Before the WWE network existed and you could stream the WWE monthly pay per views on the Network, WWE solely relied on how many people bought their PPVs. Before the world stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, WWE were looking at offering their pay per views to other streaming sites and pay per view providers to secure more money and create a wider profit margin.
Brandon Thurston at Wrestlenomics.com who has done great work in looking into pay per view profits for WWE has designed a Google search formula using their data to predict and estimate how many buys a Wrestlemania would achieve on pay per view. Using the data that google lists on popularity of searches he can predict within a close approximate the number of buys a pay per view would generate without the WWE network. According to his data Wrestlemania 28 would achieve a buy rate of 1.16 million instead of 1.21 million it did achieve in reality. But Wrestlemania 25 according to his formula should have had a 1.06 million buy rate but actually only achieved 960,000 buys. So the interesting data that he has collected shows what Wrestlemania without the network could achieve. For instance Wrestlemania 32, using this formula predicted a buy rate of 1.35 million. If accurate this would have made it the highest grossing pay per view of all time.
10. Wrestlemania 25 – 960,000 buys
Wrestlemania 25 was held on April 5th 2009 in Houston, Texas which has a main event between Randy Orton and Triple H for the WWE Championship (To learn more about this feud see this article here). It also has one of the all time greatest contests in The Undertaker going against Shawn Michaels and the World Heavyweight Championship Match between John Cena, Big Show and Edge.
9. Wrestlemania 22 – 975,000
Held in Chicago at the Allstate Arena on April 2nd in 2006. The event was headlined by John Cena defending his WWE Championship against Triple H. Royal Rumble winner Rey Mysterio faced Kurt Angle and Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship and The Undertaker faced Mark Henry in a casket match. Mr. McMahon battled Shawn Michaels in a heated no holds barred match.
8. Wrestlemania 20 – 1,020,000
Wrestlemania 20 held at Madison Square Garden is the forgotten Wrestlemania due to the main event and final scenes of the show. The main event sees Chris Benoit win the World Heavyweight Championship in a triple threat match against Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Eddie Guerrero defends his WWE Championship against Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and Goldberg in a match where the crowd let them know how they felt about both wrestlers leaving the company. Also The Undertaker makes his return as the Deadman against his brother Kane.
7. Wrestlemania 17 – 1,040,000
Regarded as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time and the attitude era reaching it’s peak, Wrestlemania 17 was held in the Houston Astrodome in Texas on April on April 1st 2001. The card was stacked and headlined by the magnificent matchup between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock for the WWE Championship. The Undertaker and Triple H in a excellent brawl, Shane McMahon, The now owner of WCW battles his father Vince McMahon in a Street Fight with Mick Foley serving as the special guest referee. There is also the epic TLC match between The Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz and the team of Edge and Christian.
6. Wrestlemania 24 – 1,041,000
Held in Orlando, Florida on 30th March 2008. This Wrestlemania would be the emotional retirement of Ric Flair as he lost to Shawn Michaels. Edge would defend his World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker in the main event. It also saw boxing great and box office juggernaut Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather in a No Disqualification match against The Big Show.
5. Wrestlemania 29 – 1,048,000
This is the event where ‘Once in a life time’ happens again. The Rock is the WWE Champion and defends the championship against John Cena in a rematch from the Wrestlemania previous. CM Punk faces The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar makes his Wrestlemania return in a No Holds Barred match against Triple H. The event was held at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on April 7th 2013 and is reportedly the highest grossing live event in WWE history making $72 million.
4. Wrestlemania 27 – 1,059,000
Considered by many as a very poor Wrestlemania with its match quality, it’s high butyrate is down to simply one thing and that’s The Rock. He returns to WWE to be the guest host and brought his fans along with him. The next three Wrestlemania would draw huge numbers with The Great One in the headline role. The main event is the WWE Championship match between The Miz and John Cena, Triple H tries to defeat The Undertaker in a No Holds Barred match and World Heavyweight Champion Edge faces Alberto Del Rio weeks before he announces his retirement. The event was held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on April 3rd 2011.
3. Wrestlemania 21 – 1,085,000
Billed as Wrestlemania goes Hollywood, Wrestlemania 21 is held in the Staples Center in Los Angels on April 3rd 2005. The event is headlined by Batista finally getting his chance for the World Heavyweight Championship against champion Triple H. Also John Cena faces JBL for the WWE Championship, Randy Orton faces The Undertaker and we see the classic Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle match. Their were also appearances by Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Rowdy Roddy Piper.
2. Wrestlemania 23 – 1,250,000
Wrestlemania 23 is remembered for the now president of the United States picked being the star attraction. Donald Trump picks Bobby Lashley to face Vince McMahons’ chosen Umaga in a hair vs hair match. Trump involvement saw a huge spike in numbers making it the second highest pay per view event in WWE history. The main event sees John Cena defend the WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels and Batista defend his World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker.
1. Wrestlemania 28 – 1,253,000
The highest grossing pay per view in WWE history, Wrestlemania 28 is headlined by the ‘once in a life time’ match between John Cena and The Rock. The Rock would enter the ring for a singles match for the first time since 2003. The Undertaker and Triple H would settle their rivalry inside a Hell in a Cell match advertised as ‘End of an Era’. CM Punk would defend his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho too. Held on April 1st in 2012 at the Sun Life stadium, the investment made in The Rock’s return paid off over the span of three separate Wrestlemania.
In comparison to other pay per view events across different sports, the highest grossing pay per view event by buy rate in history is the boxing match putting Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquio with 4.6 million buys. UFC biggest pay per view buy rate was UFC 229 featuring the main event between Kahib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor which drew 2.5 million. A stark comparison to the highest buy rates of WWE.