When we looked at Raw Viewership changes by quarter-hour cross-referenced with WWE Superstar, it garnered a lot of discussion about whether it “proved” Daniel Bryan could be a draw. As Dave Meltzer has noted, the major elements that WWE is looking at when they’re judging whether someone can make money is: 1. their effect on television ratings, 2. their ability to move merchandise and 3. their proven ability to draw (PPV buys, live event houses, etc).
I was challenged a few weeks ago to look at how Daniel Bryan house shows draw compared to John Cena house shows. I took a stab at it and found that the domestic, non-televised Cena tour outdrew the Daniel Bryan tour by an average of about 1,000 people. This was only over the few months that both Cena & Bryan were active and touring separately. However, it wasn’t a satisfying analysis. Not only was there only a very small dataset to compare, we weren’t comparing against cities of the same calibre. It seemed like it would be possible to produce some better #wrestlenomics with a little more effort. So, we enlarged the dataset:
WWE Event Results from Wrestling Observer Newsletters (6/11/08 to 2/10/14): 1,686 events.
Isolate WWE Results with Attendance Numbers Available: 1,263 events.
Isolate WWE Results w/ Attendance Numbers that were not TV Tapings: 976 events.
Isolate non-TV Taping WWE Results w/ Attendance Numbers held in USA/Canada: 666 events.
Jun 2008-Dec 2008: 43 live events (baseline)
Jan 2009-Dec 2009: 86 live events (baseline)
Jan 2010-Dec 2010: 112 live events (baseline)
Jan 2011-Dec 2011: 127 live events (baseline)
Jan 2012-Dec 2012: 136 live events (baseline)
Jan 2013-Dec 2013: 143 live events (compare)
Jan 2014-Feb 2014: 19 live events (compare)
We’ll use June 2008-Dec 2012 as our baseline. That gives us 504 shows and a baseline attendance average for 234 cities (ranging from one WWE visit to five/six WWE visits). Trivia: the eight cities with the most complete data were for Youngstown Ohio, Evansville Indiana, Salt Lake City Utah, Asheville North Carolina, Hidalgo Texas, White Plains New York, Augusta Georgia and Peoria Illinois.
Meanwhile, our January 2013-February 2014 dataset covers 162 shows in 144 different cities (of which we have baseline data for 120 cities). Let’s look at the 136 non-televised live WWE events and compare how they drew compared to the 56 month (June 2008-Dec 2012) baseline.
Each event is placed in one of four categories:
Shows with both John Cena and Daniel Bryan wrestling (BOTH) = 26 shows
Shows with John Cena but not Daniel Bryan (CENA) = 31 shows
Shows with Daniel Bryan but no John Cena (BRYAN) = 39 shows
Shows with neither John Cena or Daniel Bryan (NEITHER) = 40 shows
Here’s an interesting (and extreme) example: Syracuse, New York
- August 9, 2008: 3,000 people
- December 30, 2009: 13,000 people
- June 10, 2011: 5,400 people
- May 12, 2012: 5,500 people
- Average: 6,725 people
- Median: 5,450 people
- March 3, 2013: 6,100 people (CENA) = -625 versus average; +650 versus median
- October 4, 2013: 3,700 people (BRYAN) = -3,025 versus average; -1,750 versus median
We wash, rinse and repeat — after going through all 120 cities/136 events, here’s what we find:
Difference vs Baseline Avg
1. CENA AND BRYAN
2. CENA ONLY
3. BRYAN ONLY
4. NO BRYAN/NO CENA
Essentially, if the expected house was about 6,000 people, not having John Cena on the show might imply attendance would about 10% lower.
There’s not a huge difference between using median and using averages. This implies that while some of the baseline datapoints may be inflated (such as tours during popularity swells such as Christmas-New Years), overall that isn’t what’s driving the results.
While I compared almost 14 months of data, the major discussion of Daniel Bryan as a drawing card has been since his ascension in Summer of 2013.
Let’s look at the data on a timeline basis:
You’ll observe that Cena really stopped working non-televised house shows for several months from the Summer 2013 through end of the year as he recovered from his injury. Bryan’s city-by-city results were a mixed bag with some notable wins in major cities (Boston, Dallas, Vancouver) and some under achieving in other cities (Washington DC, Denver, Indianapolis). The “Bryan & Cena” dates were in the first part of 2013 before WWE started treating Punk & Bryan as the headliners for the B-tour.
Additional Considerations we could implement to Improve the Analysis
A. What happens when you change the Time Frame to look at Bryan’s Ascension?
If you limit the time-frame for comparison to just June 2013-Feb 2014, we lose a lot of the “Cena Only” show data. Still, more interestingly, the new timeframe as essentially erases the deficit between the two wrestlers. In that scenario, the 31 Bryan only shows are down -1,180 versus the average and the 17 Cena only shows are down -1,023 versus the average. They’d be essentially tied, but neither are providing WWE with upward momentum.
B. What about International Results?
This is only looking at WWE “Domestic” (US/Canada/Puerto Rico) tours. Historically, WWE live show attenance was much stronger internationally. Additionally, tour lineups for international shows would seem to be more heavily scrutinized by fans for their favorite stars (perhaps stronger evidence whether certain wrestlers were being perceived as “stars”). Consider that the average European house show went from 7,800 (2008-2010) to 6,200 in the the last three years (major cool down). Meanwhile, “domestic” live events actually warmed up a bit from 4,800 (2008-2010) to 5,000 (2011-2013). I would attribute some of that rise to the changes we’ve seen implemented over the last five years. For instance, WWE used to tour as separate Smackdown and Raw brands. There was a notable difference in strength — Domestically, Raw drew about a 5,400 average while Smackdown drew 4,200 average. Eventually, WWE decided to move to an all “Supershow” routine. (There was always a much smaller difference internationally between the touring brands since they often beefed up talent on the cards they sent over and and only sent over one brand to tour periodically.)
C. Can we “fix” the baseline?
There’s much more we could do to control for the baseline. We could look at which touring entity came first, and establish a formula for what a “joint” show ought to draw. We could look at the time between when WWE returned to cities and what day of the week they were touring. We could look at who was headlining and what time of year it was. All of these factors are no doubt influential in the attendance for the show.
There’s a lot more to learn but at least we have an interesting framework to start the comparisons.
I am working on my first book, #Wrestlenomics—a collection of pro-wrestling analytics and statistics. If you’re interested in purchasing a pre-order copy reach me at [email protected]