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Updated: Early WWE WrestleMania 28 Buyrate Disappoints

John CenaOne of the more interesting stories to watch coming out of WWE WrestleMania 28 was the buyrate. Did The Rock make that much of a difference? Well a quick look at early preliminary estimates can be answered with a big no.

An ESPN writer claimed a week or so ago that WrestleMania did 1.9 million buys. It looks like he was wrong. Bryan Alvarez reports in his Figure Four Weekly that WrestleMania came in at closer to 1.1 million buys. Whether The Rock made a difference or not to this year’s number all depends on how you look at the number.

That same ESPN personality claimed that the WWE was hoping for 1.5 million buys. I also heard that in a few different places. If the 1.5 million was truly a goal, than the number is anything but disappointing.

Most would agree that The Rock did not make a difference. Last year’s WrestleMania 27 came in at 1,059,000 buys. In other words, The Rock only increased the buyrate by 41,000. At first glance that is an absolutely horrible number. With a year of build and the return of arguably the most famous pro wrestler of this era, the WWE only saw a bump of 41,000 buys.

I’ll play devil’s advocate for a second and take the other side. The Rock did make a difference, a huge difference in the WrestleMania buyrate. Business has been down all year for the WWE. The ratings this WrestleMania season were also way down. If you crunch the numbers and take a look at what The Rock meant working with lower ratings and a down year in business, the 41,000 buys is a very misleading number. Just imagine what the number would have been without him.

At the same time, the 41,000 oddly falls right into place with The Rock’s impact on the Survivor Series. The Survivor Series 2011 buyrate came in at around 280,000 buys. The 2010 Survivor Series came in at around 244,000. In other words, The Rock grew the Survivor Series by 36,000 buys. The two close numbers are fascinating to me and really could be an indicator of what he means for business.

Once again, I think it is a little unfair to say that The Rock was only responsible for 41,000 buys. Business was down across the board on pay per view. The Royal Rumble by comparison did 438,000 buys. The number is a drop from the 446,000 buys the 2011 Rumble did the year before. I don’t even want to start getting into ratings.

If you are going to blame The Rock, why not blame John Cena? I don’t think John Cena is a draw. He sells a ton of merchandise, but he isn’t the kind of guy that you need to see wrestle. Business is down across the board and as John Cena says, “he is there all year.” It takes two to tango so if The Rock is going to get the blame, so should Cena.

What about CM Punk, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, and Triple H? Both matches were given plenty of air time and angles to support the main-event. While all of this will likely fall on The Rock, I think it is just as fair to look underneath at the guys who aren’t drawing on par with their pushes.

I think the biggest fail here comes from the creative team. The WWE brass were more concerned with John Cena getting booed than making the most money from their main-event. The promos, angles, and hype was watered down quite a bit from last year. Last year you had The Rock delivering edgy promos on a weekly basis. This year you had The Rock dialed back a few notches, censoring any real mocking of Cena. At the end of the day the crowd still hated Cena and the WWE lost a lot of money all for nothing. I don’t blame The Rock or Cena for failing to deliver the goods, I blame the creative team for taking a money match and doing a fantastic job of taking the zest off of it.

This news comes on a very bad week for the WWE. Vince McMahon paid Brock Lesnar a reported $5 million to come in and help turn business around. The first big indicator was this week’s RAW rating which wound up coming in at a disappointing 3.1. The low WrestleMania buyrate could also be the catalyst for shooting Lesnar vs. Cena to Extreme Rules rather than holding out until SummerSlam.

Right now the WWE is in a real predicament. All you need to do is watch Monday’s RAW to see why. The show opens with one of the hottest angles in years and winds up morphing into some of the worst attempts at comedy featuring the Three Stooges that the company has ever produced. Who would stick around after that? Who would watch that and feel motivated to pay money to see this product? The problem here is the writing and unfortunately that all starts at the top with Vincent K. McMahon.

It is that same creative team that did very little to give The Rock and John Cena the support underneath necessary to carry a WrestleMania. The creative mantra in Stamford, Ct. has been to level out the undercard, giving fans a world of parity. There are no superstars other than John Cena and Brock Lesnar. It is all a name game with names being mixed and matched with no strong pushes or edgy storylines to support the top.

In my opinion The Rock didn’t come up small at WrestleMania, the WWE creative team did.

Update: A new report on WWE.com claims that the show did 1.3 million buys. The new number would be historic for WrestleMania, however it does fall below the 1.5 million buys that the company expected. It should also be pointed out that this is a preliminary estimate and not a final number. The number could still come in at 1.1 or 1.26 or even 1.3.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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