There's a certain segment of the pro wrestling fanbase who couldn't care less about television ratings. And while I can understand why that might be the case, we know WWE often makes knee jerk decisions based solely on the numbers they get back from Nielson.
That alone makes them important.
So let's look at the numbers from this week's (Aug. 19, 2013) episode of Monday Night Raw (estimates come by way of the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which you should have a subscription for):
- John Cena's go away promo and Daniel Bryan's segment with Stephanie McMahon kicking him out of the building opened at a 3.4 rating, which is very good but entirely expected considering the show.
- Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow immediately turned around and lost 530,000 viewers. This might be why WWE seemed to blow off the feud right here and now.
- Paul Heyman's interview didn't lose any viewers but didn't gain any either.
- Cameron & Naomi vs. AJ Lee & Layla lost 135,000 viewers.
- Dolph Ziggler vs. The Shield in a 3-on-1 handicap match gained 500,000 viewers, which is incredibly strong for that time slot in the three hour era. It's hard to tell if any of the participants involved deserve the credit or if fans are conditioned to expect big angles here.
- Alberto Del Rio vs. Sin Cara didn't lose or gain viewers, which is very good considering many viewers who show up for the big time slots often leave when they get their fill of the big angles. As Meltzer notes in the Observer, Sin Cara is actually a solid ratings draw but "at this point that doesn't matter because he's done." So we'll see on that one.
- Prime Time Players vs. Real Americans gained 250,000 viewers. That's utterly insane for the time slot they were in, and we can all safely assume it was largely due to curiosity of how WWE would handle Darren Young coming out as gay last week. To its credit, the company handled it about as well as it could, choosing to have the Players turn babyface without an angle, and use Young to get the "hot tag house of fire" position leading to his pinning the opponent.
- Big Show vs. The Shield in their 3-on-1 handicap lost 265,000 viewers.
- CM Punk snapping on an innocent fan and brawling with Curtis Axel gained 400,000 viewers at the top of the third hour. That was one of the high points of the show, and is a solid gain for that spot.
- Bray Wyatt vs. R-Truth lost 550,000 viewers. So far, the Wyatt Family haven't been good draws on television, though it's still incredibly early in the process.
- The Usos vs. 3MB lost 265,000 viewers. That's 815,000 viewers over two segments.
- The Miz vs. Wade Barrett gained 135,000 viewers, which should be considered a success.
- Finally, the big main event spot, the Randy Orton "Championship Coronation" gained a whopping 670,000 viewers. The segment featured Triple H's explanation, the entire McMahon family, and Bryan coming back after getting kicked out earlier in the night. Everything built to this, and it finished at a 3.6 rating. Very good numbers for the show closing angle.
The story of this show is quite simple: All the spots that were expected to draw did just that while there were other surprises -- Del Rio vs. Sin Cara, and Darren Young's segment -- that also helped the final number. No super big disappointments, outside of the Rhodes vs. Sandow feud and Bray Wyatt not catching on fast enough.