Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - WWE RAW vs. Smackdown Ratings Analysis since DRAFT and This Week's Show Thoughts
By Mr. Tito
Sep 29, 2016 - 12:18:16 AM

Follow Mr. Tito on @titowrestling

So I'm keeping an eye on the television landscape right now as it relates to politics. Based on the viewership numbers that are pouring in, everything is down for much of 2016. Olympics were down... NFL Football is down... Fall Television Season has lower viewership... Switching gears to movies, it's been a rough year at the box office.

At it relates to pro wrestling, because that's what I write about exclusively here at /, WWE viewership is down for 2016. For Monday Night RAW, we're fixing to become permanently under 3 million viewers and Smackdown's viewership appears as if no Brand Extension Draft ever occurred!

What is happening to the television or entertainment industry?

As FOX Sports radio commentator Colin Cowherd (big wrestling fan, I hear) has said for a while now... It's the "DONALD TRUMP EFFECT".

This year's Presidential Election features a legitimate celebrity who has been in the public eye for over 30 years. Donald Trump is a millionaire who has openly flaunted his success, put his "Trump" name on everything possible. Hell, Wrestlemanias 4 & 5 were actually hosted at his place following the insanely successful drawing Wrestlemania 3. Donald Trump seems to have a magnetic personality who cannot resist being on television in addition to his business. Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice cemented him as a bigtime television personality who isn't afraid to say anything. He's been in several public fights with various celebrities and politicians over the years and to this day, he doesn't back down from what he said about Rosie O'Donnell.

Donald Trump has captivated the United States at a time where Television and Social Media are at their peaks. Whether he wins or not, people cannot resist the Trainwreck. He has that "what will he say next" quality that many other personalities, notably radio hosts like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh, have that keep audiences coming back for more. In fact, Cable News Networks keep reporting record breaking viewership on their end. The Republican Debates shattered Cable TV records for viewership. FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC executives are laughing to the bank right now and it's causing many traditional television shows to have declines right now. To further prove Donald Trump's super-stardom, his debate against Hillary Clinton did about 84 million viewers on Monday Night. To Monday Night RAW's credit, they only lost over 200,000 viewers compared to the previous week (NFL was way down this week).

Certainly, the "Donald Trump Effect" could be affecting Monday Night RAW and Smackdown Live viewership on Monday/Tuesday nights. However, I could easily argue that RAW has seen stiffer competition in the past in the forms of WCW Monday Nitro and NFL Monday Night when it had higher viewership on the ABC Network. Fact is that there are STILL approximately 96 million paid households with Cable/Satellite access to USA Networks.

But I don't want to argue about whether or not Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton is causing a reduction in WWE's viewership...

What I want to discuss is the "RAW Effect" as it relates to Smackdown Live.

Heading into the Brand Extension before July 19th, I argued at how brutal WWE programming would be on wrestling fans' time. If there is a Pay Per View on Sunday, you'll be watching 3 hours on Sunday, 3 hours on Monday for RAW, 2 hours on Tuesday for Smackdown, and then 1 hour on Wednesday for NXT's show. DO THE MATH, that is 9 hours of WWE wrestling watched in 4 straight day. That is BRUTAL! 2.25 hours per night on average. If you have work, family, and other hobbies/activities, those are difficult evenings to give up.

But what if Monday Night RAW is deemed to be a BAD show? As I was discussing with my buddy Virtue, wrestling fans have "RAW fatigue" after enduring 3 hours of low quality RAW that it REDUCES DEMAND to watch another night of WWE programming. As you've observed, RAW is getting just under 3.0 million lately and Smackdown is at or slightly below 2.5 million. Close margin... Given that BOTH shows are now on the USA Networks, it's very likely that the same hardcore fans are watching both shows. It's unlike 2002 where RAW (Spike TV) and Smackdown (UPN) were on completely different types of networks and actually had difference audiences (UPN was younger, more urban).

If WWE upsets their hardcore fanbase with an episode of RAW, it could reduce the demand to watch yet another night of wrestling in a short timeframe. Thus, Smackdown could suffer by RAW upsetting the WWE fanbase to the point where they decide to take Tuesday off.

Interesting theory, eh? But what if I could prove it?

I've been digging into ratings numbers lately for my own curiousity and to help back up some of the stances that I've taken lately. What I simply did to test this "RAW Fatigue" theory is to take RAW and Smackdown's ratings, side-by-side, since the Draft. Thus, my sample size is from July 25th, 2016 through September 27th, 2016 which would equate to 10 weeks as a sample size. I would prefer to have a larger sample, but I must account for RAW and Smackdown being on back-to-back nights for Monday/Tuesday. In the past, RAW was on Monday and Smackdown was on Thursday... Hard to measure our "RAW Fatigue" theory when wrestling fans, before July 19th, had 2 days off between RAW and Smackdown.

First of all, I simply put the numbers side-by-side and with the eyeball test, it's pretty easy to see a trend (excuse any bad formatting, data courtesy of Steve Gerweck):

RAW Smackdown
July 25 2.36 1.92
August 1 2.3 DOWN 1.86 DOWN
August 8 2.05 DOWN 1.69 DOWN
August 15 2.12 UP 1.72 UP
August 22 2.34 UP 1.92 UP
August 29 2.38 UP 1.95 UP
September 5 2.11 DOWN 1.76 DOWN
September 12 1.88 DOWN 1.86 UP
September 19 1.97 UP 1.7 DOWN
September 26 1.75 DOWN 1.69 DOWN

With the exception of September 12th and September 19th, the movement patterns are equal. When RAW decreased, Smackdown decreaed... When RAW increased, Smackdown increased. The follow-up to WWE Backlash 2016 boosted Smackdown's ratings on September 15th and in the follow up week, comes down a bit from that ratings spike. Otherwise, 7 out of 9 weeks have the same movement.

Then, I applied a basic statistical correlation in Excel. Again, I have just 10 weeks of data to work with and I would prefer to have a larger sample size. However, my movement patterns above are consistent so thus I believe in my result. Applying Excel's Data Analysis correlation test, I get an R-squared of 0.74 or 74%.

What the hell does that mean? For one, it's a positive 0.74 result... That means that both variables are moving in the same direction. Positively/Directly related, as they say. But when our 10 samples has a correlation of 0.74 or 74%. The maximum number for correlation, which is quite impossible to obtain or get that close to, is 1.00 or 100%. That's a good number, although again, I want to emphasize that I have a shallow sample size.

Just looking at the data and from the statistical test performed, I can conclude early that "RAW Fatigue" is a real thing. If RAW has higher viewers or improves from a previous week, Smackdown's rating also improves. If RAW's rating reduces, so does Smackdown.

I think what needs to be considered is just watching Smackdown. Seriously, as that would solve this "RAW Fatigue" problem. I do NOT like watching Monday Night RAW each week. It's become a chore. There are MANY wrestlers on that program that I legitimately like and want to watch wrestle (Rollins, Rusev, Jericho, New Day, Enzo/Cass, Anderson/Gallows, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Nia Jax, Kevin Owens, and Cesaro)... But damn, the booking is awful. We are legitimately getting the post-Attitude Era writing crew and the show feels like Vince McMahon is still calling the shots. And Stephanie's character is still lurking around the show... Ugh. Nothing has changed. It's the Roman Reigns show where everybody else endures 50/50 (win some, lose some, no streaks) booking. The whole damn "Best of 7" series between Sheamus and Cesaro was just to make them a Tag Team. Huh?

Smackdown is FUN... You can feel the NXT booking influence, as it reportedly has several NXT writers on staff. NXT has pushed credibility of their titles and keeping storylines simple... We're seeing that on Smackdown and that has maximized the very thin roster. Look at the Smackdown Women's Division... Just 6 ladies who all appear as equals... But their storylines are kept simple and it's incredibly easy to follow who is heel/face. Carmella/Bliss/Natalya are clearly heels and Nikki/Becky/Naomi are clearly babyfaces. All 6 ladies want to be Smackdown Women's Champion and Smackdown wisely books many 6 Women and Tag matches to maximize the chemistry that can be developed by the 6. The Tag Team division is gaining in credibility.

On Smackdown, they've made the Miz great again... I gave my suggestions before the Draft on removing the Corporate image that Miz owns and thanks to the "shoot" Talking Smack promo cut on Daniel Bryan, Miz is improving as a heel. Maryse is getting more involved as his valet, too, which greatly helps. He's becoming quite credible as a heel and Intercontinental Champion. There's still hope for Dolph Ziggler but he has years of bad booking that has damaged him. If WWE can figure out how to better position Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin, WWE has a nice division just under the Main Event.

I'm 100% fine with Dean Ambrose, John Cena, and AJ Styles wrestling for the WWE Title forever... Perfect trio of legitimate main eventers. AJ is clearly the heel, John Cena is clearly the babyface, and Ambrose can act as a tweener to fight both. Perfect. Then, when they're ready to be cycled in, add Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt to the mix. That's STAR POWER that the RAW brand does not have. Sorry, but Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns just aren't doing it for me and the supporting cast of Upper Midcarders who are damaged from YEARS of 50/50 booking (win some, lose some, no streaks) aren't helping. Might need to add Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura to shake things up? Sadly, NXT might be getting a large influx of talent soon from a closing rival organization soon.

We might just have to stop watching RAW and just enjoy their Pay Per Views on the WWE Network. I'm honestly leaning that way and wanted to do that from the start, but damn it, my columns need material! I need the bread!



Just turn Seth Rollins into a full blown babyface already. I'm tired of him pandering to his old Authority character. To quote Jim Ross: "you can't be half pregnant".

That said, I like the Jericho/Kevin Owens feud... I see real potential in Jericho vs. Rollins as an extended feud.

Don't like Sheamus vs. Cesaro as a tag team, as RAW needs both guys to boost their singles division. Both guys are talented enough to make it work as many said Kane/Daniel Bryan would be a bad idea too (myself included). I guess we'll just let it play out...

I like Rusev... He's just handcuffed to Roman Reigns at the moment.

Hey, Bayley won a match on RAW... Against a jobber.

I don't like the start of the Cruiserweight Division on RAW... Just feels like a fumbled transition from the Cruiserweight Classic to RAW. Not interesting so far and RAW needs to better introduce the competiting wrestlers as well.

Enjoyed the Main Event of RAW between JeriKO vs. Enzo/Cass. Makes me wonder if Big Cass will go for that WWE Universal Title soon... I think so...

On Smackdown, I thought the backstage segments between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt were OK... Felt like by-the-numbers storytelling, but it seemed to somewhat work.

LOVE the Usos as heels and for that matter, Carmella as a heel as well. All 3 were in need of a character change and Smackdown executed both changes perfectly. Usos have changed their look, wrestling style, and entrance music... It's working! Put those Tag Titles on them ASAP and then begin building the babyface team to beat them (maybe American Alpha if Gable can stop being "face in peril", as it makes the team look too weak). Carmella just went after Nikki Bella aggressively and it works... Better yet, Nikki (a) sells for her and (b) loses to her. That's how you make other wrestlers look strong. Carmella is thriving as a heel.

Miz & Dolph Ziggler segment was an A+ all the way from me. They nailed it... Miz played the babyface in his hometown of Cleveland and then tore them down (where was my parade, you support a traitor like Lebron). Just killed his hometown! Then, Ziggler comes out and cuts an amazing promo. You knew that this promo was for real because Dolph eyes had tears in them. Makes you wonder if he's really leaving WWE and this is his swan song? Regardless, Ziggler cut one hell of a promo to put his career on the line. That Pay Per View match should be off-the-charts and fans will feel that "sense of urgency". Perfect segment... The Miz is really hitting his strides as a heel now.

Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles was EXCELLENT... Why the WWE keeps giving this away on FREE television, I'll never know... I bet ratings would sadly be the same with a different match that doesn't put the WWE Title on the line. That's what sucks right now about "RAW Fatigue".


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