WWE’s Experiment with PPV Taglines Appears to Be Over (and Why That May Matter)

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Last year, Extreme Rules underwent a makeover and was rechristened The Horror Show at Extreme Rules. It was a silly name with an even more off-the-wall main event, but it was also a product of WWE’s marketing strategy at the time.

Funny enough, here we are at Extreme Rules 2021, and not only do we not have any gimmick matches announced yet, the idea of a tagline or subtitle is nowhere to be found. In fact, it seems as though WrestleMania Backlash was WWE’s last attempt at this tactic and we can officially call this dead for the time being.

Why is that? On top of that, you’re probably asking yourself “Why does this even matter at all, Tony?”

A Brief Recap

Many years ago, WWE used to add subtitles to pay-per-views. In particular, In Your House events weren’t just numbered, but titled things like “In Your House: It’s Time”, “In Your House: Cold Day in Hell”, “In Your House: Canadian Stampede” and so on. Some of those subtitles became events of their own, such as No Way Out, Unforgiven, Fully Loaded, Judgment Day and Bad Blood.

That eventually went away and it became standardized to just go with the name of the show and the year, or the number with WrestleMania (ie Royal Rumble 2007 and WrestleMania 23)

Starting with last year’s WrestleMania, this practice of subtitles came back:

  • WrestleMania 36: Too Big for One Night
  • Money in the Bank: The Risk is Worth the Reward
  • Backlash: The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever
  • The Horror Show at Extreme Rules
  • SummerSlam: You’ll Never See It Coming
  • Clash of Champions: Gold Rush
  • Survivor Series: The Undertaker’s Final Farewell
  • Superstar Spectacle: A Republic Day Blockbuster
  • WrestleMania 37: Back in Business

Then, we got WrestleMania Backlash, which wasn’t quite so much a subtitle as much as treating Backlash itself as a subtitle following up WrestleMania. It was strange and it’s doubtful many people at all liked it.

Since then, no other events have had subtitles, which I’m not only liking, but finding rather strange.

So? WWE Stopped. Big Deal, Right?

Theoretically, you can just look at this and say “and then they stopped doing that and the world kept turning.” By all means, this doesn’t mean it’s a hint the WWE Network is going back to on its own instead of Peacock or that Vince McMahon is selling the company or anything drastic like that.

What I do think it means, though, is that WWE realized it was a faulty marketing strategy and actively chose not to do it.

Also, and by proxy, I think that means several other things, namely:

  1. WWE took over an entire year to realize something wasn’t working.
  2. WWE is wholeheartedly moving on from the pandemic, whether the world is or not, and this is a subconscious sign of that.
  3. WWE is still looking for new strategies because things aren’t working.
  4. WWE firings and shake-ups could have killed this department.

Let’s break those down.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

The general rule of thumb in anything in life is that if something is working perfectly fine, there’s no need to tinker with the formula. You can always potentially improve on it and yield better results, but if you do, you run the risk of screwing something up. Often, it’s better to leave something be. At the very least, if it’s working fine, it’s not a top priority while you try to patch actual holes.

If WWE saw a boost in pay-per-view buy rates or subscriptions on the shows that had taglines compared to the ones that didn’t, we’d see an increase in this. It would become the standard again, where Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank, SummerSlam and now, Extreme Rules, would have had subtitles.

Since we didn’t, someone made the call to not bother doing that anymore, which means they saw a reason not to do it. The numbers likely came back that there’s no direct correlation between these subtitles and fan interest or that it was the opposite and a negative.

Tenacity vs Stubbornness

It’s admirable when you fail and you keep trying to succeed. Eventually, though, you’re just being stubborn and refusing to acknowledge how you aren’t going to win and should give up and move on to something else.

The earlier you can pinpoint that you’re in the latter camp, the quicker you should stop wasting your time. It’s not easy, but it’s a sheer fact of life. Not everyone becomes an astronaut and you could probably be a fantastic lawyer if you went to law school instead of training for zero gravity exercises.

Whatever metrics WWE uses to test these things, the numbers should have come back a long time ago. By the fifth event at the very least, a trend should have been developed. At least by Survivor Series, there likely wasn’t a need to keep this experiment going any longer.

Still, WWE continued testing it out. Either someone was backing this idea and kept pitching that it was working and nobody could see it, they kept saying the next one would make a difference, nobody bothered to pay attention to this from the onset, or it took that long to get the analytics back.

The first of those scenarios is understandable, as is the second. Unfortunately, the latter two are negligence. A company this big should have people paying attention to those things. If WWE has a department that makes sure people say “medical facility” instead of “hospital” and will drum up “first time ever” facts that are fed to the commentary team to cram down our throats but are arbitrary as hell, someone should be paying attention to trends with buy rates and subscriptions under marketing strategies, just like they should be trying to figure out if a particular method of doing their pay-per-view graphics (posters and such) make a difference by putting certain people on it and so forth.

No More COVID According to Vince

WWE likes their grandiose statements. Any time someone can make a declaration, even if it isn’t true, the company thinks it’ll win over the fans who will just accept that as holy doctrine.

It works sometimes. Other times, it just comes off a bit hyperbolic.

WrestleMania 37 was finally in front of a crowd again and rightfully declared “back in business” with its subtitle. Then, the next three events (counting TakeOver: In Your House) promptly went back to the ThunderDome and Capitol Wrestling Center.

However, we knew Money in the Bank was going to be at Dickies Arena, SummerSlam would come to Allegiant Stadium and so on. Effectively, while WWE said “wait just a little bit longer”, they also said “because we’re not doing this pandemic shit anymore.”

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