Earlier today, I wrote about how UFC's launch to high-definition continues to raise questions of whether professional wrestling will be launched on HD, particularly the WWE. Meanwhile, I also wrote about WWE's creation of a broadband video channel earlier this week in order to solidify its online video offerings.
MTV, the namesake of C3 partner MTV Networks, has launched a 30-minute weekly pro wrestling show called Wrestling Society X, which now becomes the third company to have pro wrestling aired nationally in America, alongside TNA on Spike TV and the three WWE brands that air on USA Network, Sci Fi, and the CW.
The program blends an MTV aesthetic with "extreme" pro wrestling matches, a club atmosphere with models hired to sit in the crowd to make it seem more "hip." A band opens up each 30-minute show, and obviously it has to be paced differently than any other wrestling program with 30 minutes a week and a band performing within that 30 minutes on top of that.
It's not going to be a product that satisfies current pro wrestling fan, as the organization has to deal with the fact that top performers are already in one of WWE's three leagues or on TNA. Without the big names, the company is obviously taking their product a different direction and reaching out to new potential fans with a rock/wrestling hybrid.
Wrestling and MTV are certainly not strangers, as the Rock and Wrestling Connection of the 1980s would attest to. Two wrestling matches aired on MTV, 1984's "The Brawl to End It All" from Madison Square Garden on 23 July, when Wendi Richter, with Cyndi Lauper in her corner, won the Women's Title from The Fabulous Moolah, and 1985's "The War to Settle the Score" from MSG on 18 February, when Hulk Hogan faced nemesis Roddy Piper.
A much more low-key reprisal of the MTV/WWE relationship came in 2000, as WWE's Sunday Night Heat jumped from the USA Network to MTV, where it was set in WWE New York on Times Square and featured not just matches but rock performances and live guests from the restaurant, while the matches were pre-taped from arenas.
The MTV format was not favored by most wrestling fans, and the show did not do particularly well. It eventually jumped to Spike TV before being moved to the WWE Web site in 2005 when the company moved from Spike TV back to USA.
The response from traditional wrestling fans is no surprise. On the Pro Wrestling Torch, Matt G from Egypt, Pa., writes, "Someone sent in a review that compared WSX to a Michael Bay movie. I completely agree. It was all flash, no substance, and completely unentertaining," and he claimed he felt he was "going to have a seizure while watching it." This fan sentiment considers WSX not to be a "real" wrestling show but a wrestling hybrid meant for MTV viewers.
Yet, a vast majority of other viewers who were not looking for the traditional pro wrestling product were satisfied with something different, especially for those who were looking for an "indy level" wrestling match and who enjoy the style of wrestling the MTV product wants to offer. For instance, another group of fans reacting to the show emphasize their love of the matches between a series of non-"name" talents who are just trying to put on an entertaining athletic performance. As Drew Ste. Marie of Burbank Calif., writes, "What the hell was that? But in a good way," and, while perhaps it's a tired line, "This isn't your father's wrestling. This is probably even not our generation's wrestling. But I think this is the kick in the teeth that the wrestling industry needed." I think Drew sums it up when writing, "If you take it into the context of the world WSX established, you will love it."
The show's unhyped early debut last Friday drew a .43 rating, above the Friday average and quadrupling what usually aired in that Friday night timeslot, according to Wade Keller. And the official debut the following Tuesday ended up drawing a .73, . Perhaps not a killer rating, but decent initial ratings for a lack of big names or strong promotion.
Whether those were curiosity seekers who won't come back for more has yet to be determined, but WSX has positioned itself as a transmedia entity, with an online show called "WSXtra" that gives an additional 30 minutes of wrestling every week to the 30 minutes shown on MTV.
Also, it will be interesting to see how much the viewership breaks down between traditional wrestling fans seeking to find something different or whose love of wrestling causes them to watch everything that's on and WSX fans who are not necessarily pro wrestling fans in general.
While MTVN is a member of the consortium, no one with MTV Networks was consulted on the writing of this piece.