Seven-and-a-half hours is a long time to do anything.
It’s close to the amount of time that a typical person spends at their job during any given workday (if you’re someone who has a nine-to-five type of job). It’s roughly the amount of time it would take you to drive from San Diego to San Francisco. You could even fly across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to a place like London or Paris in that amount of time or less. The point is that there are a lot of things that can be done in a seven-and-a-half hour time span, from work, to travel, to an assortment of other things.
What’s something that shouldn’t be seven-and-a-half hours? A major wrestling event.
A few weeks ago, WWE presented WrestleMania 35 in MetLife Stadium. By the time the show came to a close, it ended up being the longest PPV event in the history of the company, with sixteen matches in total—plus a number of on-stage and in-ring segments—making up the card. Of course, that total includes the kickoff show, which featured four matches. While it’s not uncommon for a wrestling company’s biggest show of the year to also be their longest show of the year, a show that goes from 5:00 PM to nearly 12:30 AM is just entirely too long for a wrestling show, especially when it takes place in a giant NFL stadium filled with tens of thousands of people. The crowd was certainly feeling the effects of the length, as while they did react to certain things in the latter stages of the event, their energy levels seemed much lower after the Daniel Bryan/Kofi Kingston match. The main event was definitely impacted, as a tired crowd watched as the Triple Threat Match for both the RAW and SmackDown Women’s Championships didn’t even start until after midnight. The length of the show also caused problems for the crowd once it went off the air, as thousands of people were stranded outside of the stadium well after midnight, with insanely long Uber lines and problems with the NJ Transit as it began to rain (there have been disputes with regards to the train issues, specifically with regards to who deserved the most blame between WWE and NJ Transit).
This is what @MetLifeStadium looked like at 1a after the end of @wwe @WrestleMania the lines for the buses leaving the stadium were ridiculous and since @PATHTrain are cross honoring until 5a that tells me @NJTRANSIT did not properly plan for the event properly. #FixMePhilMurphy pic.twitter.com/828BsliOKI
— Alex (@RealAlexNovelo) April 8, 2019
The bottom line is that, over the past few, WrestleMania has become entirely too long, and this year might’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Most fans would agree with that point, and it’s an issue that’s been discussed time and time again by numerous wrestling pundits. Even people within WWE (per Dave Meltzer) have shared similar feelings. It’s clear that something needs to change with the biggest show in pro-wrestling, and in my view, the solution is to split WrestleMania into a two-part event. Not only would this idea solve the issues regarding the length of WrestleMania, but it could also potentially benefit WWE in a number of ways.
Before I dive into the meat and potatoes of this article, I want to note that this simply an editorial piece. I’m sure there are plenty of ideas that could solve the problem of WrestleMania’s extreme length, but I decided to pick out on particular solution (which I feel strongly about) and explain why I believe it would work really well (especially for WWE). If you agree with what I have to say or disagree with it, then that’s great! I’m doing this piece to put my thoughts out there, but I’m also hoping that it generates more discussion around this topic.
The issues regarding the length of WrestleMania would be solved almost immediately
By splitting WrestleMania up into two parts, the issues regarding the length of the show are taken care of straightaway. Instead of trying to squeeze sixteen matches (or however many matches are booked) and other segments into a massive seven-plus hour event of a single night (pushing the show past midnight in the process), you could spread things out more evenly over the course of two nights. This way, there’s no need to shove matches onto the kickoff show, you’ll get lively crowds for every single match (kickoff matches won’t be taking place in front of a stadium that’s still filling up, while the bouts in the latter part of the card won’t suffer from a tired crowd), you won’t need to rush everything, and the cards could finish in a timely manner. Each match and every wacky segment you want to do will get an appropriate amount of time.
As a quick experiment, I decided to break up the WrestleMania 35 card into two parts. I shuffled some things around, but just think about how this would’ve come off on two cards instead of one giant card:
- WWE Universal Title – Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins
- RAW Tag Team Titles – The Revival vs. Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder
- Women’s Battle Royal
- WWE Cruiserweight Title – Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese
- Falls Count Anywhere – The Miz vs. Shane McMahon
- WWE Women’s Tag Team Title – Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. The IIconics vs. Nia Jax & Tamina vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya
- WWE Intercontinental Title – Bobby Lashley vs. Finn Balor
- WWE Championship – Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston
- AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton
- SmackDown Tag Team Titles – The Usos vs. The Bar vs. Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
- No Holds Barred – Batista vs. Triple H
- Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
- WWE United States Title – Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio
- Drew McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns
- Baron Corbin vs. Kurt Angle
- RAW & SmackDown Women’s Titles – Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch
Imagine if WrestleMania 35 was split into two parts like I just demonstrated. Can you imagine how much easier and more enjoyable (relatively speaking) the shows would be, both from a live perspective and as a viewer watching at home. Everything is more digestible. Now it’s entirely possible that WWE could stretch both shows out to a full four-hour length, but the point is that with two cards, you have a lot more time for everything, and the crowd won’t get tired.
A recent example of a promotion that successfully dealt with a similar problem was GCW. Joey Janela’s Spring Break has become one of the hottest WrestleMania Weekend tickets over the last few years, but in New Orleans, a big complaint about the Spring Break event is that it was an incredibly long show (the fact that it started so late at night didn’t help matters). The Clusterfuck Match was a big contributor to the overall length of the show. For this year, GCW and Joey Janela split Spring Break into two separate cards, with one show featuring the primary matches that were focused on, while the second show featured the massive Clusterfuck Match. That was certainly a better way to approach things. Instead of trying to cram things onto one card, they split things up (giving things more room to breathe), and made more money by selling tickets to two shows. Splitting up WrestleMania would greatly benefit the card, and it could potentially benefit their bottom line. Speaking of which…
WWE has the potential to make more money
If WrestleMania were to take place over two nights, I’m sure people would be wondering how well WWE could draw for two big stadium shows. That’s A LOT of seats to fill. There will be a fair amount of pessimism for sure, but honestly, I wouldn’t be too concerned. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that WrestleMania is a massive draw by itself. Even with the declining ratings and general downturn of the WWE main roster product, tens of thousands of people from all over the globe still flock to whichever city is hosting WrestleMania every single year. If you want proof of this, just look at how well tickets sold for the WrestleMania that just took place. I’m sure being in the New York City market helped, but I’m certain tickets would sell really well, regardless of the city. A two night WrestleMania would give even more people the chance to see WWE’s biggest show of the year. Some will definitely try to do both nights, but in general, it’s giving more people the chance to see WrestleMania in person, even if it’s just one of the two nights. The host city could benefit as well, with the local economy being helped out (in theory) by more people being in town.
Even if WWE isn’t able to completely sell out both nights of WrestleMania in a massive NFL stadium, it could still be a big financial success. If they only manage to sell, say, 75% of the seats for both nights, that would still be more than what they would’ve sold for a completely sold out show. It might not look quite as impressive on TV, but I’m sure WWE would be willing to ignore that if more money is coming.
Regardless of how the shows would end up doing, one thing that you could guarantee is that WWE would be able to brag and boast about running two relatively packed stadium shows on consecutive nights until the end of time. We would never hear the end of it.
New Japan has proven that the split show model works
If you’re a regular follower of New Japan Pro Wrestling, then you’re very familiar with their split show approach for the majority of their tours. Instead of doing one massive card featuring tons of title matches (and other key bouts) throughout, they instead spread them out throughout a given tour. While the split show strategy means that we get a ton of undercard tags instead of killer lineups from top-to-bottom. All of the key matches are given more time and are placed in more prominent positions, instead of potentially being pigeonholed in the middle of a big show where they don’t get a ton of time. This trend started several years ago on some of the lesser tours (The New Beginning Tour in January/February, The Destruction Tour in September), but as New Japan’s business continued to grow, the concept became more common. Now we see the same strategy applied to more important tours, like the Dontaku Tour, the Best Of The Super Juniors Tour, and even the G1 Climax Tour.
This split show strategy has obviously worked out very well for New Japan from a business standpoint, as attendance and revenue continue to grow. The biggest and most ambitious test of this method will come early next year, as Wrestle Kingdom will be split up into two nights at the Tokyo Dome on January 4th & 5th. How does all of this New Japan stuff relate to WWE and WrestleMania? Well, I believe the two Wrestle Kingdom cards in 2020 are going to be huge proof of concept. Sure, you can do split shows with the smaller tours, and even big tournaments like the G1 Climax, but can you do that with your biggest show of the year? If the back-to-back Wrestle Kingdom cards prove to be a massive success for New Japan, then there’s absolutely no reason why WWE can’t do the same thing for WrestleMania. There’s no question that it’s a risk for New Japan to do what they’re doing, but the potentials rewards are huge. Given their current financial state (especially with their new TV deals coming up), WWE really wouldn’t be risking that much if they tried a split WrestleMania.
WWE could harm competition from the independents
Every since WrestleMania Weekend truly exploded over the last several years as a big event for outside promotions (when it became more than just ROH and Dragon Gate USA), WWE has tried to block these promotions from running close to the site of WrestleMania. This situation came up again in the news recently, as PWInsider reported a couple of weeks back that WWE was already working to block groups like WrestleCon from running certain places in the Tampa area (shortly thereafter, we found out that Joey Janela already has a venue booked for Spring Break IV). A two night WrestleMania could help WWE with this issue in a different way. Since most of the major groups that run shows during WrestleMania Weekend tend to avoid Sunday, it stands to reason that the same thing would happen if the first part of WrestleMania took place on Saturday. I’m sure some smaller companies would try to run shows on Saturday, in the middle of the day (probably around noon), but I doubt larger companies like ROH or New Japan would try to run an event on Saturday if the first part of WrestleMania was later that night. Combine a two-part WrestleMania will all of the other WWE events involved with that weekend, such as NXT TakeOver, SmackDown, RAW, and the Hall Of Fame Ceremony (WWE trying to schedule those events around a two night WrestleMania is probably the biggest challenge facing this concept), and you deal a decent blow to those other promotions by, theoretically forcing more of those events into Friday, Thursday, and even Wednesday.
More time spent on the WWE Network
If you’ve followed the great work done by Brandon Howard Thurston (both through Fightful.com and Wrestlenomics Radio), particularly over the last several months, you’ll know that the one metric that WWE really is focused on right now is time. More specifically, they’re focused on getting people to spend more of their time on the WWE Network. Brandon broke this idea down more in an article he wrote for Fightful earlier this year, but essentially, they see themselves as part of a larger battle for time and eyeballs (I believe people like George Barrios have said that WWE is in competition with “everything”). You have the chance to get more eyeballs on your product if you put out more stuff for people to watch, which in turn could lead to those people spending more money on various aspects of your product (that seems like a close summation of what they’re thinking, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). While it’s only one event, WrestleMania is a part of that effort. If you potentially split WrestleMania into two parts, then that’s more time that people will invest in watching the show, in theory. The same amount of time is roughly taken up in one massive, seven-and-a-half hour show. However, if they’re really competing with all other forms of sports and entertaining that capture people’s attention, then expanding WrestleMania to a second day would only help them in that regard. It’s the biggest WWE event of the year. Even the most casual fans are likely to check out WrestleMania. You’re successfully taken eyeballs off of other things, and putting it on your product.