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WrestleMania 28 Buyrate Proves WWE RAW Ratings Don’t Necessarily Matter

John Cena vs. The RockWWE RAW ratings through the WrestleMania 28 season were way down this season yet WrestleMania 28 appears to have blown away WrestleMania 27. This begs the question as to whether the ratings even matter when it comes to pro wrestling buyrates?

I remember talking about this very subject a week or two before WrestleMania on the Still Real to Us podcast with Jeff Peck. We discussed the ratings and whether or not WrestleMania 28 would be a catastrophic failure. I mentioned to Jeff that it would be interesting to see what the buyrate is and whether or not at the end of the day we all make a fuss over ratings for nothing. It looks like that may be the case.

I went back and did a little detective work over the last hour and took a look at the WWE Monday Night RAW ratings for the five weeks leading into the last two WrestleMania events. The first thing I quickly noticed was how many more viewers the WWE had last year going into WrestleMania as opposed to this year. Yet ironically when all is said and done, the WWE came close to doubling the percent of domestic eyes that paid to see WrestleMania 28 than did last year’s big event. What happened?

I think this is where the WWE and TNA as well have made their biggest mistakes. Both companies spend way too much time watching the ratings and not enough time worrying about the actual percentage of fans that like what they are seeing. The WWE (we’ll stick with them since this is about WrestleMania) reportedly live and die by the ratings. Vince McMahon will change a creative idea that has been in place for months at the drop of a hat if ratings decline. Yet the pattern shown this past winter and spring is that while ratings do matter, they aren’t as important as the WWE brass think.

I went back and took a look at the numbers and here is what I found. I am not going to link every single source, but most of these ratings came from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer newsletters found on F4Wonline.com.

2011
Raw on 2/28 did a 3.82 rating and 5.61 million viewers.
Raw on 3/7 did a 3.92 rating and 5.78 million viewers.
Raw on 3/14 did a 3.66 rating and 5.68 million viewers.
Raw on 3/21 did a 3.35 rating and 5.13 million viewers.
Raw on 3/28 did a 3.84 rating and 5.89 million viewers.

2012
Raw on 2/27 did a 3.14 rating and 4.64 million viewers.
Raw on 3/5 did a 3.23 rating and 4.61 million viewers.
Raw on 3/12 did a 3.29 rating and 4.84 million viewers.
Raw on 3/19 did a 3.10 rating and 4.38 million viewers.
Raw on 3/26 did a 3.05 rating and 4.44 million viewers.

Now as you can see, RAW was a heck of a lot stronger leading up to WrestleMania 27 than it was for WrestleMania 28. The program didn’t even break five million viewers this year while last year RAW came close to bringing in six million eyes. If I didn’t already set this up you would easily assume that last year’s WrestleMania crushed this year’s in terms of a buyrate. Guess again junior!

Last year’s WrestleMania 27 buyrate came in at around 1,120,000 buys, specifically with 663,000 buys coming domestically. If you do the math, that comes down 2.36% of domestic eyes that watched the RAW shows leading up to the big event felt compelled to buy the show. While 663,000 buys for a show that featured John Cena vs. The Miz is practically a miracle, enticing only 2.36% of your viewers to the buy show is a bit of a letdown.

Now take this year’s early estimates on WrestleMania 28 and compare this to last year’s numbers. Remember, there are no final numbers out yet on WrestleMania 28 so we can only go with an estimate. The show is estimated to draw somewhere in the 1.6 million buy range with 750,000 eyes domestic. In other words, 4.05% of this year’s viewers felt compelled by what they saw to order the show as opposed to 2.36 % last year.

So what happened? I can only guess but my hunch is that last year you had a lot more casual eyes tuning in to see the return of The Rock. These are eyes that haven’t followed the WWE in years and while it was fun to watch The Rock on television, none of those people felt compelled by the totality of the show to pay $50 to watch a show in which The Rock wasn’t even going to wrestle!

This also proves my point about the WWE waiting one year too late to do The Rock vs. Cena. While the company did great business with WrestleMania 28, imagine how big the number would have been last year? I think it is obvious that the WWE lost a big chunk of that audience once The Rock left after WrestleMania 27 and they never came back. I can’t help but think that if you gave those fans the match they wanted that the WWE would have done business with WrestleMania 27 far beyond this year’s number as well as future shows.

This year you had the vast majority of viewers tuning in that already followed the WWE product. The casual fans were done with The Rock, they have moved on, and may have even forgotten about the match announced a year in advance. Additionally the casual eyes you did grab were getting a payoff here of watching The Rock wrestle as opposed to Guest Host at WrestleMania. Another point could be that by now they were familiar with the rest of the WWE stars as opposed to last year when they were watching some of these talents for the first time?

I just hope that the WWE (and TNA) look at these numbers and think twice the next time they want to point fingers or scratch off a good angle that may not have the rating point they hoped to see. It is about good storylines, star talent, and matches that the people want to see. It is easy to hot shot an angle or segment for a ratings boost but will those eyes actually pay to watch your product? I think there is a lesson here for everyone and that is at the end of the day the ratings don’t matter nearly as much as the ones in charge think they do.

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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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