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  March 22, 2001



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Biting the hand that feeds you
By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

You know the type. They appear to be normal people when you meet them, nice folks and good neighbours. Everyone seems to like them, and when they come into a little money, you don't mind. It couldn't have happened to nicer people, you think.

At least you think that until they don't have time for you any more. Success has gone to their heads, leaving you wondering if they have forgotten the people who supported them on their way to the top.

If you are a wrestling fan and don't know what I'm talking about, maybe this quote will help.

"In actual fact, it will prove to be a good thing we don't have WWF programming. [The shows] produced a ratings spike of not very attractive young males who came and left."

That gem from just last summer came courtesy of Barry Diller, Chairman and CEO of USA Networks Inc., and was just one of many statements he made downplaying the departure of WWF programming to TNN. Mr. Diller would have had you believe that the USA Network made wrestling, not the other way around, and that Raw Is War (often the highest rated show on cable in a given week) could be replaced by movies more palatable to USA's "core audience."

It must be just coincidence that USA has dropped from first to fifth among cable networks after losing the WWF shows; just good luck that has TNN is in the top spot most weeks. And Diller and company aren't the only ones to subscribe to this brand of thinking, as evidenced by the recent decision by AOL Time Warner to drop WCW programming from the Turner networks, effective March 26.

Check out these comments by Turner spokesman Jim Weiss and tell me you don't find them eerily reminiscent of some made just a few months back.

"Professional wrestling, in its current form and its current style, is not consistent with the higher-end, upscale brands we've created at TNT and TBS," Weiss told a wire service this past Monday. "These are huge, big-time networks."

Guess nearly three decades of helping to build the "brands" counts for nothing once you hit the big time. The success of the Turner networks must not owe anything to professional wrestling, and we can't expect TNT and TBS to be seen with their undesirable young male audience now. What would their new "upscale" friends think?

Granted, Nitro and Thunder don't combine to pull in the number of viewers that Raw does by itself, so it's not unreasonable for AOL programming honcho Jamie Kellner to think that their replacements (you guessed it: movies) can fill the ratings void. But the timing of Turner's announcement at least contributed to the demise of Fusient Media Ventures' bid to purchase WCW, if not destroyed it. That shows what the brass at AOL Time Warner really think of wrestling, not to mention the wrestling fan.

Perhaps another fledgling cable channel (FX comes to mind) will take a chance on WCW -- if it survives. Here's hoping that if that new tenant on the sports entertainment block rises to prominence on the wave of wrestling's next surge of popularity, it shows a little more class than USA and TNT and doesn't badmouth all of its old neighbours on the way out.

Because once you burn down all the bridges in your old neighbourhood, you can't go back again.

Past editorials




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