POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: The future of WWE's house shows

Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: The future of WWE's house shows

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**First off, I want to thank all of those that took the time to share feedback on our Tuesday release of Pollock & Ting: TALK (we put roughly five seconds of thought into the name). We got more feedback for that show than most we put out and it seemed to have been met very positively. Our approach to shows is always an evolving process and testing ideas out, so the feedback is greatly appreciated, and I would have said the same if it had been overly negative, as that too would have provided us with insight.

**On Thursday, Wai Ting and WH Park will have a new edition of MCU L8R covering the third episode of Loki. This will be available for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**Braden Herrington and Davie Portman are putting out a review of The Dark Knight on the upNXT podcast feed tonight. You can also catch their review of Tuesday’s episode of NXT on the site.

**John Siino has the latest edition of Shot in the Dark covering everything on AEW Dark, Elevation, NXT UK, NWA Powerrr, NJPW Strong, ROH, and WWE Main Event – in less than 13 minutes.

THE FUTURE OF WWE’S HOUSE SHOWS

With the WWE set to return to live events next month, it’s a good time to assess what the future of their non-televised events will be.

It’s a unique area of the company’s business because it’s one that drastically impacts the lifestyles of the talent. The elimination of live events was a discussion point pre-pandemic as that sector was no longer a giant profit center with the fourth quarter of 2019 posting a $1 million loss in operating income on live events.

In 2019, the company cut back on its main roster live events that primarily saw the elimination of smaller markets that would drag down their average house show attendance. That said, the company still ran 310 main roster shows (down from 366 in 2018 and includes international events) with NXT running 186 shows that year.

At first glance, house shows may appear an antiquated aspect of the industry where everything is built around its television and special events with so much guaranteed revenue that touring seems like an easy item to disregard, especially if it’s not profitable on its own.

Strengthening that argument is how well its consumer products division held up during the pandemic. The obvious assumption heading into the pandemic was that merchandise sales would soften with the loss of live events, instead, the online orders made up for a huge shortfall through the loss of live events. In its Q2 report in 2020, the eCommerce business reflected $18.6 million in revenue for the first half of the year compared to $13.2 million for the same period in 2019.

The argument against this stems from the unique nature of this industry. The development of talent is an ongoing process and with an active competitor in AEW aggressively scouting talent, younger and less developed performers are going to find their way into the system quicker. The lag time between a wrestler debuting on the independents and signing a contract with a major company is likely to decrease because of the arms race to find the next crop of young stars before the competitor does.

Logic would state that more ring time will accelerate one’s development and is preferable to wrestling once per week on television. When assessing the main roster there are going to be fewer talents in need of that extra ring time because most are polished but for people like Dominik Mysterio, Commander Azeez, Omos, etc. the added reps without cameras rolling would be of great value.

It’s one of the key reasons you must assess the NXT system differently and not take profits/losses as a determining factor. NXT live events should be viewed in the worst-case as loss leaders. Even if the events are making little or no revenue, the value is immense for those talents with less than five years of experience to be working in front of crowds and making their mistakes without cameras rolling.

If you were to poll the Raw and SmackDown locker rooms in the fall of 2019 about the prospect of eliminating or greatly reducing live events, my impression is there would be a strong percentage averse to change. It’s how things typically work where people have their routines, are used to the lifestyle, and are paid for their spot on the live events. Now, these same people have had over a year of a drastically different schedule where they are wrestling a maximum of five matches per month (and that would only be the certain few booked to wrestle every single week and on the pay-per-view, so five matches are on the high end). The talent has never had such a relaxed travel schedule especially for those in Florida that are within driving distance and avoiding flights. To conduct the same poll today, would yield interesting results and would reflect each one’s standing in the company.

For Randy Orton, he isn’t living and dying off house show payoffs, and being 41-years old, he’s probably doing his body a lot of favors on this schedule than the previous one. Others will love being on the road and living the pro wrestling lifestyle that likely can’t wait to fill up their calendars again.

Live events also allow for fans to see the product up close in parts of the country that will never get a Raw or SmackDown taping. There is value and generally, reviews of house shows are very positive as fun events where the talent can operate without the handcuffs of television and becomes a 2 ½ hour commercial for their product regardless of market size.

All of this said, a middle ground is probably ideal. For WWE main roster touring, you need stars to draw and can’t just be a collection of mid and lower-card talent. To run 310 events on the main roster in a year seems awfully high when that breaks down to 104 episodes of Raw and SmackDown and twelve pay-per-events that figure to be over $670 million in revenue right there (taking the reported figure of $265 million in average annual value for Raw, $205 million for SmackDown, and the Peacock deal believed to be in excess of $200 million per year), not to mention the two annual events in Saudi Arabia that add approximately $50 million per event.

When you do that math, it’s hard to justify the extra 192 events from a purely financial perspective. Of course, it’s stunning to look at those figures and the disparity in revenue the company makes, and yet it’s the 192 events that talent gets paid based on their performance while the big guaranteed revenue, they are not cut into.

The company seems to have the right strategy where initially they are dipping their toe back into touring by running combined “Supershows” and limiting them to Saturday & Sundays out of the gate. To return to the old format of talent working Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (for Raw) seems like a step too far and unnecessary.

The sting of eliminating a few dates per month is more than offset by the preservation of talent both physically and mentally (an aspect that often isn’t considered) and makes the WWE schedule more desirable because that’s a factor in AEW’s favor that you work for their company but don’t have to hand your life over to their schedule. That isn’t a deal-breaker if you’re 22-years old and a WWE contract shows up in your mailbox, but it is a larger factor if you’re 37 and your contract is coming due.

WRESTLING NEWS

**In Canada, NXT did not air in its regular 8 p.m. ET timeslot on Sportsnet 360 due to the NBA Draft Lottery. Instead, the show streamed live on Sportsnet Now and replayed on 360 at Midnight ET. The Midnight airing of NXT averaged 41,000 viewers, which is actually a very good number for NXT in the best of times and especially airing from Midnight – 2 a.m. ET.

UPDATE: Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics reported that NXT averaged 665,000 viewers and 224,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo (0.17).

**AEW president Tony Khan was on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take promoting AEW and discussing his work with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC. Khan retold the story of being at a party in April 2018 with former TNT president Kevin Reilly and began discussing the WWE’s upcoming television rights that were on the table. That led to Khan’s pitch about TNT getting back into professional wrestling and the birth of the idea for AEW. Khan said the major problems with WCW were its lack of leadership with too many people having control and said they went from having problems in 1999 and then making it ‘ten times worse’ when they hired Vince Russo in October that year. Khan compared it to having a hangnail and chopping the arm off. He also compared the past two Double or Nothing shows to the two-night WrestleMania shows in 2020 and 2021:

Khan: I’ll tell you something, Double or Nothing last year and this year – my opinion, was a better show.

Host: Unbiased opinion

Khan: As objective an opinion … and I liked this year’s WrestleMania a lot more than last year’s because they had some fans this year and everyone there worked their ass off both years. This year, I thought both (were) good shows, they did a two-night show and it was a good show. I thought Double or Nothing this year was outstanding and was the best wrestling show of the year, so far – and last year’s Double or Nothing in the pandemic, it kicked the shit out of WrestleMania last year. The pandemic version last year, not even close, Double or Nothing much better show.

**Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo won the IWGP junior heavyweight tag titles from Roppongi 3K earlier today at Korakuen Hall. It’s their third reign as champions and ending 3K’s fifth run as champions. The crew is off until Saturday where the Kizuna Road tour resumes at Sendai Sunplaza Hall, Monday in Aichi, Tuesday in Toyama, and wraps up with back-to-back nights at Korakuen Hall next Thursday & Friday. There are no line-ups announced yet for any of the shows.

**It was noted by Chris Charlton that New Japan World is making the July 1st and July 2nd shows from Korakuen Hall free.

**The next major shows for New Japan are July 10th and July 11th in Hokkaido, which also don’t have any match announcements. The company has booked some huge venues this summer and the biggest one is the Tokyo Dome on July 25th, which collides with the Summer Olympics that kick-off two days prior. I will say, it is an appropriately titled tour name of ‘Summer Struggle’ for NJPW.

**Chris Jericho has released ‘The Complete List of Jericho’, which is his latest book chronicling every match he had since debuting on October 2, 1990. Jericho is one of the few to document all his matches and keep a record book throughout the years and worked with Alex Marvez and long-time writing partner Peter Fornatale to put together the book. It is available for $34.95 U.S. at Jericho30.com.

**MLW has announced that they have sold out the allotment of tickets available for Battle Riot III on Saturday, July 10th at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. The event will be MLW’s first one in front of fans since March 2020 and features the 40-person Battle Riot battle royal with the winner receiving a title shot against Jacob Fatu when they choose.

**After the news of the sellout, MLW announced they will return to the 2300 Arena for ‘Fightland’ on Saturday, October 2nd with tickets going on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. ET.

**The WWE stock closed at $58.60 on Wednesday.

MMA NEWS

**Ariel Helwani is reporting that Claressa Shields will have her next MMA fight at the PFL card on Friday, August 27th with no opponent confirmed yet. Shields just made her MMA debut with a come-from-behind TKO victory against Brittney Elkin earlier this month. The two-time Olympic gold medalist in boxing is training in Albuquerque, New Mexico at Jackson Wink MMA. Helwani added an interesting note that if Kayla Harrison qualifies for the playoffs of the current season, she will also fight on that card which will only expedite a ton of coverage of people linking Harrison and Shields together, which is not a fight Shields should take this early in her MMA career. Harrison will be fighting this Friday on the PFL card against Cindy Dandois.

**UFC fighter Luis Pena is facing charges of robbery by sudden snatching along with battery and criminal mischief. Marc Raimondi of ESPN contacted the Coral Springs Police Department, who confirmed the charges after Pena was accused of punching his girlfriend and breaking her cell phone and was arrested last Friday with the alleged incident taking place on June 14th according to a domestic violence probable cause affidavit obtained by ESPN. The affidavit states that Pena accused his girlfriend of looking at other men on Instagram and led to the phone being thrown and shattering. That escalated into a physical fight the female having a small laceration on the left side of her lip along with scratches and redness on her knuckles. Later that night, an anonymous tip was provided to the Boca Raton police that Pena was returning to his girlfriend’s home to kill her and that Pena was considered suicidal and had a gun and a knife. The police did a follow-up the next day and the woman accused Pena of punching her on top of the head but didn’t allow police to see her head.

Pena’s attorney Daniel Martinez spoke to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi who denied the robbery and added that Pena has been open about his struggles with mental health and needs “help not punishment”. Pena is being held without bond in Broward County and will need to see a judge in Palm Beach County before he can be granted bail and the transfer has been delayed due to the pandemic. UFC executive Hunter Campbell tells ESPN they are looking into the situation and do not have plans to book Pena until they receive further information.

Pena is 27-years old and has been competing for the UFC since 2018 when he participated in the Ultimate Fighter as a lightweight for Daniel Cormier’s team. His last fight took place this past April where he defeated Alexander Munoz by split decision.

**Combate Global has announced a multi-year agreement with Paramount+ and CBS Sports to become the English homes of the promotion. This will see the company’s debut on CBS Sports beginning this Friday followed by an exclusive window on Paramount+ beginning July 9th for the remainder of their 2021 schedule through December. In 2022 and 2023, there will be 30 live events annually on the streaming platform along with a one-hour recap show airing on CBS Sports. The deal places both Bellator and Combate Global under the CBS umbrella but airing on different platforms.

ON THIS DATE

One of the greatest fights in MMA history occurred on June 23, 2002, at PRIDE 21 when Don Frye fought Yoshihiro Takayama. It was only four months after Frye had a war with Ken Shamrock and took a lot of damage from that one. The fight with Takayama lasted 6:10 and has been immortalized from their unbelievable flurry of strikes, which are often cited whenever two fighters trade rapidly.

On the very same day in 2002, Brock Lesnar won the King of the Ring defeating Rob Van Dam in the finals. It was the final pay-per-view version of the KOTR and sprung Lesnar into the main event mix setting up a huge showdown with The Rock at SummerSlam. There are a lot of interesting timing aspects that assisted Lesnar and forced the company to go all the way to make a new star.

Steve Austin won the King of the Ring tournament on this date in 1996 defeating Jake Roberts in the finals. The win is more remembered for the speech with Michael Hayes afterward and uttering the ‘Austin 3:16’ that would become the iconic trademark that sold unheard-of levels of merchandise. While this speech is often considered Austin’s breakthrough moment, it was really the feud with Bret Hart in the fall that elevated Austin’s stock. After the KOTR win, Austin found himself working the pre-show of SummerSlam with Yokozuna and then, Hart took Austin to the top mix and he was off the races after WrestleMania 13.

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