Approaching on its 80th anniversary, television is in a state of flux. More and more services are trying to reach directly to the consumer and reach an audience that never had a life without an Internet connection. Appointment viewing is becoming more and more rare as DVR’s and on demand allow you to curate how you consume your entertainment. As television tries to deal with changing behaviors it looks like many cable outlets are looking towards wrestling to fill the void.

This is nothing new wrestling was big in the infancy of the medium the reason why wrestling was cheap live programming that can be produced that an audience enjoyed. Memphis Wrestling television for example, was one of the highest rated programs not only in that area during the 70s and 80s but but in the whole country. And the story was the same across the United States from territory to territory. Wrestling topped television ratings all around the country and led to the success of the early days of Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation. Then Vince McMahon decided to go national and really change the game. While regional promotions still had television in their areas through the 90s they were seen as less than the national WWE and WCW products that were dominating cable ratings at the time.

The success during the 90s Attitude Era would cause both big brands at the time to secondary first run programming. With the boom in full swing Thunder for WCW and Smackdown WWF began. Many critics at the time thought this would cause creative and and talent oversaturation. As the wave of wrestling popularity began to crest, ECW would enter into the mix on the unlikely partner of TNN and It seemed like wrestling can do no wrong.

But a few years later, wrestling television was a ghost town. WWE bought WCW and ECW and created a void of alternatives to watch on television. There are plenty that tried to get a national TV deal in the interim. Promotions like WOW, WXO and XWF come to mind as trying to bring competition again to the wrestling landscape.

TNA would come less than a year later out of the ashes the World Wrestling All-Stars tour in Australia. The company would evolve from weekly pay per views to regional sports television and then cable television in the US. And while you may not of agreed with the content they put forward at least it gave a second show to enjoy outside of WWE’s auspicious. No matter in the audience they get the action is top-notch.

Ring of Honor came next with national television using their owners Sinclair Broadcast Group to air the programming. And while the coverage isn’t all across the United States. They are available online. This gives fans yet another wrestling escape. There action having the independent style while having name recognition with the current generation of top stars in WWE and TNA.

A few years later Mexican promotion AAA announced that they would be bringing the highflying action of south of the border to the United States in English. But add to that the acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez and reality show kingpin Mark Burnett and it got people’s attention. This would later be known as Lucha Underground it’s changed the way that fans look at wrestling television. Their cinematic style and character development is bar none. Not just for wrestling show but television. In a little under six months the show has open the floodgates for other wrestling promotions to come to national television.

Things like Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, New Japan on AXS, Global Force Wrestling and Paragon Pro Wrestling will be added to the mix of choices on your national cable system. As more and more channels are made available in the need for 24-hour programming more vital for a niche networks success I see more wrestling shows popping up everywhere. This is a win-win not only for the consumer but for the guys as well. Having a talent get television experience and build themselves as stars and allow guys to find the personas. Not to mention, they can build a brand and make themselves stars without the promotional machine that is the WWE. I’m not saying going to WWE is a bad thing I do think it helps talents from getting a bad treatment if they decide to go with the multimedia conglomerate. Or if a talent decides to leave they can still have decent career keeping their name out in the public eye.

But the independent scene is not the only one seeing a shakeup, Vince McMahon and seeing one as well. The 2012 reboot of reality competition NXT took WWE back to the basics and gave developmental a chance to shine. With recognizable names from around the world mixed with new talents from across different avenues, NXT has become the independent label of the McMahon music machine.
And with the touring schedule seemingly ramping up this summer, It could really be the next big thing.

I think the biggest sign wrestling TV is changing the fact that USA Network will now be airing Smackdown beginning in 2016. This is big for a bunch of different reasons. The biggest of which is WWE’s been trying to get the cable channel to air more WWE programming than just Monday Night Raw for years. They tried to get USA pick up their secondary show every time the contract was up for renewal but those in charge said no due to their reliance on original network series. This led to a bunch of different partnerships with the CW, My Network TV and then after a few experiments finally Syfy.

Now with USA airing pretty much all WWE first run programming Including Tough Enough this will lead to an interesting tug-of-war between Comcast/NBC Universal and WWE. How? Think of it this way. USA for years has relied on WWE help get up their overall rating but the real bread-and-butter was the original series. Now the onus is going to be on WWE to really produce otherwise we are going to see creative changes that even Vince may think is crazy. If you’re WWE I’d be a bit concerned because now all your programming is in one basket other than your network which limits the diversity of your brand and perhaps the revenue you can achieve domestically. And I think when the negotiations come up for a new deal it could really change the bargaining chips of either side depending on how the ratings go. Those numbers will get more more crucial on whether they stay or go in the NBC Universal family.

Sorry for the ramble. But I felt inspired to talk about it.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.