The past few Tuesday nights have seen several main roster free agents stopping by NXT. At least one of those, Baron Corbin, looks to be in line for a title shot, and his budding rivalry with Carmelo Hayes brought the champ and his running buddy Trick Williams to SmackDown last night (June 9).
The explanation for these moves seemed fairly obvious. While the black-and-gold brand isn’t in a full-on “wrestling war” like they were from late 2019 until early 2021, when Charlotte Flair was NXT Women’s champion for a few months and Team NXT won Survivor Series over Teams Raw and SmackDown, the goal is the same — to get the numbers up for WWE’s third show.
Rather than beating AEW, however, the motive is now about maximizing the value of WWE’s next media rights deals. CEO Nick Khan is currently negotiating those, and he told The Hollywood Reporter last week that the company is interested in putting shows on more networks/platforms than they did when they signed their last round of contracts with NBCUniversal (parent company of USA and Peacock) and FOX:
“We are always in touch with all of the buyers in the marketplace about what they are looking for. If you look at the NBA situation, my belief is the NBA is going to split the rights which are now split two-ways between Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney. They could split them four to five ways. And we think that is good for everybody. We followed the NBA’s playbook five years ago in wanting to not have one exclusive partner for Raw and SmackDown and to split them two ways. Now we are looking at the marketplace in its totality and thinking there might be more options than even that.”
Making NXT a more important part of their portfolio is the start of that strategy. But Khan isn’t looking to stop there:
“We think NXT has the viability to be its own standalone brand instead of just being a developmental system – a third brand, if you will, where you can see cross-over from our superstars on Raw and SmackDown to NXT while our young talent develops there. Once we get all of that situated, then we will look at other nights of the week to develop new content as well.”
There aren’t really any wrestling-free nights of the week left, so if Khan can get other players to pony up for this new content we’ll likely get new battles in the “wrestling war”.
And while some wrestling fans (and a lot of wrestling bloggers) may say there’s already too much wrestling on television, the numbers indicate that there’s enough demand for these shows to make them very attractive options for networks and streamers. So don’t be shocked if WWE BeatDown or something similar premieres on a Thursday — or Wednesday — night in the not-too-distant future.