TNT Jumps Back Into Pro Wrestling Business With AEW's "Dynamite"
TNT tonight will air the debut episode of All Elite Wrestling’s weekly show “Dynamite,” marking the first time the net has “aired live pro wrestling in almost 20 years,” according to Adam Graham of the DETROIT NEWS. To compete against AEW, which was co-founded by Jaguars Senior VP/Football Technology & Analytics Tony Khan, WWE last month moved developmental brand NXT “from its streaming platform to a weekly live show on USA” that also airs on Wednesday nights. That means the head-to-head competition between AEW and WWE “marks the most high profile battle between two competing wrestling companies since the end of wrestling’s vaunted Monday Night Wars” that saw WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” and WCW’s “Monday Nitro” air against each other from ’95-’01 (DETROIT NEWS, 10/1). In N.Y., Joseph Staszewski notes AEW execs “were not surprised WWE would counter-program by moving NXT to USA.” AEW had been “preparing for something like that since the company was announced in January” (N.Y. POST, 10/1).
TIME'S RIGHT FOR RETURN TO RING: VARIETY’s Joe Otterson noted Turner has not aired pro wrestling since WWE bought WCW in March ’01, but TBS and TNT GM Brett Weitz said that the time “was right for the cable brand to get back into the wrestling space given its success with other sporting ventures like professional baseball, basketball, and soccer” (VARIETY.com, 10/1). VULTURE’s Kenny Herzog noted TNT has an “established reputation broadcasting the NBA and NCAA” and it sees “Dynamite” as a “natural fit in that rubric as opposed to a novelty outlier.” Weitz said, “Live television is still the king of the castle. And what we looked at (with ‘Dynamite’) was a live sporting event that we felt was serving an underserved marketplace” (VULTURE.com, 10/1).
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Fox on Friday will air its premiere episode of WWE’s “SmackDown,” which VARIETY’s Otterson noted is the “culmination of a billion-dollar deal between WWE and Fox” that is part of Fox’ “new push into more live sports events.” Fox has been promoting the debut “for months, with WWE talent appearing across multiple Fox Sports programs as well as at major Fox events like the recent Emmys telecast.” Fox Sports CEO & Exec Producer Eric Shanks said, “There probably isn’t a live event going back to February with the Daytona 500 where you haven’t seen some kind of organic creative integration from the WWE” (VARIETY.com, 10/1). In this week’s SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand notes that level of promotion is “unusual for the WWE, which has had a relationship with USA Network for more than a quarter century.” While USA “runs its WWE relationships through its entertainment division,” Fox’ sports division is “running the WWE relationship.” That allows for “more latitude for promotion.” This is the “first time WWE has been part of a network’s sports division,” and the debut of “SmackDown” has been a “huge focus for Fox Sports, which over the past several months has held weekly all-hands meetings to gear up for the launch” (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/30 issue).