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With the WWE releasing its quarterly earnings report today, a lively debate has sparked up about the individual draws in the WWE. With Summerslam and Night of Champions doing substantially less buys then the previous year, fans are wondering what could have caused such a big drop off in PPV buys.
Summerslam in 2012 did a very good number, garnering nearly 360,000 buys. Summerslam that year was headlined by Triple H taking on Brock Lesnar in the main event, and John Cena vs Big Show vs CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Something else to note about that show is that Chris Jericho, Sheamus and Rey Mysterio were also in matches. None of those three appeared on this year's installment of Summerslam.
Summerslam in 2013 did a reported 296,000 buys, which is really good for a normal PPV, but very poor for an event as big as Summerslam. This year's Summerslam was headlined by John Cena vs Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, and Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk. On paper, one would assume that those matches were the reason Summerslam did so poorly, and that the matches from Summerslam 2012 were much more interesting to fans then the matches from Summerslam 2013. The main focus would be on guys like Daniel Bryan, who was not a significant part of the festivities in 2012, but was in the main event in 2013. However, there are some other, external factors that should be interpreted before determining that wrestlers like Daniel Bryan were the reason that Summerslam flopped in 2013.
The big factor is Brock Lesnar. Realistically, there are only three men in wrestling that I believe can single handily move television ratings, PPV buys and ticket sales. Those men are Brock, The Rock, and The Undertaker. Brock Lesnar took on Triple H in a much hyped match last year at Summerslam and a lot of people purchased that PPV. This year, Brock took on CM Punk in a much hyped match on a PPV that significantly less people purchased. So the difference has to be that CM Punk was not as big of an opponent as Triple H, right?
Not so fast. Remember that last year, Brock Lesnar was wrestling just his second match in the WWE in nearly a decade. His only other work was a quick one and done bit with John Cena, which was a thrilling match that left fans thirsting for more Brock. Seeing him going up against anybody significant would have probably done good business, because fans knew that seeing Brock wrestle again was such a rare treat.
This year however, instead of Lesnar wrestling in his second WWE match in nearly a decade, it was Lesnar wrestling his third match of that year. We had already seen Brock wrestle a series of so-so matches against Triple H at Wrestlemania and at Extreme Rules. I'm not saying that fans were tired of seeing Brock, but they were definitely not as amped to see Lesnar as they were last year, which definitely had a significant impact on the buys for the PPV. Combine that reasoning with the fact that the WWE was missing three of its more popular performers (Jericho, Sheamus and Mysterio) and it is no wonder why Summerslam took such a big hit this year.
Night of Champions also saw a drop in PPV sales, although it was not nearly as significant as the drop that Summerslam took. Night of Champions in 2012 was main evented by John Cena vs CM Punk for the WWE Championship and drew 189,000 PPV buys, Night of Champions this year was main evented by Daniel Bryan vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship and drew 175,000 PPV buys.
Not to sound that aggressive, but anyone that is blaming Daniel Bryan for the drop in PPV buys for Night of Champions is either delusional or they do not know how to interpret facts. Night of Champions 2013 fell in purchases for one reason and one reason only: John Cena was not on the show. Like him or not, John Cena is the biggest draw the WWE has (not including the part-timers) and any show that does not have him on it is likely to draw fewer buys than a show that did. The fact that the WWE only lost about 14,000 buys without Cena is probably actually seen as a success by the WWE.
Another possible factor, albeit very difficult to prove, is that the night before Night of Champions 2013, Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Canelo Alvarez in by far the biggest PPV event of the year, anywhere. Mayweather vs Alvarez sold a mind-numbing 2.2 million PPV purchases, the most ever. I have no idea if this affected Night of Champions, but if you were a boxing and wrestling fan, you probably skipped over NOC and purchased the fight that weekend.
It is easy to say that because one event drew less then its predecessor, that the wrestlers are to blame. The guys in the main event were not as popular or as over as the guys in the main event last year and all that talk. But just because that explanation is the easiest to expound, it does not make necessarily right. People want to sit on impossible to prove statistics like "Punk is not as popular as Triple H" and use them to justify their pre-determined ideals about which guy is better for business. Unless you took a survey of fans who bought last year's show, but didn't buy this year's show, and the most common answer to why they didn't buy the show was that they didn't like Punk as much as they liked HHH against Lesnar, then how can you prove that Punk was the reason Summerslam fell flat this year?
The main thing here is that numbers can only prove so much. On the surface it may seem that a lack of star-power led to Summerslam dropping in buys. However, if you put the numbers in context and see things such as Lesnar wrestling becoming less of a rarity, then you will see that blunt statements based on hard numbers without any surrounding evidence may not lead you to a very truthful answer.