Is This Pro Wrestling Nirvana?

NXT will officially move to Tuesday nights on USA Network, ending the Wednesday night war with All Elite Wrestling in just a year and a half. While AEW drew better ratings every week except a handful of times, the shift to Tuesdays says nothing about the status of either brand. As I mentioned in a previous article about the Peacock deal, NBC Sports will shut down later this year, which will bring NHL and Nascar content to the USA Network. Essentially, consolidating the channels will add a boost to USA with more live sports content, while it cuts the costs involved with running a specific sports channel. Sure, it made sense for Triple H to bring NXT to cable to try to prevent All Elite from getting off the ground because the strategy was designed to protect WWE’s dominate share of the market. The fact NXT didn’t prevent AEW from finding its place among the pro wrestling landscape isn’t necessarily a defeat for NXT as much as it’s a victory that All Elite wasn’t just a flash in the pan project. Still, the move to Tuesdays is for other sports to join the USA line-up, not because AEW won the majority of the ratings competition.

However, the silver lining to this is that with NXT on Tuesdays, Impact announced a switch to Thursdays to avoid going head-to-head with the WWE brand so there will be pro wrestling on a main stream television network (AXS has less TV clearance, but you get the point) every night of the week, and the weekends that have pay-per-views would then be almost an entire week of daily wrestling available on television.

Is this pro wrestling nirvana?

No, it isn’t, but I’m a fan of the band and heard Shane Douglas use the term in a promo about ECW Barely legal so I thought it was a nifty title for this article.

On the surface, it might seem like this is a dream scenario for pro wrestling fans, but a look at the numbers and the proper context tells the rather harsh reality. There will be professional wrestling on nightly because a network wanted to prioritize other sports, and because Impact doesn’t have the star power to compete with NXT. The Raw ratings have been sluggish, and Smackdown has been decent, while AEW has been able to maintain its numbers, which are still lower than the main roster WWE shows. The point being, there’s nothing about this scenario that said there’s a fan demand for daily wrestling shows.

As cliche as it might be, the basic philosophy of supply and demand proves when content has an audience.

Let’s be honest here, besides the diehard fans that will watch anything with a wrestling ring, is anyone really going to watch all of these shows? If anything, the over saturation of wrestling content might tend to push viewers toward the decision to pick the select brands they will follow and consider that enough wrestling for the week. Another possibility is that this much content will spread shows too thin or it might even be a negative to draw new viewers if following a promotion seems like too much of a chore for the audience.

One of the many reasons Steve Austin drew record-setting ratings in 1997 is because if fans wanted to watch him then they had to tune into Raw on Monday. The fact that this was just a weekly opportunity is one of the aspects that made Raw “must see” TV at the time. Some fans might consider this much content as a way for more talent to get a chance to shine, which is true in theory, but there’s also a chance that most talent will simply get lost in the shuffle. If angles or matches just get stirred into a potpourri of wrestling content on a particular week, it’s possible that it might not stand out as much as it would’ve otherwise.

The argument could be made that AEW already has a problem with too much weekly content and too many on the roster. When the company runs live events, there are dark matches before the television broadcast to give the crowd a complete three-hour experience so it makes sense to use that footage as a “bonus” for the Youtube show. The addition of Elevation just seems unnecessary and might clutter the All Elite platform too much. The reason being, is it realistic to expect viewers to watch five hours of weekly content between Dynamite and the Youtube shows? One of the advantages that AEW had over WWE is that the two-hour Dynamite format was an easier watch for the viewing audience.

Maybe I’m too negative or too jaded, but is anyone really going to watch Raw, Smackdown, NXT, Impact, Dynamite, and two Youtube shows every week?

Besides the fact that there are more entertainment options now than any other time in history, most of the general public has a “wrestling limit” to how many hours they will watch in a given week. The ratings proved that the casual fan isn’t going to follow WWE’s third-tier brand to Tuesdays. Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with the very talented rosters across the board. There could be ten five-star matches every week among the promotions and it wouldn’t change the fact that casual fans just won’t watch that much wrestling. Speaking of which, that’s a major part of the problem in the industry today, the biggest wrestling show on American television, Raw, is drawing around two million viewers a week. The reasons for that are numerous and have been discussed before so to discuss it again would be another article for another time. The point being, Raw sets the tone for the industry is some ways because it has the most exposure as a representation of the business. When the casual fan sees The Fiend on Raw when he looks like a crayon left in the car during a heat wave, are they really going to be antithetic about pro wrestling?

So, when NXT makes the move to Tuesdays, there will be more access to pro wrestling on a main stream level with more options than any other time in the history of the business, but that’s a moot point because less fans are watching the product now than most points in history. Again, there are many reasons for that, the presentation of the business, the perception of the business, etc. but the point is nightly wrestling content might just divide the core audience. There won’t be another period like the Monday night war because that was lightening in a bottle with the right pieces of the puzzle in the right place at the right time, but perhaps pro wrestling would be better off with consolidated content. I would rather watch a quality two-hour weekly show than seven hours of average or mediocre programming. Still, it will be interesting to see the ratings and the dynamic of the industry in the next few months.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta