Here’s the lowdown on last Friday’s SyFy debut of Smackdown and other pro-wrestling happenings:
• Smackdown drew a 1.7 rating and 2.5 million viewers in its first SyFy show since leaving the MySpace Network. On the positive side, the show had more viewers ages 25 to 54 than any other cable television show that night and topped the average SyFy Friday-night ratings.
But the numbers also exemplify how far the Smackdown brand has fallen. Despite heavy promotion, the ratings were roughly half of what World Wrestling Entertainment draws for its weekly Monday Night Raw telecasts and a far cry from when Smackdown was drawing more than seven million viewers upon its 1999 debut on the now-defunct UPN.
Just like with pro wrestling’s popularity itself from those halcyon days, fans gradually lost interest in “Smackdown.” The show bounced around several broadcast networks as WWE allocated most of its top talent to “Raw.”
For at least the short term, expect WWE to continue pushing crossover storylines on Raw. Adam “Edge” Copeland was shifted from Raw this week to join “Smackdown” headliners Rey Mysterio Jr., Big Show and The Undertaker, whose feud with Glenn “Kane” Jacobs was given a boost by the return of legendary manager Paul Bearer.
• The Smackdown addition has ended the run of WWE NXT on SyFy. While serving as a valuable showcase for developmental talent, viewership remained too spotty even after the emergence of NXT’s Nexus group on Raw. Without having struck a deal for another U.S. broadcast partner, NXT is now airing on WWE’s website (www.wwe.com).
• The WWE futures of Chris Jericho and Matt Hardy are both in question. Jericho has taken an indefinite leave of absence to tour with his rock band Fozzy and pursue other opportunities in the entertainment world. One possibility could be a spot on Dancing With the Stars. Jericho said he declined an opportunity to appear on this season’s DWTS because of scheduling conflicts. Jericho is expected back in WWE at some point, but at age 39, there are no guarantees he will resume a full-time grappling schedule like before.
Hardy’s status is even cloudier. He was yanked from Smackdown telecasts and a WWE European tour because of out-of-the-ring concerns. If he is released, Hardy will likely reunite with brother Jeff in TNA Wrestling.
Mickie James is the latest WWE castoff to join TNA. She is was to debut Oct. 7 on the TNA Impact special on Spike TV or at Sunday’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view show.
Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin — the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Tag Team” — also may be on TNA’s radar. Kurt Angle told the Right After Wrestling radio show that he is pushing for Haas and Benjamin to rejoin him in TNA. Haas and Benjamin drew rave reviews for last month’s match against Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli on Ring of Honor’s Glory by Honor IX Internet pay-per-view show.
One of pro wrestling’s biggest stars of the 1990 — literally and figuratively — has died. Jorge “El Gigante” Gonzales recently passed away from complications stemming from diabetes. He was 44.
At a legitimate seven-foot, six-inch, Gonzales was the tallest full-time performer to ever work in the business. He had headline feuds against Ric Flair and The Undertaker before leaving WWE in 1993.
“Hurricane” Shane Helms is now working on the independent circuit following his WWE release. Helms also has his own Internet radio show (Highway 2 Helms) that airs at 9 p.m. Wednesdays at geekweek.com. Helms’ personal site is www.gregoryhelms.com.
Alex Marvez writes a syndicated pro-wrestling column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him via Twitter at http://twitter.com/alexmarvez