Updated: Aug 8
Growing up, wrestling fans always dream of catching a PPV live to see the spectacle of it all. To see the story of wrestling told right in front of your very eyes, For most, until recently, it is a dream that would remain unfulfilled. Unless you had a metric tonne of disposable income to splash out on air travel, tickets, and hotels, the chance of seeing an honest-to-goodness pay-per-view remained limited. However, thanks to international PPVs, seeing wrestling in all its glory is easier than ever.
Out of Reach
Even as soon as half a decade ago, PPVs were a privilege reserved for the wealthy. International fans had to be content with live event tours. Live RAW or Smackdown tapings were a bi-annual treat for UK fans. And yes, while these shows were excellent in their own unique way, they failed to capture the same excitement as a PPV.
Yes, UK-based PPVs did run throughout the Attitude Era and well into the post-invasion, Ruthless Aggression Era. But such events failed to meet the expectation of a middling B-tier PPV. Wrestlers would arrive jet-lagged, and shows lacked the production quality seen across the pond. There was an overall lack of care for putting on a meaningful show. Why put in the effort when a starved-for-wrestling British crowd would cheer for anything? These events played like a WWE Elseworlds comic. A potentially fun and exciting concept that ultimately goes nowhere.
However, over the last couple of years, things have changed. International PPVs are gaining popularity and, more importantly, financial viability. Hopefully, soon, the dreams of international fans will become a reality.
The Case for International PPVs
Let’s not kid ourselves here; international PPVs have always been financially viable. In times of hardship, WWE repeatedly turned to its global audience. Whether it was airing RAW from Berlin or Johannesburg in 1997 to the insane attendance number of Summerslam 1992, WWE knew that there was enthusiasm for a PPV-level shows across the globe.
It is not just WWE that took a bite from the international audience apple. No, British Boot Camp was a reliable source of entertainment for TNA. WCW, in its final days, had a successful UK tour and German PPV. There has always been a demand for wrestling from an international perspective.
Yet the idea of taking these events and bumping them up to PPV status was hampered by one thing, time zones. Despite having previously run PPVs outside of the US, time zones and their potential impact on buy rates appear to be the primary rationale for no international PPVs.
But the advent of the WWE Network changed this. With a pipeline of cash flowing directly into the WWE coffers, PPV sales became less important. Despite taking nearly four years, WWE eventually warmed to international PPVs and took a chance with Super Showdown in Australia. It would take another four years for them to become a regular occurrence. With the success of Clash at the Castle, Backlash in Puerto Rico, and WWE’s upcoming return to the UK for Money in the Bank, international PPVs seem to be a regular feature in WWE’s schedule.
More than just a PPV
There is more to an international PPV than just the appeal of a rabid group and the promise of a strong number at the gate. There is a more nuanced issue that WWE has latched onto, honoring wrestling’s past. We saw the full reach of what a wrestling PPV could mean to local fans and the broader wrestling community this May. Backlash recognized Puerto Rico’s wrestling past, present and future, a throughline typically reserved for Wrestlemania.
You cannot help but see the potential that lies in this concept. Imagine a PPV in Mexico City or selling out the Tokyo Dome, with Yoshihiro Tajari and Taka Michinoku making appearances. There is a realistic opportunity to make these events more than just your average PPV.
Wantent armchair booking is all good; we all have dream matches we’d like to see at these hypothetical events. But the reality is there is only so much WWE is willing to pay homage to. It is hard to imagine them paying tribute to anything outside the WWE universe. I wouldn’t expect them to pull in Manami Toyota for a Japan show or Konnan for a PPV in Mexico. Max Moon, maybe; Konnan, no way.
However, WWE is not the only company in the international PPV business. With AEW having a budget and production values rivaling WWE, there is another opportunity for wrestling fans to get a slightly different flavor of PPV. AEW has a track record of honoring the broader world of wrestling. The idealistic view of honoring wrestling seems more achievable with AEW.
The question of more international PPVs is more a matter of where than when. The precedent has been set. Whether you like their product or not, WWE is the frontrunner in wrestling. They set the trends. They create the blueprint for what is popular, and when someone at the top innovates, there is a long line of companies ready to replicate that business model. But no matter what form it takes, more international events are a win for wrestling fans.
These events allow more people to enjoy the spectacle and grandeur of a live event. To see wrestling in its purest form, with everyone going (pardon the pun) all out. Whether companies take this opportunity to spotlight the people that helped build wrestling remains unknown. But what is known is that more wrestling fans can now have a PPV experience.