survivor Series pay per view and whether or not it's still one of the company's "Big 4" events.
This Sunday, WWE presents Survivor Series on Pay Per View. This event is regarded as one of the Top 4 WWE yearly Pay Per View Events, along with SummerSlam, Royal Rumble and the "Super Bowl" of Sports Entertainment, WrestleMania.
For the past several years, however, one has to wonder if that title is in name only.
Debuting in 1987 in Richfield, Ohio, The Survivor Series is the second longest running WWE Pay Per View event (Wrestlemania began in 1985). In the early years, the card was comprised primarily (often entirely) of multi-man (or woman) elimination tag team matches, now known as “traditional” Survivor Series matches. The events happened on Thanksgiving in November regardless of what day it fell on – this was later changed when WWE adopted an all-Sunday PPV event schedule.
At first, much like another WWE PPV event, the Royal Rumble, the matches presented were interesting and unique. But at years went by, the traditional Survivor Series matches began to lose their appeal, and by the late 90s/early 2000s, Survivor Series events were being presented largely with no such matches present (Survivor Series 1998 contained no traditional Survivor Series matches).
The PPV buyrates for Survivor Series support this argument – taking a look at the last 6 years, including the main event and the number of traditional Survivor Series matches:
2007 (Main Event: Batista vs. Undertaker, 1 traditional SS match): 341,000 buys
2008 (John Cena vs. Chris Jericho, 3 traditional SS matches): 319,000 buys
2009 (John Cena vs. Triple H/Shawn Michaels, 3 traditional SS matchees): 235,000 buys
2010 (Randy Orton vs. Wade Barrett, 1 traditional SS match): 244,000 buys
2011 (The Rock/John Cena vs. R-Truth/The Miz, 1 traditional SS match): 281,000 buys
2012 (CM Punk vs. Ryback vs. John Cena, 2 traditional SS matches): 212,000 buys
Survivor Series buyrates are trending lower as compared to previous years. The numbers have declined to a point where other newer PPV events, such as Extreme Rules (which follows Wrestlemania and has a more hardcore feel) is surpassing Survivor Series in buys, and arguably in importance.
So why is this the case? One large reason can be that elimination tag team matches aren't rare in WWE. Recently on RAW we saw an 11 on 3 elimination tag, which is a match we saw on free TV that we are also getting on the Survivor Series PPV (and would need to pay to see). In 2009 and 2010, WWE promoted a pay per view called “Bragging Rights” which also featured elimination tag team matches. These events took place in October, one month before Survivor Series, which also includes elimination tag team matches. There were a total of only 11 traditional Survivor Series matches in the past 6 years – there were 19 in the first 4 years of the event (1987-1990), including being the main event of all 4. After that, a traditional Survivor Series match was the main event of only 4 other PPV events: 1993, 2001, 2004 and 2005. This year's offering doesn't stray too far from the norm, with 2 traditional matches and two championship matches headlining the card.
Another major reason is the lack of a stake in the matches – what makes the Royal Rumble so special, aside from the fact that the match itself is so rare you hardly ever see it for the rest of the year, is that there is something big up for grabs – the winner of the Rumble receives a championship title match at Wrestlemania, the biggest Pay Per View of the year. This has been established as something worth paying for, as well as being highly entertaining and a good starting point for many rivalries to come, leading up to Wrestlemania. A traditional Survivor Series match can set up upcoming feuds or end current ones, but there is no stake – no larger motivating factor why these Superstars are in the match, which would make the viewer care more.
Survivor Series is still a money maker for WWE (placing 5th in PPV offerings in 2012), and I would conclude that this is largely based on nostalgia. The WWE Universe, as the company calls them, has a strong sense of nostalgia and tradition – once something has been around for a long time, some people will just buy it out of habit.
In that case, at least give us back the old Survivor Series Team names. For several years WWE has primarily used the dubious formula of “Team (Name of Captain)” to name the squads (this Sunday's teams dont even have team names as of yet). Cool “one time only” team names like the “Foreign Fanatics”, the “Rude Brood”, “The Teamsters” and “Roddie's Rowdies” haven't been in place since 1995. The team of Cody Rhodes and Goldust, The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) & Rey Mysterio can totally be “The United Nations”, facing “The Border Patrol” – The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns) and The Real Americans (Antonio Cesaro & Jack Swagger). Maybe I'll work on those names.. but you get the point.