Since its inception, WrestleMania has always been about grandeur. From the card to its celebrity guests to its overall presentation, size has always mattered. It’s not surprising attendance figures have been somewhat of an obsession for the WWE and its fans throughout WrestleMania’s history. That said, it’s also not surprising most of those attendance figures are usually inflated. In some cases, those figures are more inflated than you’d think.
In 2019, Brandon Thurston from Wrestlenomics shared a report examining data from WWE’s corporate website. In that report, he was able to determine from the data what the paid attendance for WrestleMania 24-34 was compared to the attendance announced at each WrestleMania. On top of those findings, there are other reports that surfaced before and since that show the often significant difference between the announced attendance figures and the actual attendance figures.
Here are just 14 times WWE inflated the attendance of WrestleMania.
WrestleMania XXIV emanated from the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida on March 30, 2008. The main card had its ups and downs, but the positive definitely outweighed the negative … despite one of the negatives being a pyro malfunction that ended up injuring 40 people, according to Pro Wrestling Stories.
CM Punk won the Money in the Bank ladder match. Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show was incredibly entertaining. The Undertaker continued his famed WrestleMania streak against Edge to become the World Heavyweight Champion. Of course, Shawn Michaels pulled on the heartstrings with his “I’m sorry, I love you” Sweet Chin Music to “retire” Ric Flair in the night’s most emotional and memorable moment.
The announced attendance for WrestleMania XXIV was 74,635. However, the paid attendance ended up being 65,700 according to Wrestlenomics’ data reporting, resulting in a difference of 8,935. Brace yourself, because the attendance discrepancies only get worse from here.
WrestleMania XXVII is such an awkward affair. Historically speaking, it’s more or less looked at as the setup for the “Once in a Lifetime” main event of WrestleMania XXVIII between John Cena and The Rock, which ended up being not so “Once in a Lifetime” since that bout would main event WrestleMania 29.
Elsewhere on the card, Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. However, he was forced to retire due to a neck injury and vacated the title. Fortunately, Edge returned to WWE at the 2020 Royal Rumble giving fans one of the most memorable moments in wrestling before the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. There were some bright spots including The Undertaker and Triple H’s brutal No Holds Barred match, but when the card includes Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler and an in-ring appearance from Snooki, the entire show just falls flat.
WrestleMania XXVII’s announced attendance was 71,617 inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Per Wrestlenomics’ data reporting, the paid attendance was 62,600, which equals a difference of 9,017.
WrestleMania 33 was billed as “The Ultimate Thrill Ride” and even built in a rollarcoaster track in its massive stage setup. Like a rollarcoaster, the event had its highs and lows.
The Hardy Boyz received a massive pop with their surprise addition and win in a ladder match for the WWE “Raw” Tag Team Championship against Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Cesaro and Sheamus, and Enzo Amore and Big Cass. John Cena proposed to Nikki Bella after they defeated The Miz and Maryse in a mixed tag team match. (Didn’t that end well?) A pre-“Freakin'” Seth Rollins defeated Triple H in a non-sanctioned match that saw Stephanie McMahon go through a table. Bray Wyatt tried to retain his WWE Championship against known arsonist Randy Orton, but “The Viper” sunk his teeth into his ninth WWE Championship title. The main event was between The Undertaker and Roman Reigns in a No Holds Barred match. To put it lightly, the bout was quite sloppy, but it was partially saved thanks to The Deadman providing an incredible emotional moment after the match leaving his gear in the ring signaling his retirement. Of course, his actual retirement would come three years later.
WrestleMania 33 took place in Camping World Stadium (fka the Citrus Bowl), which was the same venue as WrestleMania XXIV. This time around, attendance was announced as 75,245. Thanks to Wrestlenomics’ data reporting, we now know the paid attendance was 64,900 meaning WWE inflated the attendance by 10,345.
WrestleMania 25 was held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. This was the same venue for WrestleMania X-Seven, which is often viewed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, WrestleMania of all time. Perhaps WWE was hoping that same magic would be in the air. Unfortunately, WrestleMania 25 was a prime example of a main event underperforming and being completely overshadowed by a show-stealing match earlier in the card.
The incredibly blah main event saw Triple H defeat Randy Orton to retain the WWE Championship, but the true main event of the night saw The Undertaker defeat Shawn Michaels in an absolute classic to extend his WrestleMania streak to 17-0. Also on the card was a Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy singles match filled with all the Team Xtreme spots you’d want from them, and, of course, the less said about the “Miss WrestleMania” Battle Royal the better.
The announced attendance was 72,744, but Wrestlenomics’ data reporting shows the paid attendance for the event was actually 58,200 making for a significant difference of 14,544.
WrestleMania XXX might just have both the most shocking and most triumphant moments in WrestleMania history.
Fans inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and all over the world finally saw The Undertaker’s legendary 21-0 WrestleMania winning streak come to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar resulting in one of the greatest wrestling-related memes ever.
The over-arching story, though, was beloved fan-favorite Daniel Bryan attempting to overcome the odds to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. In order to be added to the main event title match against Batista and Randy Orton, Bryan had to defeat Triple H first. Bryan vs. Triple H kicked off the main card, and it more than delivered in action and emotion with Bryan coming out on top. Hours later, he was put through the wringer against Batista and Orton. Once Bryan made Batista tap out, joy and confetti filled the air along with chants of “YES!”
Attendance for WrestleMania XXX was announced as 75,167, and the energy inside the Superdome sure made it seem like that figure was true. In reality, paid attendance was 59,500 per Wrestlenomics’ data reporting. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported the actual attendance, including comp tickets, was between 60,000 and 65,000 leading to a difference somewhere between 10,167 and 15,167.
“Once in a Lifetime”? Yeah, no.
Like other previously mentioned cards, WrestleMania XXVIII had its share of ups and downs. Perhaps this Mania’s legacy would be better if the lauded “Once in a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena didn’t also main event WrestleMania 29. The bout, after all, certainly had a “big match” feel to it. Additionally, the Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Triple H with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee was outstanding. Of course, Daniel Bryan’s infamous 18-second defeat by the Brogue Kick of Sheamus was awful, but since it eventually led to Bryan’s huge WrestleMania moment two years later, the ends more than justified the means.
Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida was the home of WrestleMania XXVIII. The announced attendance was 78,363, but Wrestlenomics’ data reporting showed paid attendance was 62,400 resulting in a difference of 15,963.
WrestleMania 34 marked the return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome four years after WrestleMania XXX. While both Manias featured heavily inflated attendance numbers, 34 just completely lacked the magic of XXX.
There were two notable highlights on the card: Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka and Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Flair and Asuka had a great match, but Asuka should’ve gone over to become WWE “SmackDown” Women’s Champion and to maintain her undefeated streak. As for the mixed tag match, it was incredibly entertaining and the perfect WWE in-ring debut for Rousey.
The rest of the card? Not great. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura fell flat. Braun Strowman won the WWE “Raw” Tag Team Championships with a child. John Cena was squashed by The Undertaker in one of the strangest match-builds in WrestleMania history. Then, the main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship capped the night off with a big ol’ meh.
The WrestleMania 34 attendance was announced at 78,133, which was about 3,000 more than WrestleMania XXX. Wrestlenomics’ data reporting had the paid attendance at 59,900. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer later reported WWE felt like they “had” to announce a bigger attendance, but the actual attendance, including comp tickets, was between 60,000 and 65,000, just like WrestleMania XXX. This resulted in a difference in the range of 13,133 and 18,233.
WrestleMania 31 was a solid event overall, but its “Heist of the Century” ending really did steal the show.
There were many highlights throughout WrestleMania 31. The opening ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship was outstanding. That RKO during the Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins match was the stuff for which words like “redonkulous” were invented. Triple H vs. Sting gave everyone nostalgia galore with a D-Generation X vs. nWo/WWE vs. WCW showdown. Rusev had that glorious tank entrance which should have culminated in a win against John Cena, but the alleged tank activity with Lana probably made up for that. Lastly, Rollins shocked everyone by returning during the main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns to cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
WrestleMania 31 took place in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, with the announced attendance being 76,976. This figure ended up being way off. The paid attendance per Wrestlenomics’ data reporting was 57,800. Total attendance with comp tickets was around 67,000, according to Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, making for a difference between 9,976 and 19,176.
Wrestlemania 23 was a very symbolic show, with WWE’s flagship pay-per-view event returning to Michigan 20 years after the historic WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. This time around, “The Showcase of the Immortals” was emanating from Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
The event truly exemplified Vince McMahon’s vision of WrestleMania. There was great in-ring action with The Undertaker vs. Batista and John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels. There was even celebrity spectacle with the “Hair vs. Hair” match of Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga representing future President/WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump and Mr. McMahon, respectively. The match, which featured “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as special guest referee, resulted in Mr. McMahon getting his head shaved and finding out that like McMahon, Trump can’t take a Stone Cold Stunner either.
The attendance announced at WrestleMania 23 was 80,103, which was significantly lower than the 93,173 attendance of WrestleMania III, but Ford Field’s capacity is far less than the Silverdome’s. However, both events had attendance discrepancies. Wrestling Observer reported the paid attendance for WrestleMania 23 was 68,500. Including comp tickets, the attendance was 74,687 leaving the difference being between 5,416 and 11,603.
As for WrestleMania III, we’ll get to that one in a bit.
Look, kids! It’s “Once in a Lifetime,” again! Sequels rarely live up to the original. In the case of The Rock vs. John Cena, it was less “Godfather II” and more “Caddyshack II.”
Actually, most of WrestleMania 29 just wasn’t good. Mark Henry vs. Ryback? The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus? A debuting Fandango vs. Chris Jericho? Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger? When half your card is this forgettable, there’s a big problem. The only match that truly delivered was The Undertaker vs. CM Punk. The build to the match was very controversial since it utilized the real-life death of The Undertaker’s former manager Paul Bearer. Who can forget Punk interrupting ‘Taker during his tribute to Bearer or Punk dumping Bearer’s “ashes” on The Phenom?
As for its attendance at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, it was announced as 80,676. However, Wrestlenomics’ data reporting has the paid attendance at 68,900 resulting in a 11,776 difference.
WrestleMania 35 was the textbook definition of “a lot.” There were 12 matches on the main card and four matches during the pre-show resulting in the event clocking in at 7.5 hours. Fortunately, WWE adopted the two-night structure for WrestleMania the following year.
There was a lot of filler and not enough killer moments overall. One of the bright spots of WrestleMania 35 came via Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship. Kingston came out on top marking the first time he won that title. Kingston’s sons celebrating with their dad and the rest of The New Day after the win was truly one of the most wholesome moments in WrestleMania history.
Of course, WrestleMania 35 was historic for being the first Mania to have a women’s match main event. The “winner takes all” match saw Becky Lynch defeat “Raw” Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey and “SmackDown” Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. Lynch was at her peak as “The Man,” and the build toward the main event was truly fantastic. However, an awkward crucifix pin on Rousey combined with the crowd inside MetLife Stadium being drained from the very long event didn’t lead to a massive initial “pop” once Lynch was victorious.
The announced attendance inside MetLife Stadium was 82,265. Per Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the paid attendance was actually 63,000 resulting in a difference of 19,265.
When WrestleMania 32 was announced to be taking place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, this was the first time fans thought the long-held attendance record set at WrestleMania III would finally be broken. They would be right, sort of.
Nine matches made up the main card including a triple threat between Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship. The Undertaker defeated Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match which featured one of Shane O’ Mac’s patented bonkers bumps. The main event saw Roman Reigns defeat Triple H to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The attendance for WrestleMania 32 was announced by The Rock, who had obtained a flamethrower so he could light a sign spelling out his name on fire. Once flamethrower shenanigans subsided, “The People’s Champion” announced the attendance at 101,763.
It didn’t take too long for the number’s legitimacy to be questioned. Per Fightful, Vince McMahon said of the figure on a quarterly conference call in February 2017, “That included ushers and ticket-takers. It wasn’t 101,000 paid.” Fightful later reported that according to the Arlington Police Department, 80,709 fans entered AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32. According to the data reporting from Wrestlenomics, paid attendance for WrestleMania 32 was 79,800. Regardless, the announced attendance figure was inflated by over 20,000.
Like WrestleMania 32, WrestleMania 38 also took place at AT&T Stadium, but this time around, it was a two-night event.
There was something for everyone at WrestleMania 38. Love ridiculous comedy wrestling? Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn brought that. Wild brawls? “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s triumphant final match against Kevin Owens main evented night one. Surprising performances? Logan Paul helped The Miz defeat Rey and Dominik Mysterio. Redemption? You got that with Bianca Belair defeating Becky Lynch for the WWE “Raw” Women’s Championship. Add in a returning Cody Rhodes and a surprise match where Mr. McMahon defeated Pat McAfee and would later epically botch a Stone Cold Stunner, and you have one of the best WrestleMania’s in years.
According to WWE, WrestleMania 38 was the highest-grossing and most-attended event in their history. The combined two-day attendance was announced at 156,352. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer later reported the actual attendance was 131,372 with 65,719 tickets distributed for night one and 65,653 tickets distributed for night two. This resulted in a difference of 24,980 and is the largest attendance discrepancy in WrestleMania history. Additionally, Meltzer reported the paid attendance for WrestleMania 38 was between 57,000 and 60,000 for each night.
Considering WWE’s obsession with attendance dates back to WrestleMania III, it makes sense to examine its much-lauded attendance figure.
WrestleMania III took place at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan on March 29, 1987. The 12-match card contained an array of attractions including the classic Intercontinental Championship match between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Of course, the main event of WrestleMania III was the showdown between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Hogan delivered a now-iconic bodyslam to Andre and retained the title before a capacity crowd announced at 93,173. That figure, however, like all of the previous ones examined on this list is not what it seems.
Deadspin published a stellar investigation into the actual attendance figure of WrestleMania III in 2018. A few alternative numbers were suggested as the actual attendance figure. One figure was 78,500, which came from promoter Zane Bresloff who later faxed ticket accounting paperwork to Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer proving that figure. It’s unknown whether any potential “comp” tickets are included in that number.
Another figure proposed was 88,000, since that was the sell-out attendance figure from Pope John Paul II’s visit and mass held at the Silverdome in September 1987. The other figure was 80,638, which was the sell-out figure for the Silverdome when the Detroit Lions played their home games.
WrestleMania III was a massive draw regardless, but realistically, attendance was likely somewhere between 78,500 and 88,000.