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WWE fans love a good fight
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


Wrestling fans are a nightmare prospect for TV marketing executives.

Sure, millions of them tune into Raw and Smackdown each week but, as a general rule, mat lovers never stick around to watch anything else. The ratings surge when wrestling starts and take a huge dip after the final bell.

No amount of cross-promotion by the networks could retain the wrestling audience for other programming and even WWE-owned ventures such as the XFL and World Bodybuilding Federation were complete flops.

It was widely accepted there was no way to convert wrestling's popularity into ratings for other forms of entertainment, until Spike TV stumbled across the magic formula last year.

It turns out, wrestling viewers also like real fighting.

Ultimate Fighter -- a reality show in which wannabe fighters duke it out for a UFC contract -- did an unprecedented job of stopping mat fans from changing the channel after Raw. The show pulled in huge ratings and garnered critical acclaim, making it one of the biggest success stories in Spike TV's history.

As is often the case with a good idea, the spin-offs began immediately. Spike TV loaded its fall schedule with UFC fights, and the second season of Ultimate Fighter kicked off last week.

Fox SportsNet was the first band wagon jumper, adding Pride Fighting Championship, a Japanese mixed martial arts group, to its rotation.

Yet another alternative product for wrestling fans makes its debut on pay-per-view tonight and it's likely to catch the attention of more mainstream sports enthusiasts, too.

Hockey Enforcers is a two hour sports entertainment event based (very loosely) on our national pastime. The show's producers scoured the hockey scene for the toughest players willing to take part in a series of one-minute scraps to determine the most physical man in the game.

No pucks. No sticks. Just fights.

The show is being heavily marketed towards grappling fans, including a ton of advertising on the Fan 960's Live Audio Wrestling show.

For fight promoters, it's a best of both worlds scenario. Fighting tends to attract higher profile advertisers than pro-wrestling but they can still tap into grappling's fan base, which is already conditioned to buy pay-per-views on a regular basis.

Which is why, as the idea catches on with TV industry big wigs, wrestling fans are likely to have more non-wrestling options than ever.

- - -

WALLS ON HIATUS: Chris Jericho confirmed this week what everyone has know for the past few months -- he is done with WWE, at least for now.

In a statement on his website, Jericho announced he had been written out of the storylines on Raw to allow him to focus on his music career and pursue acting opportunities.

Jericho made it clear he would not wrestle for any other group and will return to WWE if and when the time is right.

- - -

IN DEBT: NVE pharmaceuticals, the makers of the Stacker 2 nutritional supplement and a major WWE sponsor, filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month. The group owed WWE more than $2 million US at the time of the filing, likely including monies for TV ad time, event sponsorship and the appearance of several WWE stars in commercials for Stacker 2.

NVE fell into debt after being served more than 100 wrongful death and injury lawsuits over the Stacker 2 supplement.

- - -

HUGE NIGHT: SummerSlam is traditionally the second biggest pay-per-view of the wrestling year and the 2005 edition was another solid show.

Match of the night honours went to Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio for a phenomenal ladder match and Chris Jericho vs. John Cena for a fun world title tilt that really got the crowd going.

Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels delivered as well as could be expected in the main event slot, with Hogan getting the win after his usual routine.

Next up for WWE is Unforgiven, headlined by a John Cena title defence against Kurt Angle, on Sep. 18.

- - -

SEIZE THE DAY: Starting this fall, Canadian viewers could catch Smackdown a day before their U.S. counterparts.

UPN -- the American network which broadcasts Smackdown -- will move the highly rated 2-hour wrestling block to a Friday time slot next month, in an attempt to repackage their Thursday lineup as the new must-see comedy night.

Here in Canada, The Score is still scheduling Smackdown for a Thursday night airing, which means the show will be available a day before .

Although the show is pre-taped on Tuesday each week, the announcers call the action as if it is live on the U.S. air date, which may cause some continuity problems with an earlier Canadian broadcast.

- - -

FREE FRANKIE: Frankie Kazarian is free to wrestle anywhere but TNA during his 90-day non-compete with WWE. Kazarian asked for a release from his WWE contract after realizing WWE bosses were not planning to give him any kind of a push. He had appeared only on Velocity, WWE's soon-to-be-cancelled Saturday night B-show.


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