The Big News
Despite coverage of President Joe Biden’s inauguration dominating the cable news ratings, Wednesday night wrestling was up almost 200,000 viewers between the two shows with NXT losing the night but increasing their audience by a greater percentage from last week.
This Week’s Numbers
AEW Dynamite averaged 854,000 viewers, up 12.1% from last week. The show finished 33rd on the cable charts with a 0.36 rating. If you remove cable news from the occasion, Dynamite was 3rd on cable and the rating was up 20% from last week.
NXT was also up in both categories. They averaged 659,000 viewers, up 19.6% from last week. They were 67th on cable with a 0.15 rating, up 7.1% from last week. The show was 17th out of non-news shows on cable.
Monday Night RAW on January 18th was up 1.9% from last week, averaging 1.854 million viewers. Last week’s show was going against the College Football Championship game but also featured the return of Triple H as well as curiosity over how WWE would handle the positive COVID-19 test of champion Drew McIntyre. All of that probably cancelled each other out and this week was probably what a normal number will be for now. They were up 9.1% in 18-49 with a 0.60 rating. That was 3rd on cable for the night behind two NBA games.
Friday Night Smackdown on January 15th averaged 2.262 million viewers, up 6.7% from the previous week. They were up 19.6% in 18-49 with a 0.67 rating. That was second on the networks behind ABC’s Shark Tank.
AEW Dynamite was up 2.9% in 18-49 but down 2% in total viewers, meaning the show is skewing younger year over year. That’s almost unheard of in television right now.
NXT was down 14.3% in viewership but 37.5% in 18-49. That obviously means it’s skewing much, much older.
Monday Night RAW was down 22% in overall viewership and 27.7% in 18-49. That show continues to have dramatic year-over-year declines.
Smackdown was down 11.3% in viewership and 16.3% in 18-49.
Over the last few months, I’ve been presenting cumulative date showing the most and fewest viewers per segment and most viewers gained and lost per segment for the Wednesday Night War. I just wanted to provide a little bit of context about those numbers.
By presenting data that shows that someone is gaining the most viewers per segment, for instance, I am not saying that this person is the biggest draw in pro wrestling or even on Monday night. What this is saying is that this person was featured in segments that gained the most viewers over the segments that aired before the ones they were in. That’s it. You can infer any conclusion you want over that.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that there has been a lot of discussion recently over whether or not certain wrestlers are, or are not, a draw. I specifically want to talk about AEW World champion Kenny Omega. For context, here is how he fared in the ranking of viewers won or lost per segment since Dynamite started in October 2019. These are broken down by quarter and are only considering people who appeared in at least 4 segments in each quarter.
Q4 2019 (Oct-Dec): Omega appeared in 9 segments that lost an average of 2,333 viewers, which ranked him 26th out of 47 acts that appeared in at least 4 segments during this time frame.
Q1 2020 (Jan-Mar): Omega appeared in 15 segments that lost an average of 7,800 viewers, which ranked him 38th out of 67 acts that appeared in at least 4 segments in the quarter.
Q2 2020 (April-June): Omega appeared in 4 segments that gained an average of 29,750 viewers, which ranked him 2nd out of 59 acts that appeared in at least 4 segments in the quarter.
Q3 2020 (July-Sept): Omega appeared in 6 segments that lost an average of 8,333 viewers, which ranked him 29th out of 53 acts that appeared in at least 4 segments in the quarter.
Q4 2020 (Oct-Dec): Omega appeared in 13 segments that lost an average of 5,615 viewers, which ranked him 25th out of 66 acts that appeared in at least 4 segments in the quarter.
Do these numbers definitively prove that Omega is NOT a draw? Of course not. There are many factors to consider. These are 15 minute averages of the segments he appeared in. He may have only been in 5 minutes of one segment and all 15 in another. There may have been 7 minutes of commercials during a segment. But the more data we have, the more we can start to believe what the numbers seem to be saying.
What I can say pretty confidently is that if Omega was a really strong TV draw, his numbers would consistently do better than they are doing. Jon Moxley, for instance, was in segments that gained an average of 20,176 viewers over the year of 2020, which spanned 34 appearances in the year. That compares to Omega, whose segments lost 3,564 viewers on average over 39 appearances in the year. Moxley has also been a featured star on national TV for the better part of 8 years so it stands to reason, he might do better TV numbers than Omega, who debuted in October 2019 to the vast majority of people watching.
What I can also say is that the AEW performers, for the most part, fall between 10,000 viewers gained and 10,000 viewers lost on average. Which, for a show averaging around 800,000 viewers is not really that big of a swing. What I conclude from this information is that the AEW audience is more loyal to the product and less likely to change the channel because of specific acts. The NXT audience is far more casual, meaning much bigger swings. Eight of the top 10 ratings movers on Wednesday nights were on NXT. Does that mean those wrestlers are bigger stars? No. What it means is that casual fans are more likely to tune in for their segments but then turn the show off when they’re done because less people, on average, are watching NXT. Seven of the bottom 9 ratings movers are also on NXT and all of them had at least an average of 40,000 viewers turning off the show during those segments. With an average viewership around 675,000 viewers, that’s a much higher percentage of their audience.
The other thing to look at is the average number of viewers per segment. All 10 of the top people in this category are in AEW. Omega finishes 13th in this category with an average of 829,350 viewers per segment. But a key piece of data here is that he appeared in 50 segments in the year. Now you may question how that number is 50 here but only 39 when I referenced 2020 earlier. Well that’s because 11 of the segments opened the show, which is a very important segment. So AEW must feel that Omega is a very important part of the show. The only wrestler in 2020 to appear in more segments over the course of the year was Chris Jericho, at 57 and Cody, at 51. And that doesn’t include the times Jericho was on commentary.
The top 49 acts in total viewers per segment are all in AEW. You have to go all the way to number 50 before you see an NXT wrestler, Pete Dunne, who averaged 744,545 viewers over 22 segments. But keep in mind that he missed a lot of the year, including the period after the pandemic first started and ratings bottomed out. Next on the NXT list is Keith Lee, who was called up midway through the year and Charlotte Flair, who never appeared on Wednesday night after April. Bronson Reed, with only 18 appearances is next, which is odd. But a lot of these appearances were in the last 3 months when viewership was up. The first wrestlers we find that appeared in at least 26 segments (half the year) are Kyle O’Reilly (729,177 viewers over 31 segments) and Rhea Ripley (728,581 viewers over 31 segments).
With 15 (almost 16) months of data now available, what one can conclude is that once the AEW acts become more familiar to the national audience, they will become bigger stars. Early indications in 2021 are still mixed on Kenny Omega in terms of moving numbers although his segment on last week’s show had the highest overall audience for the show and 2nd highest in 18-49. The latter number also brings something up. I am currently reviewing all of the 18-49 data since October 2019 and will be presenting that data in coming months once it’s all tabulated.