POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: Raw ratings analysis, AEW vs. NXT preview

John Pollock looks at Raw's ratings from this week, a preview of AEW & NXT, Tony Khan addresses viewership, a study on TV ratings, Andy Quildan video & more.


**On Tuesday night, we released our final MCU movie review with Wai Ting and I chatting about last summer’s Spider-Man: Far From Home film starring Tom Holland. In this review, we discuss the follow-up to Spider-Man: Homecoming, the first film to follow Avengers: Endgame, the handling of Tony Stark’s presence, how Mysterio stacks up as a villain, and set-up for future films. Plus, the announcement of the next series of films we will review beginning next month.

**On the MCU review, we also unveiled our latest POST Wrestling t-shirt design from creator Robert Pearson to commemorate the end of our MCU reviews. The shirt went on sale last night and profits from the first week will be donated to two great causes – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the CLLDF’s Retailer Assistance Program helping Canadian comic book retailers during the pandemic. The shirt is available in the POST Wrestling Store.

**We will have new editions of Rewind-A-Dynamite and upNXT coming up tonight. Wai Ting and I will review “Fight for the Fallen” and chat all the day’s news – and Braden Herrington & Davie Portman will review NXT and also be streaming live at YouTube.com/upNXT beginning at 8 pm Eastern.


Tonight: Rewind-A-Dynamite with John Pollock & Wai Ting
Tonight: upNXT with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman
Friday: Rewind-A-SmackDown (LIVE at 10:15 pm Eastern for all Patrons)
Saturday: Impact Slammiversary POST Show with John Pollock, Nate Milton & Davie Portman
Sunday: WWE Extreme Rules POST Show with John & Wai (LIVE for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso Patrons)


**AEW presents “Fight for the Fallen” tonight from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida, and will have a charitable component. This year, they are encouraging fans to donate to Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund and the Feeding Northeast Florida group.

The show is built around the delayed AEW title match between Jon Moxley and Brian Cage, which is the major match the company has pushed since Double or Nothing in May upon Cage’s arrival. This comes after the second week of Fyter Fest, which saw a decrease in viewership from week one and was countered by a big match from NXT between Adam Cole and Keith Lee.

While the competition from NXT is not as heavy this week, the larger question is the impact the NASCAR All-Star race is going to have, and the UFC prelims airing on ESPN. While the UFC main card doesn’t begin until 10 pm Eastern, UFC has been killing it on free television with their last Fight Night card on June 27th finishing #1 and #2 on cable that night with the main card and prelims. There are no stars on the prelims, but I don’t look at that as significant a factor as the UFC brand has drawn well on ESPN during the pandemic. NASCAR could take out a chunk of both AEW & NXT tonight, so those factors are ones to watch. It’s a precursor of what’s to come with so many sports leagues gearing up for their returns and seeing what effect the added sports competition has on all pro wrestling products and if UFC sees a dip from this phenomenal run of business on pay-per-view and cable.

Of the line-ups, AEW has the deeper one with the full list below:
*Jon Moxley vs. Brian Cage for the AEW title
*Cody vs. Sonny Kiss for the TNT Championship
*FTR vs. Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix
*The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega vs. Luchasaurus, Jungle Boy & Marko Stunt
*Brandi Rhodes & Allie in action
*Chris Jericho to make an announcement

The FTR vs. Lucha Brothers and the six-man tag could be off the charts and feels like a great show on paper.

**TSN2 in Canada will be airing tonight’s AEW show.

**NXT is coming off its Great American Bash shows with a day of tapings at Full Sail University today. They are taping tonight’s episode and the show for next week. Tonight, they will feature the NXT women’s title match between Io Shirai and Tegan Nox, which had a strong video package last week to promote Nox’s quest for the title. Shirai has emerged as the top female on the brand surpassing Rhea Ripley, who was in that slot until things fell apart after WrestleMania and she’s in a transitional role feuding with the Robert Stone Brand. They have also announced the match between Damian Priest and Cameron Grimes, the latter is among the more underrated performers that NXT has with a strong personality and bell-to-bell strength. Priest had his best match of his NXT run at the last TakeOver special against Finn Balor and they should have a strong match tonight. There will also be a segment with new double champion Keith Lee.

**Monday’s viewership for Raw ranks as the lowest in the history of the show (where data is available) falling beneath 1.6 million viewers. However, the 18-49 demo only fell by 2%. Because they have fallen to a baseline of dedicated viewers, there was less tune-out throughout the show with the larger loss in the third hour among males 12-34 which dropped 12%. So, even though fewer people are tuning in at the start of the show (indicating a lack of interest overall rather than the content turning them off), those that tune in are more likely to watch the entire show.

It’s hard to make sweeping statements about the Raw viewership as their demo rating continues to be among the top shows on cable but you’d be foolish to ignore the major loss of audience during this period. If the USA Network chalks it up to the pandemic, you can make a reasonable case that it’s the largest factor but hardly a guarantee that whenever WWE can run major arenas with fans, that the lost audience returns overnight.

Going a step further, if you’re going to throw your arms in the air and accept that the pandemic was going to negatively affect viewership, then this period may be viewed differently a year from now as a lost opportunity. Going with the notion that viewership will be down regardless, this was the time to double-down on new performers and getting the necessary experience to hopefully, have some fresh acts and more seasoned talent when fans return. This was the playbook that appeared in place for Raw over the past year since Paul Heyman’s appointment. It doesn’t mean a similar philosophy can’t be carried out by Bruce Prichard, but it comes down to Vince McMahon’s interpretation of why viewership is down and what vision he wants the show to reflect – are they just trying to stop the loss of viewers, or not concerned with numbers and building for the future? If it’s the former, then you’re likely to rely on established stars, save big matches for television, and book for that week’s audience rather than invest now with the hopes of it bearing fruit down the road.

I don’t cast any judgment this early as both Raw and SmackDown are working with a limited number of performers and they must rely on the names available before we can get a clear vision of what Raw is going to be. It’s also been evident that trying to create new stars in this empty arena setting is daunting and may not be possible. A proper assessment of Drew McIntyre as the top guy won’t be fleshed out until we return to normal because this version of television is mitigating losses, not creating new fans.

It’s also a deeper question about how to create those new fans and what strategies are left? If there was a mandate to get Raw back over two million viewers, what is your plan? You could hot-shot for one major show and achieve that number but what about averaging two million viewers for a month? How long would it take to get to that status when Raw hasn’t hit that figure since the night after WrestleMania?

We have gone through brand splits, trades, talent popping up on the other show, legends coming back, short matches on TV with more promo time, long matches on TV, show-long builds to a peak in the third hour, peaking for the second hour with less focus on the third hour, etc. The answer is that there isn’t a simple answer to get to the point where you find that breakout star that will lift business when they catch fire.

The ability to take a talent with potential and properly build them into a draw has been an awfully difficult task for the company. Some times, you have to spot the potential and just go with it. Every talent will have his or her detractors, will have their weaknesses (not the “right look”, can’t work “main event style”, weak on promos, doesn’t have the “it” factor) and those are all ambiguous statements that often curtail risks being taken and shaking things up. Typically, fans respond to “new” and things feeling fresh where someone bursts onto the scene and catches fire quickly. Often, that flame gets extinguished or dies down because they aren’t all in, even though the crowd was ready.

Long-term, Braun Strowman is not the guy to build SmackDown around. He was a band-aid solution to get the title off Bill Goldberg when the original challenger Roman Reigns was unavailable. If they were bound and determined to strap the rocket on someone – where an Adam Cole (or pick your star with main event potential) shows up on SmackDown and out of nowhere, challenges and beats Strowman, it would create that shock factor where lapsed fans would want to see what happened. At that point, you have people’s attention, so follow-up is key to retain those lost eyeballs.

That is only one example and it’s not like there is a deep playbook of strategies but playing the long game with patience appears more logical than booking week-to-week and running in the same spot. It also comes with the risk of heavy investment on a vision with no guarantee it will bear fruit in six to nine months.

If you want your viewership to average two million viewers per week, it will probably take months to create new habits for fans not watching Raw weekly and that comes down to an enticing program with characters they are behind and not having such a hard-and-fast rule on who gets over at the top. A lot of characters lose their edge on the main roster through poor attempts at comedy, limitations that handcuff them in match scenarios, and feeling like they are part of the WWE machine rather than individual stars that stand out on their own as a way to enhance the product instead of blend into it.

**Brandon Thurston at Wrestlenomics has an extensive study on television ratings and assessing the value of total viewers and the 18-49 demographic, which has become this hot-button issue largely spurred on by Tony Khan and Chris Jericho pointing out the reliance on the demo over overall viewers after Fyter Fest last week.

**On that subject, AEW president Tony Khan gave the following answer to Justin Barrasso at SI.com regarding the television numbers and what is most important to them:

The key for us is TV rights. That is our primary revenue stream. Without a live gate, that revenue stream has become the lifeblood of our company. It’s very important for me to keep producing new shows and have those shows keep performing the way the way they want us to perform, which is performing well in the 18–49-year-old demographic. So far, we’ve been doing those things, and they’re very happy with us. Overall viewership is a nice, round number, and if you want to make the number sound as big as possible, you say the overall viewers. But the network looks at the numbers in the 18–49 demographic, that is what keeps us going.

Over the past two weeks, Fyter Fest was a huge success. We look at that chart every week of where we rank in the 18–49-year-old demographic, and to be in the top seven two weeks in a row is a really good performance for us. It’s important to understand what the network actually looks at, so people will understand what we consider success. The key for us is to keep the demo number high.

**For Fyter Fest last Wednesday, the show did 0.44 with 715,000 average viewers and 407,000 in the 18-49 demographic. For SmackDown, the show did 1.25 with 1,892,000 average viewers overall with 607,000 in the main demo. Saturday’s UFC 251 prelims did 397,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo and 809,000 overall.

**On Wednesday’s edition of Talk is Jericho, wrestling historian & author Pat Laprade was a guest alongside Dave Meltzer to speak with host Chris Jericho about Andre the Giant and Laprade’s book with Bertrand Hebert chronicling his life and career. If you haven’t read “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, it’s a must-read and easily the most well-researched work on Andre’s life.

**Revolution Pro promoter Andy Quildan issued a video statement regarding a recent Q&A he held behind a paywall on Patreon. He explained why he did the Q&A for Patrons knowing that there would be questions regarding the Speaking Out movement. Quildan acknowledged speaking with Jamesie from our website, who was critical of Quildan. Since then, Jamesie has stated that Quildan will join them on a future edition of the British Wrestling Experience to address questions.

**Wednesday’s edition of The Bump featured Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, The Bella Twins, Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Beth Phoenix, and Cathy Kelley as part of WWE’s Women’s Evolution Week.

**Ring of Honor has released a preview of this week’s episode dedicated to the late Hana Kimura.

**Jake Roberts posted that he underwent an operation this past Monday but didn’t specify what he was being treated for. On Twitter, he added that he still planned to be in Jacksonville for AEW this week.

**The WWE stock increased by more than 3% on Wednesday and closed at $47.12.

**Jesse Ventura, Heath Slater, and Charly Caruso celebrate birthdays today.

**The final episode of Impact Wrestling going into Slammiversary built up to a fight on location at the Rockstar Pro Wrestling gym in Ohio involving Trey and Ace Austin. There were no additional matches added to the pay-per-view, although an angle was shot where Johnny Swinger won’t be in Chris Bey’s corner against Willie Mack for the X Division title match. The show ended with a mystery person sending a contract by FedEx to Scott D’Amore, who opened the envelope stating Slammiversary will be even more interesting now. They are promoting a former champion appearing and that the person isn’t coming alone. The two big selling features to the show are finding out the identities of who is showing up and crowning a new Impact champion after the title was vacated following Tessa Blanchard’s departure. The rest of the show looks fine, but I’ll add that the atmosphere on these shows is tough as they are not using people in the crowd, so they are wrestling to silence. I am not opposed to this because it is the safer measure but it’s tougher for the viewer who is seeing the contrast from other shows.





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About John Pollock 5646 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.