World Championship Wrestling continues to astound and
surprise the pay-per-view industry.
Operators said buy-rates for the organization's Dec. 28
'Starrcade' PPV event nearly doubled those for the highest WCW event to date, making it
one of the highest-performing wrestling events ever.
In fact, the show, which earned a preliminary 1.9 percent
buy-rate, was the third-biggest PPV event of 1997, besting November's Evander
Holyfield-Michael Moorer heavyweight championship fight, according to Request Television.
The show, which pitted former World Wrestling Federation
wrestler Hulk Hogan against WCW staple Sting, was aided by a yearlong story-line buildup,
which WCW exploited on its Monday Night Nitro weekly wrestling event on Turner
Network Television, said Jay Hassman, director of PPV for WCW. The event's 600,000 to
625,000 buys bested WCW's previous high of approximately 500,000 buys, set in October.
At a suggested retail price of $29.95, Starrcade grossed
about $18 million.
'This was the biggest event in the history of the WCW,'
Hassman said. 'It exceeded our expectations.'
Coaxial Communications more than doubled its normal
buy-rate for WCW events with Starrcade. While the system averages 500 buys for wrestling
events, Starrcademanaged to pull in a record 1,247 buys, said Gregg Graff, senior
vice president of programming and marketing for the company.
'The WCW did a good job of building up enough of a story
line to draw significant attention to the event,' Graff said.
Request is projecting a 1.8 percent buy-rate for the event,
said Hugh Panero, president of the network. Only June's Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight
and April's Oscar De La Hoya-Pernell Whitaker bout drew higher buy-rates than Starrcade,
'The event ... tops every wrestling event for the past six
years,' Panero said.
Starrcade capped a breakthrough year for WCW. Performing in
the shadows of the more established WWF for years, WCW has come into its own with a mix of
strong story lines and marquee personalities -- most of whom are defectors from the WWF.
'The story line that they've been running, along with our
marketing efforts and those of the operators and the WCW, has made the WCW successful,'
Panero said. 'They've come up with some formula over the last year to make their event
Hassman said the company expects to continue its winning
formula to develop strong events for the industry in 1998.
Meanwhile, the WWF has already generated major interest
with its announcement that former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson will appear on its March
'Wrestlemania' event. The WWF has not officially said what role Tyson will play, but
published reports have said that the boxer will serve as referee in one of the main
While Tyson, the biggest draw in the history of PPV, will
undoubtedly increase interest in the show, some industry observers are concerned that his
appearance could hurt the chances for his reinstatement into boxing.
Tyson is due to appeal in July the Nevada State Athletic
Commission's lifetime ban from boxing, which he earned after biting Evander Holyfield's
ear during their June bout. It was expected that if Tyson kept out of trouble and kept a
low profile, he would be awarded his boxing license.
'They [the athletic commission] had the impression that he
would maintain a low profile,' said Anthony Carter Paige, a boxing analyst. 'It may be a
balloon to see if the public is ready to accept him again, but if he's really serious
about a boxing career, he should just lay low.'
'Hopefully, he doesn't do anything stupid that would
further jeopardize his boxing career,' said one top 10 operator. 'He could still have a
more prosperous future in PPV boxing than he can in PPV wrestling.'
Representatives from the WWF could not be reached for
comment at press time.