Before we get into this lets make one thing clear, if you’re talking about on the level of a Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena nobody draws like that today for various reasons. The biggest reason being wrestling simply isn’t as popular anymore. However, if you’re talking about someone who consistently moves numbers no matter who they are paired with, Sasha Banks has a very good case of being the best in wrestling at doing just that. Here is a list of wrestlers she has swayed viewership with and some examples of just how much.
Sasha Banks vs Natalya/Becky Lynch August 2019 – October 2019
Lets start with her return on August 12 when she made her return to Monday Night Raw interrupting Natalya and turning heel on both her and Becky Lynch. That segment would gain over 300K viewers which gave Raw 2.729 viewers opposed to the week before of 2.473. The return also has over 10M views on Youtube. The following week the highest segment on the show according to WON was the supposed to be King’s court with Sasha Banks which ended with The Fiend attacking him. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch would continue to feud through the October 6th Hell in a Cell pay per view before she would move on to Smackdown. That feud generated a 2.5 or more 4 times on Raw (2.534, 2.528, 2.507, 2.570) respectively. After Hell in a cell, Banks would move to Friday Night Smackdown on Fox. Even before the pandemic occurred the highest Raw would reach would be 2.439 on Dec 30 2019 with Banks no longer on Raw. The next highest would be a show that had Becky Lynch, Randy Orton, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Drew Mcintyre and more that would only hit 2.437M. The following feud that Lynch had with Asuka from Nov through January of 2020 (with Charlotte and even Kairi Sane involved at times) would actually most of the time lose the TV audience for whatever reason.
Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans
After heading off to Friday Night Smackdown in the draft, the post Survivor Series PPV Sasha Banks w/ Bayley would move into a feud with Lacey Evans that was preparing for Evans to go into a feud with Smackdown womens champion Bayley. The post Survivor Series segment with Banks, Bayley and Evans would gain 225K viewers something Evans never accomplished on Raw all Summer that she was pushed in 2019. The following two scheduled matches with Banks vs Evans that resulted in one being a double count out and the other with Banks no showing were part of the highest numbers on the Smackdown shows. There are also 2 videos on Youtube at the moment of Banks making fun of Evan’s daughter which are both closing in on 9M views on both the WWE account and the WWE on Fox account.
Sasha Banks on NXT
While Charlotte Flair went to NXT after WrestleMania as someone who was supposed to help the ratings war against AEW, the truth is she failed to do so. In fact, the only times NXT beat AEW in overall viewership was when Flair wasn’t even apart of the show. The only real time Charlotte moved viewers was when she was with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley who before Charlotte were even moving numbers on their own in NXT. Charlotte had a 1 month build up to a title match defending against IO Shirai that failed to crack 700K viewers. Meanwhile when Banks went to NXT on June 17th with Bayley to defend the womens tag titles against Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox and would defeat AEW in the main event battle with Chris Jericho headlining for AEW. The very first time Chris Jericho would be beaten head to head by anyone in NXT. That tag team mach would gain NXT over 80K viewers. The second time Banks would head to NXT would be for the Great American Bash special on July 1st against IO Shirai with a match that ended with 900K viewers and a gain of 120K from the previous match with Santos Escobar. This match also obliterated the Omega and Page vs Best Friends AEW main event that night by almost 250K viewers overall. That is something that neither Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair or any other woman that faced Shirai has done and they did it with a 3 day build with a match announced via social media. This would be the highest main event NXT has ever had on the USA network until only a match between Adam Cole and Keith Lee title vs title with a spoiler beat it.
Sasha Banks vs Auska
After the Great American Bash, Banks would go into a feud with Asuka over the Raw women’s championship. Almost every Raw, Banks/Bayley/Asuka (and then the addition of Kairi Sane towards the end of the feud) would be in the highest hour of the show OR have the highest demo on the show. On June 29th, Banks would be in a contract signing with Asuka, as well as Ziggler and Mcintyre to open Raw to their highest opening in quite some time. On July 28th, 2020, Banks would face Asuka for the Raw womens championship. They would have a great match that would end in a count out win and title change for Banks. However, the interesting thing is after that match Raw would drop over 250K viewers for the rest of the 3rd hour where Drew Mcintyre was booked to be in the Main Event in a TLC match against Dolph Ziggler. Again unlike feuds with Lynch and Charlotte and recently even Shayna Baszler, Banks would gain, while others would lose viewers for whatever reason.
Sasha Banks vs Bayley
Talk to pretty much any WWE fan and they would tell you the story between Banks and Bayley pretty much carried WWE throughout 2020 and through the pandemic and the numbers would show it. Banks and Bayley would consistently be part of the highest numbers on 80% of Smackdown episodes during their friendship over 2020. They would open the very first WWE pandemic show from the WWE performance center with no fans to 2.83M against Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. They would dominate the Summer appearing on all 3 brands with the highest viewership or the 18-49 demo. On September 4th in a rematch against Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the WWE women’s tag team titles they would gain 120K from the match (2.14 up from 2.02 for the previous 30 minutes) and the after the match break up of Banks and Bayley would add another 230K with it peaking at 2.37 up from 2.14 which is yet another gain over 200K viewers. This would lead to a feud between the two where Banks would defeat Bayley to win the Smackdown women’s championship at Hell in a Cell. On the Nov 6th edition of Friday Night Smackdown against 50M viewers watching election coverage across all platforms, Banks would defend her championship against Bayley opening Smackdown at 2.60M which was the highest of any wrestling show for the last 7 months.
Sasha Banks vs Carmella
The feud with Banks and Carmella would start on November 13th and last through the Royal Rumble on January 31. The December 11th Smackdown show built around Banks opening and closing the show with Carmella would have almost a 100K overall increase from viewership compared to the prior week where Roman Reigns opened and closed the show. The opening with the contract signing between Banks and Carmella would hit a high of 2.41M (2.30M overall) and the ending with the SD women’s title match between Banks and Carmella would have a high of 2.25M (2.16M overall). These are both significantly higher than the opening (2.16M) and closing (2.14M) of the prior week’s show opened and closed by Roman Reigns. The final Smackdown numbers during Banks vs Carmella would average 2.20M.
Sasha Banks vs Bianca Belair
In October of 2020 Bianca Belair was drafted to Friday Night Smackdown. Immediately, fans would think about what would a storyline with Banks and Belair look like over the Smackdown women’s championship. It just so happens fans would witness that when Bianca Belair would win the 2021 Royal Rumble. The story between Banks and Belair would begin on the following Smackdown and last through WrestleMania 37 where they would main event night 1 on April 10th. During the Banks/Belair story, Smackdown would average 2.20M. Following WrestleMania, Banks has been on a break from television, during that time, the WWE has had a Retro Smackdown show, a title vs career match with Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan and a feud with Bianca Belair and Bayley. During this time, Smackdown is averaging 2.02M viewers which is a substantial drop of 180K viewers during the Banks vs Belair feud
As mentioned above, Smackdown is down considerably since before WrestleMania. I see all kinds of reasons from dirt sheets most notably guys like Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez pointing to the NBA and fooling fans as that being the only reason or “TV is down all over”. Wait, in the span of six months going back to late 2020 through WrestleMania, TV has dropped 250 to 300K viewers? As for the NBA being the reason, despite the NBA having some effect Smackdown has also only gone up against the NBA playoffs two times what about the other six shows? Also, lets take a dive into how Sasha Banks does against the NBA playoffs; the numbers are as follows.
On August 21 2020 the debut of the Thunderdome, 2.2M viewers would turn into Smackdown. The segment between Banks/Bayley/Naomi and the two beat the clock matches would do 2.25M up 110K viewers from the 30 minutes before going against Boston/Philly (1,813/.70) and Clippers/Mavericks (2,270/.93)
On September 4 2020, 2.1M viewers would turn into Smackdown. The women’s tag title match between Banks/Bayley and champions Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax and the subsequent break up between Banks and Bayley would hit a show high of 2.36M up substantially (220K viewers) from 2.14M. This went directly against Lebron James and the Lakers vs the Houston Rockets (3,896/1.58) and also the Bucks vs Heat (2,222/.85)
On September 18 2020, Banks would return to Smackdown via a satellite interview with former best friend Bayley attacking her. The segment would gain 100K viewers (2.12M) up from the previous 2.01M. Smackdown as a whole would do 2.03M. This went up once again against Lebron James and the Lakers; this time vs the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. (4,921/1.98)
On October 9th 2020 Smackdown would see 2.18M viewers watch the show, the 5 minute exhibition match between Banks and Bayley which was more of an angle setting up the upcoming Hell in a cell match would have 2.22M viewers watching. The last 30 minutes would drop substantially for a Fiend vs Kevin Owens main event all the way down to 2.02M (200K viewers) This went against not only Lebron James in the NBA finals against the Miami Heat (8,890/3.2) but also against an elimination New York Yankees playoffs game (3,723/.89).
Sasha Banks and her return to Friday Night Smackdown
Over the Summer, Friday Night Smackdown would struggle to maintain 2M viewers despite having Roman Reigns and Bianca Belair among others on TV. Sasha Banks was on a vacation since her WrestleMania 37 main event. The 3 shows since (including 2 vs the Olympics) have all been over 2M viewers. On July 30th Banks would make her return to Friday Night Smackdown and team with Belair in the main event ended up with almost identical viewership to the contract signing with Roman Reigns/John Cena/Finn Balor. The following week Banks was advertised and the show went up 120K overall and 100K in 18-49 on a show that she opened. The next week Banks and Belair would sign the contract for Summerslam in the main event and it would actually out draw Roman Reigns and John Cena opening the show. Don’t get me wrong John Cena is HUGE obviously and him being back has helped, but when Banks can equal or out draw the biggest star in the last 15 years in wrestling this needs to be more of a talking point in the media. One very big key in all of this is Banks actually makes Smackdown younger as she does very well in not only 18-49 (exceptionally well), but also 18-34 .
Smackdown with and without Sasha Banks in the Thunderdome.
The Thunderdome with Sasha Banks on screen averaged 2,218,030 viewers. On the other hand the Thunderdome without Sasha Banks averaged 1,990,750 viewers. That is a difference of 227,280 viewers. In the coveted 18-49 demo the difference is .61 with Banks and a .51 without Banks (100K difference).
While dirt sheets will continue to mostly discredit or ignore her contribution to TV viewership, its clear from late 2019 through August 2021 that Banks has been able to swing some big viewership numbers for wrestling no matter what show she is on, what talent she is working with, and also no matter the competition she is up against.