Over the weekend, there was an interesting development when the updated schedule for this week's programming on WWE Network was released. Tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 4) at 7:00 p.m. ET, WWE Main Event will air live from the SmackDown taping in Detroit. It will also air Wednesday night on Ion in its usual time slot.
The first thing that comes to mind is that this is—like NXT Arrival this past Thursday night—a test to see how much WWE Network's infrastructure can be stressed during a live broadcast. This was confirmed on Wrestling Observer Radio at F4WOnline.com over the weekend (h/t WrestlingInc.com).
In the ring, NXT Arrival was a huge success, with three very good to great matches. It was a great way to kick off the Network and get fans excited about both NXT and the Network in general.
Well, it was until the technical problems started. During the Xavier Woods vs. Tyler Breeze match, the feed went out for a large number of users, according to F4WOnline.com (h/t 411Mania.com), and if it didn't go out for you then, it probably did during the Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville Ladder match main event, only to return right before the finish.
WWE Network subscribers were emailed this message later that night:
During tonight's live NXT ArRIVAL special, we unfortunately experienced technical difficulties, which are to be expected when launching a new digital network. We will work aggressively to solve these glitches and deliver quality service. The complete event will be available on-demand overnight.
According to an email we received from WWE, Main Event will air live at 7:00 p.m. ET on Tuesdays every week through WrestleMania. That means the next five episodes (through April 1) will air live on the Network. If WWE promotes the live showings hard on Raw with marquee matches on Main Event, it will be a very good experiment to try to stress test WWE Network before WrestleMania 30.
There's another wrinkle to this: WWE's contract with Ion, Main Event's home in the U.S., expires in a few weeks, and there's been no word on a renewal yet.
In fact, according to Dave Meltzer in the newest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (F4WOnline.com subscribers-only link), the contract expires with what WWE is saying will be the last live episode, which will air on Ion April 2. It's possible there's nothing to this; WWE timed all of its domestic TV contracts to end this year so it could try to sell all of its shows as a package. According to Marc Graser in a Variety article a few months ago, WWE is going to pick its new media partners by March 4, which happens to be tomorrow.
It could turn out that Main Event is moving as part of WWE's new deal (which will be announced soon) or that it's staying put but WWE can't say so until the other deals are announced. However, if Main Event were about to be without a home on regular broadcast or cable television, which is another possibility, this would be a nice way to transition it to WWE Network. We'll probably know exactly where the issue stands within the next few weeks.
Another way to look at this run of live Main Event shows is that WWE is looking to sell SmackDown, which is taped after Main Event, as a live show that would move to Tuesday nights as part of a new TV deal. Right now, the big money in rights fees from TV networks are for live sports, so that is how WWE is positioning itself. Doing Main Event live would get WWE's talent and production crew in the rhythm of doing live broadcasts at the Tuesday tapings. Anyone who used to use post-production as an excuse to get sloppy would have to tighten up their work in the ring or behind the camera.
Right now, though, I'm most curious as to who will be on these live shows to make sure they're popular enough to be sufficient tests of the type of load WrestleMania will put on the WWE Network.