The CM Punk Effect: What has the Wrestling Star Meant for AEW Dynamite Ratings?
The Answer Might Surprise You
In the wake of his recent press conference implosion and an alleged physical assault of other top wrestlers, CM Punk’s future in the wrestling industry is in some doubt. The caustic star, who famously burned bridges with WWE and then spent years on the sidelines, has seemingly brought the off-camera divisiveness he’s known for with him to All Elite Wrestling.
Despite his track record, we’re told that Punk has had a positive impact on AEW’s bottom line, that’s he’s too big a star to discipline, let alone fire.
But is that really true?
Most of the financial numbers, unfortunately, are carefully hidden in private ledgers, far from prying eyes. There is no publicly available information regarding merchandise sales, foreign television deals or pay-per-view buys because AEW, unlike WWE, is a private company without any stockholders to inform or investors to persuade.
But, like all sports leagues in the modern era, AEW’s main source of revenue comes in the form of television rights fees. The company’s ultimate success or failure depends wholly on convincing a television network to write a huge check for the honor of hosting AEW Dynamite, the promotion’s flagship show. With that in mind, it’s worth diving into the numbers to see how Punk has moved ratings for AEW and their partners at Warner Media.
The result is not as clear cut as you might think.
CM Punk made his AEW Dynamite debut on August 25, 2021, five days after his stunning return to wrestling on the inaugural episode of Rampage, challenging Darby Allin to a match at All Out. It was an exciting time for the company, which had averaged over a million viewers per episode and a rating of more than .40 in the coveted 18-49 demographic in the month prior to his appearance.
Punk’s first Dynamite was in-line with those numbers, boosting the 18-49 number slightly for a single night before it returned to normal. His appearances have had only a marginal impact on ratings since, even when he wrestled in advertised matches:
AEW Dynamite 2021 Post-Punk: 988,000 (.37 18-49)
AEW Dynamite with Punk wrestling 2021: 930,000 (.347)
AEW Dynamite 2022: 961,600 (.356)
AEW Dynamite with Punk wrestling 2022: 988,545 (.38)
When you compare ratings week by week, it’s difficult to note where or how Punk has improved AEW’s standing with the network. When you look at AEW Dynamite in the months after NXT moved to Tuesday nights (April, 2021), the pre-Punk era shows from last year beat the Punk era shows in 10 of 13 weeks when the show was on at its regular time and day.
Even the biggest TV match of his latest run, a nearly 40 minute epic with MJF in February, managed to draw just 954,000 (.35). With the key demographic, at least, CM Punk hasn’t moved the needle in a meaningful way.
I don’t know what happened in the locker room between Punk and his fellow wrestlers. But I do know this—based on television ratings, Punk is a replacement level talent. AEW can live with or without him.
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