July 24, 2004
Int'l WWE tapings a jolly good idea
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
It happens three or four times each year. Monday Night Raw is plodding along as usual, live from the Pepsi Center or the HP Pavilion or some other equally generic brand-name arena in the U.S.
The camera pans the crowd, stopping just short of the black tarps covering the thousands of unsold seats in the upper decks.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler appear on the screen to inform us we'll be taking a break from the Monday night action to watch some footage from the latest overseas tour.
The director cuts to the pre-taped video montage and, suddenly, things come to life.
Even in a two-minute video clip, the contrast between the North American crowd and its overseas counterpart is staggering. It's as if we've said goodbye to black-and-white Kansas --literally, in some cases -- and we've entered the Technicolor land of Oz.
The arena is brightly lit to show every seat in the house is full. The crowd is absolutely rabid, cheering and screaming like it's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Even the wrestlers seem to be having more fun than usual, playing off an electric crowd atmosphere they rarely get to experience on home soil.
In terms of the live crowd and local media attention, the WWE experience overseas is a step above the reaction in North America.
Even though foreign audiences tend to be treated to bland house shows or pretend supercards -- events that are aired locally as pay-per-views but have little or no bearing on actual storylines -- the fans respond to the sub-par action with Wrestlemania-level enthusiasm.
I've never understood why WWE has always refused to tape its big TV shows outside of North America. Until now.
At the fourth-quarter conference call last month, WWE CEO Linda McMahon announced Raw and Smackdown would be heading to the UK for the first overseas editions. Raw will be taped Monday, Oct. 11 at the Evening News Arena in Manchester, and will air in North America on tape delay later that night. Smackdown will be taped the following night, also in Manchester, to air here in its normal Thursday timeslot.
In addition to the TV tapings, both brands will perform a sold-out run of non-televised arena shows, with stops in Belfast, Sheffield, Nottingham and London.
From here on in, WWE will run extended overseas tours with TV tapings once per quarter, alternating between European locations, Australia and Japan. It may even open the door for an overseas pay-per-view, an idea which may already be on the table.
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