WWE News: Live SmackDown Special Consolidates Ratings Boost Ahead Of USA Network Debut

WWE’s live SmackDown special continued the show’s upward momentum in the television ratings, bolstered by a strong main event match with the Intercontinental Championship on the line.

The current strong ratings for SmackDown bode well for the show’s permanent move to the USA Network in January, which WWE hopes will bring fans around to their secondary program, which has struggled in the midst of a general ratings slump for wrestling during 2015.

This week’s festive live SmackDown broadcast, which aired on the USA Network the day after Raw, was watched by an average of 2.264 million viewers, according to a report in What Culture.

The live SmackDown did average a lesser viewership than the previous week’s episode, which scored 2.332 million off the back of a strong Raw that featured the surprise coronation of Roman Reigns as the new WWE Champion.

Despite achieving a smaller audience than the previous week’s episode, the live SmackDown broadcast on USA Network was still the third most-watched SmackDown broadcast since the summer months.

Live SmackDown had a festive feel on USA Network Live SmackDown Special [Photo by WWE]WWE has had much-publicised issues with securing television viewers since then, with unengaging storylines and a string of major injuries causing problems for the creative team. A recent piece at WrestlingInc revealed that, during the month of October, episodes of SmackDown only secured an average of 2.14 million viewers – down from 2.52 million in October 2014.

This solid performance for SmackDown on USA Network will delight WWE bosses, who are reportedly planning major changes for the format when the programme makes the permanent move to join Raw on its new channel. There has even been discussion of turning SmackDown into a hybrid format combining aspects of Raw with aspects of the NXT programme that is popular with more hardcore professional wrestling fans.

What Culture speculated that the ratings drop for the live SmackDown special was perhaps a result of a poor Monday show, but said that there was plenty to enjoy on the broadcast.

“Coming off a lackluster edition of Raw, expectations dropped considerably for SmackDown this week. However, the argument could be made that Tuesday’s edition of SmackDown ended up being a more entertaining show than Raw. The broadcast was headlined by a triple threat match for the Intercontinental title, pitting Dean Ambrose against Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler in what turned out to be an excellent match. There was also a scary moment toward the end of the bout when Ambrose landed awkwardly on his neck, nearly seriously injuring himself.”

In fact, the live SmackDown received several strong reviews. Bleacher Report analyst Erik Beaston lauded the main event match as “fantastic” and praised its “spectacular finish.”

“While the feud between Ambrose and Owens may be the main feud, the changing character of Ziggler has risen to the forefront and threatened to steal the show. A more determined Showoff is far more fun to watch than one going through the motions, which has been the case for quite some time. The main event felt like a high-profile bout, one that deserved to headline the show, and the Superstars backed up the faith of WWE Creative to put them there.”

WWE will take plenty of encouragement from the reaction to their live SmackDown special, particularly given persistent rumours that the blue brand could make a permanent move to a live format when it moves to the USA Network in January.

The decision to go live would certainly help to position SmackDown as a programme on an equal footing to Raw. If the two shows are positioned as being on an even keel, then there’s a decent chance of a more permanent ratings improvement for SmackDown as must-see wrestling television.

A live SmackDown could solve a lot of creative issues for WWE.

[Featured photo by WWE]