Capitol Bash: An Objective Look at WWE's Pay-Per-View Presentation

Benjamin BenyaCorrespondent IIJune 7, 2011

For the better part of the past two months, I've remained incredibly quiet on the Bleacher Report syndicate and the writing pages in general. During my sabbatical from one of my great passions, I've been able to more closely examine sports and entertainment within their current confines and without the shackles of a deadline.

Things aren't always easy for a wrestling historian when it comes to stories and ideas, particularly with such a plethora of writers willing to saturate the market with their knowledge and content. If five years ago, the publication of wrestling materials had been as intently viewed and distributed as it is now, I would never have taken so much time away from the business.

Through all of my articles, speeches and lectures on the topic of this business however, I sometimes lose sight of the exceptional editorial art that many are most famous for. Through various pieces of poking and prodding, I've been enticed and motivated into finally putting out some new content, but it isn't what I would have expected.

I find myself writing to you this day with a sense of entitlement coming from the former World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE, Inc. may now be shifting their focus toward becoming one of the biggest entertainment moguls in pop culture history, but this one-ring circus isn't without its foibles. Within WWE's brilliant marketing scheme and design, there are ghosts in the machine.

Over the past few months, in my absence, WWE has been busy renaming and re-thinking several of their biggest draws for a more hopeful profit in the future. Yes, the economy is turning, but interest in the company is still not where it could be, and a few bandages here and there are being applied in an effort to stop any bleeding.

Statistically, pay-per-view has become the biggest benefactor (outside of the live gate) that WWE thrives on. From Vince McMahon's cut-throat negotiations on both WrestleMania and the Survivor Series to the continued adjustments on the 12-month calendar, the company is ever mindful of what the fans are aching to see.

That said, something is still missing from the current selections, and perhaps, it has been there all along as the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Concept pay-per-views that take gimmicks to their limit have run roughshod over the schedule. A brand war event didn't work. A submission event didn't work. A Fatal 4-way event didn't work. A tag-team elimination event is constantly disappearing and reappearing on the slate.

The magicians at work behind the scenes are continually pulling tricks the crowd failed to ask for or wanted to see. As we gear up for an event that should, for all intents and purposes, be just another big pay-per-view to kick of the summer, something remains a bit off.

Outside of May's Over the Limit festivities, WWE hasn't got much in the way of a pay-per-view that doesn't come saddled with a big selling shroud. When WWE discovered that their June 19, 2011 event was to take place in our nation's capital, they went gung-ho with patriotism and created vignettes and promotion for Capitol Punishment.

Even the most jaded or distant of fans has to take one look at this piece and see where its going. A patriotic display of wrestling nestled closely to Independence Day featuring superstars competing for prized possessions?

Sounds like the Great American Bash to me.

Certainly the bells and whistles are ringing above your head now, but if you managed to somehow negate the Bash from existence, then rest assured, with every revelation for the future there is a mirror to the past.

As the legend goes, the Great American Bash was devised by Jim Crockett Promotions and then NWA wrestler Dusty Rhodes as a major wrestling event that would draw a massive gate and showcase the best wrestling the world had to offer. In 1985, that vision became an overwhelming reality, and the Bash was a must-see event for any fan across the country.

The Bash soon gained great steam in the wrestling community, causing fans to clamor for more as the years went by. They'd get it, as once again the American Dream delivered the awe-inspiring WarGames match. Known as "The Match Beyond," WarGames was a massive, two-ring steel cage match between teams of rivals that would clash in a bloody brawl for supremacy.

The Great American Bash would even become a staple of the WCW way of things when the business picked up to extensive pay-per-view options in the '90s. Classic confrontations featuring characters like Rhodes, Sting, Ric Flair, and the Road Warriors made the Great American Bash a truly spectacular event that rivaled not only WrestleMania but also Starrcade, the NWA's original gem.

So why, then, does such an event with such proud heritage and foundation not carry on in an appropriate manner? Why does WWE insist on creating a completely different yet parallel event that exhibits the same ideals and excitement? Wouldn't you logically make more money on an established name rather than an unproven one?

So many questions and such odd answers to provide.

At some point, fans, writers and pundits created the concept that Vince McMahon, the omniscient figurehead in the WWE mountain, simply hated WCW, the NWA and anything that he himself did not create. That line of thinking gave weight to the argument that he would simply bury any product that wasn't his own until the crowd realized that only WWE could survive.

So in an almost universally Pavlovian style, McMahon, the same man who helped the "Invasion" barely break even and the same man who took "extreme" to the limits of zombies and vampires, developed a slow play on the Great American Bash.

Follow me, if you will, for the following borders on conspiracy theory, and, to be honest, I won't usually get into that.

For six years, WWE resurrected the Great American Bash as a banner for one of their Summer events. For five of those six years (The sixth being a pay-per-view named simply "The Bash"), the idea of this patriotic show of glory and valor was to continue the promotion of a continued legacy in the WWE family. Or so we thought.

The truth of the matter was that not one of these events was anywhere near as exemplary as the event had become known for being. Instead of WarGames or the beginning of the Sting/Flair feud of the decade, fans were treated to elevated liver enzymes, Punjabi Prisons, Concrete Crypts and a terrorist burial. Things were so bad, in fact, that this isn't the first time I've documented the lengths of repugnance these events produced.

Vince sure does love injecting that "lethal dose of poison" into anything he even remotely created.

Assuming, however, that the Great American Bash was always to be thrown away would be foolish...wouldn't it? I mean, this was the event that spawned WarGames, and sure, in the WCW era, it moved back to the Fall Brawl event, but it still had legs as an amazing match fans always wanted to see.

Why didn't WWE ever bring back WarGames? Was it because it was too similar to the Elimination Chamber? Was it because TNA beat them to the punch with their highly praised and successful Lethal Lockdown affair? Was it because it wouldn't fly under the PG banner?

All of these excuses are better than the globally accepted reason the company disbanded thoughts of a WarGames main event.

Truth be told, it all came back to money, as it often does. The decision was made that having a two-ring setup was simply too time-consuming and cut off way too many floor seats (approximately $40,000 worth, assuming these ringside seats were the highest price available) to be cost effective.

Never mind the fact that we have a stage that escalates past the upper deck and cuts off nearly 2,000 butts in every arena across the country, because where we really need to cash-in is up close and personal in the most expensive way imaginable.

Perhaps drawing both concepts together would help us get some bigger realization as well. It wasn't a WWE event and it wasn't worth investing too much money in. Why? Because this wasn't the biggest event of the summer anymore. That honor had to go to Summer Slam and Summer Slam alone. The Great American Bash could draw colossal business, but it would send the financiers into a panic if Summer Slam didn't hit the same bank.

In the end, isn't money what it is all about? The Great American Bash didn't make money for WWE because they did everything they could to distance themselves from the concept long ago. They dropped the red, white, and blue by year five and then, by year six, they dropped the "Great American" as well.Year seven was a complete miss with the re-branded Fatal 4-Way event, and so it was back to the drawing board with the same idea and a brand new name.

Remember when Lisa Lionheart hit shelves across the country and was well on its way to becoming the biggest girls toy Springfield had ever scene? All of that changed when a palette of the same old Malibu Stacy with a "new" hat showed up.

Rest assured that Capitol Punishment is that same Malibu Stacy using the same packaging and a new hat to entice the fans away from what could be so much more.