Despite recent claims that they were beginning a new era and hoping to rekindle fan interest, WWE is wrapping up 2018 in lackluster fashion.
Underwhelming booking and general mismanagement of a stacked roster has caused the company to slowly drop in popularity over the past several years.
While deals with the likes of Saudi Arabia and FOX have helped them continue turning a profit, TV ratings are slowly tumbling downward and fan interest is at an all-time low. Not even the familiar crutch of “ratings don’t matter” can hide the pain of this fact, with the company even scripting superstars to admit the flagship show was faltering on air.
But what about live shows? After all, this is another popular way the company gets and drums up fan interest. Yet even a return to two of their major areas of popularity have shown disappointing results.
The first was a stop-by at Madison Square Garden on December 26. The Garden has been WWE’s arena for decades, dating all the way back to their first WrestleMania event in 1985. Yet the show only turned out 11,900 fans, which is the lowest turnout in recent memory, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Not even bringing back megastar John Cena and adding a big match from the developmental brand NXT could make the return to the Garden a smash. In contrast, an April show held at the same venue by Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling sold out in mere minutes. This happened months before the actual show took place.
Of course, having the event right around the holidays and not doing a ton of advertising beforehand didn’t do WWE any favors. Yet it is still a bit worrying they can’t draw a turnout like they used to. But this wasn’t the only location where they had a disappointing outcome. A trip to Chicago yielded similar results.
A show on the same day in the All State Arena only drew 6,000 people. For reference, the company has usually drawn around 10,000 even in their worst times. Though a triple-threat steel cage match featuring Daniel Bryan, Mustafa Ali, and The Miz kept fans interested, many left before the main event between Asuka, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory WWE has had fans walk out on a main event. The last time it happened, it was preceded by a chant of “beat the traffic.” Ouch.
There is a chance WWE could chalk the issues up to bad timing and coincidence. In the case of Madison Square Garden, they could be seeing it less in future years – the Barclays Center has become increasingly popular as a choice for the company in the past.
The company is now losing favor in both the ratings and live attendance categories. While 2019 may look good financially, it could be the beginning of some long-term problems if WWE doesn’t act fast to fix things.