Welcome to your Friday Headlines, straight from the coffin. I'm your humble correspondent, Ted N. Buried.
Even with Halloween now in the rearview mirror, some of the weekend's musings are quite scary indeed. We will lead off the week with news and notes from the WWE's Third Quarter Financial Results. The big news was the 9% growth managed over the same quarter last year, buoyed by rights fees from licensing television content. While that's certainly excellent news for the biggest wrestling promotion, digging a bit further into the numbers reveals some distressing trends.
Operating income dropped 36%, much of that attributable to a $7M hit for WWE Studios and some less-than-expected returns in the areas of pay-per-view, video games, and home entertainment. Looking for Vince McMahon to spin those numbers for you? Your wish is my command:
"During the third quarter, our achievements were highlighted by the production and monetization of new content, including the original series, Total Divas, the expansion of pay-per-view distribution on the Sony PlayStation 3 platform, and the formation of new partnerships with blue-chip sponsors such as General Mills and Kraft. These accomplishments reflect the strength of our brands, including a national television audience that exceeds the annual reach of most other sports and entertainment programs. This strength provides a solid foundation for the renegotiation of our TV contracts and the potential launch of a WWE network. Based on our ability to create powerful, entertaining content and to expand distribution, we strongly believe that we are poised to transform our business."
When you're leading off with Total Divas, well, Friday Headlines surmises that you might have a slight whiff of desperation. In any event, WWE remains in strong financial position and continues to push the boundaries in regards to content, which is certainly good news for us fans. Note the comment regarding the WWE Network (more on that later). Vince and company sure do love to toss that bone out any chance they get. WWE Studios did break their ice cold streak with The Call, which made buckets of money far beyond expectation. Good thing too, since the studio behind such forgettable misses as Knucklehead and The Chaperone needs the help.
On deck will be a new Scooby-Doo! movie where the gang solves a mystery at WrestleMania. Friday Headlines finds the previous sentence a bit too hysterical to reply to, but will merely say that we wholeheartedly support Michael Hayes to be unmasked to reveal Mike Adamle. (INC)
Lest you think I've forgotten about the upcoming Hornswoggle debacle, I give you far better viewing...
One of the bigger tidbits coming from the numbers was the disappointing numbers for WWE's major event of the summer, SummerSlam. While Money In The Bank outperformed the numbers last year (headlined by the double MITB matches, including the excellent all-heel edition), SummerSlam's take was less than sizzling. The 2013 edition tied for the lowest total in the last five years, a far cry from 2012 headlined by champion CM Punk defending against John Cena and The Big Show and Brock Lesnar defeating Triple H.
PPV numbers can always be interpolated in any number of ways, but this is certainly not good news for WWE. Many fans conserve their cash for the bigger events (of which SummerSlam certainly is), so WWE relies on them to drive revenue. Also down was Night of Champions, although the result was still higher than previous years. With word coming recently that World Wrestling Entertainment might be shaking up their pay-per-view lineup, particularly in the summer months, this might be more than coincidence.
Digging into the numbers a bit, the sheen had worn off of Brock Lesnar's star a bit by this year's SummerSlam. It's difficult to think back to the year prior, but Lesnar's return to the WWE was one of the biggest deals in quite a while and brought a guy with mainstream cachet back into the picture. By the time we got to this year, despite wrestling CM Punk, I think the prolonged feud with Trips (and their series of middling matches) may have had quite a bit to do with it. WWE was also missing quite a few of their key players for this year's event, not the least of which was Chris Jericho.
NOC, of course, had no John Cena. While Friday Headlines has never professed to be the biggest Cena fan, there can be no doubt he is an attraction and a major draw. Bottom line: Don't expect WWE to abandon the "gimmick" pay-per-views or the bigger names making one-off appearances any time soon. (Rajah)
Meanwhile, the albatross (or Yeti) that is the WWE Network was fleetingly mentioned on said conference call. According to no less than Stephanie McMahon, however, we should expect to see the Network in the first quarter of 2014. Stephanie also stated that the WWE was exploring "traditional and nontraditional" means in order to make that happen.
There is little doubt that the concept of a 24-hour wrestling channel should be exciting to the average fan to say the least. It does seem to Friday Headlines, however, that the market for said network seems to be a bit less receptive and enthusiastic than WWE's initial expectation. Plus, they need to get it off the ground before most of the cast of the proposed "Legends House" is in the legendary nursing home. (INC)
With the economy being what it is, Friday Headlines humbly suggests taking the following promo and inserting 2014 in there. You're welcome, Prospective Fourth Quarter Conference Call!
As for TNA, rumors persist that it's due for a sale imminently. The entire fiasco has become a bit of a "Who shot JR?" (Ewing, not Ross) in that everyone from Jeff Jarrett to Vince McMahon to Warren Buffett has been rumored to be interested in its purchase. (Or was it Jimmy Buffett? Some kind of all-you-can-eat, in any event.)
The latest information reveals that TNA has been on the market for quite a bit but talks have picked up recently. Apparently there is a key potential buyer whose representatives have been visiting TNA offices on more than one occasion, leading to speculation that said sale could occur much sooner rather than later. Between the storyline departure of AJ Styles and the very real departures of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, this is a company very much on the ropes right now. It would take a fairly large change in direction to get them back on track. Here's hoping that these nebulous reports turn out to lead to something relatively quickly. (Rajah)
Turning away from the business side of things, rumor has it that one-third of The Shield, Roman Reigns, may be turning face in the future. Seeds may have been planted for that switch on Monday's Raw, when there appeared to be a bit of palpable dissension between Dean Ambrose and the other two members. This groundwork is apparently being laid now for an eventual about-face that will take several months to actually happen. Part of the rationale is that The Wyatt Family has now supplanted The Shield as the A-list triumvirate in the WWE, as also witnessed on Raw with their high-profile beatdowns of main eventers CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.
Of the three, Reigns seems to be the most capable of pulling off the face turn, so this does make some sense. He's got a powerful move set that's fairly over with the fanbase and would have no trouble furthering that with the right feud, particularly if he goes up against the other Shield members, currently despised as glorified bodyguards for Triple H and friends. Friday Headlines humbly suggests WWE tread lightly with this, however. As most recently seen with the Ryback situation, simply plopping a guy into a new role without fleshing out the context can be deadly for the wrestler. Sometimes I wonder if guys like Kane and Mark Henry remember which type of promo they are supposed to cut. It would be a sad state of affairs if creative didn't have enough juice to write adequately for two heel units. (INC)
Below, a sampling of WWE's recent promo practicing illustrating just this point:
Meanwhile, Triple H has done another kayfabe sitdown with Michael Cole on the WWE website in which he explains why he didn't save Shawn Michaels from getting mauled by Bryan on Monday's show. It's pretty much what you'd likely expect, though Trips does hint at the possibility that he was behind the Wyatts' actions. (Please, no, not again!)
We also discover Hunter's reaction to David Otunga's legal commentary regarding Show's "lawsuit" from Raw (which, hilariously, was the same as the reaction of Friday Headlines). The only thing we're less interested in than Trips being the benefactor of the Wyatts would be Otunga becoming a pro bono nice guy. Triple H does go on to say that Big Show has been banned from the WWE for life, continuing that storyline that will likely culminate in a big match at Survivor Series. It's not like banning him from the shows or the buildings has done any good so far.
Sadly, it could mean no more of this:
Finally, in honor of the season, Friday Headlines once again presents the items that defy categorization and may cause severe consternation. A recent item taken from E! Online previews the upcoming season of Total Divas by discussing a serious accident World Champion John Cena had in the ring. Fear not, CeNation, I refer not to that type of accident, but the other kind of accident. Just play the clip.
Friday Headlines has not thus far tuned into a single second of Total Divas. This appears to be a swell idea. Not sure what to make of this, save to say that it's interesting Cena talks to Nikki Bella in the same tone he delivers his promos in and that she appears to seek clarification on what exactly John means. Clarification is one thing this reporter is not really looking for regarding this story. It does make some sense that they'd use crap to sell, well, crap.
Finally, even though Halloween has come and gone, Friday Headlines would be remiss not leave you with the excellent sounds of the season. This might be the single best Halloween-themed clip in the history of time. As Mr. Sandow would say, you're welcome:
That clears the final cadaver from the news slab for this weekend, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to thank you for taking time to visit the graveyard and dig up the dirt of the day. As always, animate our conversation by flipping the switch in the comments below or fire off howling opinions and exorcism tips to @DharmanRockwell or via email to email@example.com. Have an excellent weekend and I'll see you Tuesday!