CM Punk More Than Doubled WWE Backstage’s Viewership, And He’s Not Afraid Of Upsetting WWE

Tuesday was CM Punk’s first full episode of WWE Backstage, following a carefully guarded surprise debut last week, and it went well. He said just enough that rings true about the WWE product to convince most fans that he’s not being too constrained, without coming off as relentlessly negative. Also, he accomplished what had to be one of the main goals of adding him to the show, which was to increase its previously dismal ratings.

Tuesday’s episode of WWE Backstage had 180,000 viewers and a 0.10 rating in the 18–49 demo, as reported by 411Mania, which may not sound like much, but it’s apparently pretty respectable for a show on FS1. It’s also up 500% in the demo ratings from the show’s premiere two weeks ago, and up 267% in total viewers. That’s not nothing.

In an interview with Colin Cowherd, Punk said that he’s not at all concerned that what he says on Backstage will upset WWE, because everybody knows why he’s there:

I’m not concerned about it, I think honestly that’s the appeal of the job. “We’re going to pay you and come here and be an analyst, and you get to critique the old place you work at.” I’m not here to play a spoiler, and I’m not here to pour gasoline or anything and set everything on fire. I think deep down I loved pro wrestling as a kid and I think it can be better. I always voiced my concerns and criticisms while I worked there, and now I don’t work there and now I can’t get in trouble for it.

Punk then continued with what he’d been saying on Backstage, offering his take on what WWE could do better:

Let people breathe, let people be themselves, let people be less scripted. If everyone is speaking from one voice and one person’s writing the script and the dialogue’s all the same from one person, then it’s one voice. Imagine every quarterback in the NFL running the same play every Sunday and every Thursday.

Even WWE Announcer Corey Graves, who has criticized Punk in the past, admitted on his After the Bell podcast that having him on WWE Backstage makes sense:

My thought is this. It is a great move by FOX. FOX wants to get viewers, wants to get eyes on FS1, what better way than putting the man whose name is still chanted in arenas worldwide, one of the most controversial superstars ever in the business. CM Punk back on WWE Backstage as a periodic reporter. I’m not entirely sure what the role is. I’m sure by the time this airs, he will have been on, and the world will know significantly more than I do at this point. This, of course, has fueled rumors and speculation aplenty. Is Punk coming back into the WWE fold? Is he going to compete again? Punk himself has said no. He’s not interested in wrestling anymore. But as his appearance alone proved, you can never say never in WWE. I’ve been getting a litany of tweets and Instagram messages asking my personal opinion on the matter. My personal opinion on the matter is that it is a great move by FOX.

(Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the Cowherd transcript and 411Mania for the After the Bell transcript.)