WWE: What's Wrong Everywhere 2 An Offseason? Submitted by Joshua Evans on 04/05/2018 at 08:35 PM
On the Mark – WWE: What’s Wrong Everywhere 2 An Offseason?
By: Joshua Evans (@factfreemedia on Twitter)
Pro wrestling’s roots grew out of the carnival and circus industry. In the early days, wrestlers were part of the show, traveling and living with other carnival workers. In fact, modern day sports entertainment still adheres to guidance developed during the early days. Early wrestlers adopted “carny speak” as a way to communicate inside and outside the ring as a way of keeping the crowd and those outside the business from knowing what they were saying to each other as a way of protecting the business. Also, wrestling fans are snarkily referred to as “marks”, the same as midway-goers identified by carnies as easy targets.
The most prominent of the traditions still followed by today’s performers is the itinerate nature of carnival culture. Day after day, week after week, the show travels around from town to town, sometimes with multiple shows in different towns in a single day, with few off days for performers in between. Missed dates mean missed dollars and that stands firmly against the carny code.
The WWE prides itself on keeping its performers on the road in order to keep the WWE Universe entertained. Wrestlers are responsible for their own transportation to these events, typically scheduled within a drivable distance from each other. As wrestlers are also responsible for their own expenses while on the road, many will travel together, splitting the cost of rental cars, hotels, and meals. The communal aspect of this experience often allows talent to bond and idea-share and the long-held tradition of good guys riding with good guys and bad guys riding with bad guys is still encouraged. This touring schedule is a point of pride for the WWE, as they routinely tout that performers are generally on the road in excess of 250 days per year.
While this can be looked at as similar to what the average, full-time, 5 day per week, worker across America works per year, consider the wear and tear accumulated by wrestlers due the way the business operates. According to Cagematch.net, Dean Ambrose had more matches than any other performer on the WWE roster in 2016 with 204. On the road, they are stuffed into rental cars, sitting for hours at a time, headed to the next town on the tour. Wrestlers also make appearances throughout the tour at events in show towns that are being held by company sponsors, in addition to taking time to meet with fans associated with various charity and philanthropic groups. Once these obligations and bookings are met, performers typically get on planes and head back to their homes for a couple of days and restart the cycle again.
One can gleam from opinions offered by many current and former pro wrestlers that this grind can lead to injury and burnout. As with any workplace, health and well-being are key, but these are paramount in sports entertainment, as mental fatigue can cause lackluster performances. This can lead to uninspired work on the microphone in the best case to an unintended injury for the performer or opponent in the worst case. Either way, both the performer and overall product suffer as a result.
While WWE employs some of the most finely tuned athletes in the world, even the best of the best fall victim to the rigors required by the job. Injuries to superstars Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and Finn Balor in recent years have caused the World Championship and Universal Championship to be vacated and long-built storylines to change quickly. One can only wonder if these injuries were freak instances that occurred, or as a result of the accumulated toll paid by each of these athletes over the course of the schedule required of them.
n the United States, the professional sport with the most games and the longest season is Major League Baseball. Teams play over 30 spring training games and 162 regular season games between mid-February and late September, with 10 teams eventually qualifying for postseason play in October, adding an additional 11 games (at minimum) for the final 2 teams. This means that the average player will come to the ballpark 192 times per season and players on the best teams will have 203 games (at minimum). Considering players don’t play every day and have travel demands similar in scope (but very dissimilar accommodations), the demands of the baseball season seem most similar to a WWE Superstar, minus the physicality.
There is one other major difference: baseball players are given 3-4 months off to recover and prepare for the next season. The WWE is never on hiatus.
Adopting an off-season is my first suggestion to shake things up and I have some ideas as to how it could be managed in such a way as to not break the business, but instead make it best for business.
How exactly would an off-season work in the WWE? Interestingly, it might be easier to institute an off-season than previously thought, as many of the pieces are already in place that would help cover the hiatus.
Firstly, the hiatus would be 8-12 weeks in length and it would begin immediately after the Wrestlemania wrap-up shows. The WWE has long looked at Wrestlemania as their unofficial year end. Choosing to end the season at this point would keep Wrestlemania positioned as the biggest show of the year and allow the WWE to continue to sell full-week travel packages that include the Raw and Smackdown shows that follow Wrestlemania at a premium price. Potentially, these packages may be even more in-demand if these shows are the de facto “season finales” (to borrow a TV term) for their brand, as they could also be used as the launching pad for the next season’s stories.
During this off-season, RAW’s network TV time would be filled by NXT broadcasts, which would be 2 hours in length. This would allow non-network subscribers to be exposed to new wrestlers, so that when those performers are promoted to the main roster, viewers would already be familiar with them. This would also benefit the performers, allowing them to perform on live TV and do some touring. NXT is currently taped weeks in advance and aired on the network and does limited touring. Dropping the show to 2 hours keeps the unseasoned talent from being overexposed and the limited run of the series could bring more eyes to the network when the show transitions back to its normal schedule.
The additional hour on Monday night would be filled with what is referred to by baseball fans as “Hot Stove League” type content. The hour-long program would recap the previous show’s action (similar to Talking Smack) but also include draft coverage and speculation and interviews with talent that help set up the forthcoming season’s content. Smackdown’s time slot would be filled by limited-run content like the Cruiserweight Classic or other tournament style content which would grab fan interest and conclude in time for the new season to commence.
The final week of the off-season will be devoted to 2 things: the draft on Monday night followed by trades and free agent signings on Tuesday night. WWE’s draft specials and roster shakeups typically are much anticipated events but are often anti-climactic in the way they are handled.
Before the draft, at the start of the show Monday night, each GM will submit a list of 5 wrestlers on their current roster that are “protected” and unable to be drafted by the other brand. Tag Teams will count as 1 total unit. Those designated as “protected” will not be able to be designated as such for the next year’s draft. Champions for each brand are exempt from being drafted and do not need to be protected but can be traded only on the first night for other champions, those with the “protected” designation, and draft picks. These are the only trades allowed on the first night.
Also, each GM will release 5 performers, making them free agents. All remaining unprotected talent will be draft eligible. The draft will proceed using alternating picks between the two GMs, unless there are acquired picks that change the order, until 20 total selections have been made. Each GM’s draft picks must include one member from the pool of NXT talent. Any undrafted wrestler remains property of the brand that they were on before the draft occurred and are trade-eligible Tuesday night.
Tuesday, the final night of the off season, will consist of free agent signings and trades. No champions or draft slots can be traded on Tuesday night, but “protected” members can still be traded. If there are any players that remain unsigned from among the released players, they will remain free agents and are eligible to compete on the NXT roster until signed. All NXT performers will be treated as free agents after this night.
At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s show, all rosters will be frozen at 35 total performers eligible to compete on RAW or Smackdown and free agents can be signed only if there is an injury or corresponding release. There will be one additional time in the year when trades can be made and that is the night after Summer Slam, after which time rosters will be again frozen.
Once the first year of this new process has completed, any talent that has performed for a brand for a year but has not been protected, drafted, traded, or released will become a free agent eligible to resign with their current brand or negotiate with the other brand.
Now that the new offseason has been laid out, there are a few other things that can be done to help and will add to the offseason routine. Those will be discussed tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!
You can contact me with any comments either in the comment area below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also find me at my website: www.factfreemedia.com where I host my wrestling history podcast “Kayfabe Forever”, which drops each Friday-ish. The podcast is also available for download by searching “Kayfabe Forever” on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, or Tune In Radio and by following the show page on Facebook