Strikeforce wants Dave Batista vs Bobby Lashley to headline their first PPV. How well could it do?

Jeremy Botter at has an interesting story about Strikeforce's plans for the Dave Batista vs Bobby Lashley fight that they want to put together if they sign Batista.  From the article:

If signed, Bautista’s debut will almost assuredly come against fellow former pro wrestler Bobby Lashley. It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense to Strikeforce officials, and they’re talking up the possibility of putting the bout on the first-ever Strikeforce pay per view card.

"That’s not a free television bout. That’s a pay per view fight," said Strikeforce matchmaker Rich Chou. "You can’t give away everything for free."

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker echoed the sentiments. "Absolutely. That’s a pay per view fight."

With Strikeforce trying to get as much money as possible out of the Batista signing in this one fight, it seems like a good idea to take a look at his and Lashley's histories as PPV draws in WWE.  Sure, Brock Lesnar wasn't the draw in WWE that he is in UFC, but he was also one of the better draws in the company while he was around, so it wasn't a shock that he'd be a big draw in UFC as much as it was that he became such a big draw, headlining by far the biggest non-boxing PPV ever in UFC 100.

Lashley wasn't given many opportunities as the main draw on a PPV event.  His first shot was at December To Dismember, an ECW-based event in 2006 where he was positioned as the star and obvious winner of an Extreme Eliminator Chamber (Elimination Chamber + Weapons = Extreme) match for the ECW Title.  It was badly promoted (Paul Heyman, then the head writer for ECW, decided to use his old strategy of only advertising one undercard match for some reason) and to some degree a victim of what seemed like a strategy to devalue the ECW brand.  The show wasn't very good, and while it was advertised as being three hours like all non-Wrestlemania WWE PPVs (Meaning somewhere between 2:40 and 2:50) and went off the air at about the 2:20 mark, angering those who ordered it and triggering an incredible amount of complaints to DirecTV (who refunded many of the buyers) and WWE's "fan relations" department.  This all led to Paul Heyman losing his role as head writer.  On top of refunds being issued, the show was the biggest flop in WWE history, drawing only 90,000 buys internationally.

Lashley was also in the money drawing match (against Umaga) at Wrestlemania 23 (a WWE high of 1.2 million buys) a few months later, but the actual draws were Donald Trump (represented by Lashley) and Vince McMahon (represented by Umaga) putting their hair at stake.  His next main event was challenging for John Cena's WWE Title a few months after that at The Great American Bash, the first WWE PPV after the Benoit murder/suicide.  With a fresh match on top, the show drew a respectable 229,000 buys, slightly up from the previous year's 227,000 and slightly down from the previous month's Vengeance: Night of Champions (the show where Benoit no-showed, because unbeknownst to anyone, he was dead).  Shortly after that, Lashley was injured, and when he was due to come back, he got an unconditional release from the WWE (in terms of where he could go, not  what he could talk about, as it's believed that he left because he was uncomfortable with the racial tension in the company and was silenced from talking about it publicly as one of the terms of his release),  When he eventually showed up in TNA, he didn't pop their PPV buys at all.

Batista was first positioned as a main eventer in late '04-early '05, as a replacement of sorts for Randy Orton, whose face turn the company had botched.  He slowly turned on Evolution stablemates Triple H & Ric Flair while being portrayed as a ridiculously genre-savvy wrestler who was several steps ahead of them.  His annointing as a top star took place at Wrestlemania 21 in 2005, where he won the World Heavyweight Title from Triple H in the clear main event.  The show drew 1.1 million buys, which was the WWE record at that point.

He eventually cooled off, but for most of 2005, WWE PPVs were outdrawing the previous year's event, sometimes dramatically.  Most notably, Vengeance, headlined by the Batista-Triple H feud-ending Hell in a Cell match, pulled in around 440,000 buys.  The show had drawn about 250,000 the previous year (with Chris Benoit vs Triple H on top) and drew about 340,000 the following year (with Rob Van Dam vs Edge, John Cena vs Sabu, and the reuniting DX vs The Spirit Squad as the top matches).  He was also in one of the two title matches (vs The Undertaker for the first time) at the aforementioned Wrestlemania 23.

Batista definitely has the potential to draw.  If Strike Force is going to try to run PPVs, then business-wise, this has by far the best chance of being successful of anything they can put together.

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