Hey WWE And AEW: Your PPV Preshows Have A Serious Problem
WWE's Kickoff Show and AEW's The Buy-In need revamping.
Wrestling has come a long way the past 20 years--the post-WCW era. There was the rise of the independent scene, which created a new generation of wrestling stars, and in turn, those wrestlers populated some of the more popular promotions like Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, creating this bustling underground scene throughout the 2000s and 2010s. However, in 2019, a few of New Japan's and ROH's most-popular wrestlers left their companies to create something new: All Elite Wrestling.
While AEW isn't on the same global level as WWE, it's still competition in the United States. Both shows have large followings and their PPVs (or Premium Live Events (PLEs) as WWE is trying to rebrand it) are must-watch events for fans. Both of these companies feature something very similar at each PPV: a pre-show you can watch for free. Typically lasting about an hour, these two companies have vastly different preshows for their PPVs, and they're both entirely missing the point of what a preshow should be.
WWE's Kickoff Show
Let's talk about the most recent Kickoff Show for a WWE PPV--Money in the Bank. Over the course of an hour, there were zero matches. There was a panel featuring Kayla Braxton, Booker T, JBL, Peter Rosenberg, and Kevin Patrick. Throughout the hour, the four discussed each match of the evening, which are sandwiched between video promos for the matches themselves--ones everyone will see again during the PPV. The Kickoff Show used to have matches, but that has been phased out of the vast majority of these events.
On occasion, superstars will pop by and talk about their upcoming match--or why they aren't in the PPV at all. In the case of 2022's Money in the Bank, the Street Profits showed up to talk about their match with The Usos, and Montez Ford stood on the Kickoff Show table while the commentary team was very nervous it was going to break. It was the only interesting part of the hour-long show.
There's no reason to watch it. The Kickoff Show doesn't offer up new content for those who are interested in the product to keep watching. Additionally, WWE shows the same promo packages it plays during the actual PPV in order to entice new people into getting Peacock. But are those video packages really getting people to sign up or have the people who are on the fence already made up their mind about watching the PPV? My guess is the latter.
How to fix it
Make the Kickoff Show more than just an hour-long roundtable of talking heads predicting the outcomes of upcoming matches. WWE is a wrestling promotion, so give the people some wrestling. The Kickoff Show worked best when there was a Cruiserweight Championship, which was defended at every PPV preshow. Give people something to be excited about before the PPV begins. Or better yet, give those who weren't going to watch a reason to tune in on Peacock.
Additionally, if you want to showcase anything, give people something new, like interviews with superstars that are only on the Kickoff. That Montez Ford moment from MITB was fantastic, so why can't we have numerous moments to know these wrestlers better that aren't the same video promos we see over and over again? We've seen the same package of The Miz time and time again for what feels like years now. It's stale. Give us more interviews and more matches.
AEW's The Buy-In
All Elite Wrestling's preshow is called The Buy-In and features primarily wrestling matches. Taz, Excalibur, and Kevin Kelly called the matches for Forbidden Door's preshow and of course, there are video packages for every match on the main card, so you know what you're getting into.
For the most recent PPV--Forbidden Door--the Buy-In featured four matches--three of which were tag matches--and one interview with Clark Connors about filling in a vacant spot in the All-Atlantic Championship match on the main card. It was non-stop action for an hour with video packages for the main card matches set as transitions between bouts.
Keeping in mind that AEW tends to over-stuff their cards with plenty of matches, the Buy-In feels the same. As someone who attended Forbidden Door live, the second you enter the arena, you're getting wrestling, which is great, but by the time you get to match four of the preshow--realizing there's nine more matches coming--it can be a bit too much wrestling, which sounds wild. While this is certainly one way to get the crowd amped up for a night of wrestling that is to follow, by the end of the main card, you're tired, exhausted, having watched roughly six hours of just wrestling. It's a cornucopia of your favorite thing, which becomes a challenging gauntlet by the end.
There is way too much wrestling happening. AEW fans will find this blasphemous, but in order to grow wrestling, you need new fans, and there needs to be a better introduction to the product other than "here's our commentary team and here's a bunch of matches." The Buy-In speaks largely to AEW fans and no one else.
How to fix it
AEW needs to cut back on matches for the Buy-In. Additionally, much like WWE, this needs to be an introduction to new fans--in hopes they'll pony-up for a PPV. Again, interviews with wrestlers would be great here as well, as you can bring people into the world of AEW rather than blast them with matches. And again, there is a lot more wrestling coming on the main card, so why not start things off a bit slower?
The bottom line
Preshows for AEW and WWE face the same exact problem: They don't make viewers want to continue with the actual PPV. They're filler, especially in WWE's case where five people just talk for an hour. There was a point in WWE's history where they got the idea of a preshow right though.
Back in the late-90s, there was Sunday Night Heat. It was a weekly WWE program that many times aired before PPVs, and during those evenings, it would leave you with a cliffhanger, like a giant brawl. The only way to see what happens next is to buy the PPV. Considering modern TV relies so heavily on the cliffhanger to keep people invested in programming, why isn't this technique used more in wrestling?
Yes, this call to action is saying that WWE and AEW need to have similar preshows using a format that introduces viewers to the match structure, the characters via interviews, and those pesky video packages. But both of these companies having similar structures for their preshows isn't a bad thing. In the long run, it will help wrestling fans both, new and old, find the promotion that works best for them.
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