The times, they are a changin' once again for the WWE. As reported Monday evening, World Wrestling Entertainment struck a major deal with NBC Universal's SyFy Network to bring the network television pioneer Friday Night SmackDown! on board this October.
As more details trickle down, several reports are confirming that the WWE will accept a two-year offer from SyFy starting this October with an option for a third. The network will also be shelling out $30 million, reportedly $10 million more than the WWE currently makes in syndication with MyNetworkTV.
Though the deal has been met with widespread backlash and disgust, it may not be the end of the world.
Considering the fact that MyNetworkTV is thrashing wildly out of the ratings battle and local/broadcast television is being rendered obsolete thanks to the addition of digital converter boxes for all TVs, the move may be more natural than we've anticipated.
But left in the wake of this potentially monumental deal (for the first time in 11 years, pro wrestling will not be readily available on "free" TV), is a little brother of a show that the WWE may already be considering dropping altogether.
WWE NXT debuted just a few months ago with the promise of forever changing the landscape and vision of a professional wrestling TV program in ways we had never seen before.
Replacing the WWE's repackaged and incorrectly rebranded ECW program, SyFy executives were instrumental in bringing this new wave of media to the masses.
With the same stagnant ratings eating up ever valuable on-air minutes, rumors are already swirling out of Stamford, Conn., that WWE and SyFy have decided to axe the program when SmackDown! makes the jump this Fall.
The WWE's relationship with SyFy has been a bizarre one to say the least. When the WWE capitalized on the resurgent popularity of ECW by adding a third weekly show to their lineup, they were chastised for the unlikely choice of bringing the extreme, hardcore programming to a channel that not only had no fan base for such endeavors, but was more suited to a completely different genre altogether.
Viewers were hesitant to accept the idea that "ECW" would be a serious attempt on SyFy (then still SciFi), many of which went so far as to mimic the product for their own amusement.
Despite what was an obvious "odd couple" situation, ECW managed to bring in a few science fiction and horror elements that, while incredibly ridiculous, kept the viewers tuned in for a little while.
The ratings were good, at least for the first few quarters. Seeing so much attention come to their network, SyFy re-signed ECW for a few more years in hopes of even more profits, using new reality show liftoffs to follow the wrestling show on Tuesday nights.
It worked, if only for a little while. The new ECW soon derailed, and became a shallow shell of the real ECW, going as far as to bury the product it was making as late as 2006. By the end of the year, the fans had became frigid and tuned out.
Nearly four years later, SyFy tuned out as well, demanding that the steadily declining ratings and uninteresting stars the WWE was producing weren't cutting it on their network.
So the WWE pulled the plug on their failed brand, instead reaching back into the basement for a hybrid trick from the past.
Tough Enough managed to engage fans and get great exposure on MTV during the late years of the Attitude Era, so it seemed logical that the WWE attempt to bring it back in some form.
Instead of doing another simple reality show, however, the WWE went balls out with eight minor league stars and eight proven WWE draws in an attempt to keep viewers engaged each and every week.
Admitting that the NXT rookies were green, unstable, and ready to breakout, WWE's premise wasn't half bad. The idea was that the top rookie would become the next big sensation in a WWE ring for years to come.
This "competition" started out nicely for SyFy, who had been reaffirmed that hte WWE was going to push a new product and rake in the dough.
Fans were treated to some excellent matches and decent story content with rookies and superstars alike. Daniel Bryan emerged as a clear favorite while David Otunga and Heath Slater developed their own personalities.
Wade Barrett became an ultra heel, and Justin Gabriel and Skip Sheffield became guilty pleasures to root for. With a decent amount of hype and momentum, the rating returned. Not in droves mind you, but just enough to appease the producers.
And then, as the weeks went by and the numbers rolled in, the ratings begin to tuck tail and run once again.
Where had the audience gone for the "next evolution of professional wrestling?" It certainly hadn't paraded across the party lines to TNA, nor was it more or less present masquerading with Raw or SmackDown! The fact of the matter was NXT was the same as ECW: boring.
NXT took Daniel Bryan and gave him an epic losing streak. Think MVP's losing streak was bad? Bryan is getting booked in squash matches against William Regal.
Competitors like Otunga and Barrett are booked as either too big for their britches or simply too delusional to be real.
The talent pool has evaporated as stars make more frequent appearances on other programs, tainting the "special" feeling of the whole once-a-week idea.
Perhaps most notable is that the WWE is mirroring their management of this program much like they did in 2001 during the Invasion Angle. Instead of making the story all about the wrestlers for whom the show is named, WWE is taking the grandiose personalities managing those fighters and making them the big deal.
We know that names like Jericho, Christian, and Punk can draw, but putting them in the ring so consistently is cause for alarm when fans pan the action as "same old sh*t."
The prolonged and complicated ranking and elimination process leave little suspense to the fans, who of course, already recognized that the whole process is preordained and not worth their time.
We're still over three weeks from the first elimination in this program, meaning that they'll likely dragout this first season over the Summer and into the Fall, just in time for a series finale to wrap up a grease fire that was intended to be an H-bomb.
Take a look at the eight rookie faces of WWE NXT. If they disappeared from television tomorrow, would you care? Would the WWE's top brass? Would SyFy's?
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