wrestling / Columns

Csonka: Breaking Down The Upcoming Wednesday Night Wars

August 18, 2019 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Wednesday AEW WWE NXT, Shane Douglash

We have been talking for the last few years about how the wrestling world has become a wild, wonderful and crazy place. Promotions working together, the rise of NJPW, Impact fighting to stay relevant, MLW’s return, the decline in ROH business, Lucha Underground dying, and the birth of AEW have all been major stories. AEW is heading to TNT, which is huge for the wrestling business when other companies have failed to secure strong TV deals, and according to all reports, WWE is set to make a big move by taking NXT to Wednesday nights on the USA network, two-hours and head to head with AEW (a smart move due to FS1’s deal with Big East basketball and because USA is the bigger network with more homes). At the time of this article being published, the news of NXT to the USA Network is still rumor, but where there is smoke there is fire. Today we’ll examine the upcoming Wednesday night war…

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A Strategic Hit By The World Wrestling Federation: While some people seem to think that this isn’t a war, it clearly is as it now has Vince McMahon’s full attention. To me, this is a great thing because Vince is at his best when he’s on the offensive, and a motivated Vince is a good thing. And if you’ve been paying attention at all, Vince has slowly been taking pieces off the board as much as he can. Triple H has been building his team, picking up various non-wrestling talents in order to bolster his production team, creative (Sapolsky, Smallman, Borash), they have been signing up trainers, and the relationships with places like PROGRESS, ICW, and EVOLVE are designed to control certain talents while also allowing them to keep track of them so that they can lock up even more talent. And they continue to do that, they have insane amounts of money and can lock people up to contracts, and not even use them. I mean when Jinder, Mojo, & The Kanellis’ are reportedly bringing in $500,000 a year over 5-years, that’s insane. WWE is playing from the high pot power position at the table and don’t want to let that go anytime soon and financially, no one can top them. But Vince took notice, not because of buzz, but because AEW did sellouts, including in Vegas which WWE never does, and drew a strong buy rate without TV, something ROH & TNA/Impact hadn’t done with TV. The alarms sounded, and the hit was put out. I say that with no malice, it’s just the expected play from Vince’s playbook and competition is good.

Why Counter Program With NXT?: AEW will be gaining an audience of hardcore fans, and maybe more importantly, an audience that is disenfranchised by main roster WWE (Raw & Smackdown). NXT is WWE’s answer to a super indie, a PWG in some ways, and they pull from that hardcore audience. Putting NXT up against AEW makes the most sense if you want to take away from the potential AEW audience. They are fighting fire with fire, which is smart. It’s almost impossible to judge what AEW will draw on TNT (it could be a disaster at 100,000 viewers, or could be a surprise hit like their sellouts and do 1 million viewers,) but we do have a small estimation of what NXT can do on the USA Network. They previously aired a one-hour special back in December of 2017, and earned 841,000 viewers. Now, who knows if they can do that for a two-hour show, but they will have the advantage of being promoted on Raw and you know WWE will add in main roster names/guests to boost the show’s perception.

Now We Know Why Triple H Didn’t Take Over Raw or Smackdown: When Bischoff and Heyman were announced as the new creative heads of Raw & Smackdown, there was a lot of speculation on why Triple H didn’t get one of those positions. Was he shunned? Were they holding off until he eventually takes over everything? Or was NXT going to expand and he would be leading that? And now we seemingly have our answer, as with NXT moving to two hours, not only is he in charge of that as well as NXT UK, but he also still has his executive duties to tend to.

How Will This Change AEW’s Approach?: I hope not at all, I hope that AEW just cares about AEW. I don’t need Cody trashing thrones ands shit like that. I just want a quality alternative product to everything else. I want something that’s fresh, fun and delivers, While AEW is FAR from perfect so far, I have overall enjoyed their shows and I like the things that they have planned out for the first few TV shows. I want AEW to be AEW, not WWE, not NJPW, not Crockett, I want AEW to lock into an identity and deliver the alternative and revolution that they have promised. Variety is the spice of life, WWE is salt, it’s everywhere, and too much salt is not only bad for you, but gets biter after a while. Give me some sugar, give me some garlic, dare to be different and be the best you can at it.

How Will This Change NXT?: Besides going to two hours, NXT could drastically change from the show we know it as right now. There has long been a call to expand NXT to 90-minutes or two-hours, and while I understood the argument, I was against it because WWE does one-hour shows really well and sometimes, less is more. But what are some of the possible changes that could come with the move to two-hours?

Potential Opportunities: One of the biggest changes, in theory. Would be more opportunities for the loaded NXT roster. The main reason for many wanting to expand NXT to 90-minutes or two-hours has been because the NXT roster is absolutely loaded, and so many talents haven’t even been on TV. Look at the breakout tournament, eight guys that hadn’t made TV and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In theory the move to two-hours will see more talents getting TV time… in theory…

Main Roster Involvement: But you know that with the move to he USA network, and going head to head with AEW, that WWE will bring in main roster talents, at least occasionally and to me that’s a real catch 22. On one hand, it could lead to some really cool matches (Daniel Bryan vs. a ton of guys, AJ Styles appearing, and many more). But the problem could be this, if it happens too often, you’re taking time from guys like KUSHIDA, Keith Lee, Donovan Dijakovic and others that really need TV time. Also, as mentioned, NXT’s hook to the audience they are targeting will be that they aren’t main roster WWE… in theory…

Vince WILL Be Involved/Main Rosterfication: While Vince can say he won’t “be in the weeds” as much as he used to due to age, the XFL, or whatever other excuse he wants to trot out, this show will be on the USA Network, head to head with AEW, which means he will be involved. And with Vince involved, the things that make NXT so attractive to so many will likely go by the wayside. We have Raw & Smackdown, I personally don’t need or want light versions of those shows. I hope I am wrong but if Vince is heavily involved, I fear for the main rosterfication of NXT.

What About The WWE Network Losing NXT?: If this is the move, then the WWE Network is losing NXT, the Wednesday anchor of the network and one of the week’s most watched shows. WWE will have to replace that, so what are their options?

205 Live: With Smackdown moving to FOX in October, the status of 205 Live is in dispute. There have been rumblings of merging with NXT, and with the move to two hours, isn’t out of the question, But I could also see them taking over the Wednesday night slot.

PROGRESS or ICW/NXT UK Expansion: There have been rumors for a long time that PROGRESS or ICW could be added to the WWE Network, so that move isn’t out of the question as it would be new and fresh content for many. There is also the possibility of expanding the UK brand, taping more episodes, or even merging PROGRESS and or ICW into it to create more hours of content.

EVOLVE: WWE was reportedly very happy with the EVOLVE 10th anniversary special and with Gabe Sapolsky working with WWE already, this is another viable option. You could start with best of shows, featuring WWE talents in great EVOLVE matches, and then transition into taped content from EVOLVE live events. This could also serve as an addition to developmental, as several NXT talents have and continue to work EVOLVE events.

Derby City NXT: What if we were to split NXT? You may think that this sounds insane, but please allow me to explain. With all of the signings over the last year there have been many calls for NXT TV to go to 90-minutes or even two hours, but I have a better plan with NXT moving to USA. You see, when Ohio Valley Wrestling was a WWE developmental territory, there was an unofficial “developmental to developmental,” named Derby City Wrestling. Derby City Wrestling had local TV and was populated by OVW trainees that weren’t under WWE contract, but guys like JTG would put in extra work in Derby City Wrestling when they weren’t being used by OVW. Why not make a secondary NXT brand specifically for the network. WWE has a ton of talent to populate a secondary NXT brand, it will give them experience learning to work on TV, the UK guys can make occasional appearances, and it would be a perfect place for prospects to get to shine.

A specialized series of rotating that are exclusive to the Network: WWE has such a huge roster overall that it would be easy to make extra programming for the network. You could easily do all of these, doing one at a time throughout the year to fill a weekly quota. I even have some options for them to consider

* Mixed Match Challenge: Bring back the show that previously existed and that some already know about. If Facebook or someone else won’t pay for the more seasons, bring it over to the network and let it ride again.

* 305 Live: We have 205 live for the little lads, so lets make 305 Live, a showcase for the hosses. This would be an occasional showcase that you can attach a prize to (a title shot of the winner’s choice) after a tournament like format.

* Ladies Night: With the women’s evolution/revolution and whatever the fuck they want to call it, a series of one-hour women’s only shows I think would work well. It’s different; it features the women and is of course extra programming. They have more than enough women under contract to pull it off.

* Tag Team Turmoil: This could be a series of one-hour shows featuring the tag teams of WWE, in some sort of tournament format, where the winning team is proclaimed the best tag team in WWE.

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Bottom Line: The bottom line for me is that I am excited and that this is such an excellent time to be a fan. There is so much content out there, and if you don’t like one thing, just look around, because if you actually look, you will find something to love.

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The 411 on Wrestling Podcast returns to the 411 Podcasting Network for episode 44. On the show, the good brother, Jeremy Lambert, joins 411’s Larry Csonka and the guys will preview the 2019 WWE King of the Ring and the 2019 NJPW Super J-Cup events. The show is approximately 88-minutes long.

* Intro
* WWE King of the Ring 2019 Preview: 2:15
* NJPW Super J-Cup 2019 Preview: 39:45
* Random Thoughts (Tanahashi, Candice vs. Io, Ishii): 1:05:20

You can subscribe and listen to the 411 on Wrestling Podcast via the above player on Transistor, or on the following platforms:

* iTunes
* Spotify
* Stitcher
* Google Play

– End Scene.

– Thanks for reading.