The highly-anticipated debut of Friday Night SmackDown on FOX took place last night, and barring a five-second squash of Kofi Kingston, the show hit all the right notes. WWE used the two-hour block quite well, utilizing the current and former crop of superstars in the perfect way possible.
The show was promoted heavily for months, and it seems to have paid off with one of the highest-rated episodes of SmackDown in recent memory. SmackDown averaged 3.8 million viewers in the inaugural episode, which is almost double of its last episode on USA Network, which averaged 2.2 million.
An 80% increase from last week’s episode is quite an astounding number, and both WWE and FOX will be pretty satisfied with the outcome. Both parties will hope to see such numbers in the future as well, but that’s certainly not going to be the case.
In comparison, RAW drew a 2.5 million viewership for the Season Premiere episode, while AEW Dynamite and NXT drew 1.4 and 800k viewers respectively. This is SmackDown’s highest ratings in years, and it never reached such a number during its stay on USA Network.
Another interesting tidbit from the ratings is the drop from the first hour to the second hour. Roughly 100k viewers tuned out after the first hour, which is a promising number for the show. The Rock’s appearance took place in the first hour, following which a lot of casuals would be expected to switch off their sets. However, most of the fans stayed in for the main-event featuring Brock Lesnar and Kofi Kingston.
Several WWE legends like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, and Mick Foley appeared during the show at ringside. However, WWE failed to deliver on the promised appearances by Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sting and The Undertaker, which led to fan backlash.
WWE hit all the right notes with the debut, but next week’s viewership will be even more interesting. What part of 3.8 million stays in for next week’s episode will be a better indication of things to come for WWE and FOX.