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The National Hockey League (NHL) and its new television deals actually caused some changes to the wrestling industry and might have more in store… Initially, the thought was that Comcast/NBC/Universal would re-sign the NHL to a new television deal, as they were broadcasting NHL games on NBC Sports regularly and on NBC’s main network for weekends and the Stanley Cup Finals. However, NBC announced the dissolving of NBC Sports and that all sports content would migrate to the struggling USA Network. In anticipation of the NHL moving to USA Network and continuing business on their favorite Prime Time night, Wednesday night, NXT moved to Tuesday Nights on the USA Network.
Joke was on them… AT&T/Time Warner/Turner Sports signed the NHL to a deal that pays them $225 million per year to air games on their TNT, TBS, and other cable channels.
Now, however, there is another Pro Wrestling show airing on Wednesday Nights that might need to move during the Fall 2021 when Turner Sports’s coverage of the NHL begins. Reportedly, Turner Sports is aggressively going after NHL Greatest of All Time (because Mario Lemieux had back problems and cancer) Wayne Gretzky to be a hockey analyst to potentially be spotlighted on those Wednesday night games. Turner Sports is even using Charles Barkley of Inside the NBA fame to help recruit Wayne. If TNT can capture lightning in a bottle with the NHL as they already do with the NBA, this could be big business.
But it would be bad business for AEW Dynamite. If NHL retains their precious Wednesday night spot, AEW Dynamite HAS TO MOVE. And they wouldn’t be allowed to go head-to-head with NHL on another station.
Thursday Nights would be OUT because that’s the prime Inside the NBA broadcast that features the full crew of Charles, Shaq, Kenny, and Ernie. TNT also airs NBA games on Tuesday Nights as well. Given what Turner Sports reportedly pays the NBA per year, they won’t give up that night.
Soooooo… That leaves Monday Night and Friday Night to air AEW Dynamite. Sorry, but Friday Nights are a BAD NIGHT for Pro Wrestling. If you’re seeking that “HOT” 18-49 Demographic, the last night that you want to air content on is Friday nights when High School Football or Basketball seasons are happening. Just dumb. The only reason why WWE Smackdown settled for Friday Nights is because of the chance to get on Network Television for FOX. That’s it… They would NOT have done that with Cable unless the price tag was right.
That leaves Monday Nights, doesn’t it, for AEW Dynamite…
Now, I know… You’ll tell me the George Santayana phrase of “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it” with regards to TNA Wrestling‘s ill fated attempt at trying to recreate the Monday Night Wars.
However, one must do a little bit of Mathematics to figure out why TNA failed badly. On Spike TV through 2009, TNA was holding onto about 1 million viewers at the time and could go as high as 1.5 million. They were slightly down from what they saw during the mid to late 2000s, but based on numbers seen for wrestling today, they were more successful on the horrible Spike TV channel than they were given credit for. Anyway, back during 2009, Monday Night RAW was usually averaging around 4.5 million but with a strong show could seriously push them to 5.5 million as needed. They were doing great business with John Cena still on top, though WWE was beginning to try other superstars in the Main Event scene (Sheamus, etc.).
Simply put, if you do simple subtraction of say 4.5 million minus 1.5 million… You’re looking at a 3.0 million spread. IN FACT, on the very first “Monday Night Wars 2.0” head-to-head on January 4th, 2010, Monday Night RAW actually pushed to 5.6 million while TNA wrestling did 2.2 million. There is that 3 million spread! Of course, this was the RAW where Bret Hart confronted Shawn Michaels… WWE was ready despite TNA actually trying a 3 hour show to combat RAW. In the weeks that followed, wrestling fans quickly moved on from TNA’s attempt to recreate the NWO and WCW Nitro… Within just a few months, they lost about half of their audience and WWE RAW kept humming along.
FAST FORWARD to May 2021… The May 3rd edition of Monday Night RAW had 1.8 million viewers for the WWE while AEW had just over 1 million….
That is about a 800,000 fan difference…
And with a couple of big name signings like Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), CM Punk, and Samoa Joe, that gap could close rather quickly.
AEW has a few advantages to work with against the WWE of 2021 compared to what TNA Wrestling saw during 2010:
(1) RAW’s viewership is much lower and is actually trending downward. They are seriously on a downward push to 1.5 million.
(2) RAW is 3 hours long and boring wrestling fans. WWE dealing with that 3 hour production schedule would be a hassle, especially if competition was lurking, but also a major win would be seen if AEW could push RAW into being just 2 hours (which would suggest that the 3 hour show was failing).
(3) Vince McMahon is older. He is 75 years old now. Do you think that he has the energy to be challenged by a competitor directly?
(4) RAW is thin with top drawing superstars. WWE has Roman and…. And… And… Let’s be honest with Roman Reigns. While he is easily the top WWE superstar, he’s only pulling just over 2 million viewers on Smackdown. I know, I just made the argument about Friday nights, but still, WWE Smackdown is available to over 110 million homes with FOX as a broadcast channel.
(5) WWE cannot break its PG era censorship. Tables have turned on the WWE. While Time Warner was tightening the bolts on WCW Nitro’s content during 1998, RAW was loosening theirs during 1998 with the Attitude Era. Tables have turned on the WWE as they are the ones being censored now. AEW could easily push more adult themed content against RAW and it would be very successful.
And yes, I’m well aware that AEW Dynamite is still written by Tony Khan and he has 4 younger wrestlers acting as his direct reports as Executive Vice Presidents. I’m well aware of that as indicated by my column 2 weeks ago. But did anybody predict that Eric Bischoff had a snowball’s chance in hell when he began WCW Nitro during 1995? If you look at WCW Saturday Night back then, it wasn’t drawing much AND it still had big names like Sting, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Ric Flair, and others. However, when they moved to the Prime Time nights, this gave them opportunities to catch more viewers than ever before and WCW Nitro was an instant success.
WCW Nitro was an even bigger success when Lex Luger suddenly appeared on show #1… Then, it grew to an even bigger success when Scott Hall mysteriously appeared and then 2 weeks later, Kevin Nash suddenly appeared as his friend.
If there were only big name free agents out there for All Elite Wrestling to sign… Maybe a guy named Bryan, Joe, or Punk?
Honestly, before Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were signed to World Championship Wrestling during 1996, WCW had some problems… Go watch WCW Uncensored 1996 on your Peacock version of the WWE Network and get back to me. WCW was a hot creative mess back then… However, it took 2 key free agent signings and a great idea on how to package them that instantly turned WCW around. The rest of the roster and show fell in line with their reality based storylines and the rest was history. 83 weeks in a row, WCW Nitro defeated WWE RAW in the ratings during 1996-1998.
Something is going to give on Wednesday Nights with the NHL and I believe that Turner Sports will create a “Inside the NBA” like atmosphere to market the NHL surrounding the Wednesday Night NHL games. I believe that it is a done deal that AEW Dynamite is going to move…
In my opinion, Monday Nights are a PERFECT landing spot for AEW Dynamite, especially with a big name free agent signing.
What do you have to lose? You’re consistently drawing under 1 million anyway… By joining Monday Night RAW, you already have RAW’s viewership numbers to leach off of and while that will boost RAW’s numbers slightly, the thought of a real “war” will bring some casual fans want.
However, if you are AEW, what you want is for WWE to start damaging the WWE Smackdown show in order to “save” or salvage RAW. In other words, if AEW Dynamite makes legitimate strides against RAW’s viewership numbers, Vince McMahon will MOVE Roman Reigns from Smackdown to RAW. Without Roman on WWE Smackdown, that show will begin to dip back down below 2 million as it was during his absence from 2020. Even if AEW gets the WWE to place Roman on BOTH RAW and Smackdown, it’s a win because he’ll be over-exposed by appearing on BOTH brands and it dilutes the Brand Extension.
Right now, there are financial analysts reading into the WWE’s calls, communications, and other moves in the entertainment industry and suggesting that once their WWE Smackdown deal expires with FOX, they may shop it around to Amazon or Apple who both want to badly get deeper into the live streaming sports market. Usually, their TV deals are negotiated 1-2 years in advance and the WWE Smackdown deal on FOX expires during the Fall of 2024. In my opinion, I believe that the WWE is dissatisfied with being on Fridays and only took it just for the “foot in the door” to possibly get a better night in the future. WWE also has the option to do more with Peacock, too. All of this hype could simply be a way for the WWE to negotiate a bigger deal or a better night with FOX, too.
REGARDLESS, it should be AEW’s goal to “mess with WWE” and force them to diminish their Smackdown brand by moving Roman Reigns to RAW to “save them”.
When AEW Dynamite possibly joins Monday Nights, they need to get mean… None of this “respect WWE” BS… Remember when Cody Rhodes smashed that throne on one of the AEW Pay Per Views during 2019 and everybody got mad? Yeah… That kind of thing. The WWE is a hot bloated corporate mess right now and AEW’s job should be to expose that to their fans. Just like Eric Bischoff exposed the WWE during 1995-1996 for having TAPED shows 3-4 weeks in advance and reading spoilers on the air. If AEW were to go to Monday Nights, Tony Khan and his 4 EVPs need to get tougher and stop acting like snowflakes all of the time. Break that damn beer bottle (get Kenny Omega a milk bottle) and get ready for a fight! If you want to be #1, you cannot assume that playing it safe will win the hearts of wrestling fans. No, you have to challenge them and mock how BAD they are.
If AEW needs any help on how bad WWE has become, just ask the many talent signings over the past few years. Just ask Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, FTR, Cody Rhodes, Shawn Spears, Miro, and listen to tapes of the late great Brodie Lee (Luke Harper in WWE). If the WWE was still great, those wrestlers would still be there because from all of the reports that I’ve seen, WWE was paying most of those guys MORE than what AEW was paying them. Each of those wrestlers LEFT the WWE because the system was failing them and they didn’t enjoy performing for that company. On top of that, you have Jim Ross, Arn Anderson, and Dean Malenko who saw, first hand, the inner workings of the WWE and how miserable it has become with just Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, and the Corporate Offices calling all of the shots.
On top of all of that, NXT is struggling and that brand is the developmental system for the WWE’s Main Roster. You can actually see that WWE has NO GREAT SUPERSTARS IN THE PIPELINE. Seriously, the WWE is in severe danger if Roman Reigns would to ever sustain an injury or gets overexposed by being forced to perform for 2 different brands. If Roman were to get injured or God forbid sick again (I sure hope not), what does the WWE have as a back-up plan? A bunch of burned out wrestlers whom they’ve tried to use as top stars but quickly changed their minds.
800,000 viewer gap… That’s it! You are THAT CLOSE and WWE is declining and might, by themselves, close the gap further.
And what do you have to lose?
People at AEW and their fans CHEER when they break 1 million viewers which I believe that they have achieved only 5-6 times now since the show began during Fall 2019. Seriously, they were just celebrating a number under 500,000 for the 18-49 Demographic for the 5/5 AEW Dynamite because they lucked into being #1 for that demographic for that night. Dave Meltzer was so exited by the news that he put extra cheese on his cheeseburgers that night!
In the immortal words of the band KISS, you’ve got nothin’ to lose!
Then, look at TNT’s line-up… AEW on Monday, NBA on Tuesday, NHL on Wednesday, and NBA on Thursday. STACKED with live sports action.
Again… This isn’t 2010, as TNA Wrestling was up against a FAR STRONGER WWE. This is actually like 1995 when WCW was up against a declining WWE. WWE is declining, as this bloated 3 hour RAW is boring fans and they lack top drawing superstars to grow numbers. On top of that, the Corporate handcuffs are locked onto the WWE. They are STUCK in the PG Era and forever will be with the Politically Correct Comcast now in charge of NBC/Universal. WWE is beholden to them now especially with that WWE Network deal.
The fans will be so excited to compact their wrestling viewership into 1 less night, too… Having 4 out of 5 weekdays to watch wrestling is RIDICULOUS and too much right now, especially when a Pay Per View consumes a Sunday.
You’ve got nothing to lose, Tony Khan. Go to Monday Nights and become legendary.
And shock the world by signing CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Samoa Joe along the way.
800,000 viewers… That’s a small gap and once you close it, you can renegotiate with TNT for a better financial deal and a more competitive Monday Night show will pack the arenas when the quarantines are full lifted.
So just chill… Until the next episode!
Comments and feedback are welcome. Follow and Tweet me @titowrestling or login in below to post comments.
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