John Cena’s return to Smackdown likely delivered the show’s highest rating in two years


WWE Friday Night Smackdown last night on Fox, featuring a rare match involving John Cena, is likely to have attracted the show’s largest audience since late 2020.

The fast affiliate measurement for Smackdown, according to, is 2.44 million viewers. Fast affiliate data for Smackdown consistently measure lower than the final rating, which will be reported Tuesday afternoon.

We expect the final viewership to be around 2.6 million viewers. In recent months, final ratings for Smackdown have consistently been between 5% higher and 10% higher than fast affiliate numbers. If that difference holds for the latest episode, it would mean last night’s show had the highest rating for Smackdown since the Christmas 2020 episode benefited from an NFL game lead-in. Excluding that exceptional case, last night’s episode could be the highest total viewership for Smackdown since February 2020.

We can confirm the fast affiliate number reported by is correct. We’ve also learned the second hour was slightly more highly viewed than the first hour. The show ended with John Cena teaming with Kevin Owens against Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn.

On occasion, fast affiliate data can be misleadingly high, like in cases when Smackdown is preempted in some markets during weeks when there are NFL preseason games airing on Fox in Smackdown’s time slot. We don’t believe there were any preemptions on Fox affiliates last night, nor are we aware of other reasons to expect this preliminary number may be lower than the final rating that will be reported Tuesday.

Brandon Thurston

Brandon Thurston has written about wrestling business since 2015. He’s also worked as an independent wrestler and trainer.

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