SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
— WWE issued a press release on Monday announcing a new free tier to the WWE Network.
Content in the free tier includes:
- New shows including Raw Talk, streaming Monday nights each week immediately following Raw
- Groundbreaking original series including Monday Night War, Ride Along, Table for 3, Photo Shoot and Story Time
- Recent episodes of WWE’s flagship programs Monday Night Raw, Friday Night SmackDown and NXT
- Select historical WWE pay-per-views and NXT TakeOver events
- Weekly WWE highlights, Top 10, WWE’s The Bump, WWE Now, The Best of WWE and WWE Timeline
According to the release, there is no credit card required to access the free tier and it was made available as of Monday morning.
McMahon: This feels like the first step into something else for WWE and the Network specifically. There have been longstanding rumors that WWE is in the market to sell its PPV rights, similar to the deal UFC put together with ESPN last year. If nothing else, and they continue to operate as usual, a free tier to the network is a good way to introduce potential new customers. I would imagine that it would be heavily supported by ads, which offers another revenue stream for WWE (even if it’s small). Just my guess, but this feels like the first step towards some evolution with the WWE Network.
— RAW Talk will be one of the new shows on WWE Network, and will be included in the free tier. It’s essentially a postgame show that will air at 11 p.m. each week following RAW on USA Network. WWE announced that Samoa Joe and Charly Caruso will be the hosts of RAW Talk.
— SmackDown’s viewership rose to 2.17 million on Friday night, headlined by the Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus main event. The show was up from 2.044 million viewers the week before. SmackDown did a 0.6 rating in the 18-49 demo, up from a 0.5 the previous week.
— In a recent social media post, Cody said that his AEW TNT Championship open challenge is open to non-contracted wrestlers as well as contracted wrestlers to AEW. His first challenger will be on this week’s AEW Dynamite, when Jungle Boy challenges for the championship.
McMahon: This opens a lot of possibilities for AEW. A few months ago they brought in Jeff Cobb for what was essentially a few dates. This could open the possibility of more one-off appearances from big-name guys on the independent scene. The open challenge gimmick can run dry pretty quickly if limited to just their own roster, so this added wrinkle provides a lot of fun possibilities.
— Matches scheduled for Dark this week include:
- The Butcher & The Blade vs. Jon Cruz & Joe Alonzo
- Billy Gunn vs. John Skyler
- The Natural Nightmares vs. Brandon Cutler & Peter Avalon
- Santana & Ortiz vs. Leroy & EJ Lews
McMahon: Dark in recent weeks has been morphed into a show comprised largely of squash matches, which is needed for a company like AEW that relies on publishing records. Dark is shoulder programming to Dynamite, and shouldn’t be used as a “must-see” show every week. Part of the allure to AEW is that, unlike WWE, it doesn’t require you to invest 7-10 hours per week to be a fan and follow the entire product. Using the show to give talent wins is a smart strategy and a necessary one in an environment where records matter. For those records to look impressive, wrestlers need wins and squash matches is an easy and effective way to accomplish that. The structure of the show has been easy to watch as well. Last week was just a series of matches, with short introductions from Excalibur and Tazz before each one.
— Matches scheduled for Dynamite this week include:
- Cody (c) vs. Jungle Boy — AEW TNT Championship Match
- Kenny Omega & Adam Page (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc & Kip Sabian — AEW Tag Team Championship Match
- Chris Jericho vs. Colt Cabana
- Brian Cage is advertised to wrestle
- Tony Schiavone will interview FTR
— AEW World Champion Jon Moxley tweeted over the weekend that he’s dealing with a broken tailbone.
— IMPACT debuts a new show on AXS tomorrow night, IMPACT in 60. The show will air at 10 p.m. ET, immediately following a new episode of IMPACT Wrestling on AXS.
According to a press release, “The hour-long series chronicles the promotion’s celebrated 18-year history under the IMPACT and TNA: Total Nonstop Action banners. Headlined by some of the greatest champions to enter the ring, each episode features a collection of full matches showcasing a different wrestler, championships, factions or match types.”
Tuesday’s episode will be the “Best of the Asylum Years.”
McMahon: For longtime Impact fans, this will be a fun trip down memory lane, it feels like. I’m not sure what sort of monetary value IMPACT is getting for the content, but it’s a way for them to theoretically monetize their content with little effort. They aren’t producing much new footage, if at all (maybe introductions) for these shows, so there’s little risk involved with this new show. Given that Anthem owns the promotion and the network, it would make sense for them to leverage more content on AXS.
— MLW announced that its July 16 and July 18 events scheduled for New York and Philadelphia have been postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The league said that all tickets purchased will be honored on the rescheduled dates.
The new date for the Philadelphia show will be Dec. 5 at 2300 Arena and the New York date will be rescheduled on Feb. 4 at the Melrose Ballroom.
“To our fans we thank you for your support as we all work through this,” said MLW CEO Court Bauer. “Our thoughts go out to those directly affected as well as those on the frontlines.”
— Some sad news to report … Danny Havoc, who wrestled for GCW and CZW, died over the weekend. Havoc made his CZW debut in 2005 and was a two-time CZW Ultraviolent Underground Champion as well as a CZW World Junior Heavyweight Champion and a CZE World Tag Team Champion.
CZW wrote on Twitter: “This cuts too deep. Grant “Danny Havoc” Berkland. He was an inspiration to so many and a friend to all and our hearts go out to his family and loved ones. We can take a small comfort in knowing the entire wrestling community are sharing the same grief right now.”
IMPACT wrestler Sami Callihan tweeted, “Absolutely heartbroken. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Danny Havoc. Absolute genius who never got the credit he deserved. I’m beyond privileged to been able to travel the world with him. Reach out to your loved one. Life is so short. Love you Grant. RIP”
Allie, who was with IMPACT and is now with AEW, tweeted, “Danny Havoc always extended kindness to me and welcomed me into the CZW family. My heart hurts for his friends and loved ones.”
GCW tweeted, “With a broken heart, the GCW family mourns the loss of Grant Berkland aka Danny Havoc.
Danny was an incredibly talented, intelligent, caring & genuine person.
He was also an elite performer that entertained a generation of fans & inspired a generation of aspiring performers.”