SmackDown ratings, viewership, and demo were up huge for the final show of 2022 and there is one big reason why. Sing it with me. “John Cena drawssss. John Cena drawsssss.” While that statement is a pretty obvious one, the numbers last week proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Cena’s highly hyped up in-return put butts in seats, 15,738 to be exact according to WrestlingData’s Attendance Tracker. According to that same tracker, that puts the December 30th edition of SmackDown (#1220) as the 10th highest attended wrestling show of the year, and top among weekly episodic tapings (the top nine are all PPV/PLE). The December 16th edition of SmackDown (#1218), which may have seen attendance boosted by fans getting to see two episodes of SmackDown for the price of one (and which also featured Cena via a video message) ranked as the 13th highest attended event of 2022. According to Dave Meltzer, over 4,000 tickets for the December 30th show were sold after the announcement was made that Cena would be returning in-person for a match.
But attendance wasn’t the only thing bolstered by the 17-time champion as SmackDown saw a two-year high in its rating on the night Cena made his in-ring return. Headlined by a tag team match pitting Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn against Kevin Owens and John Cena, as well as a Bray Wyatt appearance and the returning Charlotte Flair in action against Ronda Rousey, SmackDown drew in an audience of 2, 629,000 viewers. This was the blue brand’s largest viewership since the Christmas Night show in 2020 drew over 3M, benefited in part due to the NFL lead-in. Ironically enough, that show also featured Reigns vs Owens as the two battled for Reigns’ Universal Championship in a steel cage match. Excluding the December 25th, 2020 show, the December 30th, 2022 SmackDown was the highest-rated SmackDown without an NFL lead-in since February 28th, 2020. And would it surprise anyone to know that show was headlined by Cena’s first WWE appearance since 2019 as he began an angle with Wyatt on the Road to WrestleMania?
So whether you’re a “Let’s Go Cena” or a “John Cena Sucks” kind of fan, one thing is undeniable, and that is that Cena is a ratings draw and attendance draw.
But beyond Cena, let’s take a deeper dive into the numbers for last week’s SmackDown ratings to see how segments featuring other wrestlers fared.
WWE Ratings – SmackDown Rating and Viewership Data for December 30, 2022
WWE Smackdown, Friday on Fox (8-10pm):
P18-49 rating: 0.64
#7 in P18-49 among broadcast primetime and cable originals
— Wrestlenomics (@wrestlenomics) January 3, 2023
As reported by Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, last week’s episode of SmackDown had a total of 2,629,000 viewers and a demo rating of 0.64, making it television’s seventh-best program on Friday night. AEW Rampage, which drew just 470,000 viewers was the 28th-best cable original program on the night.
According to ITN WWE, this was SmackDown’s best total viewership number this year and as noted above, best for the blue brand overall since 2020. Heavily promoted, this show featured the return of John Cena, whose match allowed him to keep alive a streak of having wrestled at least once per year in every year since his 2002 debut. Cena’s tag team match closed the show and brought in the best quarter hour on the night, with 2.83M tuning in. Leading off the show was promo between Bray Wyatt and LA Knight, which drew the second-best quarter hour mark of 2.80. The third-best quarter hour was a SmackDown Women’s Championship match between Ronda Rousey and the surprise return of Charlotte Flair. This brought in 2.74M. In all, no quarter hour fell below 2.4M, which marks SmackDown’s highest ratings average viewership by quarter hour since 2020.
Quarter-hours for WWE Smackdown last Friday, with John Cena's first match since summer 2021.
The show averaged Smackdown's highest viewership since 2020.
— Brandon Thurston (@BrandonThurston) January 5, 2023
WWE’s YouTube channel also benefited significantly from these three segments as Cena’s match drew in 5.2M views as of Jan. 3rd and has since climbed to 5.8M views as of Jan. 6th. Only five clips bested this mark, many of which featured Brock Lesnar. Wyatt’s segment recorded 1.8M views and Flair’s title match has since garnered 1.5. Beyond this, there is a huge drop-off as the next highest ranked segment on YouTube was a GUNTHER/Braun Strowman segment which brought in just over 800K views.
SmackDown’s last show of 2022 was definitely a success, but will the blue brand be able to keep up the momentum without Cena? Advertised for tonight’s SmackDown is a tag title match between Drew McIntyre and Sheamus attempting to end the Usos‘ record-breaking run, Ricochet facing Top Dolla in a qualifying match for the Men’s Royal Rumble, and a championship celebration for Flair. It’s not a bad card at all, but it lacks the star power of Reigns, Rousey, and Cena, the latter of which specifically seemed to make last week’s show such a success.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on the SmackDown ratings reports and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network and Peacock.