The Hart Grapevine – Problems In WWE & Pro Wrestling Today

smith-hart

Welcome to my debut column, “The Hart Grapevine,” exclusively on PWMania.com!

I recently posted on my twitter account, @smithhart1, a simple comment that in return received plenty of replies. The comment read:

This comment was not meant to disparage CM Punk, Daniel Bryan or John Cena or for that matter any other talented internet darling.

To be honest with everyone I myself am a huge fan of the work of men like Antonio Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, The Shield, Daniel Bryan & CM Punk. My comment was actually searching more for a deeper problem associated with the business today; one completely out of the hands of WWE officials.

This problem can only be solved by the fans of professional wrestling. Wrestling today is built on 2 primary demographics, youth and adults. Much of the die-hard, internet wrestling audience falls under the latter. WWE has a long history of publicly stating that they do what they do for the fans. That when the fans speak they listen!

Although many of today’s wrestling fans would scoff at that notion, it does remain much truer than they could ever realize. The WWE as well as their distributors for both TV and PPV have very sophisticated instruments and have specially designated employees to cipher the viewing habits of the fans to see which superstars are drawing and which storylines are getting over.

It is quite evident and even blatantly obvious that piracy is bringing the bottom line down. Perhaps not to a totally dangerous level yet, but more and more with each passing year. The logic in my original statement is pretty obvious. Many John Cena fans are well-noted to be a younger audience, who are likely to ask their parents to order the monthly PPV events to support their hero.

Meanwhile fans of Punk & Bryan are more adult fans who find it hard to justify in today’s economy the purchase of a PPV event when illegal streaming is so readily available. WWE is a business, with hundreds of employees, licensees and investors that they are accountable to.

So at the end of the day their bottom line is the most important factor to deciding the direction of programming. When Cena fans are the ones paying for the product primarily, their voices are the loudest heard by Titan Towers. In simpler terms, if you do not show your support by paying for the PPV’s, your opinion of the product does not matter to anyone more than yourself. It’s like voting in political elections. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about the result.

At the end of the day I’m a huge fan of all of the above internet darlings just as I am a big fan of the work and dedication of John Cena. But in addressing this issue a bigger and much more disturbing issue came to light. Can WWE find a new top star with the rise in piracy and if not, where will this business as a whole be in 5 years.

Fans of PWMania.com can reach me for comment or questions at Smithhart@hotmail.com. Also available for limited sale release are a select list of items signed by Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Bret Hart, Stu Hart and myself.

  • BD

    I agree that piracy is hurting the business. But at the same time, why would fans pay $55 for a a potentially low quality show as we have seen with the last couple PPVs?

    • CoCoBeware

      Very true.. I find it hard sometimes to justify paying $55 or more for a PPV, especially when most of the time im really only interested in 1 or 2 matches, don’t get me wrong im a huge wrestling fan, i’ve been a fan since Hulk Hogan and the Mega Powers.. but wrestling back then was different, I didn’t mind paying to watch it, but now days, way different story..

      • Negatist

        Then watch TNA or some other alternative garbage…

    • Negatist

      Look, WWE is in business to make a profit. Obviously, the price of a pay per view is what it is for a reason. Look at the economy. Everyone is suffering. Shut your hole and either buy the merchandise or don’t buy it. Pretty simple.

      • Rick Yuhnke

        I do have a question for you. Do you pay 55 dollars to go see a WWE event live?

        • Negatist

          I don’t enjoy live events, so I don’t go. I’d rather sit at home and watch the product; the camera angles give me a better view of all the action.

          • Steve Waugh

            Just shut your mouth idiot if you can afford then afford and watch it on your ass, dont expect others to do the same dickwad

          • Negatist

            Look retard – WWE has a business to run. They work their asses of to entertain the fans. If you cry like a little bitch about the price of the product, you’re not good enough to even watch it. And if I find out who’s pirating, I’ll turn your fucking asses in.

  • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

    How do you know that people pirating are fans of Punk/Bryan and all who buy PPV’s are Cena fans? Where was this study conducted.

    • Justin Cissom

      Are you really that naive? He’s pointing out a very honest generalization. Cena does not have a lot of adult fans. His fans are kids. Kids who don’t have the know-how to stream events and PPVs, without purchasing them. Punk and Danielson fans are adults. Adults have more knowledge in that area.

      Why do you think that WWE has already stated that they are looking (to follow TNA basically) to cutting down to four PPVs and have their own channel for cable and satellite providers.

      • Negatist

        WWE will NEVER follow TNA. Very poor analogy there. WWE is in a league of its own. It is a genius organization.

        • Justin Cissom

          Well, seeing as to how TNA actually scrapped 8 of the actual PPVs, making those special Impact!s this past year, and WWE already stating that they will do the same, means that use, WWE will follow in TNA’s footsteps.

          Little footnote for you here, WWE’s numbers are falling at a much more drastic rate than TNA’s and RoH’s.

          • Negatist

            TNA had no choice because they can’t afford to do monthly PPVs, and as far as profit drops go, when you aren’t making money in the first place (TNA), your profit can’t drop TOO fast after all, right?

      • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

        Yeah it’s real tough to google search the PPV and find a live stream. It’s a blanket statement that has no proof to back up it’s claim.

        If anything, I would assume that it would be the younger crowd stealing the PPV streams, as when I was a kid, my parent’s wouldn’t shell out a dime for a PPV event.

        I’m a Punk fan and I buy every PPV. Why? Because I’m a fan who chooses to support the business, instead of those of you (maybe not you directly) who choose to steal from the business and then get on the internet with all of your opinions. I do agree with Smith on that point. If you aren’t willing to shell out the dough and support the product, then shut your pipe hole about the goings on in the business.

        But there is no way that they can be sure of whose fan’s are buying, and whose fan’s are stealing. And if you think they can, well… I have some beach front property in Phoenix I’d like to sell ya.

        • Justin Cissom

          Actually, you can be quite sure who’s fans are buying, and who’s aren’t. It’s called merchandise sales and marketing studies. There is a reason why John Cena has done all these General Mills (currently Fruity Pebbles) commericals (McDonalds and Burger King in the past) and Punk, Danielson, or Orton have not in the past.

          I do have the know-how of how to pirate PPVs from WWE, TNA, and RoH, but I don’t, because I do have a “morale” bone in my body. That, and I’m not that all interested in any of the WWE PPVs. And I would rather not hurt TNA or RoH in that aspect, because those two companies need to thrive if there is to be any hope for wrestling in general.

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            So do Punk and Bryan fans steal all those t-shirts that I see in the crowd every week? What are you talking about bro? There is absolutely no way to judge which fan’s purchase PPV’s. Merchandise sales have nothing to do with who is buying the PPV’s. I had every WWE action figure there was as a kid, but my folks still weren’t paying for PPV’s. We can go around and around about this all day, but there is still no conclusive evidence, or way to measure, which fans are purchasing the PPV vs which ones are stealing it. Unless you run a survey at the time of purchase, how would they know?

          • Justin Cissom

            So when should I expect to see Punk’s or Danielson’s clothing lines in a nationally recognized retail store?

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            Nice try, but that still doesn’t prove who does or does not pay for PPV’s. What part are you missing? Just because a kid’s parents purchase a shirt at K-Mart does not conclude that they will purchase a PPV event. And it also does not conclude that the same child will not stream a PPV for free. I sure hope you’re not practicing to become a lawyer, because it’s quite obvious that evidence means nothing to you. You, and Smith Hart, have ZERO proof of who the purchasing fans decide to root for, yet I, as was stated earlier, am a Punk fan, and I buy PPV’s, I also do NOT purchase WWE shirts from K-Mart, therefore, your argument is invalid and disproved.

          • Justin Cissom

            You seriously don’t get it. Punk and Daniel fans are more mature. Not only is the issue piracy, but congregating at restaurants and bars. Kudos to you for being a Punk fan, but you will never see Punk or Danielson as a spokesperson for anything on the national level. In essence, they are deemed not worthy enough to help businesses grow, yet Cena is. I’m not a Cena fan, but I have a better understanding of how businesses run.

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            No see you don’t get it. You have NO PROOF that those who buy PPV’s are Cena fans or not. Show me some evidence or some real way of gauging which fanbase is purchasing versus pirating. And to say that the Punk/Bryan fans are more mature, and in the same breath claim that they are more apt to steal is a contradictory statement. How can you be a thief and be mature at the same time? Again, until you can present me with some evidence to prove that purchasers are Cena fans and piraters are Punk/Bryan fans, you have no basis for your claims. I on the other hand have presented concrete evidence to the contrary, using myself as the example. Also, you have no basis for your statement that you understand business better than I as neither of us have met, nor are you privy to any information about me. Anything else you want to throw at the wall and see if it sticks?

          • Negatist

            What the fuck does maturity and theft have to do with one another??? What a fucking generalization that is… so if someone pirates a movie or a song for their own viewing, they’re immature??? No, they’re just a thief. What kind of a loser makes a generalization so disgustingly insane that it’s actually insulting to read it and know that such fools like you actually exist in the world?! Wow… so let me ask you this, numbnuts… we’re living in a poor economy. Jobs are not in high abundance… if 80% of the population becomes unemployed and has to rely on alternative means to survive, even if it’s theft… does the population then become considered immature? WTF…

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            Quit commenting on my posts. I have absolutely zero interest in having any conversation with your immature chickenshit ass. Put a face and address on your account tough guy, and then we can talk. Until then, go fuck yourself.

          • Negatist

            Wow, you have that small of a life to need a face and address to bother with me in person? I feel sorry for you. But, sure, next time I’m here, I will do just that dickhead.

          • Negatist

            You mean “moral”, not “morale”.

    • Negatist

      Dumbass… did you read the article? WWE has sophisticated instruments and equipment to gauge who is viewing what. Also, ever wonder how the Nielsen ratings are compiled? Probably not.

      • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

        DUMBASS? And how do these instruments read the minds of those watching and determine who they are fans of? Go f*ck yourself dillweed.

        • Negatist

          Listen, asswipe… those that tune in are obviously interested. Once they tune out, regardless of when or how is subject to the character(s) on screen at that time. That’s one of the meters they use to determine ratings/interest. Why do I have to explain common sense to idiots like you?

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            My issue is not with the debate, my issue is with your completely disrespectful tone, as if you sit atop some high hill of knowledge unknown to all but you. You are an arrogant piece of shit, and I guaranfuckintee you wouldn’t be talking like that to people’s faces. Definitely not mine motherfucker.

          • Negatist

            Actually, I would talk to you exactly that way in person. I know an ass when I see asshole-like comments. Therefore, assholes get treated like assholes, as they should. Pretty simple if you ask me. By the way, I’m not arrogant; just well-informed. It wouldn’t hurt you to become the same way… well… that is, if you have the brainpower to read and interpret information to start…

  • bryan

    Pay that much for a ppv that’s most likely going to suck? Last minutes match up and only two matches have a storyline. Plus putting irrelevant wrestkers over guy that are the future? I wouldn’t buy a ppv for god’s sake del rio is boring, so picture how his match with cena will be. Orton is boring. Big show boring. Only guy i enjow now are the shield d bryan, punk, sandow and bray wyatt and the shield are going to lose to the rhodes, usos and mysterio at survivor series (scoff) that why i’m not buying

    • Negatist

      Dude you’re a moron. It’s not about who wins or loses… it’s about how the match tells a story. WWE goes a LOT deeper in telling their stories beyond win/loss records. But you don’t see that because you’re a fuck’n retard… Unreal…

      • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

        And you are an asshat troll. Not to discredit your point but, what exactly is it that makes you think it’s cool to be running all over the thread calling people names? Is that how we teach people, or does it just make you feel special? Do you get your lunch money stolen everyday, so you have to come on here and act like a total jackass to everybody? Grow up.

        • Negatist

          No, dickhead, I have to make my responses memorable so that next time when a shrew of morons start posting speculative crap about how, what and why something happens, they’ll think before they respond.

          • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

            Speculative huh? Isn’t claiming that Cena fans purchase PPV’s while Punk/Bryan fans are thieves “speculative”? Tell your mom I said hi.

          • Negatist

            I did; she said she doesn’t know you. Doesn’t say much for you, now does it… Yeah, the whole Cena fans purchasing PPV’s vs. Punk/Bryan piracy in regards to PPV events… sounds like horse shit to me, but then again, that’s your farm you grazed that one in… no real reliable source, now is it…

    • Zharkiez

      well you would of lost if that was a bet.. Shield and company won.. and I pay for the odd PPV.. if it strikes my interest.. if not I get the results from WWE.COM.. or Raw next day.. today was wwe website.. keep hoping for Takers return.. since he signed a multi show deal recently.. but alas still waiting lol.. and hoping rumors are true WM 30 probly not but I can dream of Sting Vs Taker.. and Goldberg mangling Ryback cant I ;) lol and Bryan I do agree with you on who is boring and who is not

  • Pat

    Nobody should pay 2 f.cking cents for this trash that WWE puts out every month. It is bad enough we have to even watch their garbage on free TV. Cena sucks and so does every other wrestler and those idiots who call themselves creative.

    • Negatist

      Then what the fuck are you doing on this site?

      • Pat

        You are nothing but a dickhead WWE mark.

        • Negatist

          I am a mark for WWE, no doubt about it. But what tells me something is that since 1983 when I first started watching their program, I’ve seen the company grow, and grow. So maybe, I’m not such a mark after all. I enjoy the product; I am critical of its flaws, too, but I have a soft spot for an organization that springs to put smiles on peoples’ faces. Dickhead…

  • Steve

    WWE PPV’s are too expensive and the product that’s provided just isn’t that great on a consistent basis. If I had the money, I’d buy PPV’s every single month, regardless of quality because I truly want to support WWE. Most of the time, the PPV’s are basically a glorified episode of Raw. Their have been recent exceptions, WWE does indeed put on a good show at times, just not enough for some people to justify spending over $50 on it. That’s about what some people pay for their cable bills without the PPV….

    • Negatist

      Again… it’s a business. If you enjoy the product, you support the business. There’s no in-between. Either watch it and buy it or tune out.

      • Zharkiez

        there is an in-between technically and its what I do.. I watch Raw but not Smackdown or NXT I find them boring.. if I hear about a PPV that catches my interest I order it.. actually ordered 4 this year.. above my Normal 1 which is WM.. so I do support WWE but for what I WANT to see.. not what they THINK I want

        • Negatist

          I think you WANT a cock up your ass.

  • Larry Brown

    Yeah hes right for the most part. However I think a lot of people just arent buying ppvs like they used to. I havent bought one in a long time and not just because I have more responsibilities than i used to or because money is tighter but largely because I dont find the product as entertaining as I used to. Outside of the people mentioned or the undertakers rare appearances theres nothing for me.

    • Negatist

      Well, I’m sure you couldn’t pull off any of the moves they can, anyways. So, you suck.

      • http://www.ring-rap.com/ Jay Ciaravino

        We see you trollin…. you hatin’…..

    • Rick Yuhnke

      I think Larry has a point. Sell me something I want and I will buy. Otherwise, do not get mad at me for not buying. Make sense. The WWE cannot expect us to support them blindly, can they?

  • Paul Escobar

    Smith,

    When I look at the crowds in the arenas…most of the faces I see are teens & adults – you know, that “pirating demographic”. These folks are paid up, and must count for something.

    When I hear the cheers in the arenas…Punk & Brian get uniformly positive cheers. Whereas with Cena, alot of the time the crowd is divided – many times half of them scream “Cena sucks!”.

    But let’s assume these crowds don’t matter…and the kids are a significant part of the audience that need to be catered-to. Fine, give Cena his push. Give Cena any title he wants…hell, give him all of them!

    This discussion would be moot if the WWE actually had more creativity & thoroughness in their story-telling. I don’t care if Punk or Bryan never see a title again. I just want to see them in some interesting storylines & feuds.

    Cena’s “push” doesn’t have to come at the expense of anyone else…as it currently does.

    The creative posture the WWE seems to have is – below the top-two belts…assume all these guys are desperate to prove themselves for that title/main-event shot. There’s little thought or effort put into making the “rest of the card” interesting. So you have long shows & pay-per-views filled with dorky characters & complete mutes.

    The WWE seems to have forgotten that men can get into the most interesting & compelling fights over simple things like women, politics, religion, shame, insecurity, ego, boredom…etc.

    Hire some writers for god’s sake, and everyone can be happy.

    • Rick Yuhnke

      One other thing, there is a believe that pro wrestling is super popular and it is not compared to the 1990s WCW vs WWF battle. Things change

  • Travis Erbacher

    I agree with Smith but also agree with other comments: over 50 bucks for a PPV? If I had shelled out that money just to see Daniel Bryan get screwed over again, then have to sit through yet another Great Khali mixed tag match and another match wasting CM Punk or Dean Ambrose’ talents, not even get my Bray Wyatt fix and leave feeling like the best match on the card was the Divas title match it doesn’t do them much good. There’s nothing “worse for business” than having fans who deal with buyers remorse until they can’t be taken advantage of anymore. Besides, I’m taking the money that I would have had to spend on PPV’s to buy merch for guys like Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose, and Daniel Bryan. A lot of fans are also those kids who grew up being the Cena (or maybe in my case, the Rock/Stone Cold) fans who are now lower or lower-middle class twenty somethings struggling to make ends meet who can’t afford to shell out that much at the risk of it being a sub-par show, which it is so often lately. It’s a two way street. Louis CK seems to be doing alright and not being destroyed by piracy. Maybe its time for WWE to step their game up and bring the hardcore fans and tech savvy fans into the fold by adapting better to the changing times (despite all their patting themselves on the back for the app and social media exposure) and make their product more affordable and worth purchasing.

  • Mark Charlie-Sheen Coburn

    Piracy has little to no impact on the business. If WWE brought their prices down to a more realistic $4.99 or less then there would be very little piracy. The rises that have happened relate to unrealistic profits being made for shareholders. It’s happened with every sports/entertainment/music based company, they have simply priced out their own fanbase, which is just poor management as those fans won’t come back and there will soon be no room to grow. WWE simply cannot afford to cater to adult fans using the model they employ. Action figures, films, toys……that’s where the money is. The wrestling shows are just advertising for those products which is wrong in an entertainment aspect, but looks good on paper from a business perspective as it fools people into thinking that there is room for growth as they are making the same numbers from massively reduced consumers who will themselves soon be priced out. Your $50+ is not getting your better quality or helping support wrestling…..by paying it you are killing the product and lining the pockets of shareholders. Everyone should stream ppvs if you want the product to improve. There are very few rich musicians/wrestlers and actors. Most of them have to work thjemselves to death just to break even and had to long before the myth of piracy killing anything. Pure greed from people that have nothing to do with the product will collapse the industry soon

    • Negatist

      No, absolutely not… Do you know the reasons behind the cost of a PPV? I don’t think you do… WWE has the arenas to pay for using the venue, the lighting and camera crew, the talents, the production crew, the security people… the list goes on and on and on… And WWE would NEVER pay that if the cost of the PPV were $5. That’s ridiculous. Any good business is in business to make a profit, not to break even or go bust. If you are loyal to the product, you’ll pay the $50, shutup and appreciate the efforts of the talents and what they go through, night in and night out. Breaking the price down to $5 for a PPV won’t expand the fan base, it will just expose the WWE as a desperate entity; which it is not.

      • Mark Charlie-Sheen Coburn

        I appreciate your comment. I think you have made some excellent observations on this subject and been labelled a “troll” for it. Would you agree that WWE have aimed far too high with it’s expectations in terms of price for it’s ppv’s? I threw out $4.99 in terms of what i think a mass consumer would pay for if WWE wanted numbers. There is a line between “desperate entity” and commercial success. WWE should remain affordable…oyal Rumble,..it’s not a real sport. I wouldn’t pay $50 to see the latest film, why should I pay that level to see a pre arranged result of anything? I encourage streaming, I think streaming is good….it’s not great. I pay for the big four ever year, but they are the big four. If I has the rest at a reasonable price, say Summerslam, Rumble, SS and WM for $200 with everythying else (shows, extra ppvs, classics) “free” I’d pay it…..that’s value and reward for loyalty. That’s the way you gain a fanbase and keep it. Christ, I’m 34 and still buying the video games and dvds….I want to be valued as a customer….don’t you?

        • Steve Waugh

          Leave it mark that fella is a dickwad probably a moujth piece for wwe

          • Negatist

            WWE is to be respected for the product they have created; for the history they have trailed. Anyone who doesn’t respect the work ethic and meticulous creative initiatives by the organization, isn’t worthy of being a member of the WWE Universe.

  • Coldgrits

    This is a good point. Maybe if they experimented with the price of the PPVs they’d figure some things out?. given the point about the people that pay the money get what they want (makes sense dont it)…. If they were maybe $20-30 for select lower tiered PPVs they would make maybe the same amount of money, if advertised right….and figure out the most successful direction to take based of the information gathered.

  • Hobby Beenan

    So, the fact that WWE is boring as shit is all our fault guys.

  • James Kilpela

    drop the price a little bit

  • Rick Yuhnke

    Ok, Mr Hart, problem. I used to pay for every ppv from 1989 to 2010. Every one from every company. At times, I got my money worth, at times I did not yet I never complained. I do now simple because I want to buy the ppvs but there are two reasons why. 1) cost. 55 dollars for a ppv is too much. 2) There is no difference between tv and ppvs. Number 2 is the big one. You get better stuff on tv than the ppvs, so why buy them? No, I do not get them off the net, if I like a ppv, I will get the dvd.

  • AJ

    I would argue that PPVs don’t bring in nearly as much as the merchandise. Even with the discounts week in and week out, they’re charging at least 5x more than it took for the product’s creation. As Mark pointed out, a more realistic $4.99 would help the piracy problem (or any sum less than where it’s at, honestly).

  • nightshade

    when i started getting ppvs at wm 4 i remeber wrestlemaina was 30 and the other ones were 19.99 with the occasional one off ppv (the no holds barred mess and the tourney that was actually held in an hs gym in the early/mid 80s)
    then they added king of the ring cause there was a 4-5 month peroid between wm and survivor series
    Back then we wanted more ppvs so wwe came up with the in your house idea which were basically “house” matches like you see in the arenas you know where it just furthers storylines no titles change hands ect (sad note is the only time i ever bought an in your house ppv is the day owen hart took his infamous jump and the ppv was blacked out and the only time wwe ever refunded an ppv fee )
    those were like 12.95 but alal of a sudden the in your houses got serious they dropped the house moniker and basically became like the old clash pf champions and did things that mattered prices got raised over the years….. i think the last wm i bought was 49.99 then they changed survivor series and royal rumble ………
    And from what i hear im not missing anything so i just read results on the internet when I want something ……..

  • Henry Ford

    i love lamp

  • Jamal

    The storylines of the major superstars are very weak nowadays in WWE, take an example of Ryback sotryline which totally sucks since last year despite his great persona and power in the ring, but they made him heel and put him in low level mtaches and lose them too. They better focus on superstars like him.

  • mayhem

    I steam all ppvs free on internet and still complain about product online. Fuckyou wwe. They are already making millions, all you fanboys need to stop defending the product. Nobody cares

    • Guest

      Congratulations. You’re a thief.