When the pay-per-view (PPV) numbers came in for SummerSlam this past August, registering at 296,000 buy, WWE Chairman of the Board Vince McMahon remarked that the promotion simply didn't have the right attraction to drive interest in the show.
The headliner for that event? John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan with a Money in the Bank cash-in from Randy Orton.
This led to a feud between the two that spanned three events: Night of Champions, Battleground, and Hell in a Cell. Numbers have been released for all three now, with the latter two being preliminary estimates released by the company just today.
Here's how it looks, though exact numbers are not available:
Night of Champions: 175,000 buys
Battleground: 122,000 buys
Hell in a Cell: 212,000+ buys
Battleground was the first show of its kind and therefore has no history to draw from. However, that event featured Bryan vs. Orton for the WWE title that was vacated after the Dusty Finish from the Night of Champions event. Clearly, few fans were interested in buying and it drew the lowest number of the year.
Hell in a Cell, meanwhile, has to be considered a hit, relatively speaking. Here's how it stacks up to the past couple years:
2013: 212,000+ buys
2012: 199,000 buys
2011: 182,000 buys
That seems to indicate that, much like the 2012 show that featured CM Punk vs. Ryback in a streak vs. title match, WWE did a good job building interest for the resolution of a feud where a clear winner would be decided either way.
The fact that neither event actually delivered on that without the usual pro wrestling shenanigans is not lost on anyone.
At the same time, it should be noted that John Cena's return from injury happened at Hell in a Cell and that received heavy promotion that likely drove a few buyers that may not have existed without that as an attraction.
The good news is WWE is coming up on its big money shows like Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, and somewhere in there the WWE Network could launch and change the way the company approaches PPV forever.