In an interesting development that ties the worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts together once again, on the same day that UFC announced a deal with FOX, WWE and Syfy sent out a joint press release stating their intentions of airing the first live episode of Smackdown on the network on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011.
From the presser (via TVbytheNumbers):
NEW YORK - August 18, 2011 - Syfy and WWE announced today its first ever WWE Smackdown live special, "SuperSmackdown Live," on Tuesday, August 30 at 8-10PM/ET on Syfy, originating from the INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
The Tuesday night special will feature WWE's biggest Superstars and Divas, including World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton®, Christian®, SheamusTM, Mark Henry®, Sin CaraTM, Cody RhodesTM, Wade BarrettTM, Daniel BryanTM, Brodus ClayTM, NatalyaTM and Alicia FoxTM.
The special will re-air in SmackDown's regular time slot on Friday, September 2 from 8-10PM (ET/PT).
SmackDown is averaging 3.1 million total viewers for 2011 to date.
The way this ties into MMA, and more specifically the UFC, is that among the announcements made today by the promotion was that it would begin airing its reality series, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), in a new live format on Friday nights in the Spring of 2012 on FX.
While the exact timeslot has not been nailed down, it stands to reason that it will compete directly with WWE Smackdown, which airs from 8 to 10 p.m. ET on Syfy. And while both Vince McMahon and Dana White have long pushed the narrative that there isn't a huge crossover because UFC is sport and WWE is entertainment, we here at Cageside Seats can personally attest to the fact that that is a complete load of crap.
Speculation is already running rampant that WWE announcing this first foray into broadcasting Smackdown live on Tuesday is a way to simply gauge interest and see how well the show will perform on a different night in which it wouldn't compete with UFC. Again, though, that's just speculation.
What makes this more interesting are comments made by Bryan Alvarez in the latest edition of Figure Four Daily in which he noted that some changes are coming to Smackdown:
"There is concern in WWE, I know that. And I was told today that there are going to be changes to Smackdown coming up, I think they said starting in the next season, which I guess would be around September. I don't know what those changes are going to be, if they are going to move some stars to Smackdown; obviously, they're in desperate need of some big names there."
This could all mean very little, of course, when considering the fact that last season's ratings of TUF, which featured the biggest draw in the company in Brock Lesnar, were the worst they had ever been. The promotion was quick to blame Spike TV, explaining that it could do very little with the bad time slot it was switched to, not to mention a near total lack of promotion for the show, something expounded upon further by FX executives at the announcement today.
The plan now is for FOX to heavily promote all forms of UFC programming, which includes TUF, which, as stated before, is getting a major makeover. The biggest and most important part of that being the fact that the shows on Friday will be live fights, as opposed to prerecorded, with fans at home getting some form of influence over decisions made that directly affect the show.
The UFC has yet to fully work out all the details but interest is already high and WWE making a preemptive move like broadcasting Smackdown live on a Tuesday could very well be a great way to attempt to make a move before it looks too much like they are running away from the UFC, especially when McMahon has been so outspoken that they aren't direct competitors and can co-exist in a television landscape as it currently stands.
But perhaps now that he may have to compete with them directly, he's changing his tune.
Either way, we'll see what happens and as noted by Alvarez, Smackdown is badly in need of an influx of marquee stars. Randy Orton as champion -- again -- and feuding with members of the roster like Mark Henry isn't exactly a confidence inducing thought when considering fans will have the option to watch a live fight instead.
No matter what, it should be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Anyone think UFC will drive WWE to move Smackdown to another night and possibly to air live each week?