The WWE PPV event takes place on Sunday, March 10 at 7 PM Eastern and is entitled WWE Fastlane 2019. You can watch it on the WWE Network as is the case with all live events. Seriously, the WWE Network is worth the price of admission for the NXT programming alone.
As if you needed evidence that the pro wrestling business has changed completely from the way it used to be consider this–as I write this we’re one week out from bell time of WWE Fastlane 2019 and there are only four matches confirmed for the card. There’s every reason to think that over the next 7 days a number of other matches will be added to the event and it’ll likely end up with 8 or 9 (give or take a few). This would be unthinkable to not only an ‘old school’ wrestling promoter but even Vince McMahon and the WWE just a few years ago.
For decades the conventional wisdom was simple: TV was used to set up angles to get people into arena seats and later to get PPV buys. Any promoter–including Vince McMahon himself or for that matter his dad Vincent J. McMahon–would be apoplectic if there was a week to go before a big show and/or PPV event and the card was only half booked. The common practice was to have the card more or less ‘set in stone’ at least several weeks before a major event so the TV product could shift focus from setting up feuds and angles to selling the matches on the card as ‘must see’.
Pro wrestling now exists in a different world. If you want to get semantically correct the ‘pay per view’ show doesn’t exist any more–at least in the United States. Instead of putting $49.95 or whatever on your cable bill for the big WWE cards they’re streamed live on the WWE Network. The metric has gone from buy rates to network subscriptions. For example, in 2018 the WWE Network added a half million subscribers during the run up to Wrestlemania. Of course the $64,000 question is how many of these viewers remained active paying subscribers. The WWE often runs ‘deals’ before they report quarterly earnings to pump up the subscriber numbers. This is no different than the network TV ‘sweeps week’ or for that matter any other publicly held company. They all do things to portray their business in the most positive light when reporting earnings.
The pro wrestling business could be due for some more changes–at least as it related to the WWE. Their financial priority is no longer PPVs or even WWE Network subscriptions. Last year, they signed deals with USA and Fox worth a combined $2.2 billion to $2.4 billion over 5 years from October 2018 to September 2024. This big money was primarily for rights to broadcast Raw and Smackdown. At some point logic suggests that the WWE would want to put their biggest matches on their biggest stage–and the one with the most financial upside. Not long after they signed the deal I speculated that the concept of the ‘major pro wrestling show’ (call it a PPV or whatever) might go the way of jobbers in masks and blading on TV:
Will the traditional format of the pro wrestling product change dramatically? Based on the numbers at play it’ll have to. Historically, television was a promotional vehicle to get people to come to the Atlanta City Auditorium, the Columbia Township Auditorium, Olympic Auditorium, etc. to watch the live events. Thus the propensity toward wrestling shows during the 1970’s heavy on ‘squash matches’, promos and angles. During the ‘Monday Night Wars’ between WCW and WWE during the late 1990’s, TV ratings became an important metric–arguably *the* most important metric–but the basic dynamic of the product remained the same. There were more competitive matches on television but the promotions were in a continuous ‘build’ toward the next PPV event. Over the past almost two decades television has continued to grow in importance and big matches, title changes, etc. have become more commonplace. Even with new platforms such as the WWE Network the same premise continues to date–there might be *more* significant stuff on TV but the focal point remains the ‘Big 4’ PPV events and in particular Wrestlemania. At this point, however, this is as much due to ‘tradition’ as anything else.
So what’s next? I’d like to think that there’s still a place for ‘big events’ with stacked cards but at some point this could go by the wayside with the most significant matches just interspersed with the rest of the weekly television programming. However it plays out, these are interesting times for the business of professional wrestling.
We’re already seeing changes in the way that what we’ll euphemistically call ‘PPV events’ are booked and promoted. Instead of the booking being planned well in advance we’ll see several matches ‘come together’ on WWE programming this week. These seismic changes are on balance a good thing. I can now subscribe directly to NJPW World and most of the other major Japanese promotions and get a ridiculous amount of live and archived content. When I first started watching Japanese wrestling it was a matter of trading or buying videotapes meaning that even the most ardent fan was weeks if not months behind the actual product. From top to bottom the quality of the pro wrestling product around the world is likely better than it’s ever been.
For now, we’ll still call it the WWE’s next ‘PPV event’. Here are the betting odds for WWE Fastlane 2019 with the four confirmed matches and a couple of other ‘rumors’ that have been making the rounds:
WWE Fastlane 2019 Pro Wrestling Betting Odds
SmackDown Women’s Championship
Mandy Rose +600
WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Bayley & Sasha Banks -350
Nia Jax and Tamina +300
Daniel Bryan -600
Kevin Owens +450
SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos -750
The Miz & Shane McMahon +600
Will ‘The Shield’ Reunited To Wrestle At ‘Fastlane 2019’?
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose must all wrestle as a team in a sanctioned match on the ‘Fastline 2019’ event.
Will ‘The New Day’ Turn ‘Heel’ At ‘Fastlane 2019’??