Additional notes added by Paul Fontaine
With a heavily hyped year-end episode that featured three title matches and the return of John Cena to WWE television for the first time in over two months, it was a real possibility that this week's SmackDown would top Raw in the ratings.
That possibility became a reality on Thursday morning when the delayed numbers (due to it being Christmas week) for Tuesday were released. This week's SmackDown averaged 2.88 million viewers, just barely beating the 2.85 that Monday's episode of Raw averaged. The show was third for the night on cable and in the 18-49 demo.
This is the first time that SmackDown has topped Raw since the WWE Draft special beat that week's edition of Raw in July. SmackDown has come close since, with Cena's previous return in September, the week where Raw was opposite the first presidential debate, and the loaded 900th episode in November coming close to beating the previous Monday's episode.
With Monday Night Football over for the season, Raw viewership should see a boost going forward. But the increased presence of Cena on television as we enter the months leading up to WrestleMania should help SmackDown and its ratings.
Here's a chart from Paul Fontaine that shows SmackDown ratings as compared to that week's Raw since the brand split: