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During 2006, I actually walked away from writing columns for LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com as I was about to get married, just bought a house, wanted to start a family, etc. But not just that, wrestling through 2006 was starting to bore me… The death of Eddie Guerrero really bothered me during late 2005 but I felt that the 2006 product really took a downturn. Kurt Angle was sidelined and was about to leave, the ECW reboot already fell apart, and WWE was pushing their top babyface named John Cena extra hard. I quickly noticed that the John Cena that I enjoyed from 2003-2004 who was edgy, funny, and creative with his promos was turned into a vanilla babyface. With the WWE boring me and life’s responsibility increasing, I walked away…
Through late 2009, with everything settled and I was staying up late to watch over my newborn, I began checking out things pro wrestling wise again… I began to increase my participation in wrestling threads on Message Boards and began to tolerate WWE wrestling again… But with 3 years taken off and some probable growing up on my end (personally and professional), I began to view pro wrestling’s operations differently. The old Tito would rip John Cena, the wrestler, for being a “vanilla babyface”… But now, I see that Cena is a product of the WWE culture who wants Cena to be the face of the WWE Corporation, to maximize merchandise sales as the top babyface, and I observed that Cena had a much thinner roster of Main Eventers to work with, particularly through the 2010s, than what Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or the Rock had in their primes.
Thus, ever since my 2010 return as Mr. Tito exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com, my columns have been very Pro-John Cena and I’m not afraid to admit it. In fact, I’m proud of it… I have no problems saying that John Cena is the BEST wrestler that WWE has to offer. He’s fantastic in the ring, great on promos, and he actually puts over other wrestlers. I know that Cena has those “SUPER CENA” moment where he destroys the Nexus or Miz/Alex Riley, but that’s NOT his decision. John Cena is at the mercy of WWE Creative and Vince McMahon controlling his every move and as far as I’ve seen, John Cena has NO creative power over his character. If there is every something to truly criticize John Cena, it’s that he’s a company man through and through.
It is my opinion that the WWE would be in DEEP trouble if John Cena didn’t exist… Following the mass-exodus of top talent through 2004 (Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Bill Goldberg, Brock Lesnar) and then the Benoit killings during 2007… He was the one guy that WWE could rely on to keep fans attending WWE events and watching television shows. Better yet, with WWE Corporation’s desire to push their programming as PG Rated, he’s the perfect guy to work in that environment. He’s a strong merchandise/houseshow draw with children and his work with Make-a-Wish Foundation is quite legendary.
With that being said, the John Cena hating internet fans just blindly attack him and try to claim that he’s caused the WWE to lose business simply by existing. Huh? The hatred is seething from many internet fans and there’s utter disrespect for Cena not just as a top babyface, but as an in-ring performer. What WWE are they watching? Sure, John Cena can get into “Hulk Hogan mode” with babyface promos and then Super Cena appears, but his in-ring stuff is excellent. Almost EVERY WWE superstar’s best match is with John Cena and that spans from CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Brock Lesnar. On top of that, Cena has put over CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, and AJ Styles when each of them needed boosts in their WWE careers. Cena put each over clean! In the case of Brock Lesnar, Cena jobbed hard to him at SummerSlam 2014.
To hate John Cena is just to be a hater, period… We are witnessing one of the BEST all-around WWE performers of ALL TIME… In fact, I’d rank him only behind Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin in terms of the WWE’s biggest superstars since Wrestlemania Era began (1985). I believe he surpasses the Rock… Cena has been the top guy for 11 years whereas Rock was around for a shorter period time AND he benefited from feuding with Steve Austin/Mick Foley. Without Austin/Foley, the Rock isn’t as successful… You could argue that about Austin or Foley, but both have proved to do impressive business with other wrestlers. Certainly, the Rock has gone on to become a Hollywood star but his acting career was just starting through 2003, his last truly active WWE year. Fact is that WWE began to decline when Steve Austin was out with his neck injury and when Rocky became the #1 babyface through mid 2000.
Today, I’m going to do something unique… I have taken all of the WWE’s ratings numbers (THANK YOU to Steve Gerweck for his archived numbers) and applied some legitimate trend and statistical analysis to the data. Through a few debates with some Cena haters, I wanted to validate some of the trends that I saw in the past (like the great RAW ratings dropoff of 2000-2004) while trying a newer statistical model on RAW numbers to test to see which WWE Champion drew on RAW. I have a legitimate degree that prepared me to perform statistics and I also use it in my line of work to help make business decisions. Hopefully, my analysis can help validate what has happened to the WWE and its #1 wrestling show, Monday Night RAW.
First of all, let’s discuss AVERAGE RAW Ratings year-by-year since 1999, the probable peak of the WWE. According to Gerweck’s archived RAW ratings data, here are my average ratings that I computed by year:
2000 5.88 -0.3% DOWN
2001 4.65 -21.0% DOWN
2002 4.04 -13.1% DOWN
2003 3.79 -6.1% DOWN
2004 3.69 -2.6% DOWN
2005 3.83 3.8% UP
2006 3.90 1.9% UP
2007 3.61 -7.5% DOWN
2008 3.28 -9.2% DOWN
2009 3.55 8.5% UP
2010 3.40 -4.3% DOWN
2011 2.89 -14.9% DOWN
2012 2.78 -4.0% DOWN
2013 3.00 8.1% UP
2014 2.95 -1.8% DOWN
2015 2.64 -10.3% DOWN
2016 2.29 -13.3% DOWN (so far – through 9/26/16)
BEFORE John Cena could even join the RAW roster during mid 2005 as WWE Champion, as Cena wrestled on the Smackdown brand for his entire career up and until that point, Monday Night RAW lost 43.1% in their ratings during 2000-2004 following the true peak year of averages, 1999. They went from a 5.90 during 1999 to 3.69 during 2004. As you can see, the post Wrestlemania 17 heel turn of Steve Austin, the WCW/ECW Invasion, the NWO Invasion, and the initial RAW/Smackdown brand split didn’t have strong results… Plus, the wrestling audience lost many fans with both World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) both closing their doors during Spring 2001.
Then, you look at 2005 when John Cena joined RAW and the following year, 2006 when Cena continued to be their #1 star. The bleeding was over, ratings went up both years. As my analysis will soon prove, Edge proved to be a legitimate draw as WWE Champion during those years.
Of course, mid 2007 brought the Chris Benoit tragedy which proved to erode WWE viewership. Also shortly after that timeframe, the WWE began to install their PG Rating as an additional means to clean up their product. 2008 saw a decline (Cena had no WWE Title reigns) but 2009 bounced back with Edge, HHH, Randy Orton, and John Cena as WWE Champions for much of the year (not a bad group at all). Then, 2010 was the year of Sheamus having 2 lengthy WWE Title runs with a Cena run sandwiched in between. By the end of 2010, the Miz won the WWE Title and held it until shortly after Wrestlemania 27. John Cena won the WWE Title back and then the “Summer of Punk” began. That was interrupted with Alberto Del Rio’s WWE Title win until CM Punk would obtain the WWE Title back at Survivor Series 2011. There, CM Punk would hold the WWE Title from that event until Royal Rumble 2013.
2013 saw some improvement in the ratings after a -23.3% loss in ratings from 2010-2012 following 2009. John Cena wins the WWE Title from the Rock and holds the title from Wrestlemania 29 through SummerSlam 2013 when Daniel Bryan beat him and then Randy Orton cashed in Money in the Bank. If you look at 2013’s data, there was a clear ratings dropoff following SummerSlam 2013 as business through that event was actually growing and John Cena was at or near the top much of the year. 2014 continued burning the goodwill of wrestling fans with the whole Daniel Bryan debacle through Wrestlemania 30. John Cena would get the WWE Title back and get DESTROYED at SummerSlam 2014 by Brock Lesnar. Brock would hold the WWE Title through Wrestlemania 31 in what I could imagine will be a controversial chapter of this column.
Following Wrestlemania 31, RAW has become the Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns show. John Cena for much of 2015 actually wrestled on the 1st and 2nd hours of RAW to wrestle his “open challenge” United States title matches. Cena has, in fact, not won the WWE title since he lost his belt to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014. In terms of pure viewership numbers, RAW was close to 4 million through Wrestlemania 31 and now resides almost permanently under 3 million. As you’ll see later on, my statistical analysis did not like Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns as WWE Champions.
But what REALLY happened? It’s one thing to post year-by-year ratings averages and make assumptions, but it’s completely another thing to dig deep into the data to test for any trends. That’s exactly what I did…
To make things simple, I built a simple Multiple Regression model using the RAW Rating as the Dependent Variable and I used binary numbers (“0” or “1”) for multiple wrestler reigns as WWE Champions as my Independent Variables. For example, if a wrestler was WWE Champion for a given edition of RAW, the value assigned was “1”. If they were not the WWE Champion, “0”. I tested a handful of WWE Champions during this timeframe, past and present: Triple H, John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Edge, Sheamus, Miz, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Alberto Del Rio, and Brock Lesnar. I excluded Daniel Bryan because his reigns were very brief and I also excluded the Rock because he was only meant to hand the WWE Title off to John Cena at Wrestlemania 29. My sample consists of weekly RAW Ratings from June 6th, 2006 through June 13th, 2016 which is the last RAW where the WWE Title was on a RAW brand wrestler (Roman Reigns). I’m testing based on a 95% confidence level, assuming that most of the data is within 95% of the average and the outlyers before and after that chunk of data will be statistically significant.
Here is what I found…
– John Cena and Edge were proven to show GAINS in RAW’s ratings when they were WWE Champions and results were proven to be statistically significant. John Cena has many WWE Title reigns from 2005-2014 and thus, he’s spread thin… My model predicts that when Cena is WWE Champion, he adds 0.2 ratings points positively to RAW’s ratings. Edge, who has the benefit of being WWE Champion mostly before 2010, actually would appear to add 0.4 ratings points positively to RAW. How about that? Edge is statistically proven to be a real draw as WWE Champion on the RAW brand.
– Sheamus, Miz, Triple H, and Randy Orton had nothing to report… They were statistically insignificant with respect to a 95% confidence level. Therefore, I cannot conclude whether any of those 4 were drawing champions or not. In the case of Triple H and Randy Orton, they drew ratings during 2009 but had mixed ratings numbers during 2013-2016. Not sure if Sheamus’s brief 2015 reign countered his 2010 runs, plus ratings went up through SummerSlam 2010 when Sheamus was WWE Champion. I think Miz benefited from the Rock appearing before Wrestlemania 27 where as other time periods as champion between late 2010 and shortly after Wrestlemania 27 were mixed. But obviously, the model has conflicts from times as WWE Champion and therefore, those 4 wrestlers have insigificant results…
And now the controversy begins…
– Alberto Del Rio, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, CM Punk, and Brock Lesnar show negative effects to RAW’s rating and their results were statistically significant. For Brock Lesnar, I already covered his effect on RAW in my 5/25/16 Column… Because he’s a part-time performer and wasn’t on RAW for much of the time when he was Champion, it’s hard to properly measure if he was a draw or not as champion. Just him being WWE Champion, however, wasn’t enough to grow RAW overall. My model suggests that simply having him as WWE Champion subtracts about 0.5 off of RAW’s rating. But again, after he fought his rematch with Cena, he disappeared for much of 2014 until reappearing to hype Royal Rumble 2015.
Alberto Del Rio’s 2011 reigns following the “Summer of Punk”, according to my analysis, were proven to reduce RAW’s ratings. Just by having Del Rio as WWE Champion, according to his trends of 2011, he subtracts 0.5 points. Someone would have to provide similar analysis of the Smackdown ratings to see whether or not this trend would hold?
CM Punk had a long WWE Title reign from Survivor Series 2011 through Royal Rumble 2013. Just my pure regression model suggests by having him as WWE Champion, it subtracts 0.6 from the ratings. But is that fair? If you count the amount of Main Events of RAW and Pay Per Views between 2011-2013 that CM Punk actually headlined, he’s headlining the minority of events. In fact, if there was ever a “cause” for the John Cena Hater Nation to pounce on, it’s 2012 especially. Cena was regularly headlining RAW and Pay Per Views when CM Punk was jerking the midcard curtain. Still, my model simply measures whether the person holding the WWE Championship could draw or not…
Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have the worst results of any wrestler from my model based on their 2015-2016 numbers. According to my model, just having Seth Rollins as WWE Champion can subtract 0.7 ratings points off RAW while Roman Reigns, GET THIS, could potentially subtract almost 1.0 points from RAW’s rating if current trends held!!! 1.0! That is devastating and with WWE still pushing both Rollins/Reigns as the top guys on the RAW brand, it’s easy to explain why RAW’s ratings continue to nosedive. Their WWE Title reigns from the night after Wrestlemania 31 through now have seen RAW go from about 4 million viewers on average to under 3 million viewers on average in LESS THAN 2 years.
NOTE again, my statistical analysis is measuring when wrestlers are WWE Champions and not in the persuit of…
I stand by my results, BUT… I would suggest that WWE has endured a massive talent drop-off following 2009. HHH wrestled less, Edge would eventually retire, Orton was hit with the injury bug… Guys who got hot, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, weren’t in the favor of WWE management and were undercut when they got hot. Former VP of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis through 2012 didn’t stock the Developmental System as well as Jim Ross did through 2004. While many good wrestlers have come up through the system, nothing like the caliber of long-term drawing power seen by Jim Ross’s classes of wrestlers (especially that 2002 one that produced Cena/Orton/Lesnar/Batista).
It is my opinion that after 2009, John Cena didn’t have a strong #2 opponent… For example, Hulk Hogan had Andre “the Giant”, Mr. Wonderful, Roddy Piper, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, Curt Hennig, and many others on that thick 1980’s WWE roster. Steve Austin had Mick Foley, Rock, Undertaker, Triple H, Big Show, Kane, and Kurt Angle while each of his opponents wrestled each other in their era as well. The post 2009 WWE has seen some legitimate weaknesses in creating MAIN EVENT level superstars. Cena/Bryan were the closest but again, they did not have the favor of the WWE Creative Team. WWE tried hard getting Sheamus, Miz, Alberto Del Rio, and now Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns over as Main Event wrestlers… But it’s just not sticking.
I also believe that the WWE’s killing of their own Pay Per View market has hurt them. Go back to my July 14th, 2014 Column – Did WWE Kill Its Pay Per View Market?”… Between 2000-2013, WWE raised prices of its non-Wrestlemania Pay Per Views from $29.95 to $44.95. Mind you, the WWE increased the # of Pay Per Views between RAW/Smackdown/ECW brands as well during the 2000s to squeeze wrestling fans of their hard earned money. The United States economy had a big recession during 2007-2009 to hurt demand further as WWE prices kept going up. Plus, streaming online technology improved to create an alternative to buying higher priced WWE Pay Per Views via piracy. WWE Network has helped ease the financial pain of its WWE fans and I also believe that the Network has reduced piracy as well.
It’s obviously what the WWE has to do… Find a better Main Event draw to hold their World Championships. But that’s easier said than done. It’s NOT easy to find or create a Main Event drawing wrestler. It just sort of happens… John Cena appeared to be going no where during 2002 until his character became a rapper that resembled Eminem’s character in 8 Mile. And he only became that character because he did a little rap at Smackdown’s backstage Halloween party. WWE officials liked what they heard and wanted more of that. Sometimes, it’s just luck… But other times, your WWE fans will tell you who they like… Just baffles me what happened to CM Punk during 2011 and Daniel Bryan during 2013-2014. Cena’s #2 guys were RIGHT THERE for the taking. Sadly, I’m afraid that the Shield aren’t the guys at least from what 2015-2016 has proven statistically and maybe major tweaks to their characters are needed (or as I suggested, just reunite the Shield).
In addition to statistically proving that John Cena was a RAW Ratings DRAW as WWE Champion, I’m happy about my results regarding Edge. Think about how resistant certain WWE officials were to Edge’s singles pushes between 2002-2005 and also sending him to the Smackdown brand. My testing suggests that he was a strong draw as WWE Champion and that’s an unexpected result that I found to be very cool. Go Edge!
Hope that you enjoyed…
RAW lost 43.1% in ratings from 2000-2004.
John Cena/Edge = RAW Ratings Draws as WWE Champions
HHH/Miz/Sheamus/Randy Orton = Unsure
CM Punk/Brock Lesnar/Alberto Del Rio/Seth Rollins/Roman Reigns = Lost RAW Ratings as WWE Champions
Pay Per View buyrates drop as WWE raised its prices…
Comments/Questions below are welcome.
SO JUST CHILL… ‘TIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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