Whether it was the few thousand hardcore fans of ECW, the reported 93,173 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan for WrestleMania III, or the claimed crowd of 165,000 and 190,000 for the first and second day respectively at WCW/NJPW’s Collision in Korea (the largest attended wrestling shows ever), the audience has always played a significant part of the show.
However, as these eleven pay-per-views showed, big events don’t always mean money at the gate, and WWE sure hoped the curtained-off sections, tarped-over seating, and dim lighting wouldn’t be noticed!
The Lowest Attended WWE Pay-Per-Views
Reasons for low attendance at pay-per-views can be chalked up to many reasons. Whether it was taking place during downtime in company history, being held in a small-scale venue, or a lack of excitement over a quickly thrown together show, sometimes fans don’t latch on to pay-per-view as much as WWE would like to have hoped. Here are eleven such examples of that.
This list includes only officially recognized WWE main roster pay-per-views. It discludes exclusive foreign and WWE Network pay-per-view events and NXT specials, as well as the ECW One Night Stand shows as the small audience was part of their design.
This list will also, of course, not include shows affected by the recent pandemic.
11. In Your House 8: Beware of Dog (Night 1 and 2)
Dates: May 26th and May 28th, 1996
Location: Florence Civic Center in Florence, South Carolina, and the North Charleston Coliseum in Charleston, South Carolina
Attendance: 6,000 on night one, 4,500 on night two
Arena Capacity: 9,736 on night one, 13,295 on night two
In Your House: Beware of Dog is one of the most memorable In Your House pay-per-views, only not for the reasons WWE would like.
Originally held on May 26th, 1996, at the Florence Civic Center, the only two matches fans saw was Marc Mero facing off against Hunter Hearst Helmsley and the main event between the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith against WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. This was due to a power outage during the show as a result of a thunderstorm.
The other matches took place in near darkness, with the arena lighting giving off some light but not nearly enough to see the action. Fans struggled to see the action in the ring, while wrestlers were expected to perform with limited visibility. To make matters worse, the attendance before the show’s unexpected incident was only 6,000, with more than one-third of the seats left unfilled.
Deciding to have a re-do of the show, matches were re-taped two days later at the larger North Charleston Coliseum an hour away from the Civic Center. The events from two nights earlier impacted the attendance, and only 4,500 were present in a venue capable of nearly triple that number. However, fans this time were able to clearly see Savio Vega beat Steve Austin in a Caribbean Strap Match, Vader defeat Yokozuna, and Goldust retain his Intercontinental title over the Undertaker in a casket match (thanks to interference from Mankind).
Overall, despite the storm knocking out power the first time around, the WWE (then WWF) title match ending in no contest, and the low attendance, Beware of Dog is actually a very good pay-per-view, and certainly one of the better pay-per-views under the In Your House banner. With solid matches throughout, the low attendance must have caught WWE’s attention as this is to date the only pay-per-view the company has ever held in South Carolina.
10. In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks
Date: July 23rd, 1995
Location: Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
Arena Capacity: 9,700
WWE In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks is a deceptively good show. Drawing only 6,482 fans from a possible 9,700, this event took place in mid-1995, which was the peak of WWF’s unpopularity period.
Some reasons for this include Diesel’s uninspired run on top of the company, Razor Ramon taking a backseat in the company, and a lack of main event-level villains. Yet despite all of that, it is actually not a terrible show.
In the match of the night, Shawn Michaels defeated Jeff Jarrett for his third and last Intercontinental championship. The 1-2-3 Kid had an enjoyable match with The Roadie – foreshadowing their careers as members of DX. Additionally, the tag team title match pitting the Allied Powers of Lex Luger and The British Bulldog against Owen Hart and Yokozuna was fun.
That said, the main event between Sid and Diesel was about as entertaining as it sounds. It was a plodding affair with top star lumberjacks such as Travis, Man Mountain Rock, and Mantaur surrounding the ring. It showed the true shallowness of the roster at the time – a reason for the company’s decline.
It is also worth noting that Mo from Men on a Mission and Henry O. Godwinn were on the main show whilst the stars fans likely turned up to see such as The Undertaker and Bret Hart were relegated to dark matches.
9. Taboo Tuesday 2005
Date: November 1st, 2005
Location: iPayOne Center in San Diego, California
Arena Capacity: 14,600
The second incarnation of the Taboo Tuesday pay-per-view (we’ll soon get to the first) took place in 2005 at the then-iPayOne Center – better known as the San Diego Sports Arena – to a crowd of only 6,000 fans.
Taboo Tuesday was a pay-per-view concept where fans played a significant role by voting matches or stipulations.
Outside of the semi and main event, as well as a surprisingly good opener, this show is run of the mill. Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio fought Chris Masters and Snitsky in an unexpectedly entertaining curtain jerker, Ric Flair valiantly wrestled Triple H in an Intercontinental title steel cage match, and John Cena defended his WWE title against Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels in likely the match of the night.
In a move that definitely would not be excepted today (and rightfully so), fans got to vote on what the women wore in the “Fulfill Your Fantasy” Battle Royal – with lingerie winning the vote.
Legends such as Vader, Jimmy Snuka, and Mankind also returned that evening for the nostalgia pop.
Whilst it was a novel concept, the Taboo Tuesday idea was just one that didn’t draw in fans. In this pay-per-view’s case, it didn’t even half-fill the modern-day Pechanga Arena.
8. Stomping Grounds 2019
Date: June 23rd, 2019
Location: Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington
Arena Capacity: 23,000
Tagged with the “Kick Ass and Take Names” headline, the show did quite the opposite in execution, and there was little-to-no hype for 2019’s Stomping Grounds pay-per-view.
The show was very unappealing and predictable, with two non-main eventers going after the world titles.
Baron Corbin challenged for the Universal Title. This eventually led to a badly-received storyline where Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch were an on-screen couple.
Dolph Ziggler also challenged Kofi Kingston in a steel cage match with The Show-Off proving a shallow threat to the then-WWE champion.
Audiences were likely also annoyed at Roman Reigns being the wrestler most used in promotional material when he was actually placed in the middle of the card in a non-title situation, predictably defeating fan-favorite Drew McIntyre.
Of course, there was some talent on the show along with some great matches, but going into the event, things did not look good – and they would not get much better in actuality.
The show drew a measly estimated 6,000 people. According to Dave Meltzer, only 4,500 were paid tickets, with many tickets still being handed out on the day of the show at nearby malls.
The Tacoma Dome can hold as many as 23,000 people and is the biggest indoor sports arena in Washington. Despite that, this was not even close to a sell-out. It might be safe to say that there won’t be a Stomping Grounds sequel anytime soon.
7. In Your House 12: It’s Time
Date: December 15, 1996
Location: West Palm Beach Christian Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida
Arena Capacity: 6,000
The In Your House 12: It’s Time pay-per-view held at the West Palm Beach Auditorium in December 1996 was a near sell-out. However, it really talks of the company’s plight when they had to move to smaller arenas to fill all the seats yet still failed to accomplish their goal of filling a smaller venue with this event.
Named after the masked hoss, you might presume Vader would be in a high position on the card for this pay-per-view, but he was not on the card at all. An injury forced Vader to miss the show entirely.
Despite that, it was a consistently fine show. It was another low attended In Your House main evented by Sid. This time, the Ruler of The World defended his recently won WWF world title against Bret Hart.
With Shawn Michaels burying both competitors on commentary, it is actually a non-bad Sycho Sid match likely due to Bret as Sid tends to work better with nimbler, smaller opponents. Sid may have won, but clearly, his name did not draw fans on this particular night.
Also, on the card, Terry Gordy had his only WWE pay-per-view match, appearing under the Executioner guise where he – managed by Paul Bearer – lost to The Undertaker in a goofy yet entertaining Armageddon Rules match.
Additionally, fake Diesel and fake Razor Ramon had their most productive match under their respective monikers. They unsuccessfully challenged for the world tag team titles against Owen Hart and The British Bulldog.
Ultimately, the show took place while the then WWF was bridging the gap from a true low point of the New Generation Era to a true highpoint of the soon-to-come Attitude Era. Perhaps the show could have had higher drawing if stars such as Shawn Michaels, Mankind, The Rock, and the super-over Steve Austin were not placed in dark matches and actually wrestled on the televised product. Also, the misleading title likely did not help matters.
Another thing worth mentioning is that there were only five matches on the show.
6. In Your House 6: Rage In A Cage
Date: February 18th, 1996
Location: Louisville Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky
Arena Capacity: 6,000
Another low-drawing show with Diesel in the main event scene, this time he was attempting to recapture his WWF title from Bret Hart in a cage match.
Diesel lost due to interference from the Undertaker, starting a Diesel and Undertaker feud. This ended Nash’s time as a world title contender. The Bret Hart cage match was pretty good for Nash standards at the time but likely the worst of the high-profile Bret versus Diesel bouts.
Showing the company’s state coming off Diesel’s run on top, fans failed to fill the 6,000 seat capacity Louisville Gardens in Kentucky.
Razor Ramon faced The 1-2-3 Kid in a good ‘Crybaby’ match and – as you would expect – Shawn Michaels faced Owen Hart in a brilliant WrestleMania main event qualifier.
Unfortunately, Hunter Hearst Helmsley versus Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese and The British Bulldog against Yokozuna were both not so good.
Taking place in a downtime for the Federation, another Diesel main event, and the small venue seem to be reasons for the low numbers. After the next pay-per-view (WrestleMania 12), both Diesel and Razor Ramon would defect to WCW. Despite viewership plummeting in 1996, the WWF managed to turn their profits around with the aid of a particular ‘Stone Cold’ star on the rise.
5. In Your House 3: Triple Header
Date: September 24th, 1995
Location: Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan
Arena Capacity: 7,647
With a concert capacity of 7,647 people, the Saginaw Civic Center in Michigan could have likely comfortably held more than the number in attendance, which was a little over 5,000.
The WWF decided to host this show in a much smaller venue. Yet, still, they fell about 2,500 people short of capacity. You could apply all the common reasoning for low numbers during this time in company history; however, In Your House 4 drew over 10,000 fans, and SummerSlam the previous year drew nearly 20,000.
The show’s largest attraction was an interesting concept where all three men’s titles were on the line as the World Tag Team champions Yokozuna and Owen Hart challenged the WWF and Intercontinental champion Diesel and Shawn Michaels.
In the storyline, Owen Hart did not show up to the show due to being at the hospital with his wife for the birth of their daughter Athena, so manager Jim Cornette was left to find a replacement in The British Bulldog. The match ended with Diesel pinning an interfering Owen, who was not even in the match. Shawn Michaels and Diesel would eventually win but were forced to relinquish the titles due to Owen not participating in the contest.
Elsewhere on the card, it is understandable why the show did not draw tremendously. Bret Hart had taken a backseat in the mid-card, having lackluster feuds throughout the year. Despite this, he did have the match of the night, wrestling against Jean Pierre LaFitte. Who would have thought a feud over a leather jacket featuring a pirate who would later become a zombie would actually produce a submission match?
Also, a match between school teacher Dean Douglas and Razor Ramon was solid, and it was likely Douglas’s greatest match in the company.
However, there was also the bad as Savio Vega fought Waylon Mercy in an uninspired bout, Sid wrestled Henry O. Godwin in a 7-minute slog, and British Bulldog tussled with Bam Bam Bigelow in what was neither man’s greatest performance.
Overall, despite the significant main event, which should have been a huge draw, another poor-looking card was probably the biggest factor that detracted fans from showing up to the pay-per-view.
4. Armageddon 2004
Date: December 12th, 2004
Location: Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia
Arena Capacity: 13,100
Although it is not as spoken about as much as dark periods such as 1995, 2004 was also a shallow drawing year for the WWE, with Survivor Series only drawing 7,500 fans and another one which we will get to later.
This SmackDown exclusive pay-per-view was held in suburban Georgia at the Gwinnett Civic Center Arena, with only 5,000 in attendance in a location that could have held more than double that number.
The show’s highlight came from the main event fatal four-way for the WWE Championship between JBL, Eddie Guerrero, Booker T, and The Undertaker. It was a good match despite Heidenreich being involved.
The opening tag title match pitting Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio against René Duprée was also good, and it showed how underrated Duprée is as a worker.
After, Kurt Angle easily beat Santa in a somewhat entertaining match. However, things would not stay at this pace as the remainder of the matches left much to be desired.
Daniel Puder and Mike Mizanin (in his Pre-Miz reality TV days) faced off in a forgettable Dixie Dog Fight, The Bashams beat Charlie Haas and Hardcore Bob Holly, and Dawn Marie beat Jackie Gayda.
In the United States title match, John Cena handily dispatched Jesús, the man who, in storyline, stabbed the leader of the Cenation in a nightclub and would never really be seen again in the promotion.
Big Show also crushed Kurt Angle and his two charisma-less accomplices Mark Jindrak and Luther Reigns, with Show ending the match with an F-5 to remind fans of the much bigger star Brock Lesnar who had left WWE about half a year earlier.
Following this, Funaki actually won a match, where he won the Cruiserweight title.
The following SmackDown exclusive pay-per-view, No Mercy, drew 9,000 fans – nearly double that of Armageddon. This show’s card tells you why business in 2004 was not booming and why very few fans attended.
3. In Your House 17: Ground Zero
Date: September 7th, 1997
Location: Louisville Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky
Arena Capacity: 6,000
Like the aforementioned In Your House 6, this show was also hosted at the Louisville Gardens in Kentucky. This time, however, it drew a lower audience.
Steve Austin was used in the advertisements for the pay-per-view but did not wrestle on the show due to his career-threatening neck injury. He was likely just used to sell tickets as ‘Stone Cold’ was now easily and obviously the WWF’s hottest character.
Despite using Austin’s image to sell the pay-per-view, the show did not draw a tremendous number. That said, it wouldn’t be long before the business started to pick up significantly.
This show might be most memorable for being the last pay-per-view Brian Pillman wrestled on. The ‘Loose Cannon’ wrestled Goldust, winning and gaining the services of Dustin’s valet Marlena. It was an interesting concept but one that could not be followed up on due to Brian’s untimely death. He was set to face Dude Love at the following In Your House: Badd Blood, but tragically died the afternoon of the event.
The main event at Ground Zero was a chaotic brawl between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, which ended in a no contest. The show went off the air with a massive schmoz as ‘Taker stood tall and D-Generation-X fled.
Elsewhere on the card, a heel Bret Hart retained his WWF title over The Patriot (Del Wilkes), and the Headbangers won the vacant WWF tag titles in a fatal four-way tag, beating out the Godwins, Legion of Doom, and Owen and Bulldog. Everything else is pretty unnoteworthy.
The first three-hour In Your House event was not a bad show, but it did have a fair bit of filler to occupy the time. The attendance was low as it would always be an uphill battle for the company to combat the in-ring absence of their biggest and brightest star. While it had a low audience number, this was a transitional period for the company, and within a year, the WWF would not have to worry about ratings at all.
2. December to Dismember
Date: December 3rd, 2006
Location: James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia
Arena Capacity: 9,167
If not the worst regarded WWE pay-per-view of the 21st century, December to Dismember technically falls under the ECW banner – but is a pay-per-view under the larger WWE umbrella. The One Night Stand shows had a small venue of 2,500; it was part of the nostalgia and novelty of the event – this event was definitely not supposed to hold such a small capacity.
The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia, can hold over 9,000 people, but this event only sold 4,800 tickets, only barely selling out half the arena.
Reasons for low attendance were multiple, including WWE’s complete image alter of ECW, only two announced matches going into the show, and the lack of care given to the original ECW wrestlers.
Even in these early stages, fans could see the writing on the wall as WWE was content on making the ECW brand in their own image, changing most aspects of the beloved company. The reason fans wanted ECW to return was to be the same as the extreme product that went out of business in 2001, but this event proved that it would not happen.
Ironically, the only good match on the show was not even from ECW wrestlers but from talent borrowed from other brands as The Hardy Boys beat MNM. Everything else is absolutely not worth watching – from Matt Striker versus Balls Mahoney to Ariel and Kevin Thorne versus Kelly Kelly and Mike Knox to Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay squashing the FBI, the show was not regarded as a strong one.
Whilst the Extreme Elimination Chamber main event was a good match; the booking was totally tone-deaf. Despite Sabu being advertised, he was replaced with Hardcore Holly, fan favorites Rob Van Dam and CM Punk were eliminated early, and Bobby Lashley won despite easily being the least hardcore participant.
Many fans saw the ruined state WWE had left ECW in and decided not to attend, which is likely not something they regret in hindsight.
1. Taboo Tuesday 2004
Date: October 19th, 2004
Location: Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Arena Capacity: 18,800
Quite surprisingly, Taboo Tuesday 2004 is the lowest attended pay-per-view in WWE history, although you may not remember anything on the card.
The 2005 version of this event was also on this list in the number nine spot. Still, the 2004 version had an even worse attendance, with a paltry audience size of 3,500 people at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, a venue with a wrestling capacity of more than five times that amount. WWE would return to this arena multiple times, often selling well over 10,000 tickets – but not on this occasion.
As mentioned earlier, the whole concept of this (and later Cyber Sunday pay-per-views) was that fans could dictate match features via voting.
There were some great talent and matches on the show, such as Chris Jericho versus Shelton Benjamin, Randy Orton versus Ric Flair in a steel cage, and the Last Man Standing WWE title bout between Shawn Michaels and Triple H. The likes of Kane, Edge, Chris Benoit, Trish Stratus, and Molly Holly were also on the show, and there were surprisingly entertaining moments where we saw a Eugene and Eric Bischoff segment where Bischoff’s head was shaved, and Jonathan Coachman being forced into a dress.
Of course, there was also the bad such as another “Fulfill Your Fantasy” Women’s Battle Royal where fans voted for the women to dress as schoolgirls, a terrible Christy Hemme vs. Carmella (no, not that one) in a Lingerie Pillow Fight match, and also Snitsky wrestled, which is always a disadvantage.
Nothing distinctively seems to indicate why this is the lowest drawing show in WWE history. However, reasons could include the fact that it took place on a weekday, that it was a new and unfamiliar concept, or that fans had no idea what matches would be taking place beforehand. The real reason is likely due to all three.
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