The first episodes of SmackDown and Raw to take place on the road in front of a live audience since the start of the pandemic gave WWE and their broadcast partners much improved television numbers.
There were reasons for the ratings bumps beyond just new venues and cheering crowds. The episodes bookended Money in the Bank, and Raw featured the first TV appearance of John Cena in a long while. Likewise, when the numbers dipped for the second episodes of each show in the post-ThunderDome era, there was another explanation beyond the novelty of a packed house being short-lived. This one was outside WWE’s control - they were going head-to-head with the Summer Olympics.
Fri., July 23’s SmackDown was watched by an average of 2.137 million viewers, down 7.5% from July 16. In the 18 - 49 year old demographic, the .55 rating was 16.7% less than the week before. Still, those were among the show’s best numbers for FOX since WrestleMania season, and easily justified given the 17 million people who watched the Opening Ceremonies on NBC that night.
Olympics coverage drew 13 million viewers the night of Mon., July 26, and USA’s portion of that caused Raw to air at 5 pm PT instead of in its usual primetime slot. Not surprising then this week’s show saw declines from July 19: 5.7% in viewership to 1.814 million, and 14% in the demo to .49. And again, those were some of the red brand’s best numbers since May.
The Tokyo Games will continue to provide competition for all wrestling shows through the Aug. 6 SmackDown. If their two main shows can continue to hold around these levels, WWE will probably be happy.