Keith Lee + Santa Hat = Ratings

It’s simple math!

The article below was originally published to The Chairshot, which is my current website. It’s a great example of what you can expect, and you can expect more to come out soon! Signing up is free, and you’ll get a ton of great content. See the about page for more details!

For Christmas day (well, night), WWE put on an edition of NXT that seemed random on paper. Really random. The show featured matches recorded other editions of NXT (Roderick Strong vs. Austin Theory was recorded on December 11, for example), as well as some matches taped in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center before WWE Smackdown aired live from the building.

Here are the full results courtesy of Steven Mitchell’s WWE NXT Report:

  • NXT North American Championship Open Challenge: Roderick Strong (champion) beat Austin Theory

  • Isaiah “Swerve” Scott beat Jack Gallagher

  • Candice LeRae beat Taynara Conti

  • Dominik Dijakovic beat Bronson Reed

  • Bianca Belair beat Shotzi Blackheart

  • Lio Rush & Keith Lee beat Tony Nese & Damien Priest

In addition to that, we got the announcement of the Worlds Collide main event (taking place the night before the 2020 Royal Rumble in Houston), as The Undisputed Era (NXT Champion Adam Cole, NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong, and NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) will collide (literally) with IMPERIUM (NXT UK Champion WALTER, Alexander Wolfe, Marcel Bartel & Fabian Aichner). That match is amazing, but it’s another article for another time.

The show also featured a “Control Center” to direct traffic, with NXT personalities Cathy Kelley, Pat McAfee (IN PANTS!), and Sam Roberts providing the backstory and sending us to our appropriate arenas. In a nice touch, the commentary teams were different for both locations, as Mauro Ranallo and Nigel McGuinness manned the desk in Orlando while Tom Phillips and Beth Phoenix took care of business in Brooklyn. This at least gave off the attempted impression that the events were occurring in real time. It’s the little things that really sets a WWE production apart.

Finally, we had video packages for Arturo Ruas and the Worlds Collide main event.

Because of the pre-recorded nature of these matches, the Christmas night edition of WWE NXT was largely a mid-card spectacular, with Roderick Strong and Keith Lee being the biggest stars on the show (and in opposite matches). Even if you didn’t know the results ahead of time, none of the six matches were ever in doubt in terms of who was going to win, but all six matches were capable of delivering, and they did just that, as Steven himself rated the show an 8.5 out of 10.

Christmas sucks for ratings, right?

Christmas is terrible for ratings, as the performance of WWE Monday Night Raw exhibits (although it was STILL the highest rated show not related to NFL Monday Night Football). It’s understandable, as people are traveling (I was at Disneyland myself), going to the movies, looking at Christmas lights, watching plenty of college football match-ups they wouldn’t care about in September or October, and otherwise breaking from their normal routine. That, for many, includes watching WWE.

But for some reason, more people watched WWE NXT on Christmas night. The show brought in 831,000 viewers, up from the week before (when NXT beat AEW Dynamite in both the viewership and the demographic share, for the first time). NXT still finished at #29 for the night according to Showbuzz Daily (my go to source for ratings, legit), but that’s not really a good indicator of performance.

It’s Christmas night, and I find some interesting things ahead of NXT in the ratings for the night:

  • 13 editions of A Christmas Story, presented for 24 hours straight on TBS and TNT (which is also AEW’s home, and the likely real reason why there was no Dynamite)

  • 3 NBA basketball broadcasts, along with 2 NBA coverage broadcasts that surrounded them

  • 2 Comedy Central holiday stand-up specials

  • 2 special year-end editions of Live PD on A&E

So if you account for these 22 broadcasts, WWE NXT now comes in #7 for the night. That’s not an exact extrapolation to make, because there’s almost always sports on, and those other viewers would have gone somewhere. It’s also reasonable to believe A Christmas Story had overlapping viewers as people simply have it on in the background all day. So again, estimating NXT’s true position without those shows airing isn’t scientific, it’s guess work. But we’re wrestling analysts, we do a lot of guessing.

So if you just take out A Christmas Story, NXT still comes in at #16 for the night, a good showing for the Black and Gold Standard. But here’s the real question: Why?

I posed that question to the host of The #Miranda Show here at The Chairshot, Miranda Morales, who knows a thing or two about the wrestling business (she’s in it, as a ring announcer [to the stars] and an interview segment producer [also for the stars]).

Me: “NXT’s ratings went UP on Christmas day. So do the holidays impact ratings, is it competition, or show quality?”

Miranda: “It’s simple. Keith Lee + Santa Hat = Ratings”

That’s inside baseball right there! That’s the kind of in-depth analysis you’ve come to expect from Patrick O’Dowd, Miranda, and myself on the Greg DeMarco Show, and on Miranda’s weekly show.

Seriously though, the show was just fun. The wrestling was good, several beloved talents were featured (Keith Lee, Candice LeRae, Swerve Scott, Roderick Strong), there were two debuts for stars that could be a huge deal in NXT over the next two years (Shotzi Blackheart and future WrestleMania main eventer Austin Theory), and yes–Keith Lee in a Santa Hat.

Keith Lee in a Santa Hat would reemerge later in the match as well, much to the delight of the Brooklyn crowd. The man who I thought needed to turn heel is in fact a big time babyface for the company, proving me way wrong. And I am 100% okay with that. I love Keith Lee, and I love NXT. And THAT is why I think the show performed so well. It was a perfectly places, and welcomed distraction from the holidays. Not too long (2 hours), a fresh format (Control Center and two separate locations), and just some really good wrestling. You can toss in the fact that there was no competition from AEW (although AEW’s replacement for the night, the 7 PM broadcast of A Christmas Story on TNT, drew 1.03 million viewers and finished at #19).

That’s wrestling, a place where sometimes a big dude in a Santa Hat outshines everything else, even research and analysis. And that’s why we love it.