01/25/15 by Rennie Detore
From 1998 to about 2002, you'd have a hard time finding another form of sports or entertainment that was as popular as World Wrestling Entertainment. The television ratings for their Monday Night "Raw" show rivaled that of Monday Night Football, and their pay per views, aggressively priced at between 40-60 dollars per month would often secure half a million or more buys from rabid, relentless fans who loved the product.
Fast forward to 2015, and the WWE isn't nearly as popular as it once was. Sure, the ratings on Monday's are respectable but a shell of what they were in the peak years that were dubbed the company's "Attitude" era.
Today's WWE centers around a struggling network, a streaming service that now offers all of WWE's once pricey pay per views for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. The early numbers for the network haven't been overly positive and, of course, the total number of traditional pay per views bought is around the 100,000 mark at best.
More alarming for the company, run by kingpin Vince McMahon and his daughter and son in law Stephanie McMahon Levesque and Triple H, respectively, is that overall interest just isn't there. Fans and experts alike have their reasons for the downturn in business: no new stars created, bad storylines or a shift from a more adult oriented themed product to more of a kid friendly brand.
Even with all the negative, WWE still has a few aces up their collective sleeves in the way of pay per views that still generate interest from a disgruntled and uninterested. One of those happens tonight in the way of the "Royal Rumble," a match part of a pay per view of the same name that has 30 WWE superstars vying for a shot to go to "Wrestlemania" in two months to earn a championship match. The interest that the "Rumble" draws is palpable and passionate since the match has produced winners that include the names "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, all of whom are top tier talent in the company's rich legacy.
Regardless of the fact that WWE is a scripted form of entertainment where winners are known weeks or months ahead of time, fans love the passion and excitement generated by this particular, annual January show. The "Rumble" match always features surprise entrants into the match that comprise those 30 wrestlers that appear as part of the overall show. This year is no different with various names from the pasts being thrown around to be included as part of the 30 men, including everyone from legendary performer "Goldberg" to one of the more celebrated and decorated teams in the company's history, The Dudley Boys.
The "Royal Rumble" pay per view also signals the beginning of WWE's highest point of the year as they head into "Wrestlemania," the company's marquee event that is seen by millions of fans each year and often draws anywhere between 60,000-80,000 people as part of the live event. The months of January through early April is the time when WWE seems to show more interest in the type of product they're putting out and come across as particularly focused to detail and devising better writing for the television shows as it relates to their on air personalities.
Despite not being nearly the revenue juggernaut it once was, tonight's show begins the yearly time period where the renewed interest spikes and fans once again take the WWE product a little more seriously. Most of that is thanks to the "Rumble," a pay per view that is treated as royalty among fans and WWE wrestlers and executives alike.
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