Back in July of 2008, I decided to keep track of my viewing time of WWE Monday Night Raw, ECW, TNA, and WWE Smackdown to see if I would be able to tell anything about the direction of the quality of the programming. This is assuming that if the quality (in my opinion) is better, I will watch more, and if the quality drops (again based on my tastes), I will watch less.

What was actually being tracked was the amount of each individual episode of each wrestling program that I viewed. I also tracked the amount of time from the start of the program until the start of the first match (or pre-match brawl). It was a measure of how long you would have to wait to see action if you were tuning in at the top of the show. It turned out to be not very useful, but I didn’t know that when I started collecting data.

I tracked all four shows for a year before deciding to change things up and measure them differently. You can find the results of the that year-long experiment, including the charts and data, on the TV Viewership Stats page.

The New Method

In July of 2009, I started collecting some different data about the same wrestling programming. What I am measuring this time is the number of matches per hour, and the quality of those matches as judged by a simple rating system.

The rating system I’m using is not one to five stars. It’s closer to how I rate programming using my TiVo (Thumbs Up/2 Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down).

There is an expectation (by me at least) of what an average match should consist of. An average match that’s “just okay” gets no thumb rating. A good match (longer, better ring psychology, more technical skill displayed, etc.), gets one Thumb Up. A really great, near “match-of-the-year” candidate gets 2 Thumbs Up. And a real stinker, or one that throws the suspension of disbelief completely out the window, gets one Thumb Down.

[For the sake of these ratings, I have decided to not rate “squash” matches a thumbs down. I don’t like them, but they can have their purpose of building up talent in the viewer’s eyes before introducing them to “real” competition. Raw and ECW have been airing quite a few of these lately.]

Update: Since the WWE decided to shut down the ECW promotion, TV match ratings information including ECW does not make sense (I’d be comparing bruised apples & squashed oranges). So I took a snapshot of the ratings during the last week of ECW and moved them to a separate page. You can find the ratings from 7/7/2009 to 2/19/2010 on the TV Match Ratings Including ECW page.

The Final Results

After 52 weeks of collecting data from July 7th 2009 to July 9th 2010, here are the final results:

Average Matches Per Hour

This chart shows the number of matches per hour of programming for WWE Monday Night Raw TNA, and WWE Smackdown. They are all pretty close to three matches per hour. Each program is two hours a week, with a few 3 hour specials throughout the year.

Avg Matches Per Hour

Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down Rating Totals

For each of the three brands, the thumb ratings have been totaled since I started collecting data the week of July 7th, 2009. Just to be clear, each “One Thumb Up” rating counts as one point, each “Two Thumbs Up” rating counts as two, and each “Thumb Down” rating counts as negative one (which subtracts from the total).

Here are the Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down ratings for the three programs:

Total Thumbs Up Ratings

Despite all of the negative press it gets, TNA pulled out ahead of Smackdown and way ahead of Raw in the quality of the matches (in my opinion).

Two Thumbs Up

Here are the number of matches in each brand that were rated by me as Two Thumbs Up over the 52 week period.

Total Matches Rated Two Thumbs Up

Since Two Thumbs Up matches are going to be rare, there isn’t much of a spread between the highest and the lowest. So let’s take a look at the one Thumb Up ratings for each.

One Thumb Up

Here are the number of matches in each brand that were rated One Thumb Up over the 52 week period.

Smackdown is out in front of Raw, with TNA pulling away from the pack. So why isn’t TNA farther ahead of the rest in the overall totals? Let’s take a look at the Thumbs Down.

Thumb Down

Here are the number of matches in each brand that were rated One Thumb Down over the 52 week period.

Total Matches Rated Thumbs Down

TNA is trailing behind Raw, but they still have their fair share of stinkers (thank you Cody Deaner and Chavo Guerrero). This is why TNA wasn’t higher in the overall total. They have about one terrible match for every 5 great matches.

Trends

I included the charts below showing how the total thumb ratings look for each brand over time. For each week I showed the Average Thumb rating per match (over time) in one chart, and the Total Thumb Rating over time in another.

The week of July 7th 2009 happened to be a good week, so they all show a big drop in the averages, which is kind of misleading. It wasn’t rapidly getting worse, it was more like just returning to normal.

The Raw guest host format has certainly affected the WWE programming. They are consistently at the bottom, even though it is supposedly the WWE’s “flagship” program. About 1 in 20 Raw matches is considered great.

If you take a look at the trend of TNA, you can see the damage Hulk Hogan and his cronies inflicted after the first of the year (about the midpoint of the charts). The average rating of each TNA match was climbing until Hogan took over. At its peak about 1 in 3 matches was great. It has been steadily falling since then up until the last few weeks where it leveled out.

Smackdown has been fairly consistent over time, equaling TNA in the last few months. About 1 in 5 matches are considered great.

Avg Thumb Rating Per Match

The totals chart shows a few changes from week to week. TNA took their three best matches of the year from their Pay-Per-Views and aired them on free TV on New Years Eve, which caused the total to jump.

Total Thumb Rating Over Time

If a line is flat, then several weeks have gone by without any good matches. Or there are as many good as bad, which will cancel each other out (see explanations of Thumb Ratings again above).

Conclusions

So what does this all mean?

Good questions. Here’s what I think it means…

  • Raw usually sucks.
  • Smackdown is the best WWE product out there and is pretty consistent week-to-week,
  • TNA has some great talent that are capable of putting on outstanding matches, but only during the few times that management doesn’t screw it up,
  • And I wasted a year collecting data

But you already knew that…