Television ratings

There have been many claims made about the television audiences that British wrestling achieved. This page is an attempt to document figures and trends for which firm evidence exists.

1958: A March article in the TV Times described wrestling as the most popular TV sport.

1960: A December TV Times article said that viewing figures for Let's Go (the magazine show that included the wrestling slot) rose by two million when the wrestling started.

1962: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 17 November (Ernie Riley v Eric Leiderman, Arthur Ricardo v Steve Bell and Alan Dennison v John Foley) from Lime Grove, with 5.1 million viewers.

1962 & 1963: The FA Cup Final day specials, headlined by Mick McManus v Jackie Pallo is commonly referred to as "having more viewers than the Cup Final". We do not have any evidence to support or disprove these claims. However, in 1963 the claim was made as a matter of fact in at least one newspaper article several days before the event. As the football was shown on both BBC and ITV at this time, it is most likely that the wrestling had a larger audience than the ITV coverage of the game, rather than the combined football audience. The Wrestling Heritage site lists the wrestling audience as 16 million and the football at 12 million.

1963: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 22 May (John Da Silva v Tibor Szakacs and Mick McManus v Lindy Caulder) from the Royal Albert Hall with 5.6 million viewers

1963: The audience for the Saturday slot was estimated at 8 million, with the 31 August return after the summer break doubling the previous week's audience for the same slot.

1964: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 30 December (Seamus Donlevy v Rana Singh and Johnny Yearsley v Tibor Szakacs) from Croydon with 5.6 million viewers.

1964: The audience for the Saturday slot was again estimated at 8 million.

1965: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 13 January (Roy Davies v Billy Howes and Johnny Eagles v Ken Cadman) from Bolton with 7.3 million viewers. As a point of comparison, the highest rated show that week was Coronation Street with 9.7 million viewers, while the highest rated show of the year was the Royal Variety Performance with 11 million.

1965: The 10 January edition of the Observer newspaper said that "audiences for ITV's twice-weekly programmes have passed the five-million mark." (The same article reported 120 live events a week and a total of 10 million paying fans a year, which would average at around 1,600 per show.)

1967: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 9 August (Les Kellett v Honey Boy Zimba and Johnny Eagles v Colin Joynson) from Southport with 4.4 million viewers.

1968: The highest rated evening show of the year was on 8 July (Mick McManus v Gil Cesca and Jackie Pallo v Tommy Lorne) from the Royal Albert Hall with 6.4 million viewers. This was the fourth highest rated show on television that week.

1970: The average audience for the Saturday afternoon slot during November was 8.5 million, 47% of which were men.

1974: The average audience for the Saturday afternoon slot during November was 7.5 million, 42% of which were men. The fall since 1974 came at a time overall audience figures for World of Sport were rising.

1981: There are claims of an audience of 18 million for the Big Daddy v Giant Haystacks match from Wembley shown on 20 June. However, neither wrestling not World of Sport feature in BARB's listing of the top ten most-watched shows of 1981, in which the 10th highest-rated show had an audience of 17.6 million.

1988: An ITV executive speaking on the Did You See? show reported average ratings of 4 million.