The big news
AEW Dynamite topped one million viewers for the fourth consecutive week. While that’s a nice, sexy number, it’s not the most important one: The show’s rating in the 18–49 demo climbed for the third consecutive week and hit the second highest level in the show’s history on Wednesday night. They are now regularly within striking distance of Monday Night RAW. With the “Wednesday Night War” in the dust and AEW the clear winner, the next battle in the wrestling wars is for the King of Cable and AEW is now closer than anyone’s been since the infamous 83 weeks when pro wrestling on TNT was last beating Monday Night RAW on USA.
This week’s numbers
AEW Dynamite averaged 1,102,00 viewers on Wednesday night. In the only relatively bad news,—and it’s not, really— they actually dropped a very slight 0.5% from the previous week. More importantly the show averaged a 0.46 rating in the 18–49 demo, which was up 2.2% from July 28th. It was the second best number in the show’s history, trailing only the debut episode in October 2019. It was a completely unexpected development with what most thought was a down show with little in the way of advertised star power and only one match, Cody Rhodes vs. Malakai Black, that had been built up for any significant length of time. Given the slow, but steady, growth of the show since moving off of Wednesday nights in June, this feels like a shift to a new normal level as opposed to a hot streak of good numbers. With the NFL season approaching and Monday Night Football going up against RAW, the wrestling war is about to get very interesting.
WWE NXT was moved off of USA for the second straight week due to the Olympics. The show averaged the exact same 520,000 viewers as last week. The demo number dropped 16.7% to a 0.10 but these numbers can pretty much be thrown out. The show had seen some better numbers leading up to the recent station move and with the return to USA Network next week and focused build to TakeOver 36 in three weeks, I’d except those numbers to return to the levels they were doing for most of July.
Monday Night RAW averaged 1.821 million viewers on USA for the August 2nd episode. That was up 0.4%, or essentially even, from the previous week. In the 18–49 demo the show averaged a 0.51 rating, up 4.1% from last week. Some will say that this is impressive given the competition from the Olympics but as I pointed out earlier this week, this is what should’ve been expected as wrestling ratings have actually risen on average over the previous six Olympiads.
WWE SmackDown on FOX averaged 2.043 million viewers on Friday July 30th. That’s down 4.4% from the July 23 show. In the 18–49 demo the show averaged a 0.57 rating. That’s up 3.6% from the prior week. My theory on the three big wrestling shows being up in 18–49 while maintaining, or slightly declining, in overall audience is that the younger viewers are not all that interested in the current Olympic coverage and with very little else on television right in the form of first run programming, pro wrestling in front of packed arenas and vocal fans is appealing to that demographic.
As shown in the chart below, the increases/decreases over the ten-week average, prior to this week, are as follows:
AEW Dynamite was up 42.9% in viewers and 53.3% in the 18–49 demo. That includes five weeks where they were airing in alternate time slots due to the NBA Playoffs. When comparing to the 10 most recent Wednesday night shows, they’re up 11.6% in viewership and 24.3% in the demo. The key here is that the recent ratings success is being driven by younger viewers.
WWE NXT was down 21.5% in viewers and 41.2% in 18–49. This isn’t fair at all due to the move to SyFy. They should return to a normal level next week for the reasons pointed out above.
WWE RAW was up 9.3% in viewers and 8.5% in 18–49. These increases are compared to eight weeks in the ThunderDome and last week with fans so the increases are pretty much due to the return to live audiences. The show also advertised a Goldberg appearance, which may helped a bit.
WWE SmackDown was up 2.2% in viewers and 9.6% in 18–49. Like RAW, the last three weeks have featured the return of fans and likely are why the ratings are up. They also had John Cena on the show and the return of Sasha Banks, neither of which were advertised ahead of time.
AEW Dynamite was up 22.3% in overall viewers and 27.8% in 18–49. Last year, of course, AEW and NXT were running head-to-head but this is now the fifth week out of the last six where the increases in both categories were 20% or more. This comes at a time when cable television as a whole is declining 15% year over year.
WWE NXT was down 30.9% in viewers and 50% in 18–49. Broken record time but these numbers can be thrown out due to the temporary move to SyFy.
RAW was up 6.2% in viewers and even in 18–49. This is the effect of live fans as opposed to the empty Performance Center the show was being taped at last year at this time prior to the move to the ThunderDome. Like AEW, these numbers are even more impressive with most cable television declining year over year.
SmackDown was up 7.9% in viewers and 14% in 18–49. The network declines aren’t quite as steep as cable but they are still there. This makes Smackdown valuable programming for FOX and is a sign that wrestling as a whole is getting hot again.
I’ll return to posting the segment by segment data for Q2 of 2020 in next week’s article as I’ll post the overall viewers gained per segment for both AEW and NXT. Since we now have compete data for the month of July, it’s time to look at the monthly averages for all 4 shows and see how they compare to the same month in 2020.
The comparisons aren’t completely fair due to NXT moving to SyFy for the last week of the month and both NXT and Dynamite airing on separate nights this year after going head to head last year. What we can see is the effect of fans on televised wrestling as Dynamite aired for the full month on the road with SmackDown doing the same for three of five weeks and RAW for 2 of 4. WWE NXT was the only show that didn’t change venues.
For the month of July:
AEW Dynamite averaged 1,038,000 viewers in 2021. That’s up 34.1% from the same month in 2020. In the 18–49 demo, the show averaged a 0.4025 rating, up 34.1%. In 2020, Dynamite was 38% lower in the demo than RAW on average. This year the gap is only 13.2%. If AEW keeps increasing at the same rate, they should surpass RAW in the key demo sometime over the next few months.
WWE NXT averaged 647,500 for the month. That’s down 7.6% in overall viewers. With only one week on SyFy, that’s not enough to offset the fact the show is declining in popularity. In the 18–49 demo the show averaged a 0.1725 rating, down 5.2% from 2020.
WWE Monday Night RAW averaged 1,704,500 viewers in July 2021. That’s up 5.1% year over year and that’s the effect of fans for the last two weeks of July. In the 18-49 demo, the show averaged 0.475 as compared to 0.4775 in 2020, a drop of 0.5%. Staying even on cable television is very good but in comparison to the impressive growth of Dynamite it’s not that impressive.
WWE SmackDown averaged 2,067,400 viewers in July 2021. They had a huge increase of 9.9% over the 1,881,400 the show averaged in 2020. Even more impressive was the 18–49 average of 0.544, which was up 13.3% from the 0.48 in 2020. Those numbers were bottoming out at the time and were the main reason they made the decision to create the ThunderDome which provided a short-term ratings boost that was also helped by the return of Roman Reigns after a long absence due to the pandemic.
I’d like to encourage all of you to check out a podcast that airs on theFight Game Media Network Patreon. Parker Klyn and I are co-hosting The Dynamite Show, a quick recap of AEW Dynamite. Parker also does the written Dynamite coverage for both this site and F4W Online, and this podcast is a nice companion to his work.