As World Wrestling Entertainment ‘s (WWE) ratings and buy-rates continue to stagnate at best, despite the fact that the company has done very well in attempting to make stars out of performers like John Cena and Batista. Or at least attempting to make new stars out of those two and some others in the “rebuilding era” where the company is trying to create the next Rock or Steve Austin. The problem is that it is becoming harder and harder to make new stars because the fan base is smarter and knows what they want more than they ever have before. In other words the fans will not settle for what WWE wants them to settle for. That’s why a guy like Cena only has 95-98 percent of audience support at live events as opposed to the 99.7 percent that Steve Austin had in 1998-1999 and Hulk Hogan did in the 1980’s and early 90’s.
John Cena is a wrestler whose wrestling is not good enough for a certain section of the audience and then there is another section of a given crowd that may think that Cena is a “wigger” or a “poser” or just don’t like hip-hop. It’s up to WWE to figure out to make Cena appeal to the broadest fan base possible. As it stands now, Judgment Day a Pay-Per-View Cena headlined against John Bradshaw Layfield only did an estimated 230,000 buys, not a great sign even if business is down. If Cena was the star that WWE hoped he would be by now, then one would hope that the buy rate would be closer to 275,000. Cena does a lot of things right when it comes to being a star, he commands the crowd, he talks very well, he has hand signals that the crowd identifies,and he has merchandise that fans would not be embarrassed to buy. However for some reason people are not rushing to spend money to watch him perform, in fact even Raw’s ratings have not made a significant improvement since Cena’s debut (they’ve actually stagnated as well). It’s still early in his title run and in a lot of ways Cena has become a legit star and he has not had a negative effect on the company in terms of his numbers as champion, but if things aren’t better in a year, it will be a disappointment for Cena and WWE as a whole. Batista is a bit different as he is almost as natural, if not more so than Cena, at the same time most would say that a lot of Batista’s success has to do with his storyline with HHH then anything to do with him. As long as his world title reign does not cripple the company financially, WWE will be happy or they should be. Batista is a guy who does not get as big a reaction as Cena, but he does have a better percentage of people behind him, probably the only people who vocally disapprove of Batista are ones who think he is a big stiff in the ring and/or is undeserving of his spot. All Batista can do is improve on his performance and hope to win those fans over. Again, it was easier back in the “old days” when wrestlers like Hogan and the Junkyard Dog (who are not exactly Chris Benoit in the ring drew huge money for having dynamic personalities, these days fans want more.
Then there are your Chris Benoit’s and Eddie Guerrero’s who are great in the ring and appreciated by the fans, but there is a certain section of fans that think they are too small or too boring. It’s a small percentage, but that might be the difference between 200,000 buys for an event and 280,000. Actually in terms of live crowds, it’s almost safer to put wrestlers like these two on top (Guerrero as a face) because while the reception from the live crowds won’t be as loud, the chance for a “Benoit sucks” chant is almost non-existent because of the goodwill he has with fans as opposed to Cena, who the rougher Northeast fans may not be as forgiving to.
The biggest problem for WWE in terms of a solution is that wrestlers like Chris Jericho who fit the perfect balance have been buried for years by politics and it would take a solid year of strong booking to make Jericho the star he could be. In a perfect world Jericho could be the face of WWE (no pun intended).