Christmas Day Raw: Good Booking
or is VINCE A sCROOGE?
– Chris O’Mealy 9/24/17 – 10:00Pm
With Raw falling on Christmas and New Years this year, will the live shows live up to the hype?
For the first time ever, Monday Night Raw will broadcast live on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. This was a decision made by the USA Network, since Christmas and New Year’s both fall on Mondays. This announcement excited some wrestling fans, while causing backlash from others. If Raw is to be broadcast on Christmas, then that means that the superstars will not get to spend the holiday with their families. That’s one of the main reasons causing the uproar over the decision. The rest of the argument is that people won’t be around, or willing to, attend the event or even watch it on TV. The flip side of this is that the excited fans are looking forward to live wrestling on Christmas, and pointing out the history of Christmas night events being huge draws.
So is this a smart move, or is Vince just being a McScrooge? It’s not a simple answer, but let’s break down both sides.
First off, I can see where people are coming from by being upset that WWE is forcing their wrestlers to work a holiday that they should generally have off. As someone who has worked in industries that have forced me to work every holiday, I can attest to the frustration factor involved there. It wasn’t easy to go to work on Christmas Day at Walt Disney World, being forced to be away from my family, to watch other families have fun and be rude to me in return because “it’s so crowded here.” I’m a firm believer that any profession that isn’t required to operate on a holiday (IE, any non-essential job) should be given the day off as Christmas is the most significant holiday celebrated in the United States. If you’re a hotel worker or a cop or an EMT, I get it. But if you work for an accounting firm and they suddenly decide you’re coming in Christmas Day, you’re going to get upset, especially if you’ve had it off for so many years. This is completely understandable.
WWE is a business that operates year round without a break. Usually, the week of Christmas gives them that well needed break. They would pre-tape their shows, or air their Tribute to the Troops special (which is taped in early December) or a “best-of” episode during these timeslots, as the shows would generally draw poor ratings anyway. This is a bold move by USA, to attempt live TV on a date that their ratings numbers should show poor viewership for. Sure, with DVRs in place and people knowing the end of year shows would be mostly filler, things could change with more people watching. But it’s still a risky venture that could draw poor ratings.
What about live attendance? Christmas has always been a huge draw historically for wrestling shows. Families who watch wrestling together would spend the holiday at the matches, just like how families who love Disney would spend December 25th inside Magic Kingdom. For live attendance, WWE should have no problem drawing a sellout show, or at least they hope so. This hasn’t been done for a long time, so there’s no telling yet how much of a draw Christmas night will be for wrestling in 2017. According to WWE’s calendar, Raw on December 25th will be in the Allstate Arena in Chicago, which is home to their most ravenous fans in the nation. That’s a good strategy, because that show is extremely likely to have a butt in every seat. I hope this works out for them, because WWE’s Raw event on Labor Day (which they work annually as it is) did not come close to a sellout.
As for the wrestlers themselves, many of them will just chalk this up to being part of the job they chose. That’s a good, positive mentality to have. I knew well that working for Disney or hotels meant I’d risk working on Christmas, but I chose the industry, so I dealt with what came with it. Whether or not I liked it was irrelevant. That being said, I do find it annoying that the WWE won’t provide their wrestlers with the week-long break they’re used to getting. Yes, this is how bookings worked back in the day, but WWE is now a publicly-traded company who seems to enjoy looking good in the public eye. Could this possibly hurt their perception? There are enough fans out there who are against this idea that it could spell trouble for them. Other athletes work the holidays – there’s always a major football game on Christmas Day – but those athletes get months off in between seasons. WWE, and wrestling in general, have no off season. Of course, other companies in competition with WWE are already planning to make sure the world knows that their workers are spending Christmas with their families, so there will be shots fired from the opposition.
The wrestlers having to work is the focus here, but what about the rest of WWE’s staff? What about the arena workers who now suddenly have to work on Christmas? Does the Allstate Arena staff feel annoyed by this? Is WWE’s production team being inconvenienced by suddenly not getting time off too? Is WWE’s office staff going to be present on Monday? The focus was on the wrestlers so much that I think everyone forgot about the rest of the crew that make these shows possible. I’d personally like to know how these folks feel, and what fans think about them being forced to work suddenly. I’m sure many of them will be happy, but there will be a sizeable percentage that won’t be.
The irony of all this was when I presented this question to my Club Kayfabe Facebook group members, the mixed reactions seemed to follow a pattern. Those who have been forced to work Christmas before seemed to call people whiny about wanting the holiday off, since they’ve had to do it before. People who generally have a day off for Christmas seemed to be more incensed that WWE would force their workers to compete rather than be with their families. Many presented the football argument, which was quickly shot down with the “no off season” retort. It seems to me that where people fall on this will be directly related to how they have to work at their jobs.
So what do you think? Is this a good move? Does Vince McMahon and his bucky beaver toothed cohort hate Christmas? Personally, I think it’s a gamble well worth taking, but I hope that WWE still allows a week off between these shows and New Year’s, to give their workers the time off they deserve. I don’t think it’s an anti-Christmas move as some have said, because it was made by the USA Network (who you know will all be with their families on this night, irony). Of course, being that pro wrestling has rarely been kind to Santa Claus, one can see how people could view Vince as a bit of a party pooper. Still, the worst that can happen is that the shows don’t do well commercially, and they don’t do this a second time. They revert back to their pre-taped shows that would air that night anyway. Christmas could prove to be a draw in 2017 like it was back in the day, so let’s find out.
Will you be watching Christmas night Raw live? Let me know in the comments what you think, and have a Merry Christmas! Meanwhile, I’m still getting Mojo Rawley levels of hyped for Halloween. Don’t worry, November 1st I’ll start Christmas hype. Although my podcast cohost Dan Peck always said that Christmas hype starts on Boxing Day, and I agree.
Question and Answer
Time to dip into the mailbag and see what kind of questions you have for me this week.
Q: How can Anthem recover with Jeff Jarrett being out of GFW for personal reasons? JJ was the tether for most of their deals with other companies, and if JJ really does own the GFW name and leaves what boat does that leave Anthem/Impact in? (@ThisIsChev via Twitter)
A: GFW seems to be in a tight spot right now. With Anthem suddenly wanting out of the deal due to how much money they’re hemorrhaging from the company, it seems like GFW may not be long for the television world. While it would certainly suck to have the #2 American wrestling promotion suddenly vanish, I’ve felt that they’ve dug themselves too deep into a grave to pull out while they were still under the TNA name. I hoped the GFW re-branding would put some oomph back into their product, but Jarrett’s departure and the network’s wants are making this a really unstable ship to be sailing in. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I hope for the best, because the signs really aren’t looking good for GFW.
Q: We’ve seen the Dusty Classic (twice), CWC and MYC … What would you like to see next? And in reality, what do you think WWE would like to see next as far as tournaments? (@DrkPhoenix6913 via Twitter)
A: If I had my wish, WWE would bring back King of the Ring annually. Make it a WWE Network special. I know the brass powers aren’t big on tournaments, but I think they’ve seen some cool success from the CWC and Mae Young Classic, not to mention the UK tournament. I’d like to see the Dusty Classic become a main roster tournament involving Raw and Smackdown tag teams, with the winners either scoring the belts for their show or getting a #1 contendership prize out of the deal. A trios or atomicos tournament in WWE would be a lot of fun, but I doubt those concepts will happen. I say make these tournaments annually or bi-annually, and keep scouting for more talent.
Q: Seeing how we saw Baron Corbin lose his MITB, would that almost guarantee that Carmella will be a successful cash in? (@Trel67 via Twitter)
A: I feel like Carmella’s cash-in has to be successful at this stage. She doesn’t have a ton of backstage heat holding her back, so there shouldn’t be a bogus political reason to hold her back. I think WWE is waiting for the right opportunity to have her become champion that won’t hurt the girls on the Smackdown side. Having her constantly watching the Women’s Champion is a smart move, because she comes off as calculating, and won’t cash-in until she knows she’s ready and she knows she’s going to win. I’d say that basically guarantees she’ll be successful, and will do so in the slimiest way possible.
Q: Was there a gimmick or persona that should have made it to the main event status, but never did? (@donmobius via Twitter)
A: In the grand scheme of actual gimmicks, it’s tough for some to make it to the main event if they’re too silly to take seriously. However, the simple fact that Zack Ryder’s self-made character never got to the main event simply because Vince’s yes men hate self-made characters was a travesty. Ryder is a good worker and he got massively over with the crowd, yet was held down blatantly. That’s something I’ll never truly understand. Finn Balor and Bray Wyatt SHOULD be main eventing, as should Luke Harper, yet they’re still floundering for reasons unknown.
Q: If Brock is supposed to be off TV until next year after the next PPV, do you think it would be a good idea to have him written off WWE programming by having him kayfabe injured at the PPV so we can have the Universal title around instead of it going MIA for four months? (Randy via Facebook)
A: I’ve addressed in this a previous article that part-timers like Brock shouldn’t hog the top title belt in the 2017 era of wrestling. If he is scheduled to vanish, the perfect time to do so would be at the next PPV, having Braun Strowman beat him so badly that he’s off TV for months. This gets Brock to bow out, and puts over Strowman in a BIG way. If WWE is smart, that is exactly what they’ll do. I don’t think their drawing powers will survive four months without their top champion around, as clearly evidenced by live event numbers.
Chris O’Mealy is a former indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. Clearly, he is a big pro wrestling fan. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community, which you can like on Facebook and follow on Twitter. He hosts three podcasts (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk, Talkin’ Talkies, and The Jersey Rain Hour) which can all be found on Facebook and Podomatic. He also writes for his own blog which you can read at http://comealy17.wordpress.com. He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or emailed directly at email@example.com. You may also contact him on Facebook (facebook.com/chrisomealy), but he will only accept a friend request if you introduce yourself to him first.