Ratings aren’t the only metric by which WWE is lagging behind past years.
As chronicled in Wrestling Observer (subscription required but recommended), live event attendance was down 30% from May 2015 to the same month this year. John Cena’s absence was a major factor in the drop from an average of 5,600 tickets sold last year to 3,900 in May of 2016. But things get interesting when comparing the two rosters and the guys headlining different shows happening at the same time.
One tour was regularly main evented by then-WWE champ Roman Reigns. The other by Dean Ambrose. Despite the Reigns’ show usually running in larger markets, attendance figures were reportedly equal for both tours.
On the episode of Wrestling Observer Radio which aired after the Money in the Bank pay-per-view (PPV) where Ambrose won the title last night (June 19), Dave Meltzer openly wondered about the connection between those figures and the decision to put the strap on Ambrose in Las Vegas:
Last month the 'B' shows with Dean Ambrose, that were often in smaller markets, were drawing just as well as the 'A' shows with Roman Reigns.
Roman Reigns is drawing really bad. Before he wasn't, but now he is, so now it's an issue. Does that mean that it led to this, or is this just another way to get Roman Reigns more over, because that's been the goal for the last however long?
Time will tell.
We as fans don’t have access to all the information the company uses to determine who is a “draw”, but it’s hard to imagine the Observer’s figures haven’t been kicked around at Titan Towers. There’s a debate among fans and industry insiders about what ratings actually tell us about interest in the WWE product, but the numbers there with the Big Dog on top don’t help his cause, either.
It looks like taking the belt off Roman is a reaction to these data points. Meltzer’s question stands, though. Is it because they’ve decided to go another way, or because they (meaning Vince) think he needs to overcome more obstacles to get fans interested?