Does Triple H know how to book a premium live event (PLE)? While “The Game” has shown a knack for some strong main events and delivering surprise moments such as CM Punk’s recent return, he continues to struggle with booking the entire show well. Let’s look at how Triple H is coming up short and how he could turn the WWE’s PLEs into full-fledged successes.
Before WrestleLamia criticizes Triple H’s PLE work, we’d like to acknowledge some of the things he’s done right. First, he’s made sure that every match on the PLEs count. This is a refreshing departure from the Vince McMahon era when PLEs featured what often seemed to be a mishmash of hastily thrown together matches.
While he doesn’t always succeed here, Trips is also making sure fans have a good idea what matches will be featured on a PLE. Is there room for improvement? Yes, but again, his overall performance is better than Vince McMahon’s, when fans might not hear of several matches until the day of the show.
Triple H’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t know how to manage time effectively. This is the case with RAW and SmackDown, but especially the WWE’s PLEs. Unless it’s a Saudi Arabia PLE, SummerSlam, WrestleMania, an international event (such as Money in the Bank), or a show outside the continental U.S. (Backlash) fans are unlikely to see more than five matches on a show. If you don't like too much of an in-depth analysis, skip this section. However, note that WrestleLamia makes it clear the WWE's shows are heavy on filler and have considerable space for other matches.
As we can see below, the majority of these shows run over three hours. In the case of The Royal Rumble, the Men and Women’s Rumble matches were roughly 2 hours and 13 minutes, which left 2 hours for 3 matches. Of these three, Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens ran 19:15 while the other two ran 5 minutes and 7 minutes.
It doesn’t take a mathematician (and that’s good because I’m no mathematician) to figure out there was a lot of filler in the Royal Rumble. Largely in the form of the WWE’s dreaded hype videos, which wouldn’t be a problem if the WWE didn’t run them nonstop during its warm-up show.
Royal Rumble: 5 Matches (4 hours 16 minutes)
Elimination Chamber: 5 Matches (3 hours 13 minutes)
Backlash: 7 Matches (3 hours 2 minutes)
Night of Champions: 7 Matches (3 hours 12 minutes)
Money in the Bank: 7 Matches (3 hours 36 minutes)
Payback: 6 Matches (3 hours 22 minutes)
Fastlane: 5 Matches (2 hours 50 minutes)
When you look at any of these shows, you’ll see a common factor, filler. We’ve already seen how much non-wrestling content there was at the Royal Rumble. A quick look at Fastlane shows that while it came in under 3 hours, there was only (roughly) one hour and forty minutes of wrestling. What’s the WWE doing with the rest of the show?
While there is some wrestling segments such as occasional interviews and backstage segments, hype videos take up a lot of time. Even worse are the increasing number of product placements and commercials.
Is WrestleLamia being too critical? Let’s examine some of the reasons why the WWE fills its PLEs with non-wrestling content.
Peacock is a streaming service that measures success by how long people watch its content. The WWE is a popular product which means if the WWE can deliver 3-plus hours (rather than say 2-and-a-half hours), Peacock does better and is happier.
As fans have seen with sponsorship deals like The Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match, The Slim Jim Battle Royal, and the recent Ruffles poll to determine who had the advantage at the Women’s War Games Match, the WWE is capitalizing on wrestling’s popularity and advertisers willingness to fork over the dough. While some fans are understandably growing tired with the increasing number of sponsorship deals (not so much in the background but how they take up time on a PLE), the WWE shows no sign of letting up.
Another reason is that these breaks can help pace the show, establishing a good rhythm so fans have a chance to catch their breath before the next match.
Triple H has repeatedly defended his PLE booking style (and TV style) by arguing he wants to make sure every match is meaningful. This is Triple H’s strongest argument as a review of 2023’s PLE matches shows little signs of meaningless matches. Even duds like The Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match and Slim Jim Battle Royal can be defended by pointing out they forwarded storylines and/or helped elevate wrestlers.
While there’s something to be said for the reasons stated above, there is still too much wasted time with the WWE’s PLEs and the case can be made that there is plenty of room for additional matches.
It’s a given that the WWE roster is too large. The WWE doesn’t give its wrestlers enough time on TV, let alone PLEs but adding two matches per show could expand the opportunities for the company to forward storylines and build wrestlers. While it’s good to see the WWE using the Intercontinental Championship and WWE Undisputed Tag Team Championship as a major attraction on RAW (as well as matches to determine the number one contender), there are many other spots on the WWE’s PLEs. For example, if the WWE is serious about its women’s tag team division (which is difficult to believe) it could have more title defenses on its PLEs as well as programs involving women who aren’t competing for the tag titles or the singles titles. Feuds shouldn’t be limited to title belts and if the WWE wants to build its women’s undercard up, its PLEs provide such an opportunity.
The WWE’s PLE pre-show is another example of the WWE throwing Peacock a bone by giving it an extra hour of content. While the pre-show occasionally has its moments (particularly when wrestlers like Booker T or Wade Barrett provide insightful analysis on feuds and other storylines), the majority of the show is filler at best and a sleep aid at worse. While the WWE may feel matches on pre-shows have a perception of being meaningless (an idea not unjustified given the Vince McMahon era’s use of throwaway matches on the pre-show), that can be remedied by putting must-see matches on the pre-show. AEW’s pre-shows often feature title matches or matches involving undercard storylines. AEW’s roster is as big (if not bigger) than the WWE’s so the WWE should consider booking at least one good match on the pre-show, not only to whet the fans’ appetite for the main show but to give wrestlers some exposure and get storylines moving at an engaging level.
Triple H’s argument that he wants every match on a PLE to mean something is valid but does that mean 1 or 2 extra matches are going to destroy this goal? Not hardly. It’s ludicrous to think that “The Game” and his creative team can only book 5 or 6 matches on a show before things begin to break down.
The argument the WWE needs filler to better pace its PLE’s rhythm is also flawed. While it doesn’t hurt to cool off a crowd after a hot match before a main event takes place, this can easily be done with matches and filler.
Triple H has been running creative since the summer of 2022 and it’s time to stop making excuses and improve his work (notice WrestleLamia didn’t say game) booking the PLEs. Otherwise, the WWE’s roster will continue to be underutilized, depriving the WWE of the chance to build new stars and tell fresh stories.
What do you think? Is Triple H doing a good job booking the WWE’s PLEs or is there room for improvement?