WWE RAW: 16 Biggest Ratings Movers (2011-2013)

An extremely in-depth look at the biggest superstars in the WWE (according to their respective segment ratings for the past 3 years of WWE Raw).

After more than twenty years and well over a thousand episodes, Monday Night Raw remains WWE's flagship show. It's the "A-show" and watched by millions of dedicated weekly viewers. Without question, the show will continue to play an integral role in the WWE as they are banking heavily on the upcoming TV Rights Fee increases. With the evolution of Pay-Per-View programming to be included on the WWE Network, undoubtedly, Monday Night Raw is going to continue to be the centerpiece of WWE programming. Thus looking at who is regularly booked on Raw (and in which segments) will tell you a whole lot about how the company views those performers and their importance in the company. Don't be decieved - whilst the Monday Night Wars with WCW Nitro may have come and gone, WWE still pays very close attention to Raw ratings, particularly segment-by-segment. Therefore, I've undertaken a detailed analysis covering three year's worth of Raw episodes. I've explicitly tracked the quarter-hour viewership changes with attention to who was giving a passionate interview, wrestling for a title, complaining to the GM, having a dance contest and so much more. I've followed how the ratings wane and wax through the show, and who exactly was on screen during those 15 minutes of glory. This study covered 162 weeks of Raw (9/6/10 through 10/7/13) which a mix of both two-hour and three-three episodes. Data was extracted from weekly reports published in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter. A combination of both viewership changes and ratings points were used. (FYI, a 0.1 rating change is equal to adding or losing approximately 144,000 domestic viewers.) Before we countdown the results, there's four caveats I'd like emphasize: (1) This looks at quarter-hour viewership changes in the United States. We're examining how many people tuned in or tuned during the fifteen minutes measured. However, we know there's a host of reasons that people tune-in or tune-out throughout a show. It could be related to the specific time periods (top of the hour, the end of show overrun). It could involve specific television competition €“ especially major sports events like American Football games. It may have to do with who is on the screen. It could even have to do with who was on the screen previously. (For example, say the Rock does a mid-show promo, viewership for that segment would probably swell. Then, if the next segment was a match with two midcarders, say Damien Sandow and Santino Marella, we'd expect many people to tune out.) Some of the weekly data suggests may even just be part of unexplainable and fickle variations that one sees when you're looking at Nielsen ratings closely. (2) This pretends everyone in a "segment" was equally as responsible for driving the viewership change. Suppose JTG was destroyed by Brock Lesnar and during that segment a half million people tune in. Under this study both JTG and Brock Lesnar would credit for adding +500,000 viewers. That's why it's important to never overreact to a one week's rating. Instead, we try and focus on the wrestlers that appeared on several different episodes of Raw, as well as looking across large swaths of time so we can determine a true average for each wrestler. (3) This (mostly) ignores normal Raw viewership patterns. There are quarter-hours where Raw viewership normally picks up and there are quarter-hours where Raw viewership normally drops off. After more than two decades, WWE has trained and re-trained their fans about when the important stuff is going to happen. Specifically, we know that the end of the show when Raw crosses the 11 PM EST boundary and goes over is usually when they hold the biggest angle. This time is called the "overrun" and can regularly add over a million more viewers. As we have experienced the new era of weekly 3-hour Raw, we're actually seeing a new set of viewership habits where Raw often loses viewers from the start of the show to the end of the show. WWE is hardly ignorant of the trends. It's not surprising that they often program similar material and similar people (at least on a status basis) in the same slots week-over-week. So, this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy €“ if you treat someone like a goof in a blow-off timeslot and the audience will view them that way. This doesn't "prove" they can or cannot draw viewers- it only shows that WWE doesn't think highly enough of them to protect them from being in the "death slots". Conversely, being put in the overrun segment isn't definitive proof that you can draw viewers either. However, ultimately the cream tends to rise to the top and the true stars are recognized by the fans. (4) This is an imperfect science. Using such a long time period is advantageous in that it helps smooth the quarterly raw ebbs and swells. However, it's also a period that covered builds to 39 different PPV events (from Night of Champions 2010 all the way through Battleground 2013) and host of angles, numerous face/heel turns and more than a thousand wrestling matches. This analysis balances shorter periods when someone got "hot" with the longer trend over time. (So, short-term pushes such as Mark Henry in April-May 2013 or Daniel Bryan in August 2013-September 2013 may be evened out by how they were booked in 2011 or 2012.) Lastly, while a complete list would be 80+ people, we€™ll focus on the top sixteen groups that demonstrated long-term positive ratings impact.
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I'm a professional wrestling analyst, an improviser and an avid NES gamer. I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I'm working on my first book (#wrestlenomics). You can contact me at chris.harrington@gmail.com or on twitter (@mookieghana)