Fun fact: Professional wrestling has existed on TBS longer than Raw has been on the USA Network.
On Wednesday, January 5th, 2022, pro wrestling returns to its cable mecca. All Elite Wrestling officially makes its debut on TBS with a stacked card and multiple championships on the line. From Paul Jones to Jim Crockett to Tony Khan — an ode to wrestling’s return to the Superstation is in order.
But first, some hot takes…
-Thoughts on Lesnar’s Championship win and Day1?
Not surprising. How short was Big E’s reign? — but otherwise, I really have no thoughts because I didn’t watch — and I don’t comment on what I don’t watch. 🙂
-Thoughts on Toni Storm quitting WWE?
This is a no-brainer for Khan to sign her, assuming Storm would want to sign with AEW. She will have likely opportunities to return to Stardom in Japan, or even Progress Wrestling in the UK. But seriously, a Toni Storm/Thunder Rosa (or Kris Statlander) match would be fire.
-Big Swole’s beef with AEW? Lio Rush?
Lio backpedaled for good reason. I appreciate his passion, but given that: Scorpio Sky was a part of the first ever AEW Tag Team Champions, Jade Cargill is likely winning the TBS Championship, names like Dante Martin, Private Party, and The Acclaimed have been featured in recent storylines, Nyla Rose was the first ever transgender women’s champion in history, the current Hispanic/Japanese representation (Lucha Bros./Thunder Rosa), Joshi (Shida/Riho), PLUS the fact that the company is run by two people of color (Tony Khan, Megha Parekh) – I DON’T think AEW has an issue with diversity.
On that note, on with the show!
The Early Days
Originally aired on December 25th, 1971, Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) made its television debut on WQXI-TV, and soon moved to WTCG (which would later become WTBS). The show featured El Mongol and Jimmy Dancing Bear vs. The Assassins.
GCW would become a mainstay on the network, hosted by legendary commentator Gordon Solie. Notable GCW alumni include Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase, The Briscos, Randy Savage, Stan Hansen, Roddy Piper, and the list goes on and on…
In 1982, GCW was renamed World Championship Wrestling (WCW), mainly at the request of network owner Ted Turner in efforts for national reach beyond Georgia and other territories. Life was good and ratings were generally high…until Black Saturday…
The infamous “Black Saturday” — July 14, 1984. Vince McMahon would purchase Georgia Championship Wrestling and birth WWF World Championship Wrestling on the Superstation. The timeslot was used as a recap show that featured mostly squash matches from WWF All-Star Wrestling, and WWF Championship Wrestling.
GCW/WCW fans adamantly hated this move. McMahon’s dramatic “sports entertainment” style of wrestling was different from the purist nature that WCW fans were accustomed to.
In efforts to appease an agitated WCW fan base, Ted Turner would soon hand over an hour on Sundays to Bill Watts and Mid-South Wrestling. This didn’t sit well with McMahon, but as Turner argued, McMahon went back on a promise to produce a separate weekly TV show from the Atlanta studio — hence, Mid-South on TBS.
As ratings declined for McMahon’s Saturday Night squash show, the WWF started to hemorrhage money. So much so, that McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett promotions in 1985 for a cool million. Crockett ran National Wrestling Alliance branded content. By this time, Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling had become the highest rated show on TBS — on SUNDAYS no less.
However, the deal had been made, and by 1988, Jim Crockett’s World Championship Wrestling would take up a two-hour timeslot.
WCW Saturday Night
From the brand new CNN Center in Atlanta, WCW Saturday Night made its debut on April 4, 1992 on TBS. The show was originally hosted by Jim Ross, and fittingly, in later years by Tony Schiavone. The most notable matches from the night were “Flyin” Brian Pillman defeating Brad Armstrong for the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship, and Steve Austin defeating the Z-Man (Tom Zenk) for the WCW TV Championship.
While maintaining a presence ratings-wise through the early 90s, the rise of WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder would ultimately push WCW Saturday Night to (ironically) largely a recap show of Nitro and Thunder.
Other WCW Programming
Saturday Night wasn’t the only show airing on TBS. From 1988-1998 WCW (NWA) Main Event held a Sunday evening timeslot, while WCW Power Hour ran on Friday nights from 1989-1994. WCW Pro existed on a Saturday timeslot from 1994-1998.
These programs existed in the same way WWF Wrestling Challenge, Livewire, Shotgun Saturday Nights, and Sunday Night Heat had — as mostly supplemental programming for the major flagships of the company.
And of course, we all know about WCW Thunder (1998-2001), a second weekly show which likely led to its eventual spiritual competitor, WWF Smackdown (1999-Present).
Originally on Thursday nights, Thunder would move to Wednesdays after Smackdown debuted on UPN in 2000. The final WCW Thunder, which aired on March 21, 2001, featured a young A.J. Styles, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Chavo Guerrero Jr. The show was headlined by a 2-on-1 handicap match between Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett defeating an “edgy” Dustin Rhodes.
The main event had other appearances by Ric Flair and Booker T. It’s worth a watch, if not just for historical purposes.
TBS is All Elite
So now we’ve come full circle, with professional wrestling returning home to TBS. First, let’s quickly bust some myths I’ve seen out there in the comment sections:
-AEW did not get “demoted” from TNT. This is to make way for NHL on TNT to jive with the already existing NBA on TNT. It’s called branding.
-TBS is in more homes than TNT, and tends to stay in the top 5 of all cable networks overall.
-There will still be AEW specials to air on TNT throughout the year.
-Rampage will remain on TNT, airing on Friday nights.
-AEW still has a deal signed through 2023, and ratings and revenue have been consistently good. Whether or not a show draws over a million is irrelevant if the network is happy with the ratings number and ad revenue. AEW still lands high numbers in the 18-49 demo, and yes, this is what advertisers really care about.
-Expect the first show on TBS to carry lower ratings. It always takes time for a transition to another network, even if in more homes.
The card on Wednesday night is a PPV-quality lineup.
World Champion “Hangman” Adam Page takes on Bryan Danielson in what should be another instant classic. As for the three judges at ringside? My guesses are Ric Flair, Jim Crockett, and Larry Zbysko (though I would absolutely love to see Jim Cornette there as an olive branch between TK and Corny).
Jade Cargill vs. Ruby Soho will crown the first ever TBS Women’s Champion, the Lucha Bros. vs. Jurassic Express for the AEW Tag Team Championships will be a delight, and much like his father nearly 30 years ago, Brian Pillman Jr. will take on (my current favorite) Malakai Black. MJF, C.M. Punk, Cody Rhodes, and a host of others I imagine will be on hand for the historic show.
For the wrestling purist, this is a “do not miss” show.
Making Wrestling History
You simply cannot write the history of professional wrestling without TBS. The return to the network cements a significant shift in today’s product. The last time professional wrestling was on both TBS and USA, Scott Steiner and The Rock were your WCW and WWF World Champions, respectively. Five days after, Booker T would capture the WCW World Championship on the last episode of Nitro.
In December of the same year, the WCW and WWF world titles were unified by none other than AEW’s first-ever world champion, Chris Jericho. Speaking of 2001, a young Brock Lesnar, now current WWE Champion, started training in Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Also in contrast, current AEW World Champion “Hangman” Adam Page, turned 10-years-old, while Roman Reigns (Joseph Anoaʻi) was still in high school.
AEW had a profitable 2021 on the wrestling end (sans the investment for their video game development), and continues to be on the rise. They broke records for their four Pay-Per-Views and with packed crowds returning to events, the sky is the limit for 2022.
For the first time in decades, two competing wrestling products will air on USA and TBS. This a simply a great time to be a wrestling fan, regardless of your preference.
Whether or not you enjoy the AEW product, Wednesday marks a historical date. The day when professional wrestling returns to its natural, long-time home on TBS — the way it should be.