WWE advertised for weeks that Batista would be returning on the Jan. 20, 2014, episode of Monday Night Raw. In addition to his return, the show took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and represented the go home edition to the Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV) this coming Sunday night.
Add it all up and Raw did big ratings.
The show averaged 4.86 million viewers for all three hours but the big surprise comes from the hourly breakdown, which went as follows:
Hour one: 5.25 million
Hour two: 5.00 million
Hour three: 4.36 million
That tells us quite a bit about what fans wanted to see, namely Batista's return. However, the viewing pattern makes clear that many of those same fans weren't at all interested in sticking around to see the John Cena vs. Randy Orton confrontation that WWE was building all throughout the show.
A drop of almost one million viewers is huge. And we knew Batista was a big deal when he was last around, but this is huge.
There are other factors, of course, like the holiday and the PPV this coming weekend being the second biggest of the year for the promotion. Still, there's no other way to look at this one: a smashing success.