There may not be a lot of live sports and entertainment shows on at the moment, but even that scarcity doesn’t seem to be working out for World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE controversially returned to live shows last month despite concerns from many, something that even led to Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) naming them an “essential business.” But those shows (WWE Raw and WWE Smackdown have been recording live from WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, but with no fans in the crowds, while NXT has been recording from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL, but also without fans) haven’t been drawing strong audiences. In fact, as Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer wrote Tuesday, WWE Raw on USA hit an all-time low Monday:
Last night’s Raw set an all-time record low for viewers with an average of 1.68 million, down seven percent from the prior week’s record non-holiday low and showing the effects of the empty arena shows is siphoning away viewers at a larger rate each week rather than stabilizing, similar to that of SmackDown on Friday.
This broke the all-time low of 1.78 million set on Christmas Eve of 2018, as well as the non-holiday record of 1.82 million set last week.
The drop in 18-49 was nine percent in viewers and the 18-49 rating was 0.46, putting the show in fourth place for the night on cable.
…The drop during the show of 14 percent was normal, so the story wasn’t the show itself turning off viewers as much as the lack of interest in watching the show to begin with. The first hour was the second lowest first hour in history, while hours two and three were the lowest hours two and three. The third hour was the least-watched hour in Raw history.
As Meltzer noted, this is still acceptable compared to some other programming out there. Raw finished 24th on the night in overall viewership, which is above what it had been doing. And while those 18-49 numbers are rough, the show was second to 90 Day Fiance on TLC (1.83 million viewers) amongst non-news programming. But it’s worth noting that most networks’ programming at the moment is a lot of reruns thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so those ranking numbers need to be taken with some salt.
And it’s certainly significant that WWE has been drawing such low numbers even without much sports competition. They’d usually be up against NBA and NHL playoffs (plus the MLB regular season) at this point, but even with those events all gone, they’re still recording historic lows. Yes, there are some disclaimers with what they are putting out; several top wrestlers (including Roman Reigns) aren’t taking part, and many reviews have suggested that WWE hasn’t adapted well to the lack of live fans. But it’s still notable that their ratings are this low even with very little else on.