POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: The impact of empty arenas on TV viewership

The impact the empty arena shows have had on TV viewership, Dark Side does a big number, review of Rebellion, Aiden English on 'Rusev Day Tour' & more.


**On the site tonight, we have a new edition of Rewind-A-Dynamite coming your way along with upNXT with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman to cover both shows.

**On the latest Rewind-A-Wai, Wai Ting and I go back to October 1988 and review WWF’s Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC. This card featured Hulk Hogan vs. King Haku and Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts in the featured matches as well as a big angle involving Andre the Giant and Roberts involving Damian. Plus, we look at some major news items from this week in history with Jim Crockett Promotions being sold to Turner Broadcasting, changes to WCCW with Jerry Jarrett taking a controlling interest in the territory, the British Bulldogs getting set to leave WWF, the upcoming U.S. presidential election, and the trivia gauntlet with Espresso Executive Producer Daniel Holmes. This show is available for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**The Café Hangout returns to its usual Thursday at 3 pm Eastern slot this week and we will be taking your calls throughout the show. The show is available LIVE for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**The British Wrestling Experience is back on Friday with Martin Bushby, Jamesie & Benno chatting the latest news in the European scene and reviewing Riptide Wrestling’s ‘The Storm’ show.

**This Sunday, POST Puroresu returns with WH Park and I covering the latest news from Japan with an update on all the major promotions. We will also chat about Thursday’s All Japan card they are running and a review of the 2013 documentary on The Great Sasuke that is now available free on YouTube.


*Tonight: Rewind-A-Dynamite
*Tonight: upNXT with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman
*Thursday: Café Hangout – LIVE at 3 pm ET for Patrons
*Friday: The British Wrestling Experience with Martin Bushby, Jamesie & Benno
*Friday: Rewind-A-SmackDown (Patreon)
*Sunday: POST Puroresu with John Pollock & WH Park


**Television viewership has invariably taken its toll on both WWE and AEW over the past seven weeks of empty arena shows. Raw is hovering at historic lows with this past Monday’s show featuring a third hour that was the least-watched hour in Raw’s modern history.

In studying the live viewership data available for Raw, SmackDown, NXT, and AEW Dynamite, it’s been SmackDown that has held up best until the past two weeks. Over the past seven episodes of SmackDown, the show is only down 5.4% but that has been amplified over the last two weeks where SmackDown has hit its two lowest viewership figures since launching on Fox. If this trend continues, the show will catch up to the loss shown with the other programs.

Over the seven weeks before the empty arena shows, Raw averaged 2,281,000 viewers (2,262,000 if you factor out the night after Royal Rumble) from January 29th until March 9th (which was the final episode in front of fans).

Since the empty arena Raws began on March 16th, they have averaged 1,991,000 viewers, a decline of 13%. The first week inside an empty arena had the novelty factor and was strengthened by the re-airing of the men’s Royal Rumble match and averaged 2.335 million viewers. The decline began the week after and has hovered at the two million viewers, although Raw has fallen under that number the past two episodes.

For SmackDown, they averaged 2,462,000 viewers on Fox from January 31st through March 6th in front of an audience. Over seven empty arena shows, the average is 2,330,000 and falling 5.4%. The past two weeks have shown a great fall with 2.187 and 2.005 million viewers respectively. If they stay at this level of viewership, their percentage drop will fall in line with Raw.

NXT and AEW had the unique circumstance of holding live shows right as the NBA season was being shut down on Wednesday, March 11th along with the news of Rudy Gobert testing positive and U.S. President Donald Trump holding a speech regarding travel restrictions. That night, AEW was hit harder while NXT stayed relatively normal to its typical audience average.

I threw out the March 11th figures for the comparison of both shows.

NXT averaged 745,000 viewers from January 29th until March 4th over six episodes (if you include the March 11th episode their average would only be down by 3,000 viewers). In the six episodes since, they have averaged 642,000 viewers and declined 14%.

AEW averaged 873,000 viewers over their six episodes from January 29th until March 4th. From March 18th until April 22nd, the show has fallen 13% with 758,000 viewers per episode. For the first two empty arena shows, AEW was not hurt at all with its first show doing 932,000 on March 18th and 819,000 on March 25th. The larger drop occurred the next week where it was down to 685,000 viewers.

From this data, it would indicate that wrestling fans have tuned out at a rate of approximately 13%. SmackDown has held up better, but the last two weeks would suggest they will be at the same level of decline as the other shows providing that the 2 million viewership mark is their new normal.

It was reported in the recent issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that DVR viewership is down across the board, as well. Dave Meltzer notes that Raw and SmackDown’s audience typically grew 20% with DVR viewership and has fallen to 16% over the first four weeks since the shutdown. NXT has fallen from 31% to 26% and AEW has dropped from 38% to 32%.

The next question is what this all means and how serious these numbers should be taken? The empty arena shows are without question a detriment to the quality and viewer experience rather than individual segments, matches, or talent connecting. At its core, ratings are utilized as a metric to sell advertising, and what state is the advertising industry in right now? If the USA Network and TNT are satisfied to be getting any audience at this point with new programming, then it’s not a time to panic.

To their credit, Raw is using this environment to showcase new stars and new talent and are not introducing any hotshot booking to spike numbers or give up on new acts, which has been a failure in the past when beholden to the audience size. Despite the sizable loss, Raw is among the watched cable programs each Monday night among their key demo. But the 18-49 Raw demo was averaging a 0.74 in the seven weeks before the shutdown and dropped 17.5% during the empty arena shows to a 0.61. This past Monday’s show was down to 0.51 in the demo.

SmackDown has dropped in the main 18-49 demo from the 0.7-0.8 range to 0.5 this past week.

From January 29th to March 4th, AEW was doing a 0.33 in the 18-49 demo, and since March 18th has averaged 0.28 or a drop of 15%.

With the UFC returning on May 9th and several cards planned, I am interested to see how much of their audience resume watching, or if we see a similar pattern of turnoff based on the empty arena setting. Pro wrestling is more contingent on playing to a crowd and generating a response versus a real sport where the outcome is still the focus of the viewer at home. UFC held one empty arena show last month in Brazil and while an afternoon show, it did do a disappointing number when the argument was that a lack of sports would lead to a swell in viewership.

The rest of the sports world is going with this notion that fans are starved for sports but are they starved for a watered-down version of the product? I can guarantee that WWE or AEW would be infinitely tougher to watch if they were in a major sized arena with no fans as opposed to intimate settings like the Performance Center, Full Sail, and gym in Norcross. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated the need for major arenas that are well-equipped for the needs of the players and leagues to put on a proper product and provide adequate facilities. Watching an NHL or NBA game inside an empty arena will be more pronounced than the wrestling shows we are seeing in small warehouse facilities.

I don’t doubt the emergence of live games will have an interest short-term but it’s unknown if that will be sustainable and if they experience what wrestling has seen where they lose viewers.


**Here are the matches for tonight’s taped edition of AEW Dynamite airing at 8 pm Eastern on TNT and TSN1 and TSN2 in Canada:
*Cody vs. Darby Allin in the semi-finals of the TNT Championship tournament
*Dustin Rhodes vs. Lance Archer in the semi-finals of the TNT Championship tournament
*Brodie Lee vs. Marko Stunt
*Best Friends vs. Jimmy Havoc & Kip Sabian in a No Disqualification & No Countout match

**Below are the matches for tonight’s episode of NXT at Full Sail University airing at 8 pm Eastern on the USA Network:
*Charlotte Flair vs. Mia Yim – despite the way this has been promoted, their lone singles match occurred at the NXT tapings on October 23, 2014, and was not Flair’s first match
*Keith Lee vs. Damian Priest for the NXT North American title
*Drake Maverick (0-1) vs. Tony Nese (0-1) in the Cruiserweight tournament

**Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke on Wednesday regarding the moves made by the state and following the guidance from the White House. DeSantis stated he wants to maintain a good relationship with WWE and to have WrestleMania in the state citing the economic impact. He also spoke on getting the UFC to come to Jacksonville, which will stage cards in the city on May 9th, 13th & 16th. DeSantis is also open to the idea of some fans being able to attend certain events if ‘the trends are good’ come June or July.

**Dark Side of the Ring increased 15% this week for their documentary on Dr. D David Schultz. This week’s episode averaged 255,000 viewers and 0.11 in the 18-49 demo. It was their second-highest number in the history of series behind the two-hour premiere on Chris Benoit. The remaining episodes will cover Herb Abrams and the UWF next week, The Road Warriors on May 12th, and Owen Hart on May 19th.

**Here is how FS1’s programming block did on Tuesday night with viewers and the demo number:
*7 pm ET – John Cena’s Best WrestleMania matches – 124,000 (0.03)
*8 pm – Triple H’s Best WrestleMania matches – 220,000 (0.05)
*9 pm – The Undertaker’s Best WrestleMania matches – 270,000 (0.08)
*10 pm – Shawn Michaels’ Best WrestleMania matches – 217,000 (0.05)

**There was no number listed for WWE Backstage that followed the block at 11 pm on FS1.

**Friday Night SmackDown finished a 1.24 rating and 2,005,000 viewers on Fox last Friday. They did 661,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic. AEW Dynamite finished with a 0.44 and 731,000 viewers with 325,000 in the key demo.

**The WWE stock was up almost 2% and closed at $45.18 on Wednesday.

**All Japan Pro Wrestling is hosting a show on Thursday morning that will stream at 5:30 am Eastern on AJPW.tv with the following matches:
*Black Menso-re vs. Yuma Aoyagi
*Jake Lee & Koji Iwamoto vs. Zeus & Izanagi
*Shuji Ishikawa & Yusuke Okada vs. Jun Akiyama & Tajiri
*Suwama & Hikaru Sato vs. Yoshitatsu & Dan Tamura
*Takao Omori & Hokuto Omoro vs. Shotaro Ashino & X
*Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto vs. Kento Miyahara & Francesco Akira for the All-Asia tag titles

**On ‘The Bump’, they announced that this Monday’s episode of Raw will feature a ‘Last Chance Gauntlet Match’ with the winner taking Apollo Crews’ spot in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. Next week’s Raw was taped this past Monday.

**Raw women’s champion Becky Lynch will appear in the season five premiere of the series ‘Billions’ on Showtime this Sunday. Both Lynch and show co-creator Brian Koppelman were guests on ‘The Bump’ on Wednesday for the announcement.

**Aiden English spoke with Inside the Ropes regarding his recent release by WWE. POST Wrestling’s Andrew Thompson transcribed the following notes from the discussion:

Aiden on the possibility of him and Rusev working together on the independent scene:

Obviously that day [Mass WWE releases], we exchanged texts and stuff like that and all I can say is one of those texts did pose the question, ‘Rusev Day indie world tour?’ So, the opportunity is there. Let us know if that’s something you guys would like to see.”

Thoughts about Rusev Day being split up:

“Sometimes they wanna go in a different direction so bad. We argued, and kind of pitched our point. We wanted to really kind of keep it running as much as we could but, at the end of the day, the powers that be are the powers that be and they saw different things for Rusev and different things for me so, time to go in that direction, and was not the way I would’ve had us split but, sometimes you make your fight, you make your argument, you make your pitch. But at the end of the day, you do what you’re told.”

**Madison Square Garden has stated the WWE’s next event has been postponed for a second time. The live event was initially scheduled for March 22nd and moved to June 27th, which is not happening on that date. The Garden is not listing a new date as no one knows when such a show will be open for fans. There has been no announcement made regarding the big New Japan Dynasty show for August at The Garden, although New Japan delayed putting tickets on sale for the show.

**The NFL’s head office is implementing furloughs and pay cuts with commissioner Roger Goodell not taking a salary during this time, which is $4 million per year with incentives that can take him up to $40 million if they were reached. Sports Business Journal reports that employees making over $100,000 with see cuts of 15% in pay for executive vice presidents, 12% for senior VPs, 10% for VPs, 7% for directors, and 5% for managers.

**AAA’s next Lucha Fighter show will be streaming on Facebook and YouTube this Saturday at 9 pm Eastern.

**Jeff Hardy will be the guest on the ‘After the Bell’ podcast with Corey Graves on Thursday.

**MLW announced a deal with iNDEMAND to run several prior shows during May. The provider will be running MLW’s Battle Riot II card on May 7th, the Saturday Night Super Fight event on May 14th, and the Opera Cup 2019 show on May 21st.

**NBC has announced that the second season of Titan Games, hosted and executive produced by Dwayne Johnson will return with a two-hour season premiere on Monday, May 25th from 8-10 pm Eastern. It will then air weekly in its one-hour timeslot on June 1st at 8 pm. Former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz, who is part of Seven Bucks Productions, is also listed among the executive producers.

**The Portal to Texas History site has a short film covering the Houston territory run by promoter Paul Boesch. The film is ‘Friday Night in the Coliseum’ and includes an interview with Boesch and appearances by The Crusher, Nick Kozak, Red Bastien, Stan Stasiak, Johnny Valentine, Thunderbolt Patterson, and Wild Bull Curry at the Sam Houston Coliseum.

**In assessing the YouTube views from WWE Raw this past Monday, the segment that garnered the most interest on that platform was the contract signing. The closing segment involving Drew McIntyre and Seth Rollins has approximately 1.3 million views while the second highest was highlights of the six-man tag with Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black & Apollo Crews vs. Andrade, Angel Garza & Austin Theory with 428,000.

**Below is the trailer for next week’s episode of Dark Side of the Ring covering Herb Abrams and the UWF:


**Impact Wrestling presented the second night of its Rebellion special on Tuesday night built around a new main event of Michael Elgin vs. Moose vs. Hernandez. They are going with Moose’s TNA heavyweight title is their version of the interim title while Tessa Blanchard is off TV (she did not work at the Nashville tapings) and coming out with the win in the main event. I can’t tell you why Hernandez was needed for this match other than to save Elgin from being pinned.

The remainder of the show featured Rosemary pinning Havok in a Full Metal Mayhem match using a lead pipe. This would have worked a lot better in a live setting as the two had laid out a good hardcore match. The best spot was Rosemary grabbing a protective helmet right as Havok went to use a trash can. If doing simulated fights with an emphasis on grappling work best in the empty arena setting, then hardcore matches to no reaction may be the toughest.

This match featured the debut of Nevaeh (Beth Crist), who most recently has been working with WOW: Women of Wrestling on AXS TV. It was a strange appearance as she walked out and never got involved in the match, didn’t cause a distraction, and the only reaction was from announcer Madison Rayne, who has worked with her in the past and identified who she was.

Joey Ryan defeated Cousin Jake and this match lasted forever and just felt like it was filling time. Josh Mathews played babyface on commentary calling for the old version of Joey Ryan while Rayne played heel saying that was in the past and it just felt like total nonstop arguing.

The match that came off best was the four-way X division match with Chris Bey defeating Trey Miguel, Suicide, and Rohit Raju. This featured a prolonged series of standing switches involving all four and witling it down to two. Comedy falls flat in this setting, but it was early in the show that the viewing audience is more appreciative. The announcers tried to emphasize Raju a lot and give his character more a serious tone than the one he exhibited as part of Desi Hit Squad. It was a fun opener and started the show on a good note.

Overall, a much weaker show than last week’s and the second hour dragged. Impact is going to struggle the same way the other promotions doing empty arena shows are and given it’s sandwiched between Raw and the Wednesday night programs, I think it’s going to be tough to find any traction during this period because people don’t want these shows in high numbers.


**The New York Post is reporting that UFC’s parent company Endeavor is seeking to raise $250 million with revenue to the conglomerate coming to a halt during the pandemic. The outlet stated that Endeavor was banking on a key $150 million dividend payment from the UFC that was canceled last month. The private equity firm Silver Lake, which owns 42% of Endeavor, could be an investor with a source telling the New York Post that Silver Lake will support Endeavor financially if they had liquidity issues but isn’t planning to increase its ownership equity. Endeavor has already stated it will cut or furlough 2,500 of its 7,500 employees to save $100 million for 2020. UFC president Dana White has repeatedly said there will not be cuts to the UFC staff.

**Kevin Lee is set to have surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee. Lee first revealed the injury to Luke Thomas on SiriusXM and confirmed that surgery is set when speaking to ESPN. When speaking to Thomas, Lee would not say how it happened but said that it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The 27-year old lightweight scored an incredible head kick knockout against Gregor Gillespie in November 2019 but followed that performance by missing weight and then being submitted by Charles Oliveira back in March. Since the interim title fight with Tony Ferguson in October 2017, Lee has gone 2-3 with one of those fights contested at welterweight when he fought Rafael dos Anjos in May 2019.

**UFC welterweight Michael Chiesa shared his feelings about returning to fight. In a post, he said that fighting in an empty arena is not an issue for him given his experience fighting on TUF in 2012 but cited gyms being closed and a lack of training partners while adding there were ‘other problems behind the scenes that are better left unsaid’. Chiesa made the permanent move to welterweight in 2018 and has won his last three against Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, and Rafael dos Anjos putting himself in a strong position for a big fight at the weight class. Below is a portion of his statement:

On the heels of my biggest win to date, there is nothing I want more than to get back in the octagon and compete. Fighting in an empty arena feels almost advantageous to me after the time I spent on TUF. Competing in that type of environment is not what I’m worried about. It’s the preparation that’s holding me back. Gyms are closed, training partners are scarce, and coaches/teammates are doing what’s best to protect the heath of their family. All of which are things I empathize with 110%. On top of that, there’s other problems behind the scenes that are better left unsaid. I know many fighters are experiencing the same challenges in trying to put together a camp right now. There’s some people that have enough resources to make it happen right now but unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.

Ultimately I have two choices. One is keep doing what I can to stay fit and wait for restrictions to lift. The other is to make some choices and moves to get me in a position where I can be confident I can prepare for a fight. My stance on who I fight next will remain the same, it has to be someone ranked ahead of me. Out of respect for that short list of guys and the wishes of my family, I’m not showing up unless I can be at my absolute best.

**The debut episode of Bellator: Recharged on the CBS Sports Network did not chart on this past Saturday’s cable rankings meaning it fell under 0.03 in the 18-49 demographic. The series is a look at past Bellator fights and hosted by John McCarthy that debuted this past weekend. It will be moving permanently to Wednesday nights starting tonight at 8 pm Eastern.

**On Thursday night, TSN5 will be running the UFC 129 pay-per-view from April 2011 featuring Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields and Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick. This was the first UFC event in the province of Ontario that had an enormous demand for the tickets and sold out the Rogers Centre instantly. This show ended up being Randy Couture’s final fight as he was stopped by Lyoto Machida on the main card. Due to subsequent injuries, mainly a torn ACL suffered later in the year, this would be St-Pierre’s last fight until November 2012.




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About John Pollock 5422 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.