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September 2014: Pro Wrestling - A Seasonal Sport?

After the CM Punk fiasco that still boggles the minds of many pro wrestling fans, it’s become overwhelmingly clear that the 24/7, 365 day a year schedule of many of the WWE wrestlers seems to be too much for them both physically and mentally. But if you’re not one of the few elite wrestlers in the company or a seasoned veteran coming back for a short stint, taking time off is not really an option. Could going to a seasonal schedule, similar to that of professional basketball, hockey or baseball be a viable option?

How did we get into this mess?

In the world of wrestling today, there is really only one place to go if you want to earn a decent living as a wrestler and that is World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Vince McMahon’s global empire has swallowed all of the competition since they first made the move to a national audience in America in the mid-eighties. Because McMahon had national TV, he started organizing national tours into the “territories” of the other regional wrestling promoters whom his father, who owned the company prior to him, had never directly competed against. Due to the big money he was making he was also able to cherry pick all of their top stars. This created an incredible boom in the popularity of wrestling in the 80’s known as “Hulkamania”, led by, of course, Hulk Hogan.

Back then there were three teams of WWE wrestlers all touring different parts of the USA simultaneously. So, on any given day, there could be three different WWE shows happening at the same time in three different cities somewhere in America. Sometimes the groups could even be doing two shows in one day. Wrestling upwards of 5 - 7 times a week or more can be as physically grueling as it is mentally. Hard rings, long car rides, airport travel, living out of a suitcase and being in a rock star type of environment non-stop was the name of the game.

What were the effects?

The grueling schedule these guys led in the 80’s did not come without a high price. Back then there were no guaranteed contracts, in house doctors or time off for injuries. If you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. A lot of the guys felt the pressure to keep going everyday no matter if they were injured or not. Many of them had families to support and bills to pay. When you’re a wrestler, each and every time you step into the ring you put your life on the line and you are never sure which match could be your last. You need to make your money while you can. For these reasons a lot of guys succumbed to drug abuse and other addiction in order to cope with it all and thus the reason why we now see so many headlines of premature wrestler deaths.

How are things better now?

In today’s WWE a lot of these pitfalls are now avoidable. The wrestlers are given time off to treat injuries and things like concussions are more detectable and steps have been taken to avoid unnecessary injury. WWE has their own on-site doctors and physicians, potential talent must pass a rigorous physical before being allowed to perform and regular drug testing is in effect. Today’s wrestlers also have the luxury of learning from the mistakes of those who have come before them.

However, it seems that the one constant that remains in WWE is the year-round touring schedule. Every Monday and Friday nights they have their main TV shows Monday Night Raw and Smackdown. These shows all build to their monthly pay-per-views, including the annual WrestleMania card each April which usually draws between 70 and 80 thousand live in attendance and millions watching around the world. In between there are still hundreds and hundreds of live, non-televised events all over the world.

This has led to many wrestlers feeling burned out. Most recently CM Punk walked out on the company after the Royal Rumble event, which many people feel was because of burnout and frustration with the company. Many other wrestlers such as Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam among others, have admittedly chosen to accept offers with TNA instead of WWE due to the more favorable travel schedule.

Is a seasonal schedule possible? How would it work?

I think that perhaps this problem could be avoided by going to a seasonal schedule. For example the wrestling season would start at the end of the summer with their big “Summer Slam” card in August and run until WrestleMania time in April. That gives them eight or nine months to work with and gives talent three or four months off to heal their bodies, spend some quality time with their families, pursue other ventures and recharge their batteries both physically and mentally. Instead of just going through the motions, wrestlers would have a chance to step back take a deep breath.

I think that a seasonal schedule could also help to boost creative juices. It’s always easier to think of story lines for the characters when you know your starting and ending points. When writers are forced to be creative and constantly boost TV ratings year round, it cannot be a good thing. Under the seasonal model it would give them several months to think of a creative story for the season. During the season it would of course need to be tweaked and refined as problems come up, but at least you have more time to prepare and think things out beforehand.

Another positive point would be that fans would get a break from the product and look forward to its start. The old sayings “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, “familiarity breeds contempt” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder” all apply here, I think.

A radical idea

It might even be a cool idea to turn the whole WWE into a model, similar to what the NFL has. Think of Raw and Smackdown as the AFC and the NFC and all the wrestlers as individual teams. Over the course of the season you play all the other teams in your conference and you gain points for victories. There is a playoff tournament at the end of the regular season, culminating in a “Super Bowl”, i.e. WrestleMania, at the end of the playoffs with your two top stars from each brand squaring off in the main event. Under this type of model it automatically makes each and every match meaningful and gives them a reason to step into the ring. Would such a concept work in professional wrestling? Who knows?

Plan B

Even if the whole “season” theory doesn’t work out, I think it would still be a good idea for guys to have mandatory time off every six to eight months. They should be forced to take a break and be written out of the current storylines creatively. You don’t have to take all of your top stars out at the same time, but strategically, throughout the year, in order to avoid situations like the CM Punk debacle, temporarily remove a certain number of wrestlers from the roster. I’m sure the wrestlers would appreciate it and it would also help to avoid injuries and burnout.


The bottom line is this; wrestling is getting really stale nowadays with only one major company and no competition anywhere in sight. The days of the “Monday Night Wars” are over. With no real motivation to make the product any better than it has to be, creativity is at an all time low, new mega stars are not being produced and the business as a whole has fell into a slumber. Doing some radical change like this may be a shot in the arm that wrestling needs and bring some much needed change to the product. On the other hand it may just end up killing the WWE altogether. What’s your opinion? If you have any questions of comments, feel free to leave them on social media or contact me directly. Until next month, so long everybody.


- Daniel Austin (Don Roid)


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