Ever since WWE cannibalized its pay-per-view business in favor of the WWE Network model in 2014, it’s been harder than ever to discern which wrestlers are (or aren’t) a draw. For example, some fans assume Brock Lesnar is a draw simply because WWE pays him a ton of money, but it’s not obvious from the available numbers how much money he brings in to WWE. When Roman Reigns dominated WWE’s main event scene from 2015 through 2018, despite it not being clear that his push was working, some fans simply threw up their hands and leaned more in the direction that WWE believes the brand is the draw, rather than the superstars.
WWE generates a ton of revenue each year, so something or someone is clearly drawing money for the promotion. I don’t have any ironclad answers here about who is and isn’t a draw in today’s wrestling world. But what I do see is more evidence that WWE believes that the brand is the draw.
Here it is: tickets for WrestleMania 37 go on sale tomorrow (Mar. 19), and it’s a two night event (scheduled for Apr. 10 and 11). WWE has yet to advertise any specific stars or matches for either night. That means they are counting on fans to spend big bucks to attend the show during a global pandemic without a guarantee of seeing any specific star or match. In recent years, fans had the assurance that buying a ticket to WrestleMania months ahead of time at least meant there was a very good chance to see most of the stars from a big group consisting of John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Charlotte Flair, Triple H, Undertaker, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, etc.
This year is quite different, though. There is good reason to think that a lot of the usual crew of part-timers (Cena, Lesnar, Undertaker, Triple H) won’t be wrestling on this card. This year’s cast of part-timers (Edge, Shane McMahon, Bad Bunny) is very underwhelming compared to the typical group from recent years. But that’s not a problem for WWE if the brand is the draw, rather than the individual stars.
On top of that, the fact that WrestleMania is two nights means if you are attending exactly one of the nights live in the stadium, you are no longer guaranteed to see the specific star who might happen to be your own personal draw.
For example, it’s not clear which night Sasha Banks is wrestling on, so which night is a Sasha Banks super fan supposed to buy a ticket for? WWE won’t bother to tell you, because they don’t think you are buying your ticket to specifically see Sasha Banks. The brand is the draw.
Roman Reigns and Edge seem like a decent bet to wrestle on night two, but it’s not a lock; Reigns has not wrestled in the main event of any pay-per-view in almost six months. There’s even a chance that Roman Reigns could be replaced in that match by Daniel Bryan, pending the outcome of Fastlane this weekend. So go ahead and buy a ticket for night two to see Reigns and Edge, I suppose, but it would be nice if WWE made it official.
What if Kevin Owens is your guy? He’s currently worried that he might not have a spot on either night of WrestleMania. This implies that he believes WWE doesn’t think he is a draw.
How about Charlotte Flair? AJ Styles and New Day? Braun Strowman? Asuka? Bad Bunny? Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley? We can make a guess about McIntyre and Lashley wrestling on night one if Reigns and Edge are wrestling on night two, but the rest are a complete toss up. None of this matters though, because WWE assumes the brand is the draw.
Things are strange during a global pandemic, and creative plans can quickly change due to unforeseen circumstances. Last year’s WrestleMania card was strongly altered by that fact. But last year’s two night event didn’t have to worry about selling tickets to live fans. That’s not the case this year, where WWE is apparently hoping to sell 25,000 tickets each night.
Tickets go on sale tomorrow, but we don’t know which stars are appearing on either night. I get that it’s not realistic to have 16 to 18 matches all laid out and divided up across the two nights already. But it feels like there at least should have been some plan in place to announce specific nights for the top 6 to 8 matches by now, because those matches presumably include the stars who WWE thinks are their top draws.
Maybe WWE is right not to be too concerned about this. The WrestleMania brand is strong, and WWE is assuming that will be enough to overcome the lack of a specific match lineup for either night when tickets go on sale. But I think back to my experience with attending WrestleMania 29 in 2013. If in some alternate universe that was a two night event, and I ended up buying a ticket to the night that didn’t feature CM Punk vs. The Undertaker, it would have completely upended my experience as a fan. That one match made the show worth it for me.
Of course, it’s very possible that WWE isn’t blindly assuming they can bring in 25,000 fans each night without individual matches announced for each card. Long-term planning is anathema to Vince McMahon’s creative whims, where everything can change on a dime for any reason or no reason at all; it could simply be a situation where WWE would prefer to have some stars or matches advertised for specific nights, but their booking process is too dysfunctional to carry out that sensible goal.
I have to assume that the reason Drew McIntyre vs Bobby Lashley was announced this week for WrestleMania 37, rendering McIntyre’s Fastlane match against Sheamus to be pointless, is because McMahon thinks that Lashley vs. McIntyre has some value as a ticket seller. But if I’m a paying customer who is spending big bucks for my ticket tomorrow, how will I know which night to buy a ticket for to see that fight if WWE doesn’t directly tell me?
Do you think there is any potential downside to WWE for selling tickets without any matches set in stone specifically for night one or night two of WrestleMania 37? Or is the WWE and WrestleMania brand strong enough that this is much ado about nothing?