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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Summerslam vs. The Royal Rumble - Which is #2?
By The Doc
Jul 21, 2013 - 12:31:03 PM

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Summerslam vs. Royal Rumble: Which is the True #2?

Earlier this year, I set out to statistically classify each Wrestlemania from #1 to #28, definitively naming "the greatest" by combining the various criterion used to traditionally rank and file such matters. While recently viewing an old Summerslam in anticipation for the 2013 Summer Classic in four weeks, I was struck by a comment made by Jim Ross that Summerslam was "unquestionably the second biggest PPV on the WWE calendar." Though I have long shared this belief, I have also been doing a lot of PPV buyrate research over the last couple of years - and, for quite awhile, Summerslam has been soundly defeated in the fiscal category by The Royal Rumble, begging the question, "Is Summerslam really #2? Or is The Royal Rumble?"

Using the same formula that I used for the "Wrestlemania Rankings," I compared Summerslam and the Rumble. I used PPV buyrate figures only (no PPV buy numbers this time), an "Importance" factor declaring a historical significance victor from year-to-year, and a breakdown of which event fared better critically, in terms of performance. The results were very close.

Buyrate Battle

(Royal Rumble to Summerslam)

1989 – 1.50 to 4.80
1990 – 2.00 to 3.80
1991 – 3.10 to 2.70
1992 – 1.80 to 1.50
1993 – 1.25 to 1.20
1994 – 0.90 to 1.30
1995 – 1.00 to 0.90
1996 – 1.10 to 0.58
1997 – 0.70 to 0.80
1998 – 0.97 to 1.48
1999 – 1.88 to 1.47
2000 – 1.60 to 1.4
2001 – 1.35 to 1.32
2002 – 1.60 to 1.32
2003 – 0.95 to .94
2004 – 0.98 to .94
2005 – 0.83 to 1.34
2006 – 1.44 to 1.35
2007 – 1.25 to 1.34
2008 – 1.33 to 1.19
2009 – 1.13 to .92
2010 – 1.16 to .88
2011 – 1.12 to .74
2012 – 1.11 to .9

As I had suspected when the idea was sparked to do this analysis, The Rumble was the clear winner in the business category. Summerslam has won the buyrate battle just 29% of the time in the event’s 24 year history (since both became PPVs in 1989). However, Summerslam also has no connection to Wrestlemania. Five of the seven times that Summerslam won the buyrate battle came in the first ten years of the comparison ('89 to '98). It has only been in the last fifteen years that the Royal Rumble's ties to Wrestlemania have been cemented. At some point in the late Attitude era, the Rumble spiked in popularity in accordance with Wrestlemania, itself, becoming the global phenomenon that it was once intended to be upon creation. It is, thus, the timing of the events, in my opinion, that create such a statistical difference. The WWE has paid far less attention to hyping the Rumble in recent years while spending far more attention trying to create interest in their product during a summer period where fan enthusiasm historically wanes. The Rumble benefits from "Wrestlemania Season" and it works to the tune of big business no matter how little effort they put into the card.

If you were take the Summerslam line-ups and switch them with the Royal Rumble cards, I am of the strong belief that the buyrates would increase for January but decrease for August. Nevertheless, the Royal Rumble is the runaway winner for the WWE's second biggest PPV, as it pertains to fiscal data.

Importance Factor

(Doc's note - this is not merely a comparison of main-events, but the overall impression left by the key players, historically, long after the event took place)

1988 – 1st PPV Summerslam defeats 1st Royal Rumble (strong TV rating)
1989 – Mega Powers keep exploding defeats 1st PPV Royal Rumble
1990 – Hogan-Warrior Mania preview in Rumble match defeats Warrior vs. Rude
1991 – Sgt. Slaughter’s WWE title win defeats Bret Hart, Legion of Doom title wins
1992 – Bret Hart’s rise in front of 80,000 in Wembley defeats Flair’s title-winning Rumble (3-2 SS) (Doc's note - close call, but Flair's WWE legacy pales in comparison to Bret's)
1993 – Rumble establishes direct tie to WM defeats lackluster Summerslam card
1994 – Polarizing Bret vs. Owen Cage match defeats Double Victor Royal Rumble match
1995 – HBK’s wins from #1/Bret vs. Diesel defeats worst WWE Big 4 main-event of all-time
1996 – Bret vs. Taker and HBK’s “Dream” defeats Bearer turning on Taker
1997 – Bret vs. Taker w/ HBK as ref defeats Austin cheating to win (5-5)
1998 – Austin-Taker, Rock-HHH defeats Austin Rumble win
1999 – Enduring legacy of Mankind-Rock “I Quit” defeats Mankind’s title win
2000 – Street Fight and Rock Rumble win defeats TLC 1 and Rock title win
2001 – Austin completes the comeback defeats best night of Invasion angle
2002 – HBK’s return, Rock-Brock defeats Triple H return for Rumble win (8-7 RR)
2003 – Lesnar’s win, Benoit-Angle classic defeats lackluster Summerslam
2004 – Orton’s historic win defeats Benoit’s historic win
2005 – Hogan vs. Michaels defeats Batista’s elevation to main-event status (Doc's note - another close call)
2006 – Biggest match in Cena vs. Edge rivalry defeats Mysterio’s surprise Rumble win
2007 – 1st Cena vs. Orton showdown defeats classic Rumble match, Cena LMS (11-9 SS)
2008 – 1st Cena vs. Batista match, Edge-Taker HIAC defeats Cena’s surprise
2009 – Punk-Hardy TLC, DX Reunion defeats Orton’s only Rumble victory
2010 – The Nexus storyline defeats Edge’s comeback Rumble win
2011 – Double classics for titles defeats 40-man Royal Rumble match
2012 – Triple H vs. Lesnar defeats Sheamus winning the Rumble

Summerslam has experienced an upswing, as the WWE has attempted to solidify it as #2. Thus, recent years have given Summerslam the clear victory in the "Importance" category, 16-9 by my count. Notice that it was neck-and-neck as of 2007, but the WWE has realized that they do not need to be as creative with the Rumble in the modern era to make people invest their money. 2013 would have been an exception (with The Rock ending CM Punk's historic title reign), but it was not accounted for. The business data steers the ship, clearly. I think it is a positive for the WWE to understand that Summerslam needs to be placed on a different plane than any other show but Wrestlemania. The summer months offer little to the sports world outside of American baseball, but the popularity of the MLB has dwindled for decades. With the changes that they have made over the last several years, adding Axxess to Summerslam's list of events and creating a "Hollywood" feel to it in Los Angeles, it is conceivable that the Summer Classic will one day carry with it a "Summerslam Season" tag to a growing number of fans.

Performance Factor

(Doc's Note - I do not have the same passion for Summerslam that I do for Wrestlemania, so I did not evaluate the entire cards from each event. Rather, I looked at the best matches. So, the following is a historical comparison of the highest rated performances from each card, with the winner listed for each year)

1988 – Rumble
1989 – Summerslam
1990 – Rumble
1991 – Rumble
1992 – Summerslam
1993 – Rumble
1994 – Summerslam
1995 – Rumble
1996 – Rumble
1997 – Summerslam
1998 – Summerslam
1999 – Summerslam
2000 – Rumble
2001 – Rumble (close call)
2002 – Summerslam
2003 – Rumble
2004 – Summerslam
2005 – Summerslam (close call)
2006 – Summerslam
2007 – Rumble
2008 – Summerslam (close call)
2009 – Summerslam
2010 – Rumble
2011 – Summerslam
2012 – Rumble

In the other two categories, there was a clear cut, decisive victor. The Rumble dominated the business side and Summerslam held a sizable advantage in importance. Performance came down to the wire. Despite the lack of creativity put into recent Rumble cards, the superstars performing on the cards still use the platform as a proving ground and produce at a very high level. There were a couple of "swings" listed above in parentheses that could have decided it in favor of the Royal Rumble, but Summerslam ended up with the narrow victory (13-12). Pretty incredibly close and goes to show how there is a legitimate conversation to be had about which event is the second "greatest." By my estimation, Summerslam edges out the Rumble right now, but five years from now, I think it could go the other way depending on how the performance factor plays out. Summerslam is likely to continue its dominance in the "Importance" category, while the Rumble is going to continue to kick Summerslam's rear-end in buyrates. The only way that the "greatest" question will ever become clearer is if Summerslam is able to catch back up on the business end.

Question of the day: Do you think Summerslam or the Royal Rumble is the WWE's second greatest PPV of the year?

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