House show business boomed in during certain periods in the 90s, especially in the late 90s, both in WWE & WCW. The product in general was more popular then. When RAW draws ratings in the 2.8 range, without any direct competition from a major wrestling company (they were drawing in the 2.5 range in the mid 90s going opposite WCW Nitro which also drew near exact that number). The audience in general has significantly declined. It shows not just in house show attendance but also PPV buys and merchandise sales.
No doubt that the Internet publicizing results of the shows (and letting people know that the matches happen alomst exactly the same with the same result in each city) hurts a bit. However, I realized back in 1988 when I was in Junior High School after our local paper ran match results from a show outside Pittsburgh that mirrowed what happened at a recent show here. Then a relative saw a card in Las Vegas (these were NWA shows) that not had only most of the same matches but he saw the last few bouts and they had the same spots and same ending as what we'd seen a month earlier in Pgh. I immediately figured WWE did the same. Interestingly enough I learned about fake crowd noise from a WWE show in 1992, when the ring announcer did an entire segment where the crowd was asked for reactions to certain wrestlers by name, and if it wasnt loud enough they were asked again ("Let me hear what you REALLY think of Randy Macho Man Savage). About five or six weeks later some of the matches that night began airing on WWE Monday Prime Time Wrestling but the crowd noise for Brett Hart's match was a lot louder on TV than it was in the arena. I also remember that Shawn Michaels wrestled four times that night because he was getting a major push (his first as a singles star) and they wanted matches of him to air on multiple TV programs.
Definately the move to better televised matches hurts house show appeal a bit because we see our favorites in major bouts on free TV so unless they are in a really big match a the local arena it isnt as big a deal to see them. TV was populated almost exclusively with jobber matches save for the occassional WCW Saturday Night Special or WWE Sat Nite Main Events on NBC. Yeah, I saw Ric Flair & The Horsemen every week on TV but when they came to Pgh fighting Dusty Rhodes and The Road Warriors that was an event. Nowadays you can see similair matches on a weekly basis on Raw or Smackdown. This of course is a side effect of Eric Bischoff, the guy who really spearheaded the change in match quality on televised wrestling at the start of The Monday Night Wars. The Inintial boast in Nitro's ratings, especially their main events was significant but now there is no way to "dial it back" for WWE, especially with their over all popularity down so much.
Ultimately however the house shows are not for grown adults...they are for kids. No doubt the free TV ratings are driven in part by adults and adults boast PPV sales (they dont do much for merchandise outside of the Retrospective DVDs, how many 27 year olds do you know buying action figurs, T-shirts and posters...). For kids seeing their fav's live, even if they are wrestling the same guy you saw them face two weeks on Raw, is still a big deal, their heroes live and in color in their face, not on TV. For adults, this is no longer a big deal, although the match quality on a major PPV like WrestleMania might be enough to get me to buy even though I have no interest in going to our local arena to see a house show. For the kids the idea that the matches are scripted and the results the same from city to city throughout the tour makes no difference, if Im 10 years old and want to see Cena I dont care if he's wrestling a paper bag I want to go. In fact, I may not even be aware of the fact the match results do not vary on tour or even that these guys are wrestling all over the country, not just here in Pgh tonight. Even when I was in High School and knew about the touring, scripted matches, etc I still went because I was young and enjoyed seeing the guys I watched on TV in person. Nowadays it's lost its appeal, even if the product was more entertaining. The fact that I know the matches are scripted and the results the same doesnt deter me, just as it didnt back in the late 80s. House shows are for kids, and the kids dont care or even realize that stuff.