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WWE Extreme Rules Buyrate An Extreme Disappointment

John Cena is not drawing good WWE pay per view numbersEarly estimates are in for the WWE Extreme Rules 2011 North America buyrate and they aren’t good. According to one report, the Extreme Rules pulled in a mere 65,000 buys domestically for the WWE. The number indicates a very troublesome in WWE pay per view business.

Dave Meltzer broke the news on his F4Wonline.com podcast. According to Meltzer, the early estimates in for Extreme Rules peg the domestic number at just 65,000 buys. Should 65,000 be the official number, Extreme Rules would tie WWE Over the Limit 2011 as the second lowest ordered WWE pay per view in North America in the history of the company. Hey, at least they are consistent.

The number is a big story and a real troubling sign of what could be one of the worst years in over a decade of domestic pay per view business for the WWE. It would also seem to indicate several things. One, The Miz was a flop as WWE champion. Two, it is time to re-evaluate John Cena and his push. Three, gimmicks have become completely diluted in pro wrestling. Four, the WWE couldn’t maintain even a fraction of the momentum it had achieved with WrestleMania 27.

Let’s take a quick look at all of these points and a few others. One, The Miz was one of the worst drawing WWE champions in history if you look at his ratings, buyrates, and live attendance figures. Was it his fault or the way he was booked? That is certainly a debate worth having but the bottom line here is that nobody cared about seeing him beat the way fans should care about a heel world champion.

Two, I am really sick and tired of hearing people compare John Cena to WWE megastars of the past like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, Bruno Sammartino, etc. Perception isn’t always reality. Just because you turn on television every week and see a lot of kids wearing John Cena t-shirts at ringside doesn’t mean that they are either buying pay per views or convincing their parents to buy them. The WWE has marketed their top babyface almost exclusively to children which works great for the short term, but the kids aren’t ordering pay per views. I know plenty of older fans so disgusted with John Cena that they just stopped watching other than a WrestleMania here and there. It really is time to make some kind of change after six years endless pushing.

Other than Bruno, I don’t think Rock, Austin, or even Hogan were pushed as hard past five years consecutively. The biggest issue here is who else do they have? I really like what Randy Orton has been doing lately but the ratings on SmackDown with him as the focal point are declining on a weekly basis. Nobody else in the company has been positioned as the heir apparent to Cena which really puts the WWE in a bind here. As much as they need to make a change up top, their options are incredibly limited.

Another thing to note here is that the pay per view came 24 hours after the UFC’s biggest pay per view of the year. Early estimates in for the UFC 129 buyrate are at around 1 million. Could the UFC be stealing the WWE audience? Actually I think this goes back to something Vince McMahon said last month in a conference call. He said that the UFC is competition in the sense that the pay per view companies are taking ad dollars that would have been allocated to the WWE and spending them on the UFC. I could definitely see that being a factor when it comes to Extreme Rules and UFC 129.

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To be fair, Over the Limit did the same numbers without competition from the UFC. So that argument could be nullified if you break down the month to month numbers. I do know a lot of people who like both the UFC and the WWE, but they aren’t choosing one over the other for any other reason than quality. They would be happy to order a WWE pay per view that is of quality, but to them, most aren’t and that is evident in the numbers.

I also think that there has been such an emphasis on ratings by the WWE that it has completely killed their pay per view business. I write this often about TNA Wrestling but it is the same for the WWE. In the past, pro wrestling used television to promote their pay per views. Today, the opposite seems true. Why would anyone pay $50 to watch John Cena vs. The Miz when they have either watched them wrestle on television already in singles or tag team matches or know that they will get it for free at some point? There really is no need to order WWE pay per views with the way they produce their television these days.

One final point on Extreme Rules and I don’t know whether this had anything to do with it or not. Extreme Rules came less than a week after the WWE Draft. All of the promotional work going into the last week of the show was put on the draft. Additionally, the final match was changed from its originally advertised main event only a couple of weeks before the show. Honestly, I can’t imagine that match change specifically hurting the show. However, between the changes and the draft, the amount of inconsistency and sporadic booking could have killed interest in the show.

For the record, the lowest buyrate in North America for a WWE pay per view came in 2006 for December to Dismember. The WWE returns to pay per view with Money in the Bank. Last year’s Money in the Bank received 99,000 buys in North America. If the buyrates continue to drop at current levels compared to last year, the WWE may hit rock bottom by Night of Champions in September.

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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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