Roman Reigns, the WWE's 'Tribal Chief,' returned to Friday Night SmackDown after an extended hiatus, marking his first appearance since a startling superkick by Jey Uso just days following SummerSlam. While Reigns' re-entry was highly anticipated, the overall impact was less than WWE might have hoped for, both in terms of star power and television ratings.
The season premiere of SmackDown was a star-studded affair, kicked off by none other than wrestling legend John Cena. However, the spotlight swiftly moved from Reigns when Cena unexpectedly introduced the rapidly rising star, LA Knight.
The ensuing face-off hinted at a high-profile match potentially slated for next month's Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, yet it drew attention away from Reigns and diluted the impact of his return. A wrestling Hall of Famer and former World Champion echoed these sentiments, indicating that the segment didn't quite fulfill the lofty expectations set for Reigns' comeback.
This perspective gains more weight considering that Roman Reigns has been one of the most dominating personalities in recent WWE history, rarely being outshone. On the matter of viewership, despite the heavy anticipation surrounding Reigns' return, SmackDown's ratings took a hit.
The episode managed an average viewership of 2.4 million, a minor uptick from the previous week. However, the key 18-49 demographic experienced a 3.1% decline. This marks the second-lowest rating for SmackDown since September 8th, raising questions about the show's future direction.
WWE's Next Moves
Looking ahead, WWE is clearly pulling out all the stops for upcoming episodes. Newly appointed General Manager Nick Aldis has announced a Women's Championship match between Iyo Sky and Charlotte Flair for the upcoming Friday night.
Also on the card is a match between Santos Escobar and Montez Ford, which may not be a ratings magnet but promises to be a stellar in-ring spectacle. In sum, while the WWE Universe was ecstatic about Roman Reigns' return, the overall effect was tempered by John Cena's star power and a decline in key demographic ratings. As WWE gears up for the new season, all eyes will be on how they plan to recalibrate and reignite viewer interest.