POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE 6/27 – Analyzing SmackDown’s move to Fox in 2019

A look at the WWE's two domestic television announcements, analyzing SmackDown's move to Fox in 2019, a look at the careers of Rashad Evans & Johny Hendricks after they announced their retirements, Kevin Owens brought on stage by Shania Twain, Bellator sign distribution deal with DAZN, Shinsuke Nakamura update & more.


**We have today’s edition of Rewind-A-SmackDown posted on the site with Wai Ting & I chatting Tuesday’s episode of SmackDown, the injury to Shinsuke Nakamura, reuniting Team Hell No, the GLOW cameos, plus we run through the second night of the WWE’s UK Championship Tournament and a recap of Enzo’s appearance on the Steve Austin podcast with lots of notes. This show can be downloaded at https://www.postwrestling.com/2018/06/27/rewind-a-smackdown-6-26-18-team-hell-no-reunites/ and can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts by searching for POST Wrestling.

**We have a new British Wrestling Experience out today with Martin Bushby, Oli Court & Benno discussing the WWE cards from Royal Albert Hall with their favorite matches from the cards and discuss the announcement of the NXT UK brand. Plus, they discuss Will Ospreay’s new promotion & more.

**Braden Herrington & Davie Portman are back Thursday with a new upNXT as they chat tonight’s episode, which is the first show from the recent tapings at Full Sail University.

**You can join our POST Wrestling G1 picks contest at http://www.POSTwrestling.com/g1 with the deadline set for Thursday, July 12th at 11:59 pm Eastern.



**The WWE held a conference call Wednesday morning to go over their domestic television rights deals with NBC Universal and Fox Sports. The call was hosted by WWE co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, who have been placed at the forefront as the faces of this deal. There was no Vince McMahon, Paul Levesque, or Stephanie McMahon on the call.

Rather than break down the value of the U.S. deals, they have provided figures and estimates for their television revenue among their top seven territories, that consist of the U.S., U.K., India, Canada, Latin America, Middle East, and South Africa. They list the revenue for their key content at $213 million for 2017 among the seven territories and $244 million worldwide, that figure escalates to $235 million in 2018 and $270 worldwide. The NBC Universal renewal and Fox Sports deals go into effect October 1st, 2019, so the final quarter of the year will reflect the new financial picture. 2019 is estimated at $314 million among the top seven territories and $348 million worldwide (there is some estimation on the company’s behalf because they have deals coming up with the U.K. and India). By 2021, the company estimates revenue for their key content at $542 million among the top seven territories and $576 million worldwide. To put into perspective, in 2017 the WWE brought in a total of $801 million in revenue for the entire company and by 2021, they believe they will be bringing in $576 million just for their content among their worldwide distribution deals.

The company has greatly benefited from the massive jumps in television rights fees, positioning themselves as live sports that have continued to deliver strong viewership by cable standards today. On the call, they credited NBC Universal for their status growth and were very complimentary towards their ongoing broadcaster for Raw. This comes one month after the Hollywood Reporter breakdown of the Fox negotiations, where Rupert Murdoch reportedly insulted the USA Network during the meeting stating the broadcaster was embarrassed by the WWE and Fox was better positioned to handle and sell their product.

It is a big test for both the WWE and Fox as SmackDown moves to a weekly network prime time slot. Unlike in 1999, when SmackDown became a shining light on the fledgling UPN, in 2018 they are going onto a major network that is paying a reported $205 million per year so the standards are significantly higher than in 1999 in terms of what is deemed a success.

In 2018, SmackDown Live is averaging 2,515,000 viewers on the USA Network, which is a very respectable viewership average on cable but falls below the network average for Fox. From October 2017 – February 2018, Fox averaged 5,892,000 viewers for their prime-time programming and were trailing NBC, CBS, and ABC. Unlike Raw, SmackDown will find itself in a position where they will need to grow their audience to maintain the status of a prime-time network show on Fox. It is also a new type of product that Fox is going to have to go out and sell to make back their big investment. We saw the lengths that NBC Universal has gone to since the last contract negotiation in 2014 to sell the product, by integrating the WWE with examples like John Cena regularly appearing on the ‘Today Show’, various campaigns they have run and what has led to the WWE having a higher status among advertisers and programmers.

The upside of the Fox deal far outweighs any concerns, as this will provide the WWE with their largest platform they have ever had for a weekly program. The ability to cross promote on Fox Sports programming and receive the promotional muscle that Fox wields could prove extremely effective in creating further awareness of their content and serve as a star-making vehicle.

This was the same goal the UFC had when they entered their relationship with Fox in 2011. The idea was that the Fox specials would feature number one contender bouts and present fights that would build to the bigger title fights on pay-per-view. The wider audience would see a fighter win a fight to set up a bigger one that they would pay for. That idea was sound on paper but didn’t play itself out in execution. The best example was the second UFC on Fox card in January 2012, that featured two major fights with Rashad Evans defeating Phil Davis with a dull decision, and a razor-close split decision victory by Chael Sonnen over Michael Bisping. This set up Evans challenging Jon Jones at UFC 145 in April 2012 and Sonnen earning a rematch with Anderson Silva in July 2012, both did strong numbers on pay-per-view. On the flip side, were fighters like Benson Henderson and Demetrious Johnson who fought routinely on Fox and could never transfer those eyeballs into paying customers when they fought on pay-per-view. The best UFC-Fox Sports promotional crossover occurred in January 2015 with Fox airing the NFC championship game and directing viewers to the live FS 1 card after the game that was headlined by Conor McGregor fighting Dennis Siver in McGregor’s last fight on free television.

With the WWE, they are not out selling pay-per-views or even targeting WWE Network subscriptions as their primary objective. The goal is getting eyeballs onto the free product Friday nights and incentivizes Fox to exploit the WWE and promote harder than the UFC, knowing that the biggest UFC fights were earmarked for pay-per-view and not the network.

The Raw renewal with NBC Universal doesn’t present nearly the issues, as most would seem confident that Raw is going to perform well on the USA Network and whatever drops they may experience in viewership, it is unlikely Raw will fall off a cliff. The success of Raw’s viewership won’t be a comparative study of how Raw was performing five years ago, but how the show compares on a weekly basis to their cable competitors.

The structure of SmackDown won’t likely be addressed until much closer to the start date on Fox, which will air its first episode on October 4th, 2019. I cannot imagine SmackDown in its current form is the product you see in 16 months. Whether these deals signal the end of the brand split, it makes no sense to have major stars like Ronda Rousey exclusive to one show and the company needs to go all out for their debut on Fox. The move to Fox also coincides with the 20th anniversary of SmackDown (premiering in August 1999) and could easily build to a Raw 25 type of show for the Fox launch.

**During the conference call, they confirmed that the digital rights to Raw and SmackDown Live were included in these deals so there will not be separate digital rights deal for those two programs. The episodes will continue to be added to the WWE Network 30-days after they air on USA and Fox. They did cite the potential for other digital distribution deals with the Mixed Match Challenge brought up by one investor as a possibility.


**Kevin Owens was brought on stage during Tuesday night’s Shania Twain concert in Montreal at the Bell Centre. Owens had been tweeting Twain about singing the song ‘When’, claiming it was his favorite song. It led to Owens being brought on stage and getting a big reaction from the audience. The story was covered by TMZ and the entire segment on stage was filmed by Kevin’s wife, with Twain stating if he beats Braun Strowman she would come back to Montreal and sing ‘When’.

**Monday’s episode of Raw on the USA Network was driven by the lengthy main event between Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler, which not only avoided the usual third-hour drop but increased the viewership making the third hour the most watched. The show opened with 2,567,000 viewers in the first hour and rose to 2,679,000 viewers in the second hour and peaked with 2,714,000 for the final hour with the Ziggler vs. Rollins match that lasted over 28 minutes. Overall, the show averaged 2,670,000 viewers, which was a 7.7% drop from the week prior.

**This past Sunday’s episode of Total Bellas averaged 666,000 viewers on E! and was a drop from 726,000 viewers the week prior.

**Tonight’s episode of Lucha Underground will feature a three-way ‘Grave Consequences Match’ with Mil Muertes vs. Jeremiah Crane vs. Fenix at 8 pm Eastern on the El Rey Network.

**The advertised match between Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura was pulled from SmackDown on Tuesday afternoon for one of the most unique injuries in recent memory. Mike Johnson at PWinsider.com reported that prior to Monday’s live event in Bakersfield, California, a law enforcement dog was backstage for a pre-show security check and ended up biting the leg of Nakamura. It was enough that the company pulled him from Monday’s house show as a precaution and he was not cleared to wrestle Tuesday night. In his place, Eric Young challenged Jeff Hardy on Tuesday’s show and ended in a no contest and was turned into a six-man tag with Hardy & The Usos defeating Sanity.

**On SmackDown, they announced that The Bludgeon Brothers will defend the SmackDown tag titles against the reformed unit of Daniel Bryan & Kane. They have also announced a rematch between Carmella and Asuka for the women’s title, which I would imagine will have a stipulation added after Asuka’s match with James Ellsworth next week on television.


**MLW’s upcoming event on July 19th from Queens, New York is set to air as a two-hour network special on BeIN Sports the following week. The ‘Battle Riot’ card will take place from the Melrose Ballroom and feature a 40-man battle royal with the winner earning a future shot at the MLW world championship when they choose and have also announced Low Ki vs. John Hennigan. The two-hour network special will air on Friday, July 27th at 8 pm, which is the slot of MLW’s weekly one-hour program on BeIN Sports. MLW CEO Court Bauer spoke about the announcement to SI.com and stated there was interest to air the card as a pay-per-view but opted instead to air it for free on the network.

**The 1999 King of the Ring took place on this date from Greensboro, North Carolina, the city synonymous in the 80’s with the NWA as the home of Starrcade from 1983-1986. The WWF was on fire by the summer of 1999, although this was a not a good show. It was headlined by Vince & Shane McMahon defeating Steve Austin in a ladder match to regain control of the company after several weeks of Austin running the company. The King of the Ring tournament was won by Billy Gunn after defeating Ken Shamrock, Kane, and X-Pac to set up a match with The Rock at SummerSlam. Gunn was a big miss during this summer in the company’s attempt to elevate him as a singles heel and by September he was back teaming with Road Dogg. I remember watching this pay-per-view and it was a large collection and quick television style matches, an unbelievably long and dull affair between The Undertaker and The Rock with the lone highlights being an Edge & Christian match with The Hardys that went all of five minutes and a decent main event that was helped with the ladder stipulation. An interesting trivia note is that Kurt Angle worked a dark match on this show, losing to Shawn “Meat” Stasiak, and then Angle won the King of the Ring tournament the following year.

**Today is also the date of the famous CM Punk promo in Las Vegas on Raw that set up the Money in the Bank match against John Cena in Chicago.

**David Bixenspan found this rare Vince McMahon interview with David Letterman from May 1989 promoting “No Holds Barred”:


**On Tuesday, Bellator MMA announced a major digital distribution deal with DAZN (pronounced ‘Da Zone’), which is listed as a ‘nine-figure, multi-year deal’. The streaming service is set to host seven exclusive Bellator cards on the platform per year and along with 15 regular Bellator cards that will be simulcast on the Paramount Network and DAZN. The deal will go in effect with the Bellator card from San Jose on September 29th.

The streaming platform launched in August 2016 with distribution in Austria, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland and will be launching in the U.S. and Italy later this year. Their parent company is The Perform Group, which recently hired John Skipper as their executive chairman following Skipper’s departure as president of ESPN at the end of 2017.

In August 2017, DAZN and the WWE announced a distribution deal with DAZN streaming the full episodes of Raw and SmackDown in Japan with Japanese commentary.

The service is available for $20 per month or $150 per year with one month free for new subscribers on either plan.

**Bellator held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the DAZN deal and to promote their September 29th card in San Jose, California, which will be one of the biggest Bellator cards they have ever promoted. The card will be headlined by Gegard Mousasi defending the middleweight championship against Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald, the card will also feature the fourth fight between Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Wanderlei Silva, with their last fight at UFC 92 in December 2008 with Jackson knocking out Silva, who holds a 2-1 edge over Jackson. Bellator has also announced a welterweight Grand Prix that will kick off with one of the opening round bouts on September 29th.

**Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans announced his retirement on Monday’s debut edition of The Ariel Helwani MMA Show on ESPN. Evans was a Division I wrestler at 174 pounds at Michigan State and then made the jump to mixed martial arts after graduating.

Evans competed at light heavyweight, having his first fight in April 2004 where he fought twice in the same night and returned in June to fight three times in two days. It was after the first season of TUF that he was able to audition and be picked for the second season of the popular UFC reality vehicle, where he moved up and competed at heavyweight. He went to a decision in all three fights inside the house, which is a lot considering how many weeks the show is shot in. Evans defeated Brad Imes in the final in November 2005 and then dropped back down to light heavyweight to pursue his UFC career.

Evans began receiving attention after earning a majority decision over Stephan Bonnar and later had a highlight reel head kick over Sean Salmon, which was replayed for years after the fact. On the night, it was a scary scene as Salmon was out for a long time. The head kick knockout led to the biggest fight of Evans’ career against Tito Ortiz that summer that ended in a draw but would have been a win for Ortiz had he not grabbed the fence. Years later, the two met in a rematch when Evans was a significantly better fighter than Ortiz, who had nothing for Evans.

Evans headlined his first pay-per-view in November 2007 against fellow TUF winner Michael Bisping. It was an important show for the company in Newark, just outside of New York where they were getting aggressive in their push to have professional MMA legalized within the state and wanted a big card for New Jersey. Evans vs. Bisping was a backup as other fights fell apart. Evans won by split decision and didn’t fight again for ten months, which was one of the biggest wins of his career, knocking out Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 in September 2008.

Before the end of 2008, Evans became UFC light heavyweight champion by stopping Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 with punches from inside Griffin’s guard. Evans was unable to defend his title, being knocked out by Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 in May 2009.

One of the biggest grudge fights in UFC history finally took place in May 2010 between Evans and Quinton Jackson. The two were scheduled to fight in December 2009 after they coached TUF Season 10, which was watched by a lot of people because of the involvement of Kimbo Slice. Jackson ended up filming ‘The A-Team’ movie and didn’t fight on the December card and it was booked for May 2010. The non-title fight was a monstrous success with Dave Meltzer reporting the fight drew 1,050,000 buys. The fight did not live up to the grudge going in as Evans won a dull decision.

In early 2011, Evans was scheduled to challenge Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua for the light heavyweight title but suffered an injury and his teammate Jon Jones stepped in and won the title. This began the major rift between the two that led to Evans leaving Jackson-Winklejohn in Albuquerque and the formation of the Blackzilians in Florida. Jones fought four times in 2011 and the story wrote itself for the inevitable fight between the former training partners. Evans got past Phil Davis to secure the title fight and they finally fought in April 2012. It was clear the week of the fight that the two were drained from talking about each other and had nothing left during fight week when it came to interviews and hype. The fight reportedly did around 700,000 buys with Jones winning by unanimous decision and was the last time Evans would challenge for the title.

Evans posted consecutive wins over Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen in 2013 before taking nearly two years off due to injury. He returned in October 2015 and was outstruck consistently by Ryan Bader and Evans appeared diminished during his layoff. A knockout loss at the hands of Glover Teixeira in his next fight led to Evans cut down to middleweight where he went 0-2 with split decision losses to Daniel Kelly and Sam Alvey before his last fight earlier this month at light heavyweight where he was knocked out by Anthony Smith in 53 seconds.

Evans is sure to be added to the UFC Hall of Fame as one of their best drawing fighters of the past decade through his fights with Jon Jones and Quinton Jackson, becoming champion in 2008 and I felt greatly overachieved after his TUF win in 2005. There was not a lot of momentum behind Evans when he won that season and he grew into a tremendous personality and will always be remembered as an incredibly engaging interview for his openness and honesty when assessing where he was in his career.


**Nick Diaz will return to court on July 10th for a preliminary hearing in his domestic battery case. Diaz faces a felony and misdemeanor charge after allegedly attacking a woman he was romantically involved with back on May 24th. On Tuesday, there was an attempt by the prosecution to increase the bail set on Diaz from $18,000 to $100,000, but the request was denied, and Diaz remains out on bail.

**Former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks announced his retirement Wednesday on MMA Junkie Radio at the age of 34.

Hendricks was a two-time NCAA Division I champion at Oklahoma State and a four-time All-American from 2004-2007. After graduating, he jumped into MMA with his first pro fight in September 2007 and entered the WEC before the end of 2008 and transitioned to the UFC after five professional fights.

Hendricks won 10 of his first 11 fights in the UFC and mounted a solid campaign for a welterweight title fight against Georges St-Pierre. Hendricks went through an incredible stretch with wins over Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann, and Carlos Condit before getting St-Pierre at UFC 167 in November 2013.

The fight with St-Pierre was the peak of his career, even in defeat, which was a decision that was heavily criticized and most believing that Hendricks won the fight. St-Pierre vacated the title shortly after the fight and led to a fight between Hendricks and Robbie Lawler for the vacant title with Hendricks winning the fight at UFC 171 in March 2014. He was unable to defend the title, losing a rematch to Lawler in December 2014 and his career was never the same. Hendricks went 2-5 after the Lawler loss and seemed out of place during certain fights, such as the loss to Stephen Thompson and Hendricks felt like a different fighter.

In his final five fights, he missed weight twice, including once at middleweight when he moves up in weight. In 2017, he started the year off with a win over Hector Lombard before he suffered stoppage losses to Tim Boestch and Paulo Costa.

Hendricks stated on MMA Junkie Radio that he is planning to coach high school wrestling, he will remove himself from the USADA testing pool and appears steadfast that his retirement is for good.

BWE 6/27/18: WWE UK Championship Tournament, Launch of NXT UK, Frontline Wrestling

REWIND-A-SMACKDOWN 6/26/18: Team Hell No reunites, WWE UK Night 2, Enzo’s interview
RAR BONUS 6/25/18: Total Bellas, WWE UK, Being the Elite, All Us
REWIND-A-RAW 6/25/18: Bayley snaps, Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins, G1 contest announcement
EGGSHELLS Podcast Companion: 1989 with Chris Charlton joined by Jojo Remy
THE POST PROFILE: “The Man They Call Vader” feat. Comments from Bret Hart, Jim Ross, Chris Charlton & Jordan Breen
REWIND-A-WAI #13: Tag Team (1991) starring Jesse Ventura & Roddy Piper
upNXT 6/21/18: NXT HangOver Chicago with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman

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About John Pollock 5598 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.