WWE: John Cena’s return will be a much needed boost for SmackDown

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23: John Cena prepares for his fight against Seth Rollins at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23: John Cena prepares for his fight against Seth Rollins at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images) /

John Cena spent quite a bit of time away from in-ring action in WWE. His last performance was at last year’s WrestleMania 36, where he faced The Fiend. After all that time away, he’s finally back. Will his return be a boost for the SmackDown brand?

“It’s my time now”

To say that John Cena was a massive draw for WWE would be putting it way too mildly. John Cena was definitely the “franchise player,” as he so stated in his early promos near his start in the business. He rose amongst the ranks and after failed attempts by WWE to make Randy Orton, Batista, and Brock Lesnar fill the void left by Steve Austin’s retirement and the absence of The Rock, the position was given to Cena, and Cena not only made the most of it, he shattered early expectations.

Where he’s been

In 2006, Cena made his first official foray into the world of cinema, with his action film release, The Marine. It was produced by WWE, yeah, but it launched his career as an actor nonetheless.

What followed that film in quick succession were very good films, but they didn’t draw the expected or rather desired audience, and for a while, it seemed as though Cena gave up on his Hollywood dreams.

He even poked fun at his own films while in a feud with The Rock, essentially stating that in the ring was where he would stay, as opposed to Dwayne. Yet as the years went on and as we slowly began to see John pushed from the main event, the familiar trend in WWE was slowly starting to be seen once more…

Just as Hulk Hogan and, later, Randy Savage was pushed from view in 1993-94 as WWE was going through their so-called “youth movement,” Cena, too, was put in minor storylines that had nothing to do with the world title he had won 16 times.

Soon after that, he took his leave and a few roles he had that did well in Hollywood (Trainwreck, Sisters, Daddy’s Home, etc.) had ushered in another chance for him to make a go of his other talents.

He has since starred in a few films but seems to be concentrating on secondary roles, which, in acting, promotes longevity. Just ask Harvey Keitel…he knows. But back to the point, shall we?

The ratings on Raw and SmackDown

This is where it gets interesting, folks. The first-ever SmackDown in front of a live audience since the pandemic hit, the viewership on SmackDown went up. According to Wrestling Observer, they went up 16.3 percent from the numbers tallied for the SmackDown before, clicking in at 2.31 million viewers. Cena returned at Money In The Bank, appeared at the following night’s Raw, and announced he would be on SmackDown, yet the numbers for the following episode of SmackDown went down a whopping 7.5 percent on the very night of his return.

Doesn’t really make all that much sense considering all the hype on Twitter, all of that noise made by Cena’s return, now does it?

It really doesn’t, but still, those are the numbers and the numbers don’t lie, as they say.

But these days, we’re made to ask the question: do ratings matter as much as they used to? Do they account for everyone who’s watching? Did they ever? With so many ways to watch SmackDown, and dare we say it, so many illegal ways to stream the show these days — which is wrong but unfortunately it happens — do we really know how many people are actually watching from episode to episode? Probably not, so it’s definitely hard to figure out to the decimal point.

In the Attitude Era and in the Ruthless Aggression Era (in which Cena emerged), ratings were a whole different animal. These days, between Raw and SmackDown, we’ll say that in a rounded-off sort of way, the numbers go from one million views to just above two million, as the above statistics from F4WOnline prove.

But during the Attitude Era and The Ruthless Aggression Era, the numbers were quite different indeed.

Statistically, 1999 was the best year in professional wrestling — numbers-wise and money-wise — which is often why Stone Cold is highly regarded as being the greatest of all time, so to pull a statistic out to prove a point, the ratings for May 10, 1999, were a whopping 8.1 million (Raw).

To pull a date from the Ruthless Aggression Era, let’s go with the height of that period, which was May 16, 2005, which hit 4.3 million (Raw), which is almost half of where they were six years prior during the Attitude Era.

Down, yeah, but not as low as where we are today, and sadly even with the return of John Cena.

Maybe, in the end, a single Summer Of Cena isn’t enough. The company perhaps needs a “John Cena” to be there all the time and not on a part-time basis, but that’s a whole other argument, dear readers.

To boost or not to boost? That is the question

So, to answer the question I posed in the very first paragraph of this piece, yeah, Cena’s a license to print money, and that’s whether he’s on the set of a commercial, a reality show, an action/adventure flick, or in the squared circle. They don’t call it star quality for nothing.

He is most definitely a boost for the show; as I stated earlier, he got the whole world talking about wrestling again, even the casual fans out there. I mean, Twitter went insane when he returned at Money In The Bank.

As far as being a boost in the locker room, I’d say that he will serve as one there as well, because if having the likes of John Cena back there doesn’t light a flame under you, igniting you, motivating you to do better, then maybe you’re not in the right business.

The ratings are another mystery altogether, but one that we can only hope the powers that be at WWE are thinking about.

Seeing that we’re on a bit of a ratings kick in this piece, here’s one final note to leave you on: recently, Vince McMahon stated that AEW isn’t real competition, or something to that effect. AEW has been hitting over a million views as of late. AEW’s Dynamite ratings for July 29th: 1,108,000 viewers. Raw ratings for this past Monday: 1.814 million. I’d say they’re catching up and fast. Pretty amazing for a company that only launched in 2019.

Next. WWE SmackDown Results: Sasha Banks Returns, Cena vs. Reigns Official. dark

“If there are cracks in your armor, your opponent is going to find them.”

–Doug Baldwin

“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

–Sun Tzu