Has The Day Of The Megadraw Passed For WWE

V'Luck Wiles

Credit: WWE.com

When the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards for 2017 were announced nearly a month ago, some wrestling fans were incredulous to learn Kenny Omega was ranked #2. Omega was listed above Brock Lesnar (#6), John Cena (#8) and Roman Reigns (#9). Discussion highlighted the differences between the advertising methods of WWE and other promotions such as NJPW (where Omega is a top attraction) and ROH was raised. WWE tends to not advertise individual talents outside of PPVs so the brand is the draw (outside of Lesnar and Cena) while NJPW and ROH frequently advertise the talent who will be featured on future cards. Hence, it can be difficult to determine who's a draw in WWE.

WWE's shift in focus on the brand over individual talent is fairly recent. For the last 15 years, Cena has been "The Guy", staking a claim as the bonafide top draw in the modern era and garnering mentions in the same breath as Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock. Aside from live attendance, PPV buyrates and TV ratings, other metrics of drawing power (e.g. YouTube views) have been derived in contrast to when Hogan, Austin and Rock reigned supreme. In addition, WrestleMania, which is perhaps the biggest test of one's drawing power and seen as a career milestone for those headlining, has become a brand onto itself selling tickets before matches are even announced.

The brand first strategy hasn't stopped WWE from attempting to build stars. Reigns has been groomed as the heir apparent to Cena, given the vote of confidence by headlining four WrestleManias. WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative Paul Levesque has said that Reigns is a ticket seller. To what extent is only clear to WWE as they have internal mechanisms of measuring drawing power and Reigns doesn't seem to significantly increase numbers at house shows. It's no secret, however, that Reigns is a very polarizing figure.

The defeat of Reigns by Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 this past Sunday left some fans wondering who is the guy if not Roman. On Monday during a conversation with my fellow columnist Corbin Macklin, the question of what if it's a girl was posed to me. While it wasn't the first time I considered the possibility, the question resonated with me as I had just read a report saying WWE is working toward a main event of Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair for WrestleMania 35. WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon has called Rousey the biggest signing ever. One would be hard pressed to disagree as Rousey is one of the most significant athletes in recent years (particularly in combat sports). In fact, it was Rousey's drawing power in UFC that inspired WWE brass to revitalize its women's division. With the Women's Revolution kicking into high gear, Rousey leads the charge and looks to possibly bring the eyeballs even more than male talent. Quite fitting is her taking on the moniker Rowdy Ronda Rousey in tribute to her idol the late, great Roddy Piper who himself was a top attraction for WWE in the '80s. Could she be the next megadraw for WWE? As Vince McMahon would say, "That remains to be seen".