Springtime is the most important period of the WWE calendar. Months are spent building up to WrestleMania, the show of shows. Immediately following Mania, there is sometimes a lull. The next PPV often features a retread of some of the WrestleMania programs, or features some of the storylines coming out of the Mania show. But generally, this is considered a slower period, before they start building up to SummerSlam. In a brand split time period, you would generally find a draft during this period, or the lineups would be shuffled between the two shows. Two other important things happen during this time; some wrestlers will lose their jobs, and some will get called up to the main roster. Until now, these two things generally don’t have anything to do with each other. But they don’t need to, there is a way to blend the two together, and create some very interesting TV in the time period between WrestleMania and the SummerSlam build up. This is where my new PPV concept, Proving Grounds, comes into play.
One of the biggest criticisms of RAW and Smackdown, is too many matches don’t mean anything. And this is true. Being in the main event of RAW or Smackdown really doesn’t mean a thing these days. And the two shows rarely have a match that has been build up for even a week in advance. The pace of the WWE, and the proliferation of PPV’s have made the weekly shows less than must watch tv most nights. Why not take something that is going to happen anyway, and put it on tv in a meaningful way? Create some drama and tension in an otherwise slow period. Let the wrestlers fight for their spots.
Typically, a call up is more exciting than a release. People love a big surprise call up to the main roster. But with the internet, and fans expectations, rarely is a call up a complete surprise. Releases have been treated less spectacularly, but they don’t have to be. Typically a wrestler is on tv one night, then not there the next week. Often time this isn’t even announced on air. But someone losing their job is a dramatic thing, and it’s going to happen anyway, I have a blueprint for how to get some ratings out of it and make some meaningful tv at least. Here’s how it works.
Following WrestleMania, 15 male superstars are announced as being on the chopping block. You can say it is based on their win loss record over the previous year, fan reaction, or even GM discretion if you want to go in that route with it. However you do it, you now have a list of 15 people (9 RAW, 6 Smackdown) whose jobs are now in jeopardy. This will include some older talent, who might be approaching retirement. Lower midcard talent, who might not be getting appreciated as much, and are seeing as having not made their mark on the main roster. And you could also have a talent or two who is on there purely because they have rubbed their brands GM the wrong way. However they ended up on this list, there is now instant drama, they might lose their jobs. People can relate to that, and wrestlers who might currently be getting over looked will get some time in the spotlight where the main eventers will be coming down from WrestleMania before beginning their next big programs.
On NXT, the same process will happen but in reverse, a list of 15 superstars who are now in consideration for a call up will be generated. Again, they can do this in a variety of ways, saying it is based on win-loss record, audience reaction, and impact on the program would be the best way to go. These 15 now get a brighter spotlight, their future matches will get much more attention from NXT fans, and people who generally only follow the main roster will now have a reason to start watching this chosen group. Here’s what happens next.
Both groups of 15 are placed in their own divisions. Over the next two months, they will be given 5 matches against others in their division. For the main roster, if you lose 3 times, your job continues to be in jeopardy. For the NXT roster, it takes 3 wins to advance them to the next phase. It’s a limited number of matches, but enough that you can have one or two on each show a week on the main roster. And they would all be extremely important. It’s much watch tv, there is only takes three wins or losses to save or possibly lose your career, every match is vitally important, but there is also an arch to follow over the course of several months. You could have the wrestlers cross brands to compete against each other. This could create an interesting RAW vs SmackDown dynamic, as each GM and roster might pull for their own guys. Or you could have an interaction where lets say Stephanie McMahon puts Sami Zayne on the chopping block and Daniel Bryan puts the Miz out there for possible retirement. The intensity level would be through the roof. I have a hard time remembering a tv match from even a month ago that means anything right now. But each of these tournament matches will be full of meaning, not just in that moment, but for the future as well. If two wrestlers have a match with each other, and one almost costs the other their job, that’s something you can build on in future matches, since the loss matters so much more than the vast majority of the matches we see on Monday’s or Tuesdays.
WrestleMania is in early April, lets say you have a RAW PPV in late April, then a Smackdown PPV in mid May. That could put our Proving Ground PPV somewhere in late May, early June. On the two branded PPV’s you could have a RAW vs Smackdown match or two from this tournament. But eventually your field will be set, and we should be looking at 6-8 matches that will go to the PPV. This themed PPV would feature only matches between the winners of the NXT tournament, and the losers of the main roster tournament. Keep in mind, 3-5 people were going to get let go anyway, and 3-5 people were going to be getting called up around this time of year. So we are taking something that is happening anyway, and making something out of it.
Each match of course is going to be very high stakes, higher than most mid card title matches even. Based on the needs of the company, your main roster star is going to win about half the time. These wrestlers get a new lease on life, and they are now spared the chopping block. The tension of the close call can really add depth to their character, and give the fans a new appreciation for what they almost lost. Or it could give a heel the reason to gloat if they have prevented a popular NXT stars call up. Amongst the survivors you could have the aging vets, who have proven they still have what it takes for one more shot at glory. (Big Show, Mark Henry) You would have the mid carders who now have a new spotlight, and reason to fight harder to not end up in this position again (Curtis Axel, Titus O’neil) Former call up’s who have yet to really catch on to the main roster (Tyler Breeze, Mojo Rawley) They could win and show they do have some fight to offer. And of course, the thorns in the bosses side, who have now survived and can return to torment their divisions (Miz and Zayn)
Then of course, there would be the main roster losers. For some, this would mean retirement, and an emotional goodbye. But this would be a more fitting sendoff to someone who has given so much time and talent to the business. The exposure could also help them as they go on to take independent bookings and appearances. It would be a lot better than just tuning in one night, and the wrestler isn’t there and just isn’t mentioned again. Even though it hurts to actually lose your job, and then have to play it out on live PPV. It could even be harder on the mid carders who lose. They haven’t caught on as much yet, they are younger, haven’t made as much money, but for whatever reason, they just didn’t make it on the main roster. This sort of farewell will still help them more in the next phase of their careers, it will make for good tv, and should they make it back in a year or two, there is now a ready made storyline, as there are several wrestlers who cost them their job currently on the roster. This could even be done intentionally a time or two if you have someone who you know is going to be gone for a while, but you are planning on bringing back. They are going to come back on fire with a obvious list of people they are out to settle the score with.
On the NXT side, you will lose the surprise nature of the call ups. But most of them aren’t that much of a surprise anyway. But because you now have this established call up system, when you bring up a NXT star outside of this PPV, it will actually be more of a surprise. And there’s no reason you couldn’t do it. Sunday night a popular NXT star loses in a high stakes, but incredible match. Monday or Tuesday night the GM stands in the ring and offers them a contract anyway. You can only do that once or twice before it loses it’s value, but it would be an incredible moment. Or the start gets brought up some other time of the year, some other way. You wouldn’t lose anything.
Some of the NXT stars will lose at this PPV and not get called up. Again, the tension would be unbelievable. They now return to NXT, having come so close, but just missing out. Talk about character development and depth. They could go on a destruction spree, become convinced they have lost their edge and gain sympathy that way. A heel or face turn could be executed, there are a lot of possibilities.
In conclusion, this concept, or some variety of it, could be used to heighten the work that is going to be done anyway, create some meaningful tv and drama, and to do it at a time when things can be slow to begin with. In the comments below, who do you think should be included in the 15 man divisions?