Sunday Sermon: Another UK Summerslam?

Craig Wilson, James Giles & Jamie Lithgow

Craig: It’s fair to say that my first reaction upon hearing that Summerslam 2013 might be in England was great excitement. Sure, the WWE product has seen better days but seeing a PPV on my doorstep, or as close to my doorstep as likely, sounded like an opportunity not to be missed.

The last time the UK hosted one of the big Four was this time twenty years ago when Wembley hosted Summerslam 1992. An event hosted by Bret Hart v The British Bulldog for the Intercontinental title and at 8 I was too young to go although I remember my neighbour, who had sky, taping it for me.

The Summerslam 2013 rumour got me thinking. Is it more out of necessity than choice that the WWE are considering non USA shores for events?

Is the WWE in a comparable position now to as the company was in 1992? Am not sure it’s like for like but foreign shores have always been kinder to the WWE even when America is tiring of the product best exemplified by next June’s Raw at the O2 Academy selling out in six mins. So chaps, a necessity or a choice?

James: I can’t actually see this happening to be honest. If WWE were to stage a live PPV in the UK at the normal time of 7/8PM it we be broadcast live in the US at 2/3PM, which would put a pretty severe dent into the US PPV numbers. When staging PPV’s WWE relies almost solely on US PPV buys to turn a profit – there is literally no chance they would sacrifice so many of these buys purely for what they would make on worldwide buys/live UK attendance. They just wouldn’t make enough money, especially considering how much a PPV like Summerslam cots to produce. They couldn’t even broadcast the PPV the next day in the US cause the results would be online within hours, reducing the amount of people likely to pay again. Would you pay $45/$55 for a show you already knew the results of, or that was gonna be broadcast on a Sunday afternoon (in the middle of summer no less)?

I suppose there is an outside chance they might stage one of the B-level PPV, or much more likely is that they start staging UK exclusive PPV’s, like Invasion and Rebellion again. But one of the Big 5? This is unlikely in the extreme.

Jamie: Obviously I would love this, as would any fan in the UK, but like James I just can’t see it. It is about time WWE spread it’s wings and started staging shows away from the states. However these days they are a money making machine and don’t need to take any risks, and I don’t expect them to. Vince McMahon is famous for taking chances, some pay off Wrestlemania, Summerslam 92, while others haven’t been so successful; The XFL, WBF, WWE Studios. The problem is that Vince no longer gambles with his wrestling show, after all it supplies the money to fund all these other daft projects. Frankly it’s not broken so Vince isn’t going to fix it until it starts breaking down.

However, in the back of my mind I’m thinking that Vince does like to mix it up, and he hasn’t for a while. Also, he’s sat back and watched UFC, The NFL and The NBA successfully stage major events on the other side of the world, so why not WWE? If a regular season NFL game can fill Wembley Stadium then WWE won’t have a problem with live gate numbers. Also, WWE is big all over Europe, not just the UK, so that re-opens the PPV market. As for what happens in the states, I’m not sure. PPV uptake would be low due to the event starting in the middle of a Sunday, but of any PPV Summerslam is a great shout. The NFL doesn’t start until September so there would be little competition if the event was broadcast on network television. Summerslam free of charge would surely pull in millions of viewers, even if it was on at lunch time. This could bring back old fans and attract new ones, it could be a three hour advert for WWE. To add even more weight to the argument look at the success of Summerslam 92. Sure times have changed, but it is encouraging that WWE have done this once before, and it was a massive success.

James: I think you have a good point there Jamie, if WWE could strike up a deal with one of the major networks (NBC would be ideal due to their history with WWE) to show it live for free, it would probably rake a huge TV rating, so long as the network in question promoted it strongly enough too. I read in Powerslam yesterday that worldwide PPV buys now make up as much as 40% of the buy rate, so that should help recoup some of the lost revenue. The live gate and merchandise sells would be phenomenal at Wembley too. Plus Vince loves proving that WWE can still draw the ratings on TV too, and I have a feeling it would be massive, it could potentially attract more of the casual audience who otherwise wouldn’t pay for PPV.

I don’t think i was being lateral enough in my thinking before, this could potentially work really well, but it would mostly be resting on co-operation from a major network, and said network promoting the shit of it, cause there is no question the actual live event would gross a huge amount.

Craig: Plus we’d all go, right?

Jamie: Damn right! I feel that WWE would have nothing, or at least very little, to lose by staging Summerslam in the UK. It is just a question of if Vince McMahon really wants to do it. The risk is that PPV numbers would be lower than other events, although it would have to be a complete disaster not to turn a profit. Even if WWE don’t make as much money as usual from PPV buys I feel the purpose of staging an event like this is more long term than simple buy rates and live gate numbers. Staging a major show on foreign soil would truly make WWE a worldwide brand. Yes, it pays visits to the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia but unless you follow WWE you would have no idea that they were in town. Staging a major televised event would really put them on the map with people outwith the ‘WWE Universe’. However, like James said, it would need some serious promotion on both sides of the Atlantic. In order for people to care about something they have to know about it in the first place.

Craig: It would be an event that we couldn’t miss.

I do think that the Raw at the O2 arena selling out in six minutes will have made some in the WWE sit up and take notice of the potential that a UK based PPV show would have. Could the WWE not afford to take a slight USA PPV hit based on selling out, say, Wembley?

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