Every major North American sport is granted an offseason for its players. Many times an offseason is used as a time to recharge, and prepare mentally for the upcoming season. Though professional wrestlers are not considered “real” athletes by most sports fans, the men and women who participate in the art of wrestling train and compete like most athletes.
In truth the only difference between a wrestler and an NFL player, is that NFL players have a union to fall back on. The NFL Players Association is responsible for protecting the interests of their players; the WWE doesn’t have a union. This means that despite the physical nature of their profession, wrestlers never have a chance to take a break.
If the WWE formed a union tomorrow, one of the first things that the group would do is institute an offseason. For years this topic has been debated by fans, with both sides bringing up strong arguments for and against an offseason for the WWE. Today we will be dissecting these arguments, and taking a fair look at the pros and the cons of an offseason for wrestlers.
As always feel free to let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
8. For: Keeping The Roster Healthy
Let’s face it, the WWE roster became more depleted in the past year, than ever before. We saw stars like Seth Rollins, John Cena, Cesaro, Sasha Banks, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Neville, Luke Harper and Enzo all go down with significant injuries. The human body isn’t meant to be pushed so hard for such long periods of time, without any opportunity to recover; unfortunately this is the WWE way. If WWE would actually give their Superstars a period to recover from the severe physical toll that comes with falling down for a living, they could reduce injuries and potentially stretch careers.
Think about it this way, imagine twisting your ankle while doing a physical activity. A normal person would be reluctant to engage in a similar activity until the injury was healed; wrestlers are not normal people. Aside from their actual in-ring antics, they work out and do media appearances all day, leaving them no time to actually heal. A three month period could solve many of the current alignments in the WWE.
7. Against: Loss Of Money
Well this is the obvious one, and probably the reason that an offseason will never happen. There is no chance in hell (pun intended) that Vince McMahon is going to sacrifice over three months worth of ad revenue to have an offseason. According to the WWE’s website, the television portion of their brand accounted for just over $100 million of their total revenue. Assuming that their total revenue was distributed equally throughout the year, would mean that an offseason would cost the WWE about $25 million per year in television gains alone.
To put that number in perspective, WWE’s top six earners (who are performers) combined actually make $25.5 million annually, which is half of a million more than the proposed cut. Keep in mind that the number mentioned above only includes the salary of active performers, not the entire back end operation of WWE’s corporate offices. An offseason could prove to be fiscally irresponsible for a company that has so many different projects in the air at one time.
7. For: Time To Develop
If we have learned anything from WWE, it’s that forcing a wrestler down our throats will not create Superstars. On the contrary the act of over pushing a newbie in the world of wrestling often breeds contempt for the young star. Roman Reigns is the case and point for this example, as he was pushed into two separate WrestleMania main events, despite only being in the wrestling business for less than five years. To put that in perspective, Shawn Michaels, who is generally considered “Mr. Wrestlemania”, didn’t headline the event until he was a 12 year veteran of the business.
If given the opportunity to learn their craft properly, wrestlers could use the offseason to improve upon skills that they haven’t mastered yet. Now we have a trial by fire system, where green wrestlers are forced to be judged by a national audience on a weekly basis. Nothing will demoralize a rookie more than hearing 20,000 people chanting “You Can’t Wrestle”.
6. Against: Loss Of Interest
We can assume that the WWE may be able to get their creative juices flowing during an offseason, but what will that matter if no one is around to watch? The time suggested for the offseason would run parallel with a student’s summer vacation. This is important because as of today, students are WWE’s primary demographic. With the short attention span of kids today, it’s hard to predict whether or not they would stay interested in a show that has offseasons.
To that fact, kids don’t need to watch any of the major sports on television because they can go out and play them; this is not true in wrestling. Wrestling is in a unique situation where it is one of the few activities that isn’t encouraged to be practiced by children. The only way that the WWE’s target demo can actually stay invested in the wrestling product, is by consuming it in a weekly episodic format with no breaks.
6. For: Anticipation
The current highest rated show on cable television is The Walking Dead, and the reason for that is anticipation. Not only the anticipation that comes from waiting for a new episode, but the feeling that you get when you know it’s coming back after a long break. WWE could capitalize on this same process, by shutting down production for three months and using their talented audio visual staff to create teasers during the break. They could put these teasers up on their social media, primarily on YouTube to bridge the gap between “seasons”.
On the flip side of that coin, WWE could use the idea of a definite finale as a way to end storylines on cliffhangers to keep people talking during the break. Imagine the finale to WrestleMania 31 going the exact way it did, but there being no Raw the next night to think about things. Fans would have an entire offseason to think about the repercussions of WrestleMania.
5. Against: Goes Against Tradition
Wrestlers are a special combination of athletes, actors, and rock stars, with many of them being very content living a very fast lifestyle. Though some would probably jump at the chance to have an offseason, wrestlers have a long standing tradition of embracing endurance in the industry. Veterans of the wrestling business have never been shy about giving their opinions on how things have changed, usually by spewing scathing critiques of the current product. Could you imagine hearing the Iron Sheik talk about an offseason in the WWE? It would be madness personified.
Truthfully any wrestler who has worked in the WWE after the Golden Era shares an incredible bond. That bond is shared by a select group of people who know what it is like to travel over 300 days a year all in the name of the wrestling business. While that brotherhood wouldn’t disappear entirely, it would certainly be cut down when compared to past generations.
5. For: Big Returns
Some of the entries in this list work in conjunction with one another, which is the case with this one and some of the other arguments for an offseason. Having a surprise return at either the end of the season, or beginning of the season could give a huge boost to all facets of the product. Imagine if CM Punk came back unannounced at the end of a WrestleMania, or even had a surprise match during the SummerSlam season opener. It would do huge things for the interest of the product.
Conversely if the WWE had an offseason, they could use the time to reevaluate their rosters, and potentially sign hot new free agents to the company as well as release dead weight. The post WrestleMania roster cuts usually rub fans the wrong way, but if a Superstar was future endeavored during the offseason it may slip through the cracks a bit easier.
4. Against: Creates Momentum Problems
There is a two prong momentum problem that would come along with breaking up the year for wrestlers. The first part of the problem would involve cutting off a wrestler who is just getting with the crowd in the middle of their run. In the case of someone like Daniel Bryan, who had an incredible organic push from the crowd, the season finale would have stunted his main event status. WWE management could potentially hurt the long term status of some of their rising stars because of this situation.
Conversely if a Superstar has no momentum at all when the season starts after SummerSlam, fans may not be fully invested in their success. It could prove to be disastrous if the WWE spent an entire offseason writing storylines for someone who they predicted would be hot, only to find out that fans weren’t behind them. Both scenarios would be entirely possible if WWE adopted an offseason.
4. For: Overall Quality/Ratings Increase
WWE has a problem of overdoing a good thing, If you don’t think so take a look at most Chris Jericho storylines; let’s use his recent feud with AJ Styles as an example. The Jericho/Styles matches were great, but there were too many of them on regular programming to make the pay per view matches mean anything. In turn fans are subjected to a wrestling product that substitutes in quantity for overall quality. One of the worst side effects of this lack of quality in WWE programming would have to be their terrible ratings as of the past few years.
The current downward spiral of viewership can be attributed to many things that have been mentioned on this list today, but could easily be solved by implementing a dedicated offseason. By adequately preparing for the coming season, the WWE could maximize viewer engagement and keep the audience wanting more from week to week.
3. Against: What Happens To The Champions?
So, what does the WWE Champion do during the offseason? It’s a good question, that doesn’t really have a good answer. The title holders for the WWE could be required to make media appearances for the company, but eventually they would need to be compensated for those appearances. Once the WWE is required to compensate some Superstars for making media appearances, they will have to compensate them all for making appearances. Keep in mind that there is going to be a significant drop in revenue for the WWE, meaning that they may not be able to swing that kind of bill.
So again the question arises, what do the champions do? This is the inherent problem with the offseason. Sure maybe the titles will build up some mystique while they are off television, but maybe they just lose prestige. That is a gamble that WWE may not want to take, especially when it comes to the items that wrestling revolves around.
3. For: Generates More Creativity
Though the WWE has a staff of a gazillion writers, it seems that the same storylines are recycled over and over again. Now in truth writing unique storylines on a weekly basis is daunting to say the least, no matter how many writers you have in the bullpen. Unlike in previous generations of wrestling booking, the WWE does not plot out long term plans for their stars, which has been a detriment to both character development and creativity.
With a longer period to develop ideas, writers could potentially create rich interweaving storylines for everybody on the roster. Because there would be a definite end point, WWE stars wouldn’t be forced to participate in ridiculous antics that only hurt their character in the long run.
Though with that being said, Vince McMahon is notorious for re-writing shows at the last minute, which wouldn’t work in this system. If his influence was only confined to small details of the storyline it could work, but the Chairman has been known to change entire storylines at the drop of a hat.
2. Against: Wrestlers Could Get In Trouble
When athletes don’t have anything to do, they get themselves into trouble. Heck, wrestlers have been known to get themselves into hot water without there being an offseason. Chances are most of the guys and girls on the WWE roster would find there way into legal troubles during the summer months of an offseason. We have already witnessed multiple wrestlers being arrested for things like driving under the influence, assault, shoplifting, and possession of drugs/drug paraphernalia.
Maybe it’s too much of a generalization to say that all of the wrestlers on roster would use their time off to get into trouble, but all it takes is one. For example, the Chris Benoit tragedy happened right in the middle of the summer nine years ago. Could you imagine if that type of thing happened during an offseason of wrestling? The press would crucify the WWE, and call for the company to not continue with the next season.
2. For: WWE’s Schedule Has A Built In Break
The most common argument against the idea of an offseason involves the idea of when could the WWE afford to do it. Looking at this from an entertainment standpoint, the most logical answer would be to end with your biggest show of the year; WrestleMania. So if WWE would close out the year with the biggest show, it would only make sense to start the new season with the second biggest; SummerSlam. By utilizing two already established pay per views as their starting and end point, WWE wouldn’t have to establish any credibility for either show, as their legacies would be enough.
This break would give the WWE staff a full three months off during the summer months, which may require moving SummerSlam up to the beginning of August instead of the end. SummerSlam would now act as the season opener, with new storylines and ideas being established at the pay per view, and expounded upon on Raw the next night.
1. Against: Wrestlers Could Return Out Of Shape
We’ve seen it time and time again in the world of wrestling, and there is nothing sadder, than seeing your favorite wrestler out of shape. Sure sometimes age can catch up with a wrestler causing them to pack on a few pounds, but sitting at home with nothing to do doesn’t help either. This especially rings true for guys who are already borderline out of shape, Kevin Owens comes to mind. If WWE would allow the wrestlers work for other promotions during the offseason, this wouldn’t be a problem. Chances are though that Vince McMahon wouldn’t let any of his talents risk their health by performing at an indie show.
Like everything else working against the WWE offseason, the physical condition of the wrestlers upon return is a risk. The upside is that some smaller guys could use the time to really bulk up in the gym, but as we all know, it’s easier to put on fat than it is to put on muscle.
1. For: Wrestlers Could Explore Other Avenues
If 95% of your life was spent working/traveling, you could quickly see how some wrestlers get completely burned out in just a few years. With only 5% of your time left for yourself, it’d be hard to explore personal interests outside of wrestling. In fact, the WWE practically discourages wrestlers striking out on their own, with reports surfacing that Dolph Ziggler’s comedy career is what stops him from being pushed in WWE. Whether or not that is true is up for debate, but what isn’t is the potential media exposure that wrestlers could generate during their off time.
The current WWE roster easily has over 100 active on-screen members, which means that the WWE could have 100 brand ambassadors working for them during their off time. This would be the time that wrestlers would host kid shows, work game shows, participate in podcasts, and move forward in any other facet of entertainment that they saw fit. It would essentially give them a choice, which is a huge mental boost that staves off burn out.