A prediction: This Sunday’s Over the Limit pay per view will draw one of the smallest buy rates of any WWE show in quite a while.
Part of it has to do with the fairly lackluster card and the fact that it is an “off-month” show without much of a hook to lure in fans. But, mainly, it has to do with WWE’s competition for viewers on Sunday night – the epic series finale of the ABC series Lost.
Wrestling companies blaming low viewership on strong competition is nothing new. Some of it is valid, and much of it is not. We get an almost weekly dose of such excuses during football season. More recently, TNA blamed its unmitigated failure on Monday nights on fans being torn between watching Impact and Raw. (It would seem they weren’t that torn.)
But in this case, WWE may legitimately be facing some of its toughest competition in years. Lost averaged about 14 million viewers over its first five seasons, and has been doing huge numbers as of late as it approaches its series finale this Sunday. ABC has blocked off its entire night for the television event, beginning at 7 p.m.
Unquestionably, there is a big crossover in WWE’s core audience of men between the ages of 18-34 and Lost’s fanbase. But putting that aside, the final episode of the series about a magical island and the castaways who inhabit it promises to be a television event on the level of the final episode of M*A*S*H*, Dallas and The Sopranos.
And how is WWE counter-programming the big show? Well, we’ve got a world title match between the still-unproven WWE World champ Jack Swagger and part-time main eventer The Big Show. A couple title matches involving up and comers such as the Hart Dynasty and Drew McIntyre. And for the third time in as many pay per views, Batista will wrestle John Cena and Rey Mysterio will wrestle C.M. Punk.
I don’t mean to criticize the show, which features a good use of much of the younger talent that WWE has recently been investing in. But it’s fair to say that this is far from a loaded line-up.
…Which makes me wonder. Is it possible that WWE deliberately held back on offering a strong line-up once it realized it would be going head-to-head with the final curtain call of Hurley, Sawyer and “The Smoke Monster?”
Conspiracy theories aside, WWE should brace itself for what promises to be a smaller than usual television audience Sunday night. WWE should just accept that fact and, come Monday, "move on" – just as Jack has implored Locke to do.
What will you be watching?
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer