Welcome to part 2! I chose to go back in time, as far as 2016 for RAW and Smackdown, to see how things have gone over time and how today fares vs years past. As with my previous work on this subject this is an ongoing project that will be updated as I get more information to add. All match totals and averages for 2022 are as of June 11, 2022.
RAW (Total Matches/Weeks with 2 matches/Matches per week/Women wrestling per week)
- 2016: 19/4 of 16/1.19/2.94*
- 2017: 68/17 of 52/1.31/3.79
- 2018: 99/40 of 52/1.90/5.96
- 2019: 85/29 of 52/1.63/4.83
- 2020: 95/35 of 48/1.98/5.54**
- 2021: 109/41 of 52/2.10/5.81
- 2022: 39/13 of 22/1.7/5.48
*I started counting 2016 the week Smackdown crowned its first champ.
**RAW wasn’t live for four weeks in 2020, and only showed archived footage
RAW was moving pretty slowly when the brand split went into effect. The feud between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, as great as it was, was the only thing happening. It included Bayley and Dana Brooke, and later Nia Jax, so every week was pretty much some combination of Bayley and/or Sasha vs Charlotte, Dana, and/or Jax while Alicia Fox did spot duty. It stayed that way through WrestleMania 33. The post-Mania shuffle saw Charlotte go to Smackdown in exchange for Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, and that trade put more women in play on RAW for the rest of the year. Another jump happened when Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville were called up and Paige briefly returned.
The bigger roster allowed for more matchups, which in turn brought things up, then after WrestleMania 34 Ember Moon got called up, Natalya moved over and Mandy and Sonya were traded for the Riott Squad. Ronda Rousey becoming a regular brought the roster size to a dozen and then in September the Bellas Twins came back for a run that would go through the Evolution Pay Per View. Prior to the Bellas arrival RAW was averaging 1.8 matches featuring 5.63 women per week; during their time back it jumped to 2.22 and 7.56, the highest averages of any time I measured. And even post Evolution it stayed at 2 and 6.25 for the rest of 2018 and ticked up to 2.08 and 6.38 through WrestleMania 35. That stretch is easily the best ever for any women’s division on television.
After WrestleMania 35 things went downhill, largely because of roster moves and injuries. In May they were down to five active official members – Becky Lynch, Sarah Logan, Alicia Fox, Natalya, and Lacey Evans – and had to rely on the much maligned Wildcard Rule to fill out any kind of slate. While the yearly average doesn’t look bad the post-Mania period was, dropping from 2.08 matches for 6.38 women to 1.51 matches for 4.36 women. The last five weeks after the 2019 Survivor Series were effectively a surrender where 6 of the 11 women on the post-draft roster were all but benched and the averages fell to 1 match for 2.33 women, an absolute disgrace for a three hour show. This would continue into 2020 with 1.2 matches for 2.6 women until COVID landed on our shores. Ironically, COVID would have a positive effect here as the numbers would go up and stay up from WrestleMania 36 through the 2021 draft before taking a bit of a dip to close out the year. 2022 was taking a major step back until early May, going from 1.41 and 5.06 through April 25 to 2.5 and 6.67 since.
Verdict as of 2022: The callups that started at the end of 2017 and continued into 2018 changed things for the better. Ronda Rousey and then the Bellas coming aboard created a bubble that had no chance of lasting forever but did manage to hold on through WrestleMania 35. And then things went south, first through the summer then into the abyss from December 2019 through April 2020. It’s been better since then, and would hit a couple of pre-WrestleMania 35 level peaks during COVID era 2020 and then between WrestleMania 37 and the 2021 draft. That they almost matched 2018’s numbers in 2021 without anyone like Ronda or the Bellas to inflate things is pretty remarkable. After a bad January through April 2022 is looking much more like 2021.
Best stretches: Fall 2018 to Spring 2019 (2.1 matches /6.7 women), COVID era 2020 (2.18/6.32), April through September 2021 (2.29/6.25)
Worst stretch: December 2019 through March 2020 (1.1/2.47)
- 2016: 23/4 of 16/1.04/2.83*
- 2017: 54/8 of 52/1.04/2.87
- 2018: 65/16 of 53/1.23/3.28
- 2019: 68/20 of 51/1.33/3.94
- 2020: 60/15 of 52/1.15/3.42
- 2021: 68/20 of 52/1.31/3.48
- 2022: 31/8 of 23/1.35/3.39
* I started counting the week that the first Smackdown women’s champion was crowned.
2016 and 2017 were largely the same with 1.04 matches per week and 2.83 then 2.87 women wrestling every week. 2018 saw some movement up to 1.23 and 3.28. The catalyst here was an easy one: Call Ups. The Riott Squad added 3 women to the Smackdown roster at the end of 2017, Asuka moved over prior to WrestleMania 34 and then after WrestleMania the Iconics came aboard. Once all the roster shuffling was done Smackdown had a net gain of five women, which meant more women to work and an expanded slate. 2018 finished higher than 2017 but then 2019 started off really bad. What happened? Becky and Charlotte were mostly pulled out of ring action leading up to Mania, and then the rest of the division was pretty much shoved aside. There was a big jump in 2019 after WrestleMania 35, from an abysmal pre-Mania .846 matches and 2.53 women wrestling to 1.5 matches and 4.42 women wrestling every week for the rest of the year. There was also a further uptick after Smackdown went to Fox, to 1.69 matches and 5 women wrestling per week. For the year 1.33 matches fell in line with previous and future averages but the 3.94 average women wrestling per week was a pretty substantial jump from 2018’s 3.28. So 2019 was clearly a step up. Did they maintain it? Not entirely. There was a dip to start off 2020 down to 1.3 and 4 before COVID hit, and then down to 1.12 and 3.29 for the rest of the year. There was a slight bounce back in 2021 to 1.31 matches but the number of women wrestling per week stayed at 3.48 compared to 2020’s 3.42. Booking more than one match on even a semi consistent basis remains the big challenge for the blue brand. The show layout doesn’t lend itself to more than four or five matches every episode, so doing it every week isn’t a thing that’s going to happen but it does need to happen more frequently than before.
Verdict as of 2022: Things have certainly gotten better since 2017. As on RAW the late 2017 and early 2018 call ups made a difference by expanding the roster, but things got weird in 2019. First the Smackdown side got totally neglected for the first three months, but then after WrestleMania things went in the entirely opposite direction and got better than ever. Then came COVID, which threw everything off for the rest of 2020. Things didn’t bounce all the way back in 2021 but they did move in the right direction. 2022 on the other hand did not start well with a roster that has been wracked by releases, an injury to Sasha Banks and some inexplicable omissions from TV, but in recent weeks has gotten better. February and early March saw them catch up to last year’s match pace and get ahead of 2021’s rate of main event matches.
Best Stretch: Post Fox Premiere 2019 (1.69/5)
Worst Stretch: Pre WrestleMania 2019 (.85/2.54)
- 2019: 28/13 of 15/1.87/4.27*
- 2020: 91/36 of 51/1.78/4.92
- 2021: 98/38 of 51/1.92/5.14
- 2022: 54/20 of 23/2.35/6.22
* I counted starting when NXT went live in 2019
NXT staying ahead of Smackdown and almost matching RAW has been a thing since it went live. The rate of matches has for all intents and purposes stayed the same the entire time but the number of women wrestling every week has moved from just over 4 to a solid entrenched 5. The changeover to NXT 2.0 saw a slight uptick to 2.06 and 5.5, which put it ahead of post-draft RAW for 2021. In 2022 they’ve pulled into the lead out of the five shows I’m tracking here and are maintaining a remarkable pace given that they only have two hours compared to RAW’s three every week.
Verdict through 2022: NXT was old reliable, now they are hands down the best. They’ve been consistent throughout, with an uptick in women wrestling each week happening in 2020 being the only real change. Unlike RAW and Smackdown there are no inflection points during the year to either ramp up participation or where the towel was thrown in. Unlike RAW and Smackdown NXT never lets you down, trending upward since 2020 and maintaining it even through all the upheaval of 2021 with the rebrand to NXT 2.0. After a slow start for 2022, NXT is now exceeding it’s 2021 pace thanks in part to the Women’s Dusty Cup Classic the Women’s Breakout Tournaments. Right now they are in the lead in the booking race and it isn’t even close.
Best stretch: 2022
Worst: None really
- 2019: 14/2 of 12/1.17/2.83*
- 2020: 50/0 of 53/.943/2.43
- 2021: 56/4 of 52/1.08/2.42
- 2022: 24/1 of 23/1.04/2.35
*Dynamite premiered in Fall of 2019
If NXT is consistently good then Dynamite is the evil twin brother. It is, in a word, bad. How bad? Well I typed in 1 match for every week as I compiled the numbers and only had to change it 9 times, and to make matters worse 3 of those 9 were to reduce it to 0. Having two women’s matches on an episode of Dynamite has happened 6 times out of 119 by my count. The averages have regressed over the two plus years Dynamite has been on, from 1.17 matches for 2.83 women to 1.08 matches for 2.42 women per week. In 2020 they didn’t even average a match per week as they had three episodes with no matches and never made up for it anywhere else. Every week you count on one singles match, with the occasional tag team match or multiwoman match instead. After two plus years they’re where Smackdown was when they only had six women on the roster in 2016. RAW has come close to doubling them up twice, and NXT is doubling them up despite having the exact same amount of TV time, 2 hours per week. They even make the often-underachieving Smackdown look like a bastion of feminism by comparison. I mean the worst stretch for Smackdown where the two top women were barely working and the rest of the division had been neglected on purpose still comes close to Dynamite’s regular performance. The only positives here are a miniscule uptick from 2020 to 2021 and better match times in 2021 as the one and two minute squashes were all but eliminated. The rest is just………bad.
Verdict as of 2022: In the mud. One does not get a full appreciation for just how bad they’re doing until you take the time to count it all up like I did. They were and still are the easiest show to compile, and not for any good reasons. They deserve every bit of the heat they receive, and creating shiny objects like the TBS Title Tournament and the Women’s Owen Hart Tournament should not get the microscope off of them. This is flat out pathetic. Statistically after twenty weeks they are at their lowest point ever.
- 2019: 75/22 of 49/1.53/3.27
- 2020: 67/19 of 47/1.42/3.67
- 2021: 63/15 of 50/1.26/3.9
- 2022: 39/13 of 23/1.7/4.89
Impact has been……..different. It’s the most peculiar one to keep track of because of how much the company leans into intergender matches and mixed tag matches. In 2019 in particular when the ill fated Tessa Blanchard run in the men’s division was in full swing, the match count was higher because I included her intergender matches. In 2020 they didn’t have as many because Tessa’s run was over and she was gone, but they didn’t abandon it altogether, and they continued down that same path in 2021. The end result is that the match per week average went down from 2019 to 2021 while the number of women wrestling per week went up. The 2021 averages are comparable with Smackdown’s for the year (1.31/3.48) while besting Dynamite (1.08/2.42) and falling well behind NXT (1.92/5.14). Now Impact has an ace in the hole in that they have had no issues with women main eventing on TV, on pay per views, or in having all women’s pay per views. While the latter two are not television so they don’t count here you should factor them in when grading how they handle their women’s division because everyone else is still catching up there.
Verdict as of 2022: On a substantive level they have always been better than the numbers say, and adeptly got more women wrestling on TV once they stopped doing as many intergender matches. 2022 has been a schizophrenic year. They started out a close second to NXT but began to fade in April and now sit in third behind NXT and RAW and have been doing their worst ever since April.
Best stretch: January 1 through April 7, 2022 (2.07/6.00)
Worst stretch: April 14, 2022 though now (1.11/3.11)
THE BIG PICTURE (FOR NOW)
NXT has been the most consistent since they went live in 2019, even after the NXT 2.0 revamp. Impact has been the most zealous in pushing their women’s division, but it isn’t always reflected in their TV match distribution. Raw and Smackdown have ups and downs, stretches where it looks like the powers that be are enthusiastically behind the whole division and stretches where they only look committed to a handful of women across both shows. RAW has generally trended upward since WrestleMania 36, and Smackdown has become more consistent year to year albeit at a lower level. Dynamite looks like it’s barely trying week in and week out with a few anomalies here and there like the TBS title tournament.
RAW has gone deeper into it’s roster for it’s title programs as Doudrop and Liv Morgan have gotten title shots while Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair start building to WrestleMania. Likewise on Smackdown Naomi had a good trio of matches against champion Charlotte Flair, albeit due to Sasha Banks injury and Toni Storm’s departure, but at least that’s a long awaited match that we’re finally getting. Their title match from February is a women’s match of the year candidate. Both shows do have secondary storylines going that will hopefully make two matches on TV a more regular thing. And after both women’s titles changed hands new challengers emerged in the forms of Sonya Deville and Raquel Rodriguez and got almost immediate title shots. NXT and Impact are doing great so far with match numbers overall and featured a women’s main event early in the year. Dynamite………has a few more women to rotate in and out of their weekly match and has been doing so.
Concerns in 2022
It’s not uncommon for RAW or Smackdown to move at a snail’s pace leading into the Royal Rumble or even all the way through WrestleMania and so far this year both did just that with match totals and match times. They picked it up a little when it was time to start setting up the Women’s Tag Team Title Match but still ended up benching a third of the active women’s roster for at least a month. NXT was becoming a concern for the first few weeks but has spectacularly righted the ship. Dynamite is Dynamite. Impact started out great but has been a in a real slump for the past two months.
So overall the pace is behind last year except for NXT. RAW needs to be more consistent, Smackdown needs to book that second match more often, NXT needs to keep up the pace it’s currently on and Impact needs to get back to where it was in March. Dynamite is a lost cause until further notice. As for what you can do as a fan…..the best thing is to reward good behavior. If another All Women’s pay per view is offered up, give it a shot. When women’s matches are put in main event slots on TV, watch them. Complaining only goes so far, and often doesn’t go anywhere at all.