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TSN responds to Raw announcement
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling


One of the wrestling's worst kept secrets was revealed Wednesday in Toronto when it was announced that WWE Raw would be moving to The Score from TSN.

The move had been widely speculated since a joint press conference with WWE and The Score was announced late last week, though it had long been known by officials at The Sports Network.

"We'd known for quite a while. This wasn't news to us," said TSN President Phil King in an exclusive interview with SLAM! Wrestling. "We had a mutual parting of the ways. This has been in the works for a while."

TSN, as King noted, knew that the relationship would end once they began negotiating to acquire the Canadian broadcast rights for Monday Night Football, a deal that will begin this season. With four months worth of Monday night broadcasts, King explained, it would be difficult to solve what would be a difficult scheduling situation with Raw, which at times had to be pre-empted for hockey, baseball and other sporting events that did not have a concrete weekly schedule.

King was also quick to clear the air on rumours that the move was partly inspired by a decline in the ratings. He commented that Raw's numbers remained strong and were in line with other broadcasting on the network. "This has nothing to do with ratings; that was just people guessing," King said. "Monday Night Football will probably draw very similar ratings to what WWE did. It's not like we thought we were picking up something that would do a dramatically better rating than Raw. That's not true."

Though fans would have hoped for another WWE show, be it the new ECW program or Smackdown!, neither show was a consideration for the Bell-owned network, nor is other regular wrestling programming at this time.

"We will not be adding any other wrestling shows," King said. "Live sports is our bread and butter here. It took a couple of years for us to be able to clear the Monday night slot away. It's a hell of a task, because you've got to clear many different sports. You've slowly got to get new contracts and put in there language that you will not be able to take Monday night games. To find another night that we can do consistent 52 weeks, there isn't one."

What is a possibility, however, is for special WWE or other wrestling programming to be hosted on TSN, such as the recent Head to Head broadcast, which saw WWE and ECW wrestlers square off on TSN and the USA Network in a live broadcast. "We haven't turned our back on wrestling," King stated. "First off, contracts move around in our industry all the time. You never know what's going to happen. We've left it open for specials, but we just can't commit to a weekly, prime-time slot, given the volume of our live events."

TSN's relationship with wrestling and WWE has lasted for more than a dozen years and has seen several highs. At times, due to pre-emptions stateside, TSN would show Raw either before the show was broadcast in the States, or even exclusively. On the other side of the coin, as King comments, WWE has been very friendly for TSN's other programming. "They kind of put our talk show, Off The Record, on the map," he said. "That was brand new, no one knew what it was. They opened up their talent to come, for the first time really. We asked questions fans had never seen before and the wrestlers and the talent were being themselves on camera. Before you know it, we had everybody."

King added that WWE was also a featured part of the short-lived Gallagher show, and counted a near physical confrontation between Sable and Chyna as a major moment in the program's history.

RELATED LINKS

  • July 19, 2006: Raw jumps to The Score ... an hour later
  • July 16, 2006: WWE about to Score with RAW leaving TSN
  • July 14, 2006: Raw moving from TSN?

    Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! since 2000.