Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wrestlemania Brand Put To The Ultimate Test In Dallas Next Year

In recent years WWE has touted about the power of the brand that is Wrestlemania. It has grown to be a massive event that is bid on not unlike things like the Super Bowl and other major sporting events. Last year Forbes Magazine ranked Wrestlemania as one of the top 40 valuable brands in sports. Estimating the value of the Wrestlemania brand at 105 million dollars.

It has been wildly stated in wrestling circles that Wrestlemania sells itself before any match is ever announced. All of these statements and the brand of Wrestlemania are going to take the ultimate test in April 2016, as Wrestlemania will play in its largest venue ever. AT&T Stadium the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys has a capacity that is over 105.000 people potentially. This would leave the door open to smash the much-debated indoor attendance record set at Wrestlemania III of over 93,000 at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Yet the WWE product has not been in such rough shape in some time. The upcoming Wrestlemania in Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area of California is set to go in a couple months.  The thought has been the WWE plans to head to Mania with a Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar main event. Much debate has been made if they will stick with this direction. Reigns lack of being over with fans, the return of Daniel Bryan and the uncertain status of Brock Lesnar all factors in such a change. The Royal Rumble will likely set in motion the direction we are heading as the road to Wrestlemania begins.

This could potentially be the first Wrestlemania without the Undertaker. It will definitely be the first without his historic Wrestlemania Streak on the line as it came to a crashing end last year at the hands of Brock Lesnar. Most feel Taker will headline the Hall of Fame in Dallas as one of the attractions to help fill AT&T Stadium and draw fans to Wrestlemania weekend in Texas in 2016.

Still the question looms what else the WWE can pull out of its hat to try to get this massive stadium filled. Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant headlined that show that broke the record in Detroit. It was billed as a once in a lifetime confrontation with Andre the Giant’s 15 year undefeated streak being placed against the three plus year title reign of Hulk Hogan. On the under card of this show feature what would be regarded as one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time with Randy Savage finally going in the Hall of Fame this year defending his Intercontinental against Ricky Steamboat. An angle was built over the span of 6 months with Savage injuring Steamboat and putting his career in jeopardy smashing his throat against a guardrail and with the ring bell.

What does the WWE have now that could capture the imagination of fans like that? Do they need to have something that good or is the brand of Wrestlemania big enough that it doesn’t matter. Just like events like the Super Bowl that sell regardless of who is in the game itself. It is just the fact of being at the event.

Could it be just the idea of being part of history in the largest crowd factor into the motivation for fans to head out to Texas?

Wrestling was reaching a fever pitch at the time of Wrestlemania III but currently everyone would concede the WWE is in a down period. Yet they boldly or perhaps arrogantly march into Cowboys Stadium to announce their plans to break their attendance record.

This could be a massive embarrassment for the WWE if they can not come through and sellout this massive stadium. The WWE once tried this before where Wrestle Mania VII was originally scheduled to go in the L.A Sports Coliseum and was moved to the L.A Sports Arena instead. WWE claimed it was done to do concerns for safety over threats of terrorism tied to the Iraq and U.S War. The reality was ticket sales were poor and they avoided the embarrassment of a less than capacity stadium.

It is safe to say that backing out of this endeavor will not be an option. It is a real risk the WWE is taking with perhaps the most valuable asset they have left being Wrestlemania. The event has had gambles like this in it’s past and came out the better on the other side. The original Wrestlemania Vince McMahon literally had put everything he had into it banking on its success. People thought it was insane to go to Silverdome but that became the high point of wrestling boom of the 80’s.

They say everything is bigger in Texas and the WWE is going all in to try and pull off the largest Wrestlemania in history. They do it with no obvious main attraction to attract over 100,000 people to attend. One match that might have had that appeal was a return of Stone Cold Steve Austin to the ring to take on C.M Punk but that dream is pretty much dead. You have to wonder what match they will have next year to headline this show. This while it is still somewhat unclear the direction they will head for this Wrestlemania. If this Wrestlemania fails to impress what that could mean for next year could be devastating.

It is going to be a true test of if wrestling or more to the point WWE is as strong as it has been in the past. It will be referendum of sort on the state of the WWE. If they are successful, they will use it as a claim that the business is fine. If not it will make people seriously consider the state of the company. The Network has been a pretty underwhelming endeavor to this point. They can’t afford to fail with this one.