John Cena will boost ratings for SmackDown, but his effect will be more minimal than miraculous.
Cena's star power will surely bring added viewers to WWE's "B show." Just don't expect SmackDown to match what Raw does every Monday or have folks flashing back to 1999 either.
SmackDown will flirt with a 2.0 rating thanks to Cena, but that's where the upward shift will end.
A victory at Hell in a Cell against Alberto Del Rio and a successful defense the next night against Damien Sandow has Cena carrying the World Heavyweight Championship, which has been SmackDown's de facto major title despite the brand splint ending.
It's a wise move to have him hold that belt, one that will benefit SmackDown, but a number of factors should temper WWE's expectations.
Cena is the biggest, most mainstream star on the roster. That's why he's the wrestler asked to be in a Capri Sun ad campaign with David Ortiz and Stephen Curry, and why it's Cena who appears on ESPN.
He's who casual fans get behind.
Will casual fans be willing to change their viewing habits for him, though? SmackDown will still be taped and will still be on Friday nights, a typically tough night for networks. It takes more than one man to overcome those factors.
Besides, the buzz over Cena being on SmackDown isn't the kind with staying power.
Seeing Cena on SmackDown is a change of pace sure to spark interest in the show, but for how long?
His return after two months away led to Raw's ratings going from 2.71 to 2.98, per ProWrestling.net. Even with the World Series and Monday Night Football to contend with, Cena elevated Raw's numbers.
Now that he's back on a regular basis, WWE can't expect the same spike every night.
The thrill of him coming back eventually gives way to his presence being the status quo. That will be true for SmackDown as well. His return this past Friday, where he competed in six-man tag team action, is sure to earn a higher rating than the last week's, but the hype will eventually taper off.
Head back five years to have history help us tell the future. Cena returned from injury in 2008 to win that year's Royal Rumble.
His first appearance on Raw was the following Monday, which earned an impressive 3.68, per PWTorch.com.
What happened after that is likely to happen once Cena settles into SmackDown, a return to normalcy. On Feb. 11, Raw, with Cena aboard, dropped down to a 3.39, as WrestleZone.com shared. Two weeks later, Raw scored a 3.5, per WrestleZone.com.
Those are still good numbers, but they aren't markedly better than what WWE was doing without Cena. That means we will see a nice number with Cena's first appearance on SmackDown after his return, but things will cool off from there.
Huge stars increase ratings, but haven't been able to make a monumental impact on SmackDown recently.
The Undertaker made a rare appearance on SmackDown this April. The result was a 1.96 rating, per ProWrestling.net. When The Rock made his return to SmackDown this January after years away, the ratings shot up to a 2.2, per CagesideSeats.com.
To give some perspective, without The Rock, Undertaker or Cena, SmackDown pulled in a 1.94 rating on Oct. 25 right before Hell in a Cell, per ProWrestling.net.
Cena's been a lot more ever-present than The Rock and is not nearly as big of a mainstream star as Rock.
Both The Undertaker and "The Great One" coming back to SmackDown only scored ratings that would be horrid for Raw and weren't miles away from a go-home show. So how can Cena fare much better?
The other issue is that he won't be exclusive to SmackDown. If Friday nights were the only nights to catch Cena shoulder block his foes, then perhaps that show's numbers would see a more significant change.
As it stands, Raw is going to give fans plenty of Cena as well.
Cena is advertised for the Nov. 4 episode of Raw, one week after battling Damien Sandow to open Raw.
For some members of the Cenation, one day of Cena a week will be enough. SmackDown won't be as much of a treat for his fans were that the only place to see him. The insatiable Cena fan will surely look to get as much of him as possible, tuning into SmackDown regardless if they did before.
The numbers say, though, that Cena won't cause SmackDown's numbers to rocket upward even if they are bettered by his presence.
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