A Real Life TV Smackdown!

Two professional wrestling shows enter the schedule, only one shall survive! Actually, both could thrive by attracting new audiences to the genre. Or both could fail thanks to saturation and overkill.

This Friday, WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown debuts on FOX at 7:30pm ET with a red carpet special followed by smack talk and smackdown in the arena in its regular times lot from 8-10.  WWE is the gold standard as far as reputation and name recognition. To help get the party started, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be returning to his wrestling roots. He’s the biggest star ever to come out of professional wrestling and crossover to mainstream entertainment, so his mere presence at the premiere party is enough to get old and new fans excited.

A Bunch of Elitists

Meanwhile, tonight on TNT at 8 ET, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) challenges WWE for TV dominance with its new show, Dynamite. TNT.. Dynamite.. get it? The title is as subtle as a brain buster from Triple H.

This is the brain child of the tag team The Young Bucks, Nick and Matt Jackson. Despite being upstart, their shows thus far have electrified crowds and sell out arenas nearly as fast as Taylor Swift.

At the center of all this will be Chris Van Vliet as their backstage interviewer. Chris is one of, if not the top name in professional wrestling journalism. His podcast, The Chris Van Vliet Show, plus his youtube channel, are the places to get all the inside info from the top wrestlers in the game.

Not so long ago, Chris had to track the guys down, persuade them to talk to him, and bend over backwards to make it happen once they agreed.  These days they come to him when they have a story they want to get out. He’s thorough, trustworthy, fair, and fun. Now that he’s with AEW, rival WWE will likely try to keep their guys away from Chris. But the price for that kind of pettiness will be their loss and AEW’s gain.

Too Much? Or Just Enough?

These shows join WWE’s Monday Night Raw plus NXT, the company’s developmental brand, both on USA. NXT was brought over from WWE’s online product specifically to challenge smackdown AEW’s efforts.

In all, that’s nine hours a week of wrestling on broadcast and basic cable. I’m not sure that much quantity can survive.

In WWE’s favor, besides name recognition, is that they have a five year, one billion dollar deal with FOX, which is trying to build out its sports programming.

But all the best stuff is on cable. Broadcast waters stuff down and tries to serve as large an audience as possible. And FOX’s history on Friday night is littered with forgettable shows. I’d list some, but I’ve forgotten them.

I predict Friday Night SmackDown will not thrive but will survive thanks to the sheer commitment of FOX (though a move to Saturday SmackDown at some point wouldn’t shock me).

Monday’s Raw is a lock to survive, it’s got a built in audience and name recognition. It may suffer slightly from over saturation, much like Monday Night Football has since the debut of Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.

On Wednesdays, I don’t think NXT will make it. Developmental leagues just don’t do it for anyone outside hardcore fans. They exist mostly to fill time on ESPN et al. NXT got its promotion out of sheer spite. And while that may appeal to hardcore fans, I expect AEW’s  Dynamite to win Wednesday. Plus, they have Chris Van Vliet.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

The Rock recently launched his own brand of tequila, Mana. The name is a nod to his Polynesian roots. I’m pouring a chilled shot as a I get ready to shout at my screen as wrestlers take the ring!


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