Finding the Right Numbers

I began with a Google search for what I hoped would be a quick and easy investigation into which WWE wrestler holds the record for the highest cumulative number of eliminations during the Royal Rumble match (1988 - 2016). This was a figure that I was able to find in more than a few places, but I quickly realized that many sources didn't agree on the numbers. Ultimately, I decided I would need to count for myself.

I found that the Wikipedia pages for the yearly Royal Rumble events each had a list of entrants, in order, as well as who eliminated them, and the number of eliminations that they each scored during the match. After compiling the numbers, while some match those from official sources, not all do. Part of this is due to the way I tallied the eliminations. In my counting, I grouped eliminations as all those by the same performer. So, for my list, Kane, Isaac Yankem, and fake Diesel are all counted as the same individual- something the WWE is unlikely to recognize.

Even accounting for such differences in tabulation, the numbers still don't quite match up. I suspect this is due to differences in counting who gets credit for an elimination when more than one wrestler is involved. For example, using Kane again, WWE.com has an article crediting the Big Red Monster with 42 eliminations in 2014. By my method of ccounting, Kane would be credited with an additional 6 eliminations since then. This would give Kane a total of 48 according to WWE.com. However, my count, which is admittedly inflated by one due to an elimination by Isaac Yankem, only comes out to 44. No matter what, the numbers don't seem to match.

This is all a long-winded way of saying, these numbers have some flex to them. Sadly, I'm not aware of a more trustworthy source, so these are the numbers as they stand. You can click here to check out my full spreadsheet, listing all Royal Rumble participants and eliminations by year.

Finally, and the entire point to this endeavor, I wanted to make another infographic, this time memorializing those wrestlers with the greatest number of total eliminations. You'll note that the numbers on my graphic don't even match the numbers from my spreadsheet. The numbers on the infographic are from the Wikipedia general Royal Rumble page, which covers a series of Royal Rumble stats and facts, again without any strong sources that I could validate. Regardless, I guess the point here is this: don't fret the numbers too much. Just appreciate the greatness that we've been witness to over the course of the last 29 Royal Rumble matches and enjoy the infographic, below.

Royal Rumble: Most Cumulative Eliminations: 1988-2016

Doc Manson presents WWE Trends in Ticket Sales

As part of my ongoing look into the health of thee WWE as a company, I started collecting data from the annual financial reports available on the corporate WWE website. Although my first infographic gave a more complete picture of overall health, a request on Twitter suggested that there would be value in taking a deeper dive on various aspects of the WWE's current business. Today, I present my findings relating to the WWE's live event ticket sales, both domestically and internationally. Check out the new infographic, and stick around to read the good Doctor's expanded interpretation, below.

WWE Trends: Ticket Sales Infographic:

While I learned that my first infographic was entirely too long, and thus shortened this one, I did not learn my lesson regarding the overuse of graphs. Someday, I will figure out a more elegant way of expressing this information.

Live Event Attendance Analysis

As for the topic at hand, it is plain to see that the WWE is doing quite well overall when it comes to attracting audiences to their live events. Despite this, the international market isn't performing as well as it could be, as evidence by comparing recent average ticket sales to those in 2010 and earlier.

The exact reason for this downturn is not clear. The first year with a serious decrease in international attendance was 2011. This coincided with the end of the first brand extension, and it is tempting to conclude that, with the merging of talent into a single roster, the WWE was forced to offer less live events and thus saw lowered ticket sales. This conclusion is easily dismissed, however, as the number of international live events didn't begin to decrease until 2012.

It seems that either international fan interest simply began to decrease in 2011, or that the venues booked were smaller and therefore not capable of holding as many people as in previous years. Without a full list of the venues, and knowledge of the maximum capacities of each, a clear conclusion cannot be made from the data provided in the financial reports.

In either case, the financial reports suggest that the WWE needs to renew their focus on international markets, and, with the global expansion of the WWE Network, the WWE has done exactly that. Bringing in popular international talents, like A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, The Club, and Shinsuke Nakamura has all been done to help attract international interest. Further, the recent UK Championship Tournament and the company's commitment to an ongoing UK television product both demonstrate that the WWE is already acting upon the need to hold more international events. I suspect that international performance will only increase throughout 2017.

Longtime DDT Wrestling podcast listeners will know that DC and myself have little regard for the nay-saying, ratings-mongering mentality that seems so pervasive within online professional wrestling fan communities. Common knowledge seems to suggest that the WWE's television ratings are down versus where they were at the end of the attitude era, and that surely the company is doing much worse today than they were ten or fifteen years ago.

With these ideas in mind, my doctoral instincts kicked in and I poured over all of the available annual financial statements available on the WWE Corporate website (corporate.wwe.com). I collected a ton of relevant (and some not-so-relevant) data, put together a spreadsheet, and began sifting through the numbers to see what the real trends actually are.

Although I feel like the overly WWE-negative mindset has somewhat quieted within online communities over the course of the past year, I offer the infographic below as a final argument against that mentality. I cover a number of topics in what I hope is an approachable way, all the while showing the actual reported numbers as tallied by the WWE. Topics range from profits (net income), to TV ratings and revenue, live event ticket sales, WWE subscription revenue, and net revenue before expenses. Enjoy!

State of the WWE Infographic:

WWE Financials Infographic from Annual Reports

WWE Expense Analysis

The real issue with the WWE that I don't quite cover in the infographic is that it is an expense-heavy business. This is simply the reality of the business, given the need to tour and set up live events all over the world, and to continue to invest in the digital infrastructure which supports the WWE Network. 2014 is an excellent example of this, as you can see that annual revenue in 2014 was equal to the highest periods of the last ten years (excluding 2015. which saw the explosive success of the WWE Network in its second year of release).

In 2014, the investment into the WWE Network was so extensive that those near-record revenues were completely offset by expenses. At the time, a lot of energy was put into arguments that the sky was falling for the WWE's business plan, so much so that such people failed to notice that the WWE had provided guidance that such losses were to be expected that year. The fact that 2015 was considerable better, and that 2016 will likely be better still, is not surprising, given these numbers.

I look forward to the end of March 2017, when the 2016 annual financial report will be made available, and we can begin to see what performance we can expect out of the WWE Network longer-term now that its launch is beginning to enter into the more-distant past.

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