On Friday night, everyone knew (and also didn’t know) what they’d be tuning in to. For the first time in 40 years, WWE television would be going on air with a new person at the helm. And clearly, people wanted to see what that would look like as SmackDown ratings rose for the first time in over a month according to the fast national viewership numbers (the first round of ratings; SmackDown ratings tend to rise 10-20 percent from this numbers) which came out Saturday morning.
Just hours before SmackDown went live on Friday night, the world was shocked by the announcement that the embattled Vince McMahon would be retiring from all of his responsibilities with WWE. Despite his ongoing legal woes stemming from alleged misconduct over the years, it is safe to say no one likely thought the chairman would step down on his own recognizance. WWE has been McMahon’s sole priority over the past 40 years, so to see him acknowledge the need to step away was major mainstream news. It also created speculation and curiosity as fans were anxious to tune in to the product to see what the first Vince McMahon-less show would look like. That much was clear by looking at the ratings.
Following last week’s show, SmackDown had seen a dip in ratings for the fourth consecutive week, going below two million fast national viewers for the first time since the end of June. The product suffered in July due to a lackluster SummerSlam build which hadn’t featured Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar on the same show at the same time. In all, SmackDown’s numbers haven’t been great for much of the last few months save for the June 17th show, which marked McMahon’s scheduled appearance following the report that he was temporarily stepping down due to being investigated for alleged misconduct by the WWE Board of Directors. That show received a viewership of 2,274,000, the second highest of the year for SmackDown. This Friday night’s viewership is likely to be among the top five of the year as well as the fast national numbers of 2,170,000 are the highest for the promotion since that June 17th show.
SmackDown’s July 22nd show, which opened with a word from new co-CEO Stephanie McMahon, saw viewership was up nearly 10 percent from the previous week. The demo was 0.6 in the fast nationals, which topped all other network TV numbers and was double that of the second highest program. Final viewership numbers should be out within the next few days.
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