With the end of Showbuzz Daily, the apparent end of an era of immediate, accurate ratings information in wrestling has come. As the easiest to access source for Nielsen ratings data, Showbuzz provided wrestling fans and analysts with quick information about the popularity of each wrestling show, usually the very next day.
Wednesday Night Ratings 9/30/20
AEW: 866,000 (+3.71%)
NXT: 732,000 (+6.24%)
AEW: .33 (+3.13%)
NXT: .19 (+5.55%)
Last week: 1,531,000
This week: 1,598,000 (+4.38%)
— Agosto Elite (@AgostoAllElite) October 1, 2020
While other sources for the ratings do exist, as we have already seen since the site went down last month, the information we have gotten usually takes longer and has more discrepancies than the data from Showbuzz. The days of getting quick and accurate information about the weekly popularity of WWE, AEW and Impact programming are over.
While this is unfortunate news for anybody who wants to better understand the pro wrestling industry, some people are actually happy that it is gone. The use of ratings data to discuss topics in the wrestling business was apparently tiring for some people, including Ryan Satin of Fox Sports, who gleefully celebrated the official demise of Showbuzz Daily on Monday, June 7.
Wrestling fans will now have to discuss the wrestling and storylines instead of ratings.
ITS A NEW DAY, YES IT IS pic.twitter.com/6EQPn5jo74
— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) June 7, 2021
Satin is just one person, but his Tweet touches on a cultural issue within wrestling media and wrestling fandom that makes it difficult to discuss and analyze the industry. As an industry that is based on the idea that the people who are fake fighting are trying to convince people that the action and drama is real, the truth and professional wrestling are always going to have a delicate relationship. The media coverage of professional wrestling lags behind that of most other industries for that very reason, and it wasn’t until relatively recently that a sizable amount of the fanbase became interested in the “real” aspect of wrestling, which includes business trends.
While pioneering newsletters such as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and Pro Wrestling Torch have been publishing statistical information and factual reporting on the non-kayfabe aspects of the industry for decades, it wasn’t until the 21st Century, in the age of the internet, that the demand for that kind of information became more interesting to fans beyond the extreme hardcore segment of the fanbase. However, since this was the age of the internet and the age of cable news programming, fans’ expectations for news reporting and analysis are not the same as say, baseball fans, who had 100+ years of historical reporting to define expectations of news coverage before the internet came into existence.
This has created a dynamic where many fans’ expectations for pro wrestling news is actually opinion-based analysis. Similar to how cable news will feature one minute of real reporting followed by one hour of “analysts” giving their opinion on the news; an enormous amount of pro wrestling news sites and organizations focus on the opinions of individuals masquerading as “news.” And just like cable news, people are really just invested in hearing the opinions of people who agree with them, which can enhance the partisan divide between fans that naturally exists due to the variety of styles and philosophies that exist in pro wrestling.
This is a symptom across news coverage in all industries in the 21st Century, but in particular the wrestling industry, an industry that at its very core is about manipulating facts to fit an agenda. Wrestling fans are still fighting about what the attendance of WrestleMania III was, an event that took place 34 years ago, largely because there is debate about the validity of the “worked” attendance number of 93,173.
Even though the era of in-ring kayfabe is over, there are still plenty of people with agendas looking to work people outside of the ring, and one of the most effective ways to do that is to have a platform where your opinion is voiced, usually unabated by those who disagree with you.
This has trickled down to the point where opinion dominates the wrestling news cycle. Dave Meltzer is more famous for his arbitrary rating of wrestling matches than he is for the decades of important reporting and groundbreaking stories. Every day there is a new big story popping off on social media because Wrestling Personality X said (blank) about Wrestling Personality Y. Many of the people who are looked upon as sources for “wrestling news” are really just people that do reviews of shows and give their opinions on certain topics, and even people who do actual reporting such as Meltzer, gain more traction for when they give their opinions.
Wrestling is an artform and not a real sport, so it is ripe for opinion-based discussion since unlike real sports, there are no obvious winners and losers, nor are there statistics that can be used to definitively state that something is right and something is wrong. The closest we can get to that is to use business metrics to back up our arguments.
This is why people become frustrated with ratings discussions, because it involves hard and verifiable factual information that is rarely found in professional wrestling analysis. We do not know how WWE is helping Peacock subscriptions, we don’t know exactly how many AEW PPVs sold, attendance numbers are frequently worked across all promotions, etc. Television ratings are far from the only important metric when looking at the business, but they are accurate and easily available to anybody interested in the data.
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and in an industry that has very few easily verifiable facts at its disposal, looking at ratings is one of the few ways someone can use factual evidence to disagree with an opinion. People like Satin, who were apparently frustrated by the discussion of ratings, are annoyed that information was easily available to the general public and are delighted to see it go away. The fewer facts that are around, the less credibility people can have when they disagree with them. If there are no facts, then everything is open to interpretation and you can never really prove that somebody is wrong, which is great if your business model is essentially just doling out takes that fit a particular ideology and are better off not being confronted by factual information.
If wrestling fans want the industry to be better, the media needs to become more professional when it comes to its coverage. This is a challenge because many well-intentioned independent journalists are limited by the size of their platform or the resources smaller sites can dedicate to their coverage. Larger, mainstream media websites that cover pro wrestling still don’t take it that seriously, mainly dedicating space for the kayfabe aspects of the business, such as previewing/reviewing major shows and doing soft-ball interviews with active talent.
There are no easy answers, but wrestling fans should expect better coverage of the industry from a wider variety of sources than just a handful of hardworking individuals. There should not be any celebration of valuable factual information disappearing from public view. The average wrestling fan has become more invested in real, factual news over the past 20 years, so the appetite for it is there, but the wrestling industry itself needs to step its game up if it wants to match the reporting that takes place in other sports and industries.
In the latest edition of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@JesseCollings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) discuss wrestling returning to full crowds at Double or Nothing, the return of touring, the end of the WWE Thunderdome, what promotions did well during the pandemic era and which ones did not, and more.