Facebook. Twitter. Message boards. Everywhere! Wrestling fans are coming down hard on the WWE’s decision to spoil the World Heavyweight Championship title switch from this upcoming Friday’s SmackDown program. According to WWE.com and confirmed by multiple sources, challenger Alberto Del Rio defeated champion The Big Show for the prestigious title. Was the WWE’s decision a good one or a bad one? Let’s take a look.
The biggest argument by those who are upset is that they would have preferred to have been surprised. This is fair as a title switch does not commonly occur on a televised program and no less with one of the two premiere titles. For those of us who don’t watch WWE programming full-time or view the episodes online at a later time of convenience, this may not be all too upsetting. However, there are many fans who watch WWE programming every Monday and Friday night religiously. For them, the spoiler was just as upsetting as someone who is obsessively into Dexter or Sons of Anarchy only to have one of the biggest plot twists spoiled merely days before the episode is aired.
At plain site, this is just a bad move but the WWE is a money and ratings generating machine for good reason. They know how to get business done. Unfortunately, they are not worried about their viewers level of content. They just care about ratings and revenue just like their networks do. The first half of their strategy seems to have worked. They did not publicize the news to be a well informative media source but to get people talking. Everyone is talking.
The sad fact is that the avid fans who are going to tune in displeased are going to tune in anyways and still spend their hard earn money on the WWE. However, the casual or part-time fan may be inclined to tune in and give the ratings a boost. Even if such a fan downloads the episode online they are now investing time in the product which they were not before. This is just one of the steps in turning a casual fan into an avid one.
Business is business but there’s more to it than attempting to boost ratings. One of the highest rated televised eras for pro wrestling was during the Attitude Era and their biggest weapon was unpredictability. When you tuned into WWE Raw (or WCW Nitro), anything could happen! Just like a good episode of Dexter or Sons of Anarchy, you are often blindsided with something out of left field. You ware sometimes left in awe and sometimes shocked beyond disbelief.
And that’s where the problem lies. WWE giving away results for ratings is a short term benefit because no one is going to be surprised by the title switch. In the past, they didn’t earn those ridiculous ratings with spoilers, it was with that aura of unpredictability they had. Simply put, their programming was “must-watch television”. To add to that you also don’t want to alienate your core audience either. I understand that the niche market of die-hard fans may only be 10-15% of your audience but these are the people who get you to the next level with word of mouth and wear your merchandise as free advertisement.
Either side of the coin has its own merits but this moved seemed beneath the WWE in my opinion. The argument that they were beating the internet media to the release of the news doesn’t carry much weight either. It’s highly unlikely and it’s a whole other discussion in itself but this helps pose the question – Should SmackDown go live?