Biggest Takeaways from WWE House Show Attendance

Chris Harrington@mookieghanaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2014

John Cena
John CenaTodd Williamson/Associated Press

WWE produces more than 300 live events each year. About half of the events are non-televised house shows held in the United States and Canada.

Today, the major draw for a WWE house show is the overall WWE brand. Yet, subtle trends do emerge over time that suggest which wrestlers are most successful as live event headliners.

For instance, a show headlined by John Cena vs. Randy Orton usually draws a larger crowd than the show headlined by Kane vs. Sheamus.

Using data from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required) and CageMatch.net, it's possible to build up a database on house show attendance.

Each year, WWE runs a variety of arenas throughout the United States and Canada.

There are small house shows in cities like Glens Falls, New York, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, which only draw around 2,000 fans. And there are large house shows in places such as Sacramento, California, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which draw in excess of 7,000 fans.

For each city, a five-year history of live event attendance was used to calculate a baseline. Television tapings and tours outside of North America are excluded in this analysis. 

Looking at 2014

This year, the average attendance for a non-televised WWE house show in the United States or Canada is approximately 4,800 people per show.

North American House Show Attendance Average
Timeframe200920102011201220132014
January through September (YTD)4,7005,1005,1004,7005,0004,800
Raw Brand (Full Year)5,3005,4005,5005,2005,400N/A
SmackDown Brand (Full Year)4,2004,6004,6003,9004,400N/A
Combined (Full Year)6,8005,8005,5005,7005,200N/A
Analysis by Chris Harrington

When WWE had a brand split, the company ran separate house shows for the Raw and SmackDown brands. 

However, over time, it became clear that SmackDown live events drew substantially smaller crowds than the Raw live events. Therefore, WWE decided to move to a "Super Show" strategy.

Live shows now include members of a joint roster. The brand split really ceased to be "a thing" by August 2013. The final blow was unifying the world titles at December 2013's TLC pay-per-view.

Today, WWE sends out two different touring crews. There's the "A crew," which usually works in the larger cities, and the "B crew," which works smaller venues.

When he's healthy and able, John Cena is typically the face of the "A crew." Whoever else the WWE is pushing headlines the "B crew." This year, "B crew" captains ranged from CM Punk to Daniel Bryan to Randy Orton to Roman Reigns.

Daniel Bryan
Daniel BryanColin Young-Wolff/Associated Press

Results

In 2014, the cities where John Cena appeared as a house show headliner had an average attendance of 5,600 fans. One could compare that to cities headlined by Daniel Bryan, which averaged about 4,400 fans. Cities with Roman Reigns headlining drew about 4,000 fans in attendance.

It's important to note that average attendance alone doesn't tell the whole story.

For instance, Roman Reigns appeared in small cities such as Reading, Pennsylvania, and Newark, Delaware. John Cena was in larger cities such as Toronto, Ontario, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Instead, it's far more relevant to compare each headliner's performance against a five-year, non-televised baseline attendance average.

2014 Headliner House Show Analysis
HeadlinerEventsAvg. AttendanceBaselineDifference% Difference
John Cena485,6006,600-1,000-14%
Randy Orton335,5006,600-1,100-17%
Roman Reigns304,0005,300-1,300-24%
Bray Wyatt275,3006,300-1,000-16%
Kane244,5005,500-1,000-18%
Seth Rollins214,2005,300-1,100-21%
Harper & Rowan135,0006,000-1,000-16%
Daniel Bryan104,4005,600-1,200-22%
Analysis by Chris Harrington

For example, the baseline of the 48 house shows where John Cena headlined was 6,600 fans. However, in 2014, Cena's house show headlining tour only drew about 5,600 in those cities. That's 1,000 fans below the baseline.

That may seem poor, but it's actually better than the rest of the headliners.

The baseline for the 30 cities Roman Reigns headlined was 5,300 fans. This year, Reign's house show headlining tour only drew about 4,000 fans, which is 1,300 fans below the baseline.

In other words, WWE house show tours are actually drawing below the five-year average on a city-to-city basis. In this situation, it's about who is least off the mark.

Bray Wyatt and John Cena
Bray Wyatt and John CenaJonathan Bachman/Associated Press

Notes

2014 house shows in North America, on the whole, have been drawing about 1,100 fewer people than the May 2008 to December 2013 baseline.

Almost half of the house shows were headlined by John Cena.

The non-John Cena house show top headliners included CM Punk (five shows in January), Daniel Bryan (February to March), The Shield (April), Sheamus (June) and Roman Reigns (June to September).

Randy Orton has been the second-support headliner matched up as a top heel with multiple face competitors.

Daniel Bryan has actually headlined surprisingly few house shows in 2014. This is a combination of the ill-fated "Daniel Wyatt" run in January followed by his wedding and honeymoon, his father's sudden death and his serious injury.

WWE's next hottest star, Roman Reigns, was just sidelined this weekend with his own serious medical issues.

Most intriguing is the performance by The Wyatt Family. Bray was prominently used in a top slot from February to July. Sadly, The Wyatt Family's absence from Night of Champions may suggest that WWE is losing interest in the group. That would be a shame, since among the potential headliners, it fared better than most.

However, until WWE can find a new and proven commodity, we'll continue to see John Cena as the company's top star on the top house shows.

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