Good Times, We Got ‘Em

Hey Scott,Johnathan1988 from the boards
I keep reading about different "boom" periods in WWE, or times when business was bad, but different sources seem to give different information on which time-frames WWE was successful in (ratings, buyrates, attendance), and which periods things weren’t so good in. Seeing as I didn’t really take notice of such things until my conversion to smarkdom in 2001, I write you asking to clear it up.

I start with Hogan beating the Sheik for the belt. WWE was clearly on fire then, highlighted with Hulkamania and Hogan’s huge WM3 win over Andre. Does the fire start to die down a little in 88 and 89, or is it going just as strong up until WM VI in toronto?
Obviously things get cooler from here, but the mid 90s provide a constant source of argument between Bret and Shawn fans. Was Bret’s 94 run doing any good numbers? Was Shawn’s 96 title reign the closest WWE has come to going out of business? And where does Diesel in 95 fit in?
The Attitude Era was the next big boom, but my question is if Austin’s year long-absence (and thus the Rock taking over the top spot) made a difference in the numbers in 2000 compared to 99?
Finally, I heard an interview with Cena where he calls 02-06 "a down time" for ther business. So when does it start picking up again? Wrestlemania 23?
I know this is a convoluted question, but I figured you were a good authority to somewhat set the record straight.

OK, I’m game. 80s:  84-88 was huge, with Hogan-Orndorff in particular making money hand over fist every night for close to a year until they finally managed to burn people out on it.  It was INSANE the kind of houses they were doing after that piledriver.  Savage did really strong business on top as champion, leading to the all-time buyrate champion for a long time at Wrestlemania V.  Business starting dropping rapidly at that point, leading to Warrior’s horrible run on top (fault and causes are another argument, point being, business went south).  You can safely call 89-92ish a pretty big down cycle. The early 90s were a really weird period, and I’m going to play it safe and say it’s hard to categorize who would have done what with the title on top.  Diesel was unquestionably death for business, however, and I don’t think anyone seriously debates that.  As a personal anecdote, Diesel’s reign as champion saw them drop from running the hockey arena in Edmonton to the much, much smaller adjacent building, something that would have been unthinkable to me a few years prior.  Sid on top in 96 was a similar situation.  Bret always drew big numbers as champion internationally, so you pretty much had to keep him on top during that period when they were expanding like that.  Overall, 93-97 was a huge transitional period for the business in general, with Vince shifting his focus from promoting house shows on TV to promoting PPV on TV and finally just promoting TV for the sake of it.  2000 was the most profitable year for the WWF in their history, including today, so Rock must have been doing something right.   Really, by that time Austin wasn’t needed as a draw and HHH and Rock could carry things just fine on their own.  Austin’s peak years, 98-2000, were SOOOOOOO huge that he could have retired and still been comfortably rich for the rest of his life just based on them.  2000 was pretty much the peak of the entire business as far as WWF goes. As for the last one, business picked up specifically with the Batista-HHH main event at Wrestlemania 21.  That’s the show that turned WM from just the biggest PPV of the year into an event in itself.  It’s also the last time they really pulled the trigger and made 2 legitimate new stars (Cena and Batista), both in the same night!  However, outside of WM, PPV has been trending steadily downwards for a long time now, so we’ve been a down cycle for many years.