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Brock Lesnar is about as big a star as WWE has at present.
He was the youngest person to win the WWE Championship at age 25, and he is holding that title again 20 years later in his seventh reign. He is also a three-time universal champion.
Lesnar has won every major match in WWE history from King of the Ring to Money in the Bank. He is about to main-event WrestleMania for the fifth time, battling Roman Reigns in what has been labeled “the biggest WrestleMania match of all time.”
In the past six months alone, The Beast Incarnate has won the WWE Championship twice, his second men’s Royal Rumble match and the men’s Elimination Chamber.
All of this success showcases his talent and star power. Few men ever get the booking Lesnar has enjoyed throughout his WWE career.
It is difficult to explain though the true impact of The Beast, though. Does he drive television ratings? Is he the man people come to see at live events? Does he move more merchandise than others in the company?
Is there a way to look at the impact the former MMA star has had on the wrestling business?
The following statistics have been collected from various sources credited in the following slides. None are all-encompassing but rather serve to form a convincing argument on the impact of one of WWE’s biggest names.
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One of the easiest ways to define the impact of a WWE Superstar is by how much merchandise they sell.
According to Rick Ellington of the Sports Business Journal, Lesnar was among the four biggest merch movers on a record night of sales at the 2022 Royal Rumble alongside Reigns, Ronda Rousey and Bad Bunny.
For most of his run, The Beast has been a heel, and the villains in WWE are often less likely to move merchandise. However, Roman Reigns has become one of the company’s biggest merchandise owners as an established villain.
The complete reports of merchandise sales are not easy to obtain, and Lesnar was less present in 2021 than usual. Based on the recent numbers from the Royal Rumble, though, it is easy to assume Lesnar is moving a significant amount of merch.
And even if he wasn’t, those sales or lack thereof would not clearly define Lesnar’s impact on the business.
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Live WWE events often sell fairly well regardless of who is in the house, but the inclusion of Lesnar should spark extra attention. Compiling and analyzing attendance number recordings by @WrestleTix on Twitter, the results do line up.
Even just looking at 2022 data for live events, The Beast’s impact is felt. On all live shows WWE has televised so far in 2022, the average attendance percentage based on open seating has been 95.9%. For the shows that advertised Lesnar for the event, the percentage rose to 97.6%.
The lowest attendance at a WWE televised live event in 2022 was 4,356 for the January 17 edition of Raw in the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The lowest attendance at a TV live event in 2022 that advertised Lesnar was 5,562 in the Heritage Bank Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While SmackDown has typically fared better than the flagship show in terms of attendance, Lesnar has still consistently moved attendance totals for shows over the usual numbers.
It is hard to factor in the impact of standard talent on Raw or SmackDown numbers, but the fact that both shows have had near-identical attendance percentages in 2022 does not indicate Roman Reigns is truly driving up attendance.
That said, the February 25 edition of SmackDown in the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the only show in 2022 to boast of a complete sellout this year with 8,595 in attendance for a show that featured Lesnar and Reigns signing their WrestleMania 38 contract.
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A hot-button issue in social media discourse surrounding professional wrestling is television ratings.
How well are WWE and other promotions faring in week-to-week viewership? The nitty-gritty of ratings can get messy, but overall figures can be valuable to analyze when discussing performer impact.
In 2022, the average TV viewership for Raw is 1,691,200, while the average figure for the flagship with Lesnar advertised is 1,737,600. SmackDown’s average TV viewership for 2022 is 2,199,400, while the number actually goes down to 2,177,333 on average when involving The Beast.
It is somewhat surprising to see Lesnar’s impact on total viewership has not been significant in 2022. The biggest stat in his favor was that Raw was able to increase from 1,387,000 to 1,602,000 viewers in its second week on SyFy with The Beast only on the second show.
If WWE is particularly focused on TV viewership, Lesnar’s impact is not significant, which may be why he is used sparingly on the weekly product, focusing more on pay-per-views.
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While the previous statistics can be complicated to quantify based on a variety of factors, YouTube viewership is a simple figure to showcase engagement. These WWE videos stay up and accumulate views over time where the videos with the most fan interest gain the most views.
It is here where Lesnar’s impact is the most obvious in a way that can be quantified easily. Of the 33 videos on WWE’s page with over 100 million views, he is involved in three of them. The most-watched is a backstage brawl between John Cena and Lesnar.
Since The Beast has returned, the most viewed video on the WWE YouTube page is a recap of the rivalry between him and Reigns. Of the 20 appearances Lesnar has made so far in WWE since returning, 19 have ranked as the most viewed of that night.
The only YouTube video with a higher view count than Lesnar’s segment on the same show during his run featured Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch, and that is only by a difference of about 540,000 at the time of writing.
The YouTube views highlight how much Lesnar’s segments are seen as more important than just about anything else on the show. His segments with Reigns especially have been viewed more than any other feud in WWE since the former MMA fighter returned by a margin of at least three-to-one.
These videos perfectly suit the impact of The Beast, who has always performed well in short bursts in segments and matches. He is in WWE to toss people around and rarely gets tossed around himself.
Fans perceive Lesnar’s impact in WWE in exactly the way the company wants them to. He is the featured star, and his angles are the most worthy of viewing. While others can be the top act when he is not around, no one comes off as a bigger act when he is featured.
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How important is Lesnar to WWE’s business? The statistics paint a complicated angle, but ultimately it is clear that he does push numbers forward. It is likely in 2022 he will continue to push numbers like no one else except Reigns.
However, it is telling that the statistics do not change in a huge way when he is not around. WWE has a stable fanbase that is around no matter what. He is a pillar of the business, but the building stays around without him. It’s just very difficult to replace him.
While Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre have tried to take the torch from him, both are back behind Lesnar in the pecking order. Only Reigns is established as a big enough star to compete with The Beast at any time.
Does WWE need to replace him, though? Perhaps the foundation of the promotion would be more stable without The Beast. He pulls in more people for the show he is promoted to attend, but that does not help the many shows he will miss on his current schedule.
TV ratings improve when he is on the show, but the difference in viewership is negligible as all WWE products have a comfortable base of viewership. YouTube views skyrocket for his appearances, but those numbers do not massively affect WWE’s business.
What Lesnar represents is the foundation of WWE’s current business model. Build around the present stars while struggling to deliver new talent.
This is shown in how much success Lesnar brings with YouTube video views, an immediate payoff but little long-term impact. Even when a star like Alexa Bliss drives merchandise numbers, she disappears from television. Her gimmick made WWE money, but the creative team then had no more stories to tell with her.
The Beast is extremely valuable to WWE as an immediate attraction. People are drawn to watch him, but the business survives when he isn’t around.
It’s just a shame that WWE does not do enough to create more stars like Lesnar who can truly drive numbers. Perhaps that next star is still waiting to arrive.