WWE‘s new wild card rule brought the company a much-needed viewership boost.
Vince McMahon introduced the rule on this week’s Monday Night Raw. The rule allows a limited number of wrestlers from one show to appear on the other for one-night-only appearances. It also comes less than a month after this year’s Superstar Shake-Up.
The move comes as a result of a compromise between Vince McMahon, NBC Universal (which currently airs Raw and SmackDown Live on USA), and Fox, which will begin airing SmackDown in October. It also comes in the midst of a severe ratings decline for the company.
As reported by Dave Meltzer on this week’s Wrestling Observer Radio, NBCUniversal and Fox wanted the promotion’s top stars to continue to appear on both shows. McMahon remained steadfast that the brand split should remain intact.
From Meltzer’s report:
“Fox wanted more storylines that are going to be on both Raw and SmackDown. You know, NBCUniversal was real upset about the ratings especially in the third hour and was asking questions about, ‘Our ratings are this, this, and this — why’d we give away Roman Reigns?'”
As a result, all parties involved reached a compromise. We saw five SmackDown Live wrestlers appear on the May 6 edition of Raw. Roman Reigns teased his appearance all weekend long on Twitter, but WWE Champion Kofi Kingston’s appearance was a complete surprise.
Kingston successfully defended the title against fellow SmackDown Live star Daniel Bryan in a WrestleMania 35 rematch in Raw‘s main event.
Lars Sullivan and Elias both crossed over to the red brand for Monday night’s show. AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, and the Usos appeared on SmackDown.
The gamble, for now at least, paid off. As covered by 411Mania, Raw drew an average of 2.24 million viewers this week, up from 2.15 million the prior week.
Despite the uptick in viewers, though, Fightful reports that the overall rating in the 18-49 demographic remained at the same 0.72 average as the April 29 edition of Raw.
SmackDown‘s ratings went up slightly in the aftermath of the wild card, earning a 0.58. The April 30 show had a 0.54. WWE’s Tuesday night show brought in 1.93 million, a subtle improvement over viewership from the previous week’s 1.83 million. Those figures come from Showbuzz Daily.
SmackDown‘s main event was another WWE title match, as Kingston defended against Styles and Zayn.
But given the number of factors working against WWE at this point, any good ratings news is good news. It does shine a light on WWE’s continued vulnerability, as McMahon finds himself more beholden to the network suits than he has been in decades.
Only time will tell if WWE’s wild card approach is a cure or a Band-Aid on a flesh wound.
All images courtesy of WWE.