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WWE Ratings Up as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Makes Extended Comeback

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In the lead-up to its biggest premium event of the year this weekend, WrestleMania, WWE’s television ratings are up in the key 18-49 demographic compared with the first quarter of last year, the company shared Monday. That’s despite the ongoing decline in the viewers of traditional TV as audiences shift to new platforms.

“Friday Night SmackDown” on Fox is one of the strongest performers, largely thanks to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making an extended comeback starting at the beginning of the year. The show averaged 892,000 total viewers in the 18-49 demo through March 22, up 15% from last year. Johnson is set to team up with Roman Reigns against Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins in his first extended matches in more than a decade, when he wrestled John Cena at 2013’s WrestleMania.

The Feb. 16 episode of “SmackDown” was the most-viewed primetime broadcast show for that week, scoring 985,000 viewers in the key 18-49 demo. The show also ranked No. 1 in the demo for all Friday broadcast programming for 11 of the 12 weeks of the quarter.

While Johnson has also appeared on “Monday Night Raw,” “SmackDown” has been home to the majority of his appearances. “Raw” still saw a strong quarter, averaging 733,000 viewers in 18-49 in ratings data through March 22. That’s a 6% increase from 2023. This marks the last quarter “Raw” will appear on its traditional home of the USA Network, as it will instead be headed to Netflix for its weekly airings (and delayed viewing) at the beginning of 2025. However, “SmackDown” will be leaving Fox and heading to USA this fall, filling in the gap.

“Raw” has also ranked No. 1 in the demo among Monday cable programming during nine of the first 13 weeks of the year. It’s benefited from sports superstar Pat McAfee, the former Indianapolis Colts player-turned-ESPN commentator, returning to the broadcast table as the “Raw” color commentator. He’s served as a WWE announcer before, but took a hiatus beginning in fall 2022 due to the difficulties of doing both commentary and serving as an analyst for ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

One of the quarter’s strongest performances came following McAfee’s surprise return at this year’s Royal Rumble premium event on Jan. 27, where he both commentated and briefly joined the match. The Jan. 29 episode of “Raw,” with McAfee now back as a regular, had 811,000 total viewers in the demo. That put it up 13% from the previous week.

WWE developmental league NXT, which airs Tuesdays on USA, has shown a healthy increase of 31% in 18-49 for the quarter compared with 2023, in ratings data through March 26. The show has utilized more of its established stars from WWE’s Raw and SmackDown brands to help elevate the show over the past year, with its own biggest stars graduating from the brand to the other shows over time.

The show has continued to build its roster with an increased focus on recruiting high-level athletes from traditional sports to train at the WWE Performance Center, as well as simple but effective storytelling overseen by famed WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels. The brand’s wrestlers will be featured in NXT’s own premium event this weekend, NXT Stand & Deliver on Saturday.

Like WWE’s other programming, the show is also heading to a new home. This fall, NXT moves from USA to The CW, keeping a broadcast foothold for WWE despite “SmackDown” moving to cable.

WrestleMania is this Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, streaming live on Peacock.

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