Perhaps it’s a time-honored tradition in professional wrestling to kick an opponent when it’s down. Certainly at Wednesday’s announcement of Monday Night Raw’s move to The Score, the WWE talent on hand took a few parting shots at TSN.
During the press conference, which aired live on The Score — one of three national all-sports stations, along with TSN and Sportsnet — Edge, Trish Stratus and Ric Flair took TSN to task for the irregular airing of Raw during its long run on the station.
Various sports including NHL hockey, curling and basketball have all bounced Raw from its 9 p.m. ET live slot on TSN in the past. The show would air in a later time slot, often early Tuesday morning eastern time, with a replay on Tuesday or Wednesday evening.
“I do have to say that we are in a point in this industry and in television and sports entertainment where we don’t have to take a backseat to anybody,” said Flair, a veteran of more than 30 years in the ring. “Anyone who wants to pre-empt wrestling has a beef with me.”
Former WWE’s Women’s champion Stratus, from Toronto, was a little more tongue in cheek during her time on the microphone. “I’m actually here to talk about a very serious affliction. It’s called Raw withdrawl.” (“I have that” yelled one fan.) “Worse than that is Stratusfaction withdrawal.
“On a Monday night all over Canada, wrestling fans are watching hockey. Don’t get me wrong, we love our hockey. But we really love our wrestling. … Wrestling fans have been watching Raw at an ungodly hour, and it’s caused side effects such as disgruntled parents, missed reruns of Seinfeld, and also, students have been known to stay up late to watch Raw and their grades are dropping. … So today, I’d like to thank The Score for providing a new home where wrestling fans, on a Monday night, can watch Monday Night Raw on a Monday night, not on Tuesday early morning. And for providing a place for me to continue to provide Stratusfaction.”
WWE champion Edge, who grew up an hour outside Toronto in Orangeville, took his shots at TSN as well.
“We’re here today to talk about what I think is a no-brainer, and that is the WWE and The Score,” the on-screen bad guy said to cheers from the hometown crowd. “I call myself the Rated R Superstar, and I call myself the MVP of Raw. See, Raw is the flagship of the WWE. I mean, last week, we had our 686th consecutive show. … The great thing is that Raw is finally going to be treated with the respect that it deserves. We’re not going to be pre-empted. So if you turn on your TV to see me and Ric Flair in a TLC match, it won’t be pre-empted for a bunch of guys in a curling rink with primal screams yelling ‘Hurry hard!’ The only primal screams you may get is if I have another live sex show with Lita. I’ll see if I can do something about that. The CRTC didn’t hassle us too much on that one. That’s what I do, I push buttons and from now on, on Monday nights on The Score, the Rated R Superstar will be able to push all your buttons. No pre-emptions. You get to see it. We’re excited.”
Only Shane McMahon, Executive Vice President Global Media for World Wrestling Entertainment, took the high road.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank TSN for an 11-year partnership,” he said to the assembled crowd of VIPs, media, sponsors and fans at Second City night club.
Later, in an exclusive one-on-one with SLAM! Wrestling, he did his best to explain the jabs that his co-workers took at TSN.
“We will continue to do business with TSN, and Phil King in particular. So hats off to Phil. I would like to thank him personally, which I have,” McMahon said. “But TSN gave us a huge opportunity to allow us to build that fanbase.
“As a performer, I can understand the talent, especially Edge and Trish, who are from here, when their friends and family try to watch, they’re out there busting their hump, they’re upset a little bit when they are pre-empted for certain things. They are a network. They have other things to do. In order for us to stay on Monday nights, we had to make a move over to The Score.”
Still to be clarified by The Score will be its policy on editing the Raw program, which is generally racier than the Friday Night Smackdown program that The Score has been airing for years. (And which actually moves from Thursday nights to Fridays on Friday, August 11th.)
In a conversation with SLAM! Wrestling, Edge gave his thoughts on the heavy hand of editing.
“Hopefully there be less [editing]. Because the U.S. is more lax, and a little more lenient with their rules and regulations than the CRTC,” said Edge. “That’s part of what Raw is, part of what of the foundation was built on and the popularity skyrocketed with the DX and even now with my character. I need to have a little bit of leeway to be able to break a few rules, push the boundaries and push buttons. That’s what I wanted this whole ‘Rated R’ thing to be.”
WWE Canada President Carl DeMarco only saw the positive in the move to The Score and the later 10 p.m. ET time slot. “What it actually does is give us a strategic advantage where on a west coast time basis, it’s actually prime time,” he said. “It also allows us at 10 o’clock that it will be a consistent time slot, year-round, so this way the fans won’t have pre-emptions, or on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. I think that’s really going to be a big beneficial thing for the WWE fans here in Canada.”
As unfair as the later time slot may be considered by some fans, what really is unfair, says SLAM! Wrestling producer Greg Oliver, is free beer at a press conference with all the work that has to be done by the hard-working, dedicated wrestling media. However, he does say that the munchies were great, and the bottles of water much appreciated in the heat. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.