Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Monday, October 31, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- In the "Holy S--t!" Deparment, Christian (Jay Reso) has quit WWE and will likely be going to work for TNA. Despite being one of the most promising young talents in the pro wrestling industry, Christian was never given a full-fledged push by WWE management and probably never would have been, simply because he doesn't have the heavily roided-up body that WWE management craves. So when his WWE contract expired recently, Christian decided not to re-sign with WWE. If more WWE wrestlers decide to do this over time, the pro wrestling industry as a whole will be a lot better off.

Here's what Dave Meltzer reported about this situation on the Wrestling Observer web site:

"Jay Reso's final match in WWE was last night at the TV tapings in Los Angeles. While the WWE web site reported him quitting, which was accurate, what happened was a week ago in San Francisco, he was given a new contract and told to sign on the spot [his old contract had expired]. He didn't sign [and decided to leave WWE]. He did come back to work and do another job last night when he quit. --- Wrestling Observer"

In an update to the story, Meltzer also reports that even though he is under no contractual obligation to do so, Christian has made himself available for tonight's Raw show in Anaheim and tomorrow's Taboo Tuesday PPV in San Diego, just to be extra professional in how he's doing this. Meltzer also alludes to the fact that WWE released the information itself about Christian quitting on WWE.com because they were incredibly paranoid and worried about the possibility that word of Christian's departure would first appear on one of the insider pro wrestling web sites.

"From what we understand, Christian is in Anaheim for TV and was planning on going to San Diego for Taboo Tuesday, even though he probably won't be voted in. WWE may change those plans, but he was expected to be at both dates to be a professional. The big question has been why WWE released the information before late Tuesday night after the show. Paranoia is striking deep. --- Wrestling Observer"

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Saturday, October 29, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ratings for The Ultimate Fighter Revert Back to Normal Level, as Free-Fall Appears to Come to an End
Episode Ten of The Ultimate Fighter 2 drew an overall rating of 1.4 this past Monday night, likely causing officials at Spike TV and Zuffa to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The ratings for TUF had been in a free-fall ever since the show lost WWE Raw as a lead-in, with all-time low ratings of 1.3, 1.2, and 1.1 over the past three weeks. This week's 1.4 rating brings back a sense of normalcy and diminishes the fears about exactly how low TUF's ratings would fall before they finally bottomed out. It now appears that last week's 1.1 overall rating will be seen as "rock bottom" for the series, which had been in danger of falling below 1.0 with the way things were trending for a few weeks.

At the same time, this week's 1.4 overall rating is not exactly cause for huge celebration within Spike TV and Zuffa if they look at the numbers closely. If it weren't for the past three weeks of free-falling ratings, this week's 1.4 rating would have been tied for the lowest-rated episode in the history of the series.

Also, the second season of The Ultimate Fighter had been averaging a 1.6 overall rating through its first six weeks (with WWE Raw as a lead-in), so this week's 1.4 overall rating is still not quite at the level of what the show was drawing before WWE moved back to USA Network. Episode Ten of TUF's first season drew a 1.7 overall rating.

TUF Draws Huge Rating in Key Demographic
While the overall rating only warrants a sigh of relief from Spike TV and Zuffa officials, this week's rating in the most important viewer demographic is indeed cause for celebration within Spike and Zuffa. This week's episode of TUF drew a whopping 3.0 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which senior Spike officials actually care about even more than the overall ratings.

Even more encouraging for the show's producers is the fact that the show's audience the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic actually increased as the show went on, which is generally unusual for a show that airs from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM. The quarter-hour ratings for this demographic were 2.8, 3.0, 3.1, and 3.3.

This week's 3.0 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic is the highest rating that The Ultimate Fighter has ever drawn in this demographic on Monday nights. The previous all-time record for a Monday night airing was 2.8, a mark that was set in Week Two of the second season.

The 3.0 rating in the key demographic also compares very favorably to the first season of TUF, which averaged a 2.2 rating in that demographic over the course of the first season. The highest-rated episode of the first season in this demographic was ironically also Episode Ten, which drew a 2.7 rating in the key demographic.

Network TV Competition
The Monday Night Football game on ABC between the New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons, which went head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter, drew a 9.3 overall rating, which is down from Monday Night Football's season-to-date average of 10.0.

Additionally, because there was no Major League Baseball playoff game being played on Monday night, The Ultimate Fighter faced significantly weaker sports competition than it had faced the previous two weeks. Two weeks ago, the combined rating for football and baseball on Monday night was 17.5. Last week, it was 15.7. This week, that number was just 9.3 because there was no baseball game, which means that there were a lot more sports fans who were potential TUF viewers.

Also airing head-to-head with TUF were NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which drew a 4.6 overall rating), and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman (which drew a 4.1 overall rating).

Compared to the 18 shows that aired on primetime network television (from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM) on Monday night, The Ultimate Fighter at 11:00 PM actually beat 15 of them in one particular demographic. In the 18-to-24-year-old male demographic, the only network TV shows to out-draw TUF on this night were ABC's Monday Night Football, Fox's Prison Break, and CBS' Two and a Half Men.

The Ultimate Fighter even out-drew the mighty CSI Miami in this specific demographic. However, it's worth pointing out that 18-to-24-year-old males are not the biggest target audience for the CSI shows; and Monday night's airing of CSI Miami still crushed The Ultimate Fighter (and every other show on television that night) with its 12.5 overall rating.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- I taped WWE Raw on Monday night in order to watch the debut of the "Pride: Fully Loaded" pay-per-view instead. After seeing the headlines and then reading the description of the "Vince McMahon performing surgery" skit, I am going to skip Monday night's show altogether. I could make better use of the tape that I used if I were to tape a test pattern for two hours, because at least a test pattern wouldn't make fun of someone's real-life cancer scare.

According to the review of the episode on the Pro Wrestling Torch web site, Vince started off with the obligatory jokes about Jim Ross being "full of crap." Then a skit aired in which Vince McMahon pulled various objects out of what was supposed to be Jim Ross' rectum, and this went on for seven or eight minutes. Just for good measure, the skit ended with McMahon humping the fake nurse on the fake operating table, which is ironic since McMahon has (self-admittedly) cheated on his wife on dozens of occasions.

I haven't watched this skit and I'm not going to watch it, but from reading about it online I can safely say that this is right up there with Triple H simulating intercourse with a dead body on Raw, or Jon Heidenreich anally raping Michael Cole on Smackdown, as far as "offensive WWE skits" are concerned.

This skit just made it all the more obvious to the world that Vince McMahon is a piece of garbage as a human being. Having the sense of humor of a five-year-old is the least of Vince McMahon's problems. The much more serious fact here is that McMahon was making fun of something that happened to Jim Ross in real life that could very well have been life-threatening.

Jim Ross' recent surgeries were not "just to remove a bunch of waste" from his body. Ross' surgeries were necessary to correct what could have been a life-threatening situation. When Ross' doctors said after the first surgery that there was a massive growth that would need to be removed, Jim Ross and his family spent several days not knowing if he had cancer. Is that funny?

Here's a newsflash to Vince McMahon: Cancer is not funny. A family's pain and distress is not funny. Your incompetent writing team is not funny. The fact that you're more deserving of going to hell than just about anyone else in the entire "entertainment" industry is not funny.

I'm sure none of that matters to Vince McMahon since all he cares about is the bottom line, so here's something that should be really un-funny to Vince McMahon: As a pro wrestling fan, I don't have to put up with your s--t anymore if I want to see a quality pro wrestling product on a national level. There is something called TNA Wrestling that I can watch on national television every week and on pay-per-view every month. Maybe you've heard of them. Unlike WWE, TNA understands the importance of in-ring wrestling, and TNA is not run by people who are complete scumbags.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- My Review of TNA's Bound for Glory Pay-Per-View
Bound for Glory was the first TNA pay-per-view event that I have purchased since December 2002, when I stopped watching because the shows completely stunk at that point. I started the watching the product again when they got the weekly show on Spike TV, and I don't regret a penny of the 30 dollars that I spent to buy the Bound for Glory PPV, which I felt was one of the best pro wrestling PPVs so far this year. I would give the show an overall score of 9.5 out of 10.

The four-way Monster's Ball hardcore match with Rhino, Sabu, Abyss, and Jeff Hardy was absolutely insane, as all four wrestlers carried their end of the match and Jeff Hardy threaded the needle and successfully pulled off one of the riskiest stunts I can remember seeing.

It wasn't just the height, it was the fact that he was so far away from the table that had Abyss on it. My thoughts as he was about to jump were, "There's no freakin' way he's going to be able to jump that far," and my thoughts immediately afterwards were similar to the crowd's thoughts, as this was the biggest of many "Holy S--t!" moments on this event. The move seems even riskier when you think about it a little bit more. Coming up just short of the target would have resulted in Hardy landing on his head and neck on the entrance ramp, while jumping slightly past the target would have resulted in Hardy landing on his head and neck right past the table. I think that match deserves somewhere between four and four-and-a-half stars, as it was an excellent showcase that was far from a one-spot match.

Immediately following one of the hardest matches any two wrestlers could possibly have to follow, there was AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels in a 30-minute Iron Man Match. The crowd was exhausted from having collectively crapped its pants over the course of the previous match, but Styles and Daniels were still faced with the task of keeping the crowd entertained for 30 minutes. Not only did they do that, but they had one of the damnedest matches I have ever seen. I would put this match at just short of five stars, and I'd say it was right up there with the Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels classic from WrestleMania earlier this year.

Unlike some Iron Man Matches over the years, this match actually told a story. You had Styles dominating the first ten minutes while being unable to put Daniels away; then Daniels dominating the second ten minutes while being unable to put Styles away; and then both wrestlers fighting through exhaustion and doing a brilliant job of selling moves over the last ten minutes, before Styles got the pinfall in the final seconds.

AJ Styles crying in joy after the match also added to the atmosphere, because the only matches that come to mind from the past couple of years which have been that emotionally draining to watch were Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels from this year's WrestleMania, and Chris Benoit's title win from last year's WrestleMania. It's time for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee, and the "coffee" in this case is that AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels are just as good or better than anyone on the WWE roster outside of Angle, Michaels, and Benoit.

The biggest surprise of the night for me was the four-way match with Austin Aries vs. Roderick Strong vs. Alex Shelley vs. Sonjay Dutt. I just expected a "decent to good" match out of this, and instead a "very good to excellent" match ensued. Even more than the other three guys in this match, Austin Aries is just so crisp and believable in every move he does. Note to Vince McMahon: Look at Sonjay Dutt and how incredibly talented he is, and how over he is with the live crowd. Wow, it's a wrestler from a foreign continent who is able to get over without some kind of racist, exploitative, tasteless gimmick! I'm sure that fact would surprise Vince McMahon, but it wouldn't change his policies because he wouldn't get his jollies from pushing a foreigner in a non-racist, non-exploitative way.

The biggest disappointment of the night for me was the Samoa Joe vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger match. It's not that it wasn't a very good match, because it was. Instead, my disappointment stems from a combination of the sky-high expectations and the inexcusable fact that the match was only booked to last seven minutes.

You can't tell me that they were short on time and had to cut the match to seven minutes, because they could have easily cut more time from the seven-minute Diamonds in the Rough jobber match, or the seven-minute Team Canada formula match. Being the first match on the PPV portion of the card also made Samoa Joe look bad. You can be elevated by being in the opening match of a PPV if it's a showcase match, but seven-minute PPV openers are normally reserved for jobbers, not someone who has the potential to be the future of pro wrestling in the United States.

The Ultimate X Match with Petey Williams vs. Matt Bentley vs. Chris Sabin was an excellent match that is probably going to be under-rated because of the clearly botched finish. I can understand the frustration that was obvious in all of the wrestlers after the match, because they were 12 or 13 minutes into a match that was a few more minutes' worth of incredible action away from being a four-star-plus match, only to have it end so awkwardly and abruptly. It looked like Williams caught the "X" thinking that the ref was going to order it to be lifted back up again, but instead the ref said that the match was over and Williams was the winner. That was clearly not the planned finish.

Having never seen Monty Brown in a singles match on PPV, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of his match against Lance Hoyt, who looked pretty good himself as a more talented version of Andrew "Test" Martin. Just based on the past few weeks of TV shows, I could see that Monty Brown had the charisma, the in-ring intensity, the power moves, and the connection with the live crowd, but this match showed me that he can actually have a quality wrestling match, too, which is more than I can say for Batista unless he's in there with a solid hand like Triple H to carry him. Brown would never get the push that he deserves in WWE since A) They have a long and storied history of institutional racism and B) They didn't "create him," but it's nice to see that he appears to be on the verge of getting a huge push in TNA.

The Team Canada match, Diamonds in the Rough match, and Tag Team Title match were the lowest points on the card, and even they were decent matches. However, I do question the decision to put the Diamonds in the Rough match on the PPV, due to the fact that they were short on time and this match hadn't even been announced as of the TV show that aired one night before the PPV.

The only reason I didn't give this event a 10 out of 10 is because of the final 30 minutes. The Gauntlet for the Gold Match to earn an immediate NWA Title Match came off to me as a complete clusterf--k. I understand that they had to scramble to come up with a back-up plan since Kevin Nash was legitimately hospitalized with chest pains on the day of the event, but it could have been handled a lot better.

First of all, why would Jeff Jarrett (and Shane Douglas, of all people), be so upset when Larry Zbyszko said that the number-one contender would be determined by a Gauntlet for the Gold Match? Instead of just naming a number-one contender who would have to face Jarrett after previously wrestling once that same night, now the number-one contender would be someone who would probably have to wrestle twice before their title match even started. And this is supposed to be unfair to Jarrett, as opposed to the challenger? That just didn't make any sense.

Another thing that made no sense in the Gauntlet for the Gold Match was Monty Brown getting eliminated so early when they had just spent so much time talking about how he was due for a title match. Also, Samoa Joe should not have been in this match if he wasn't going to win, because he is the person who everyone wants to get a World Title shot (as evidenced by the fact that when there were a half-dozen big-name wrestlers in the ring, the entire crowd was chanting, "Joe, Joe, Joe"). And what reason is there to not include Raven in the match unless Larry Zbyszko is now a heel commissioner instead of a babyface commissioner?

My biggest problem with the Gauntlet for the Gold Match was that having AJ Styles participate in the match detracted from the incredible match that he just had with Christopher Daniels. If you're not going to have the X Division Title Match as the main event, that's fine, but the least you could do is make it the separate and equal accomplishment that it's suppsed to be. The way it came off having Styles come out and vie for the World Title (unless he was booked to win it, which he wasn't) is that Styles was the equivalent of the Intercontinental Champion who wanted to come out and take a shot at the real belt. I think that severely undercut the image of the X Division in a lot of fans' eyes, just minutes after the incredible Iron Man Match had built up the division so much.

I was glad to see Jeff Jarrett lose the title to Rhino in the main event, and I think it's about time that Jeff Jarrett either leaves the main event picture or stops being an in-ring wrestler altogether. It is such BS to hear people argue the Jarrett party line of, "Who else are they going to put in that position?" Even if one hates Rhino, the answer to that question could still be Monty Brown, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles, all of whom are ready to go right now as cornerstones of the World Title picture if they're needed in that role.

I also don't want to hear the BS line of, "Jarrett has name recognition!" because any name recognition that Jarrett has is the kind that turns people off, namely because most new viewers would associate him with the final "Death Years" of WCW, when he was at the top of a company that was putting out some of the worst pro wrestling shows in the history of the industry. That's not the kind of name recognition that the bigwigs at Spike TV and Panda Energy should be seeking.

From a storyline standpoint in the main event, I thought it was odd that putting his opponent in a casket was such a big part of Jarrett's goal on this night, because it's only going to lead to Undertaker comparisons (although maybe that's accurate because they are both over-pushed has-beens who can't work). Also, why have Tito Ortiz on the show as the special guest referee if he's barely going to have any role in the match, and then he just magically disappears when the babyface gets the crap beat out of him by the heels after the match? They could have made much better use of Ortiz.

Finally, if the booking team was serious about Rhino as a franchise-level World Champion, they should have had him win the title and then gone off the air with his big moment being the show-closing image. The Dudleys (excuse me, "Team 3D") run-in could have easily been booked to happen earlier in the match, and the way that the post-match clusterf--k took place made Rhino's title win almost seem like an afterthought by the time they went off the air.

Beyond the in-ring wrestling and booking, one thing that really stood out to me is how much Don West has progressed as a color commentator since the last time I heard him in December 2002. I suppose it wouldn't seem like that much of a difference for people who have watched TNA that entire time, but for me it was amazing to hear how much better he has gotten in the past three years.

I'd say that Don West is now just as good at what he does (color commentary) as Mike Tenay is at what he does (play-by-play), in that they're both very good, but not perfect. Tenay seems to have inherited what used to be West's biggest flaw, which is the screaming and over-selling of big moves and moments. West has gotten much better in that regard since 2002, while Tenay seems to be screaming a lot more than he was in 2002.

Overall, the last 30 minutes of the broadcast (aka, the Jeff Jarrett Show) sucked both from an in-ring standpoint and a logic standpoint. Fortunately, that was preceded by one of the best three-hour stretches on any pro wrestling PPV this year.

More than anything else, this show firmly established in my mind that TNA is the place to find the best in-ring pro wrestling action that you can get on pay-per-view. WWE is the place to go if you want to see The Adventures of the McMahon Family, lots of bad skits, and the occasional great match on a PPV, while TNA is the place to go if you want to see the best in-ring wrestling action in North America.


Sunday, October 23, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- The TNA Wrestling "Bound for Glory" pay-per-view starts tonight at 7:30 PM Eastern Time, and I'm looking forward to it. This will be the first TNA PPV that I have purchased since December 2002, when the product completely stunk. Now it's home to some of the best in-ring wrestling action in North America, as you know if you've been watching "TNA Impact" on Spike TV this month.

On tonight's card, there are three matches that are clearly "Match of the Year" candidates on paper: AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels in a 30-minute Iron Man Match, Samoa Joe vs. the Japanese legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger, and the Ultimate X Match with Chris Sabin vs. Petey Williams vs. Matt Bentley. In particlar, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe are better in-ring workers than the vast majority of WWE's roster.

In another pro wrestling-related topic, the topic of Kurt Angle getting a separation/divorce from his wife was recently brought up on the Pro Wrestling Torch Message Board. I believe it was in a newspaper interview where Kurt Angle said for the first time publicly (a few months ago) that he had been separated from his wife and was in the process of getting a divorce.

Previously, there had been many, many times in newspaper articles where Angle openly talked about how worried his wife was about his physical well-being and his neck condition, and the fact that she previously wanted him to retire instead of risking paralysis. Angle said many times in interviews that he had to convince his wife to "give her blessing" for him to continue wrestling at various times when he has had setbacks with his neck condition and probably shouldn't have been wrestling.

In the last year or so, those quotes in interviews changed to, "I'm going to keep wrestling no matter what," as opposed to, "I'm going to keep wrestling as long as it's not incredibly unsafe for me to do so, and as long as my wife and I are on the same page about it."

Though the full circumstances of Angle's separation from his wife are not known, I think it's safe to say that at least a big part of it was that Angle finally had to choose between his WWE career and his family, and he chose his WWE career.


Friday, October 21, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Possible Reasons for The Ultimate Fighter's Ratings Decline, and the UFC's Long-Term TV Future
As documented in my article earlier this week about The Ultimate Fighter's ratings, the show's viewership has been on a steady decline throughout the course of its second season.

The first three weeks of Season Two averaged a 1.7 overall rating, the next three weeks averaged a 1.4 rating, and the most recent three weeks averaged a 1.2 rating. Not only that, but the ratings for this past Monday's show fell all the way down to 1.1, despite the fact that the show was facing significantly weaker head-to-head sports competition on network TV than it faced the previous week.

All of this should send a message loud and clear to Spike TV and Zuffa: The head-to-head sports competition is not the only thing that is severely hurting TUF's ratings.

If the producers are searching for possible reasons that the show itself might be turning off viewers in droves, one possible reason could be that the first season heavily pushed the concept that "only two fighters" would get UFC contracts, and it may have killed the credibility of the show in many viewers' eyes when it turned out that nine of those fighters got UFC contracts. Still, that doesn't explain why the second season started off so well in the ratings and has subsequently turned off so many viewers.

The following is just one of many theories that could be a valid explanation for why TUF 2 has turned off so many viewers. What do Mike Whitehead, Dan Christison, Rob MacDonald, Tom Murphy, Kenny Stevens, and Eli Joslin have in common? If you answered, "They were all treated like a piece of crap and a bum when they were eliminated on the show," you answered correctly.

Besides the fact that those individual fighters don't deserve to be portrayed that way from a personal standpoint, it's also bad for business. A character-driven reality show, especially one based on the concept of fighting, needs to build up its characters (like season one did) rather than constantly burying them.

It would not have severely hurt the show if Kenny Stevens and Eli Joslin were the only characters to be "buried" on the air in the way that they were, but it does hurt the show when it becomes an almost weekly occurrence, with Mike Whitehead being the most recent example.

In many cases, the on-air burial of these fighters was unnecessary and only served to hurt the show as a whole. I don't know what the deal was with Eli Joslin, but I can't be the only person wondering why a fighter with an MMA record of 1-0 was on the show in the first place. As for the other fighters, is it not true that amateur wrestlers have died while trying to do the extreme weight-cutting that Kenny Stevens was trying to do before he ultimately quit? Is it not true that Tom Murphy was completely gassed out in his fight with Rashad Evans and also had a torn knee ligament, which might explain why he "did nothing" in the final round?

Is it not true that Rob MacDonald had a torn labrum (which is a severe shoulder injury) going into a fight that he should have realistically never even been allowed to fight? Is it not true that Mike Whitehead and Dan Christison didn't make some kind of willful choice to stand around and do nothing just to annoy everyone, but instead they just completely gassed out in fights where they had done their best to win up to that point? What kind of cardio do you expect fighters to have at the end of three five-minute rounds when they only have a few days or a few weeks to "peak" for a fight in training, instead of months?

Though Spike TV and/or Zuffa may or may not be under the impression that it makes for compelling television, the fact is that the unnecessary burial of a half-dozen fighters during the course of one season is only going to hurt the show. When a viewer is watching a reality show, he or she generally wants to get attached to certain characters and root for them... and there's nothing that discourages viewers from getting attached to characters than the constant threat that their chosen character(s) could be buried at any time and unfairly portrayed as a bum.

The UFC's Long-Term Future on Weekly TV
Reality shows tend to burn out over time in terms of viewer interest, and it's only going to happen sooner in TUF's case if Season Three suffers from the same creative problems that have plagued the second season. As a result, the long-term future of the UFC on television from a week-to-week standpoint, beyond the occasional live fight specials, is more than likely going to be UFC Unleashed (or a similar show with a different name).

There are just two problems with this: A) Your local dry-cleaner has probably gotten more of an advertising commitment than Spike TV has given UFC Unleashed, and B) The format of any given episode of UFC Unleashed seems to be nothing more than throwing a few old fights together, and linking them together with five minutes or less of Mike Goldberg talking about the fighters. A better format would be an innovative mixture of old fights, training footage, behind-the-scenes documentary-type pieces, in-depth interviews, and other content.

The long-term future of the UFC on a week-to-week basis on Spike TV will ultimately depend on UFC Unleashed, and I certainly hope that Spike and Zuffa have realized that by now.

Whenever they do come to that realization, both sides will need to pick up the slack. Spike TV will need to to start marketing the damn show instead of acting like its new timeslot is supposed to be a big secret, and the UFC will need to start putting together the innovative weekly TV series that they are fully capable of producing.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ratings for The Ultimate Fighter Continue on Downward Trend
The ninth episode of The Ultimate Fighter 2 drew an overall rating of just 1.1 this past Monday night, marking the third consecutive week in which the show has recorded its lowest ratings in the history of the series.

In its first week without WWE Raw as a lead-in on October 3rd, The Ultimate Fighter drew a series-low rating of 1.3. This was followed by last week's 1.2 overall rating, and the downward trend has continued with this week's 1.1 rating.

During the first season of TUF, Week Nine experienced a bit of a lull with a 1.5 overall rating, which was down from the series-high of 2.0 a few weeks earlier. This just serves to demonstrate how much things have changed, as Spike TV and Zuffa would love to have a 1.5 rating right now.

What Is Cause for Concern and What Isn't?
In the big picture through nine weeks, the ratings are not down by a drastic amount from the first season. The first season averaged a 1.6 rating through its first nine episodes, and the second season has averaged a 1.4 rating through its first nine episodes. In and of itself, that is not a major problem.

What is a major problem is the huge downward trend in the ratings as the second season has progressed, which has been accelerated by the addition of Monday Night Football as head-to-head competition, and by the absence of WWE Raw as a lead-in.

With nine episodes of this season having aired thus far, it's very interesting if you break it down into three separate blocks of three episodes. The first set of three episodes averaged a 1.7 overall rating, the second set of three episodes averaged a 1.4 overall rating, and the most recent set of three episodes averaged an overall rating of just 1.2. That is a scary downward trend that should be a cause of major concern for Spike TV and Zuffa.

In the short term, this doesn't cost Spike TV or Zuffa a penny because advertisers were not promised anything more than a 1.0 rating in their contracts for Season Two. However, if the ratings continue their downward trend (or stay in the low 1's), you can rest assured that the third season of The Ultimate Fighter will generate significantly less advertising revenue than the second season.

Commercials for the second season were sold at a fairly high price, and rightfully so given the fact that the show had averaged a 1.6 overall rating in its first season, and subsequently drew a 1.9 rating for its live season finale. If Season Two is not able to replicate that success in the next few weeks (which would take a minor miracle at this point), ad rates will go down considerably for Season Three.

Once again, anything at or above the 1.0 mark is a big hit on cable television, as evidenced most recently by Spike TV putting out a press release in which it touted the 0.8 ratings for the first three weeks of TNA Impact on Spike TV, but a 1.1 rating is still alarming for any show that had a first-season average of 1.6.

Sports Competition Explains Part of TUF's Ratings Decline, but Cannot Explain This Week's Decrease
Data from Neilsen Media Research shows that UFC programming on Spike TV draws heavily from the same crowd that watches other sports on television. The UFC skews much younger than the biggest sports, with its primary demographic being 18-to-34-year-old males, but in general the people who watch UFC programming on Spike TV are very likely to also be people who watch other sports on television.

While The Ultimate Fighter's disappointing rating last week (1.2) and even more disappointing rating this week (1.1) can be blamed in part on the fact that TUF has had to go head-to-head with both Monday Night Football and the Major League Baseball Playoffs, the decrease from last week to this week cannot be blamed on stiffer competition.

Last week, the Monday Night Football game on ABC drew a 9.5 overall rating, while the baseball playoff game on Fox drew an 8.0 overall rating. This week, the Monday Night Football game drew a 9.0 rating, while the baseball playoff game drew a 6.7 rating.

So, the combined audience that was watching sports on network television (and was thus much less likely to watch The Ultimate Fighter) was 17.5 last week, and was down to 15.7 this week.

At the same time, WWE Raw (which goes head-to-head with the beginning of TUF) was down from last week's 4.0 rating to a 3.7 rating. Despite the fact that TUF was facing significantly weaker competition this week, the overall rating for TUF still decreased from 1.2 last week to 1.1 this week.

In other network TV competition, NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno drew a 4.6 overall rating, while CBS' The Late Show with David Letterman drew a 3.7 overall rating.

On the same night (October 17th), another new episode of UFC Unleashed aired in its new timeslot of Monday at 10:00 PM. This week's episode drew an overall rating of 1.0, which was an improvement over last week's 0.9 rating. Any potential ratings growth for UFC Unleashed in the future will be severely limited for as long as the show continues to have an almost non-existent level of promotion on Spike TV.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Sink to New Lows Without WWE Raw As a Lead-In
The question has been in the back of a lot of people's minds for a long time: How would The Ultimate Fighter perform in the ratings if it didn't have WWE Raw as a lead-in? With WWE having moved back to USA Network, we now have our answer: The ratings have gone down, but not by a drastic amount.

If anything, the latest ratings information demonstrates that the arrival of Monday Night Football as head-to-head competition had more of an impact on TUF's ratings than the removal of WWE Raw as a lead-in. However, when you combine all of the factors and consider that TUF no longer has WWE Raw as a lead-in, and has to compete head-to-head with Monday Night Football, and is widely considered to not be as compelling in Season Two as it was in Season One, the end result is the two lowest ratings that TUF has ever drawn.

In its first three weeks, without Monday Night Football as competition, The Ultimate Fighter 2 averaged a 1.7 overall rating. In the following three weeks, with Monday Night Football as competition but while still having WWE Raw as a lead-in, The Ultimate Fighter averaged a 1.4 overall rating. The first six weeks of ratings for TUF 2 have been documented extensively on this site, so we're going to pick up with the past two weeks of ratings.

TUF Ratings for Week Seven
Week Seven of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which debuted on October 3rd as part of the big Monday Night War between the UFC and WWE, drew an overall rating of 1.3. That made it the lowest-rated episode of The Ultimate Fighter in either season up to that point, with the previous low-mark being 1.4.

However, the show drew a 2.8 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which is a higher rating in that demographic than any episode from the first season of TUF other than the live season finale. Also, the 1.3 overall rating wasn't down all that much from the 1.4 overall rating that the show drew the previous week when it still had WWE Raw as a lead-in, so that in and of itself was considered a mild success by Spike TV executives.

For the first time in the history of The Ultimate Fighter, the show actually went head-to-head with WWE programming. The first 13 minutes of this episode went head-to-head with the end of WWE Raw, and the final 47 minutes of this episode went head-to-head with a pre-taped "Best of Raw" special, which drew an overall rating of 2.8 on USA Network.

This episode of The Ultimate Fighter also faced stiff competition from a Monday Night Football game featuring the Packers vs. the Panthers. The game drew a 10.1 overall rating on ABC, which was up significantly from the 8.4 rating that was drawn by the previous week's Monday Night Football broadcast.

Also going head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on October 3rd were NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which drew a 4.7 overall rating, and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, which drew a 4.5 overall rating.

Week Seven of The Ultimate Fighter's first season drew an overall rating of 1.7, compared to this week's 1.3 rating.

TUF Ratings for Week Eight
Week Eight of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which debuted on October 10th, drew an overall rating of 1.2. That makes it the lowest-rated new episode of The Ultimate Fighter in the series' history, breaking the record set by the previous week's 1.3 rating.

If there's any consolation for Spike TV and the UFC, it's the fact that TUF's ratings drop-off compared to last week was not as drastic as the drop experienced by WWE Raw. While TUF's ratings went down from 1.3 to 1.2, WWE Raw's ratings went down from 4.4 last week to 4.0 this week.

This was the first week in which The Ultimate Fighter not only didn't have WWE Raw as a lead-in, but also didn't have a live UFC special as a lead-in. Instead, the lead-in for this episode of The Ultimate Fighter was a new episode of UFC Unleashed, which aired at 10:00 PM and drew a rating of 0.9. It would certainly appear to be suicidal for Spike TV to schedule new episodes of UFC Unleashed to air on Monday nights at 10:00 PM head-to-head with WWE Raw, especially if they're going to continue to put almost zero advertising into promoting the new timeslot of UFC Unleashed.

In addition to not having WWE Raw as a lead-in and not having a live UFC special as a lead-in, this week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter also had to go head-to-head with not one, but two network TV sporting events. Monday Night Football is something that TUF has to face every week, but normally it doesn't have to go head-to-head with both Monday Night Football and a Major League Baseball playoff game at the same time.

The Monday Night Football game on ABC between the Steelers and the Chargers drew an overall rating of 9.5, while the climactic Game 5 of the Yankees vs. Angels baseball playoff series drew an 8.0 overall rating on Fox.

In other network TV competition, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno drew a 4.6 overall rating on NBC, while The Late Show with David Letterman drew a 3.5 overall rating on CBS.

Week Eight of The Ultimate Fighter's first season drew an overall rating of 1.6, compared to this week's 1.2 rating.

Putting the Ratings Into Perspective Through Eight Weeks
The average rating through the first eight weeks of The Ultimate Fighter's first season was 1.6, while the average rating through the first eight weeks of the second season is now 1.5.

That's not much of a difference on the surface, but there are a couple of important points that need to be emphasized.

1) It was a huge mistake for Spike TV to schedule The Ultimate Fighter to go head-to-head with Monday Night Football, given the fact that both shows draw heavily from the sports fan demographic. Future seasons of TUF should either be moved to a different night, or should be put on the air at a time of the year when Monday Night Football is not in season.

2) The absence of WWE Raw as a lead-in is going to have an effect on ratings, but fortunately that effect appears to be fairly small thus far. Only time will tell how significant or insignificant this factor will end up being.

3) With the last two weeks of TUF ratings clocking in at 1.3 and 1.2, one must remember that while those numbers are significantly lower than some of TUF's previous ratings, they are still considered excellent ratings by the standards of every cable network in existence. ESPN would be thrilled if Pardon the Interruption, one of its flagship shows, could draw a 1.0 rating on a consistent basis, but it can't. Spike TV was very pleased recently when the first two episodes of the pro wrestling show TNA Impact averaged an overall rating of 0.8. The same sentiment would exist for the vast majority of original series on cable television with that kind of rating.

With the way things stand right now, TUF's ratings from this point forward are up in the air. The ratings could go back up in the future, or the show might never draw a 1.5 rating again. No one can say for sure. The point is that either way, as long as TUF's ratings stay over 1.0, the show will still be considered a "big hit" by cable television standards, which is something that I've written from the very first ratings report of last season.

If The Ultimate Fighter does indeed draw ratings in the range of 1.0 to 1.4 from now on, the only reason it would be considered a mild disappointment is because the first season of TUF averaged a 1.6 rating.

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Friday, October 14, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts and Pro Wrestling--- A Detailed Look at the WWE vs. UFC Ratings Showdown
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Complete Ratings Breakdown for UFC Ultimate Fight Night 2 and WWE's Return to USA Network

A huge TV industry showdown took place on Monday night, October 3rd, with Spike TV and its five-hour block of UFC programming squaring off with USA Network and its four-hour block of WWE programming.

It was WWE's first night back on USA Network, and the return of WWE Raw with a special "Homecoming" episode was heavily hyped by USA Network with more than $7 million spent in a national advertising campaign. In stark contrast, Spike TV completely dropped the ball in promoting the UFC's October 3rd special, as no commercials whatsoever hyped the show until approximately one week before the event.

As I have previously documented, the expectations going in were for WWE Raw to draw an overall rating in the range of 4.0 to 4.5, while Spike TV would be thrilled if the live UFC special going head-to-head with WWE could draw the same kind of audience that the live UFC specials drew in April and August. (Those two specials drew overall ratings of 1.9 and 1.5, respectively.)

As it turned out, both networks were very happy with the results, as the special three-hour episode of WWE Raw drew a 4.4 overall rating, and the two-hour live UFC special drew a 1.6 overall rating.

For WWE, its "Homecoming" show on USA Network was the highest-rated episode of Raw since June 27, 2005, an episode which also drew a 4.4 overall rating but had slightly more overall viewers. WWE's claims of the Homecoming show being the highest-rated episode of Raw in over three years are false, unless one pretends that it was a two-hour show instead of a three-hour show, which it wasn't.

For the UFC, the overall rating of 1.6 for the live "Ultimate Fight Night 2" special is lower than the April show's 1.9 rating, but higher than the August show's 1.5 rating. Spike TV considers it a remarkable achievement that a live UFC special going head-to-head with WWE Raw was able to draw a better rating than the previous live special, which was on a Saturday night and did not have to go head-to-head with WWE. Unfortunately for the UFC, the rest of its five-hour programming block did not perform nearly as well in the ratings as the live two-hour special.

7:00 PM to 9:00 PM: The Night Begins
The night of UFC and WWE programming started at 7:00 PM with a new episode of UFC Unleashed airing on Spike TV (while the movie "2 Fast 2 Furious" aired on USA Network). With all of the advertising for the UFC programming block focusing on the 9:00 PM start time of Ultimate Fight Night and the 11:00 PM airing of The Ultimate Fighter, nowhere near as many television viewers were even aware that UFC Unleashed was going to air at 7:00 PM, and that fact is reflected in the rating. The show drew an overall rating of 0.8, which is considered disappointing by the standards that UFC programming has set for itself over the past year.

At 8:00 PM, WWE joined the fray with the first hour of "WWE Homecoming" on USA Network, which drew a 3.9 rating from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Meanwhile, over on Spike TV, a pre-taped "Ultimate Knockouts" special drew an overall rating of 1.2 rating. While underwhelming, that has to be considered a decent rating, given that it was a bunch of old fights going head-to-head with a new episode WWE Raw.

At various times between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM on Spike TV, advertisements aired for the WWE Homecoming special on USA Network. While Spike TV would obviously not sell commercials to an entity that it would be competing with at that exact time, WWE got around this by purchasing commercials on the local level in most major cities in the United States. To the viewer at home, it made no difference whether a commercial was purchased nationally or locally, because the effect was the same, which was that commercials were airing on UFC programming that urged people to watch WWE instead of the UFC.

From 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Spike TV, a clock was in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen that said, "Live Fight In..." and this clock counted down as 9:00 PM approached.

9:00 PM to 9:05 PM: Ultimate Fight Night Goes on the Air Five Minutes Late
Ultimate Fight Night started 9:00 PM Eastern Time... or at least it was supposed to. Inexplicably, Spike TV and the UFC had apparently not timed out the preceding "Ultimate Knockouts" special properly, because Ultimate Fight Night Live did not go on the air at 9:00 PM Eastern Time as it was supposed to.

In one of the biggest blunders in the recent history of head-to-head battles on cable television, the end of the "Ultimate Knockouts" special was still airing on Spike TV when the clock struck 9:00 PM on the East Coast, even though a week's worth of commercials had told everyone to tune in at 9:00 PM to see the Ultimate Fight Night special.

It wasn't just an over-run of 30 seconds or a minute, as an old Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo fight continued to air for several minutes past the 9:00 PM hour. While the end of the Barnett vs. Rizzo fight aired, the clock in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen that had been counting down to 9:00 PM for the past two hours had simply vanished, with no indication of what viewers were watching or what happened to the live fight special that had been advertised.

It wasn't until approximately three seconds before the clock struck 9:05 PM Eastern Time that Ultimate Fight Night actually went on the air, and there's no telling how many viewers the UFC had already lost by then.

By going on the air at 9:05 PM Eastern Time instead of 9:00 PM Eastern Time, this left the UFC with one hour and fifty-five minutes of time to use for the Ultimate Fight Night special instead of two hours, but they still had to air the approximately 32 minutes of commercials that had been sold. (This notion is confirmed by the fact that the Ultimate Fight Night replay that same night, which was scheduled to run from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM, actually aired from 1:00 AM to 2:54 AM, because they didn't have two full hours of content to fill the time.)

9:05 PM to 11:00 PM: Live TV vs. Live TV
We will now get into a minute-by-minute breakdown of the time period in which the UFC and WWE were both airing live programming on their respective networks.

The biggest problem that the UFC had with its first two live specials on Spike TV was the issue of how to format the timeframe of the shows, as there were often huge gaps of time in between fights. So, for the purposes of this breakdown, we will look at what went head-to-head with the UFC during each particular fight, and what went head-to-head with the UFC in the large gaps of time between fights.

When Ultimate Fight Night finally did go on the air at 9:05 PM, Josh Koscheck and Drew Fickett were already in the cage and ready to go. The fight started promptly at 9:06 PM, and the fight ended at 9:23 PM.

Over on USA Network at the same time, WWE wanted to put its biggest ratings draw (Stone Cold Steve Austin) in a segment up against the start of UFC's live special, in order to discourage its viewers from even thinking about switching over to the UFC show. This strategy paid off, as a segment involving Steve Austin, Vince McMahon, and the rest of the McMahon family drew WWE's highest quarter-hour rating of the night. The segment featured the re-airing of old Austin-McMahon clips such as McMahon "urinating in his pants" out of fear, and ended with Austin attacking all four members of the McMahon family.

Between the end of the UFC's first fight at 9:23 PM and the start of the UFC's second fight, there was a gap of 17 minutes. During that 17-minute gap, viewers who tuned into USA Network would have seen a ladder match between Edge and Matt Hardy in the culmination of their feud, which is a match that WWE could have easily sold on pay-per-view instead of giving it away on free television.

The second fight on the UFC telecast (Brandon Vera vs. Fabiano Scherner) started at 9:40 PM and ended at 9:50 PM. Airing head-to-head with this fight on WWE Raw was the end of the aforementioned ladder match, a backstage interview with Ric Flair, and a disturbing scene in which 80-year-old Mae Young walked around half-naked and propositioned a few wrestlers, which ended when WWE legend Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka took her up on her offer.

Between the end of the UFC's second fight at 9:50 PM and the start of the UFC's third fight, there was a gap of 25 minutes. During this huge 25-minute gap, WWE was putting on a tag team match with Triple H and Ric Flair, after which Triple H attacked Flair. Flair either did a very bad blade-job, or he intended to do a severe blade-job, as he was bleeding very heavily and for an extended period of time. The amount of blood on-screen was greater during this segment than it was at any time during the UFC broadcast, and that includes Evan Tanner's facial lacerations in the final fight on the UFC broadcast.

The third fight on the UFC broadcast (Chris Leben vs. Edwin Dewees) finally started at 10:15 PM, and it ended quickly at 10:18 PM. Just as this fight was starting, WWE Raw went to a commercial. Approximately one minute before the Leben-Dewees ended, Raw came back from a commercial and replayed parts of the previous Ric Flair scene

Between the end of the UFC's third fight at 10:18 PM and the start of the UFC's fourth and final fight, there was another long gap, which lasted 21 minutes this time. Viewers who tuned into USA Network in between UFC fights would have seen continued footage of Triple H attacking Ric Flair (who was completely red in blood from the neck up at this point), followed by a segment involving many different WWE legends, followed by a five-woman Bra & Panties Match (which is exactly what it sounds like).

The fourth and final fight on the UFC broadcast (David Loiseau vs. Evan Tanner) started at 10:39 PM and ended at 10:50 PM. During this timeframe on USA Network, WWE put on the full ring entrances of six different wrestlers from WWE's Smackdown brand, who normally never appear on Raw.

With the main event in the books and without enough time remaining to air any of the prelim fights, the last ten minutes of Ultimate Fight Night (from 10:50 PM to 11:00 PM) were filled with interviews and recaps. At the same time on USA Network, Raw's storyline General Manager Eric Bischoff shut down the aforementioned Smackdown-brand match just as it was about to start, and then Hulk Hogan came to the ring for an interview in which he raised the possibility of wrestling Steve Austin at next year's WrestleMania. The UFC's live broadcast then went off the air at 11:00 PM Eastern Time, while WWE Raw continued with its over-run segment.

Overall, the first hour of Ultimate Fight Night drew an average rating of 1.5, with quarter-hour ratings of 1.4, 1.4, 1.6, and 1.7. WWE Raw drew a 4.9 average rating in that same hour, with quarter-hour ratings of 5.0, 5.0, 4.9, and 4.5.

The second hour of Ultimate Fight Night was up slightly, drawing an average rating of 1.6, with quarter-hour ratings of 1.5, 1.5, 1.6, and 1.6. At the same time, the ratings for WWE Raw fell slightly to 4.5, with quarter-hour ratings of 4.7, 4.4, 4.6, and 4.4.

The bottom line for each show is that the two-hour Ultimate Fight Night broadcast drew a 1.6 overall rating, and the three-hour WWE Raw broadcast drew a 4.4 overall rating, each of which made their respective networks very happy. WWE drew its highest overall rating since June, while the UFC proved that it could put a live fight special on TV head-to-head with WWE while still drawing higher ratings than regular season NBA games on cable television.

11:00 PM to 12:00 AM: TUF Goes Against "Best of Raw" Special
Ultimate Fight Night was not the only new UFC programming to go head-to-head with WWE Raw. Raw stayed on the air until 11:13 PM with a WWE Title Match main event, so the first 13 minutes of The Ultimate Fighter went head-to-head with the last 13 minutes of Raw.

Following Raw, WWE put on a pre-taped "Best of Raw" special, which drew an overall rating of 2.8. At the same time, a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV drew an overall rating of 1.3. (Far more information on The Ultimate Fighter's ratings is available in a separate article that is dedicated to TUF's ratings.)

Comparing the UFC's Third Live Fight Special to the First Two
The Ultimate Fight Night event that took place on October 3rd drew better ratings than the Ultimate Fight Night event that took place on August 6th. That is an impressive achievement for the October 3rd show, given the fact that it had to go head-to-head with WWE Raw while the August 6th event did not. At the same time, the highest ratings for a live UFC fight special still belong to the April 9th event, which featured the finals of The Ultimate Fighter, along with Rich Franklin vs. Ken Shamrock.

In terms of overall ratings, the April 9th special drew a 1.9 rating, the August 6th special was down to 1.5, and the October 3rd special with WWE Raw as competition was back up to 1.6.

In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which is by far the demographic that Spike TV and its advertisers value the most, the April 9th special drew a 3.3 rating, the August 6th special was down to 2.0, and the October 3rd special was back up to 2.6.

In the slightly broader demographic of 18-to-49-year-old males, the April 9th special drew a 2.7 rating, the August 6th special was down to a 1.8 rating, and the October 3rd special was back up to 2.1.

Gaps Between Fights Could Still Be Shortened
In terms of the gap between fights, the UFC did a slightly better job with the formatting of this show than was the case in the past, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. On this show, the three gaps in between fights lasted 17 minutes, 25 minutes, and 21 minutes. While none of those gaps can match the sheer ridiculousness of the whopping 32-minute gap between Fight #2 and Fight #3 on the August 6th edition of Ultimate Fight Night, 17 to 25 minutes is still too long of a time period for casual MMA fans to sit around and wait in between fights (and casual MMA fans make up the majority of the UFC's audience on Spike TV).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying anything outlandish like, "Don't have commercials!" It's a given that there are going to be approximately 16 minutes of commercials on any given hour of television, and there's nothing wrong with that. The question is what the UFC should do with other 44 minutes of time in any given hour of television. With a little more time allotted to fighting and a little less time allotted to talking in between fights, the UFC's ratings for future live fight specials would be likely to increase.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts--- WWE Wanted Mike Goldberg to Double-Cross the UFC; Goldberg Refused
You've more than likely heard the story by now. Vince McMahon offered a huge announcing contract to Mike Goldberg, who has been the UFC's play-by-play man for many years. The multi-year WWE contract that was offered to Goldberg had a total value of more than $1 million over the life of the contract, and it was offered to Goldberg partially as an attempt by WWE to hurt the UFC, and partially because WWE already planned to fire its own long-time play-by-play man, Jim Ross, due to the fact that Ross has Bell's Palsy and is not as physically "attractive" as WWE would like. Goldberg seriously considered WWE's offer, before ultimately re-signing with the UFC.

However, there is more to the story, and these additional details shine a bright light on just how dirty Vince McMahon's business tactics can be when he thinks of himself as being "at war" with another organization. Vince McMahon's original plan was to secretly sign Mike Goldberg before the WWE vs. UFC showdown on October 3rd, and then have Mike Goldberg no-show the UFC event without notice, according to a report by the Wrestling Observer.

If McMahon's plan had gone as he hoped, the UFC would not have heard from Mike Goldberg at all on October 3rd, and would not even have known where he was. Goldberg would have no-showed the UFC event, and Zuffa would have found out that Goldberg had signed with WWE by seeing him appear on live television as the lead announcer of WWE Raw on USA Network that same night.

By doing this, Vince McMahon would have not only signed Mike Goldberg away from the UFC, but he would have left the UFC with literally zero notice to find someone to do play-by-play on the UFC's live broadcast on Spike TV. And while this detail wasn't part of the Observer's report, sources tell MMAWeekly that WWE was ready and willing to pay Mike Goldberg a one-time bonus in the high five-figures (possibly even as much as $100,000) simply for the act of no-showing the UFC event without notice in order to sign with WWE.

So, why didn't the double-cross take place as Vince McMahon wanted it to? Quite simply, because not everyone thinks like Vince McMahon does, and Mike Goldberg is a decent human being who wouldn't do something like that. As the Observer reported, "The only reason it didn't go down as planned by McMahon is because Goldberg was professional enough to refuse to no-show the UFC event."

Not only did Goldberg refuse to double-cross the UFC by no-showing the October 3rd event without notice, but when he arrived in Las Vegas for the UFC event on October 3rd, he told Zuffa about the double-cross offer that had been made by WWE.

At that point, with Goldberg fulfilling his play-by-play duties on the UFC's October 3rd Spike TV show, while also missing the October 7th UFC pay-per-view because of a previous committment, Goldberg would spend much of the next week trying to decide whether he was going to sign with WWE or re-sign with the UFC, and he eventually decided to re-sign with the UFC. (More Info: Mike Goldberg Speaks to MMAWeekly)

Promotional tactics like this are nothing new from Vince McMahon, as numerous pro wrestling promoters from the 1980's and 1990's could tell you. When McMahon views himself as being in competition with an organization, he will do anything to hurt that organization. The Observer report on McMahon's offer to Mike Goldberg stated that WWE deemed it to be extremely important to "send a message to its competitors and get the paranoid mind games advantage."

The Observer also reported that despite Vince McMahon's long history of doing these kinds of things, Zuffa was completely naive about it and didn't think such a thing could happen to them. The Observer reports that the whole experience with the Goldberg double-cross offer from WWE was "a major eye-opening for the UFC, as those in the company had largely believed it was bullet-proof from McMahon's direct business attacks because of the difference in the product."

In reality, if Vince McMahon thinks he's at war with you, then he's at war with you, regardless of whether you're running a pro wrestling company or an MMA company. Further evidence of WWE aggressively going after the UFC was the fact that the "WWE Homecoming" special re-aired on USA Network last Friday night at 10:00 PM, not-so-coincidentally head-to-head with the UFC's pay-per-view.

In the process of finding someone to do play-by-play for the October 7th UFC show, Zuffa kept Craig Hummer's name very quiet because it was widely believed in both the pro wrestling and MMA industries that WWE would have offered Hummer a very large amount of money (likely well into five-figures) not even to work for WWE, but simply to no-show the UFC's pay-per-view without notice. Hummer did the UFC pay-per-view as scheduled on Friday night, so either WWE couldn't get in touch with him on Friday, or they did get in touch with him but he turned down their offer.

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Monday, October 10, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- I'm not an extremely religious person, but I truly believe that if there is a hell, Vince McMahon is going to go there when he dies. The reasons are too numerous to list (perpetuating racism and exploiting terrorism for profit this past July, anyone?), but the latest one is removing from his job a long-time loyal employee and the universally recognized best play-by-play man in the pro wrestling business, Jim Ross, simply because he has Bell's Palsy and is therefore not an "attractive announcer."

How many wrestlers have been passed by over the years because they didn't have the "look" that Vince McMahon has a fetish for? (You know, the big, muscular "roided-up freak" look.) How many young wrestlers have taken steroids because they know that they're never going to be successful in the #1 organization, WWE, if they are can't achieve a modicum of that look, which is impossible to achieve without freakishly muscle-bound genetics, or large amounts of steroids? How many wrestlers have died with grossly enlarged hearts due to steroid usage? Too many.

Vince McMahon, in his fetish for big men, has long valued appearance more than talent in his pro wrestlers. Now that policy is extending to announcers. Jim Ross has had Bell's Palsy, and many of his facial muscles are paralyzed. This causes his face to look awkward, but his appearance is far from freakish and is actually much less "abnormal" than a 60-year-old man like Vince McMahon walking around with his arm muscles still magically getting bigger every year.

More importantly, the Bell's Palsy that Jim Ross suffers from does not affect his performance as the best play-by-play man in the wrestling business. All it does is make him look different. Vince McMahon doesn't care. To hell with Ross' experience of over 30 years in the wrestling business. To hell with the fact that he's still the best play-by-play man in the business. To hell with the fact that he has stood by WWE through thick and thin over the years. Vince wants an attractive guy as WWE's lead announcer, and to hell with the man who has been the voice of WWE for years.

Not only that, but in removing Jim Ross from his position as Raw's play-by-play man in a real life decision made a few weeks ago, Vince McMahon booked a storyline in which Ross would be humiliated one last time. There was no tribute, there was no 30-second-long "thank you" for all of the great moments that Jim Ross made even better over the decades as an announcer, or all of the hard work that he put in for years as WWE's #2 man behind the scenes as VP of Talent Relations.

I could anticipate McMahon publicly humiliating Jim Ross in a fake storyline, firing him in a storyline, even having Linda McMahon kick Ross in the groin as part of the storyline, all of which happened on Raw. According to reports from the Pro Wrestling Torch, Jim Ross is taking his real-life firing extremely hard, and an on-air storyline in which he is publicly humiliated probably isn't going to help on that front, but Vince McMahon gets off on that kind of thing. I wouldn't expect anything less from a scumbag such as McMahon who derives pleasure from screwing with people, and I wouldn't expect him to start showing class or taste now for the first time in his life.

What I can't understand is why Stephanie McMahon, in the same segment, was booked to slap Ross directly on his face, despite the fact that Ross has had Bell's Palsy and isn't exactly supposed to be slapped in the face. The last time WWE booked Jim Ross in an in-ring segment, it was in a match with Vince McMahon's beloved son-in-law, Triple H. During that match, an errant punch actually connected with Ross' face instead of being pulled by Triple H, and it resulted in Ross suffering from numbness and blurred vision for a couple of weeks after the match.

He still did his job on Raw for the next several weeks when that happened... you know, just like he always has. Just like he did when he had just received word that his mother died, and he still did the play-by-play on a WWE pay-per-view because they had no one else on hand to do it. Just like he did when Vince McMahon insisted that "the show must go on" after Owen Hart fell to his death in a WWE ring. Ross was always there to do his job, and no one was better at it. And yet just a few months after getting hurt in a match with Triple H that he should have never been booked to do, here's Vince McMahon, gleefully booking his nipped-and-tucked daughter Stephanie to slap Jim Ross across the face. Does that make you feel like a man, Vince? Does that get you off?

In the big picture, Stephanie being booked to slap Jim Ross in the face, despite the risks to Ross' health, is just an example in the bigger picture. Vince McMahon doesn't give a damn about Jim Ross' health, or Jim Ross in general, despite his years of loyal service as the best play-by-play man in the business, despite the fact that fans around the world love him. Vince has no problem giving a big "F-U" to Jim Ross or to the fans, just as he has done before.

Jim Ross is still able to do his job, and he's able to do it just as well as he ever did, but Vince McMahon doesn't give a damn. Ross has Bell's Palsy, Vince wants attractive announcers, and so Jim Ross has to go. F--k you, Vince McMahon.

Update with Additional News on Jim Ross Situation at 4:05 AM:
In a Wade Keller Audio Update on the Pro Wrestling Torch web site, Wade Keller adds some more information and perspective to this situation. Full credit for this information goes to PWTorch.com. Keller reported, "Sources who are close to [Jim] Ross say that he is absolutely torn up inside, and that this has been taking an incredible emotional toll on him for the past month, ever since the rumors started behind the scenes that WWE was looking to put a 'pretty face' on the air [and remove Ross]... I've been told that there is more to this story that would make it seem even worse than how it looks on the surface... It was very emotional behind the scenes tonight. There were lots of people who were fuming mad."

Keller also commented about Ross personally, with some of the most moving words that I have seen or heard about this situation. Keller said, "Here's a guy who has given his life to WWE for a long time. He held that company together during the Monday Night Wars, in terms of talent relations, and producing house show line-ups, and being a close consultant with Vince McMahon on top matters... and it's not like I have this great personal affinity for Jim Ross. It's the fact that he was the best guy for the job, he was a great announcer, he did his job, he never took vacations, he always showed up, he worked his way through health problems... The way that he is being discarded after being the best announcer in the history of the business, and still at the top of his game as an announcer, is just a huge adjustment. He loves his job, and what he said on the air last night was true. All he wants to do is announce pro wrestling. That's what he lives for, that and his family."

Keller also spoke about how Ross' case of Bell's Palsy got so much worse a few years back, ironically while on the job for WWE, which is something that I alluded to in my previous rant. Keller said, "He was on a trip to Europe [for a WWE pay-per-view] when his mom died, and that's what caused a recurrence of his Bell's Palsy. So, he traveled to Europe, got the news that his mom died, [the stress from that] caused the Bell's Palsy reaction, and he still worked the WWE pay-per-view in Europe as scheduled. [The Bell's Palsy] happened because of the stress of the job, and now he's getting fired because of it."

Again, full credit for the quotes from the aforementioned audio update go to the Pro Wrestling Torch's Wade Keller, who runs the best pro wrestling web site on the planet at PWTorch.com.


Saturday, October 08, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Before continuing with the normal flow of UFC-related coverage next week, let's take one last look at Zuffa's decision to deny media credentials to every independent MMA publication in the United States, including the top three MMA publications (MMAWeekly, Sherdog, and Full Contact Fighter). First, there's a good article by Mike Sloan over on Sherdog, which talks about how ridiculous this move is from a business standpoint and how much it hurts MMA from a credibility standpoint.

Also, two members of the MMAWeekly staff recently wrote about Zuffa's actions, and the unified MMA media's subsequent decision to have a blackout of UFC coverage for one week in order to show a united front.

MMAWeekly's Ken Pishna wrote:
I haven't said too much publicly on this situation, but I think that I should say something here. As far as us acting like the UFC doesn't exist, this is not a permanent situation. This was a decision made with a united group of MMA media to protest the UFC's decision to not allow us access to provide the type of coverage that fans are used to. Our biggest hope in doing this, is that the UFC will take a look at how much interest/buzz is lost surrounding their event when we are not allowed to provide the type of coverage that fans have come to expect from us, and that fans really deserve for their years of supporting the UFC.

We know that it is harsh and we know that we're upsetting many of you, and I totally respect what you are saying. But without the access that we have customarily had at UFC events, we won't be able to provide the type of information that is expected, and the photos will pretty much disappear if we can't have someone credentialed. There is no way to get into the event with a good enough lense to take any decent shots. No post-fight press conference video and interviews. That is why we decided to protest the situation, along with the fact that no reason has been given for the denials in the first place.

It's not because we're crying about not getting in for free, or because our ringside reporting seats are gone. It just makes it impossible to provide the coverage that you as fans have come to expect.

We will continue to provide as much coverage of the entire sport as we always have, and that will include a return to UFC coverage after this week. We will do the best with the cards that we are dealt, but our actions this week were in hopes that it will help to make things better more quickly in the future.

I'm not going to get into a back and forth argument over the details of the situation one way or the other, but I just wanted you guys to know where we're coming from and why we did what we did. And also, please know that we do respect you guys and I completely understand your disappointment [in the lack of UFC coverage this week]. Believe me, as this day wears on, I'm really understanding the disappointment.

MMAWeekly's Damon Martin wrote:
This is what you call taking a stance. We are not saying that we are totally abandoning UFC coverage... just for a week, because this is the time when the UFC has made it very clear they don't want us there. You guys love the coverage we provide, but if the UFC doesn't provide us access, we can't provide you the coverage. No cage-side photographers means that you won't get the very best pictures from the event. No credentials means we can't have access to the behind the scenes stuff that everyone loves so much. This isn't about ringside seats, and this isn't about us crying and being childish about this.

At UFC 53 when you listened to the [MMAWeekly Radio] weigh-in show and you got to hear Chuck Liddell and Georges St. Pierre... those guys were down in the weigh-in area where fans are not allowed, but because I had a press pass I was able to go past security and ask Liddell and St. Pierre to come on the show.

When you see the post-fight interviews I conducted with Nick Diaz and Karo Parisyan, and Ken Pishna interviewing Rich Franklin and Andrei Arlovski, that's because we were backstage with our media passes.

I don't want to seem combative about this, but you have to understand, not being given media access prohibits us from providing you the very best coverage that we can... You guys are the reason we are able to keep the site going, but the UFC has to play ball as well if you want the coverage, and as of now, Dana White has taken his ball and gone home.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- There will be no UFC coverage on Ivan's Blog this week because I am honoring the one-week UFC blackout that has been established by all of the major MMA web sites (well, almost all of them...). The one-week blackout is a show of solidarity among the MMA media. If you want to know what caused the need for such a show of solidarity in the first place, click this link: MMA Media Denied Credentials to UFC 55.

If this was just a case of Zuffa trying to restrict smaller sites from clogging up press row or being unprofessional, that might be understandable. However, when Zuffa is denying credentials to the top three MMA publications in the United States (MMAWeekly, Full Contact Fighter, and Sherdog), that removes any semblance of legitimacy that Zuffa's decision might have had.

Before I get into this any further, I want to recommend two articles that you should read if you want to know more about this situation. The first article is written by Jake Rossen and is called Memos from Media Purgatory, while the second one is by Greg Savage and is called The Silent Treatment.

In addition to all of the points made in those two articles, there are a lot of other facets to this story. Many of them have been asked on the MMAWeekly Forum or have been sent to me via e-mail. I will now summarize my responses to all of these questions, many of which are simply dispelling various theories that people have come up with about why this may be happening.

First of all, the denial of media credentials to MMA publications has absolutely nothing to do with any deluge of mainstream media requests for credentials to attend UFC events. The notion that the MMA media is being denied simply because there aren't enough seats for the MMA media AND the mainstream media is simply false, nor has there even been a huge increase in mainstream media requests lately.

In terms of what exactly Zuffa's decision entails, the company did not just deny some kind of "premium credential" that is only for ringside seats (as some have speculated on the Underground Forum)... they denied press credentials of any kind. This also goes far beyond the issue of journalists being able to sit in press row, as it's also about journalists getting backstage access in order to do interviews with fighters, be there to cover events as they unfold, etc.

Additionally, the writing experience of individual journalists in fields outside of MMA has absolutely nothing to do with the legitimate, well-established "was-covering-the-UFC-before-it-was-even-owned-by-Zuffa" media having its credentials denied. I understand the natural reaction that people are having that there must be SOME reasonable explanation for the UFC's actions, but that is not necessarily the case.

An article on a web site that is not participating in the one-week blackout of UFC coverage tried to present this issue as if it were legitimately about the credentials of any given publication, an argument that doesn't stand up for two seconds when you consider that the top three MMA publications were all denied.

The same article also attempted to make the point that perhaps Zuffa was concerned with some web sites sponsorsing UFC fighters, which has been going on since the early days of the UFC's existence. It's quite telling that in the same article, it mentions the fact that Grappling Magazine sponsors MMA events in the Midwest, but it forgets to add that Grappling Magazine still has its media credentials for UFC events. Of course, that would only be relevant if any of this really had anything to do with conflicts of interest or any other legitimate criteria, which is what that article certainly wants you to believe.

Again, I highly recommend that you read the article by Jake Rossen, which is very incisive on the issue of how dangerous it is to have a sports company that controls its own media.

I also highly recommend the article by Greg Savage, which includes the point that he might be able to believe that the denial of media credentials had something to do with Zuffa wanting more professionalism in press row... if it weren't for the fact that the major, reputable MMA publications were also denied. That should tell you everything you need to know about whether or not this turn of events really has anything do with who is "professional" and who is "not professional."

I will continue to cover any UFC-related news that comes up starting next week on MMAWeekly and Ivan's Blog, but there will be no coverage of the UFC on Ivan's Blog until then because I am honoring the one-week media blackout.

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Monday, October 03, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Hulk Hogan Calls MMA "Barbaric" on CNBC Show
In an interview on Thursday night's episode of "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch" on CNBC, Hulk Hogan was asked about the sport of mixed martial arts. The host of the show, Donny Deutsch, seemed to know very little about the sport and referred to it as "Ultimate Fighting" instead of "MMA" or "mixed martial arts." When Deutsch asked Hogan what he thought of the sport, Hogan responded by saying that it's "pretty barbaric" and will always have a narrow audience.

Normally in any interview with someone on the WWE roster, one of WWE's PR people listening in on the conversation, and their job is to immediately shut down any questions that are deemed off-limits, which normally includes anything related to MMA or the UFC.

There are specific instructions for WWE wrestlers which say that MMA is an off-limit topic for interviews. Obviously, it's different when the interview is on a live-to-tape television show (as opposed to an interview for a newspaper article), and it's also different when the person being interviewed is Hulk Hogan.

To give you an idea of how far removed Hulk Hogan is from reality in terms of the things he says in interviews, Hogan was asked about his political ambitions in the same interview on Donny Deutsch's show. Hogan said that a professionally-run political poll that was conducted at the height of Bill Clinton's popularity showed that Hogan could have easily beaten Clinton and become the President of the United States if he were to run for president.

After the interview with Hulk Hogan concluded, Donny Deutsch told viewers not to miss next week's episodes of his show, and plugged one episode in particular that MMA fans might find interesting.

Deutsch said that his show will have an entire one-hour episode that will be dedicated to "Ultimate Fighting," as he called it. To give you an idea of how much he knows about the sport, Deutsch said, "It was banned in all 50 states, but now it's on national television, and it is brutality taken to a whole new level."

Deutsch did not say when the MMA-themed episode of The Big Idea would premiere, but it will be sometime next week, and new episodes of The Big Idea air weeknights at 10:00 PM on CNBC.

Based on Deutsch's flat-out incorrect statements right off the bat, it's almost certain that the show will have an anti-MMA theme, but this really shouldn't concern MMA fans all that much.

While a series of negative articles in an outlet like the New York Times or a popular television show could hurt the image of the sport (which could hurt the advertising rates), The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch does not have a large amount of influence or viewers. Its ratings in primetime on a nightly basis range from 0.05 to 0.2, with the average coming in at approximately 0.1.

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Saturday, October 01, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC Scheduled to Run Head-to-Head with WWE on a Weekly Basis
Spike TV's decision to put UFC programming on the schedule head-to-head with WWE Raw has now been made into a weekly endeavor, with the tentative scheduling of UFC Unleashed to go head-to-head with WWE Raw on a weekly basis.

Previously, the impending showdown between Spike TV and USA Network on October 3rd was the only head-to-head battle that was scheduled between the UFC and WWE.

However, Spike TV has now scheduled UFC Unleashed to run head-to-head with the second hour of WWE Raw on a weekly basis, as it will air in the Monday night at 10:00 PM timeslot starting on Monday, October 10th. The episode of UFC Unleashed that will air on October 10th at 10:00 PM is tentatively scheduled to be a new episode, although it could still be swapped out for a repeat at some point between now and October 10th.

The weekly airing of UFC Unleashed head-to-head with WWE Raw could be shelved if the show tanks in the ratings, or if the UFC as a whole draws a hugely disappointing rating on October 3rd. However, as it stands right now, the show's weekly airings on Monday nights at 10:00 PM will provide a UFC-themed lead-in to each week's new episode of The Ultimate Fighter on Monday nights, which will be starting on Spike TV right around the same time that WWE Raw is ending on USA Network each week.

In related news, WWE and USA Network have scheduled an additional airing of the one-hour "Best of Raw" special on Friday, October 7th at 10:00 PM. Given the circumstances involved and Vince McMahon's history, don't think for one second that it's a coincidence that WWE just happened to schedule an airing of its special head-to-head with the UFC's October 7th pay-per-view.

Here is a summary of the UFC's upcoming schedule for Ultimate Fight Night, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, and the October 3rd line-up, as well as an interesting note on a role reversal for the UFC.

Some of the information below is being reported in this article for the first time anywhere, while some of it has been previously reported on this site and is being included below so that you can access all of the scheduling information in one article.

Schedule for Ultimate Fight Night
In addition to the live airing of Ultimate Fight Night from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Monday, October 3rd, the broadcast is scheduled to replayed two times. The first time will be later that same night, in the early morning hours of October 4th, from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM.

The last scheduled airing of the October 3rd broadcast will be in primetime on Thursday, October 6th from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. This will create a UFC mini-marathon on Spike TV just one night before the UFC's October 7th pay-per-view, with a three-hour UFC programming block consisting of Ultimate Fight Night from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM, followed by an encore airing of The Ultimate Fighter from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

The next time there will be a live UFC fight special on Spike TV will be on Saturday, November 5th with the live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 2. Depending on how the UFC performs in the ratings head-to-head with WWE on October 3rd, that date could conceivably be moved back two days to Monday, November 7th, but that is not planned at this time.

As for potential dates for live "Ultimate Fight Night" specials in the future, there are three dates that Spike TV officials have memorized that you should keep in mind Those dates are February 13th, August 28th, and September 4th of 2006. With WWE Raw pre-empted on those three dates due to USA Network's coverage of the Westminster Dog Show and the US Open tennis tournament, it is extremely likely that Spike TV will run UFC specials and/or TNA pro wrestling specials on those three dates.

Schedule for The Ultimate Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter has always had a loose start time somewhere between 11:05 PM and 11:10 PM, due to the over-run segment on WWE Raw each week. With WWE Raw no longer on Spike TV, The Ultimate Fighter will have a more conventional and consistent start time of 11:00 PM every Monday night, starting on October 3rd. While the live "Ultimate Fight Night" special could run over by a few minutes on October 3rd, there will be no such issue in subsequent weeks, so The Ultimate Fighter should finally have a 100% stable start time beginning on October 10th.

The new start time for The Ultimate Fighter means that on any given week, the first five minutes of TUF will actually be going head-to-head with the final five minutes of WWE Raw, which are almost always the most heavily-watched minutes of Raw. Among fans who normally watch both WWE Raw and The Ultimate Fighter, the first five minutes of TUF are likely to have low ratings every week, with a sharp increase in TUF ratings somewhere around 11:05 PM every week when Raw goes off the air.

As previously reported by MMAWeekly, Spike TV currently plans to continue airing new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter on Monday nights at 11:00 PM, even though the show will no longer have WWE Raw as a direct lead-in.

Any given episode of TUF will debut on Monday nights at 11:00 PM, then replay on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM, and then replay once again on Saturday nights at 10:00 PM. If the Monday night airings of The Ultimate Fighter tank in the ratings without WWE Raw as a lead-in, Spike TV could always decide to switch things around so that the Saturday airing would be the new episode premiere each week, in which case the Monday and Thursday airings would be the repeats.

Also, for anyone who missed an episode or wants to get them all on tape, a marathon of The Ultimate Fighter 2's first six episodes will air later tonight (October 1st) from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Spike TV.

Schedule for UFC Unleashed
A new episode of UFC Unleashed will air this Monday night, October 3rd, at a special time of 7:00 PM on Spike TV. The episode of UFC Unleashed that premieres this Monday night will be replayed on Spike TV on Saturday, October 8th at 9:00 PM.

From that point on, Spike TV plans to air UFC Unleashed two times per week: Saturdays at 9:00 PM and Mondays at 10:00 PM. The current plan is to have the new episodes of UFC Unleashed debut on Monday nights and then replay on Saturday nights, but as with The Ultimate Fighter, that could be flip-flopped if the show tanks in the ratings on Monday nights head-to-head with WWE Raw.

Also, one important distinction between The Ultimate Fighter and UFC Unleashed is that TUF has a new episode every week for 13 consecutive weeks, whereas UFC Unleashed has a completely different set-up. Spike TV has ordered a total of 26 different episodes of UFC Unleashed, which will have their premiere dates spread out over a long period of time (or in four-week spurts, as we saw when UFC Unleashed debuted in July).

As a result of this, on most weeks UFC Unleashed will be a repeat on both Monday night and Saturday night. The only distinction is that in the event that there is a new episode of UFC Unleashed, the current plan is for it to premiere on a Monday night and then replay on the following Saturday night.

Schedule for UFC Five-Hour Programming Block on October 3rd
The only change to the schedule for the WWE vs. UFC showdown on October 3rd is that WWE has backed down from its previously announced 7:55 PM start time, if only for five minutes. WWE Raw normally starts at 9:00 PM every week, but in response to Spike TV putting the UFC head-to-head with Raw on October 3rd, WWE changed its October 3rd episode of Raw into a three-hour episode that would start at 8:00 PM.

When Spike TV countered by changing the start time of its UFC programming block on October 3rd to 8:00 PM, WWE made its start time 7:55 PM on USA Network. Last week, Spike TV changed the UFC block's start time yet again, this time to 7:00 PM, and WWE is not about to produce the first-ever four-hour episode of Raw in history. So, with no advantage to gain from the awkward 7:55 PM start time, WWE has moved its scheduled start time back to 8:00 PM.

The UFC's schedule for October 3rd remains unchanged from what it was last week. With a repeat of CSI serving as a lead-in at 6:00 PM on Spike TV, a new episode of UFC Unleashed will air at 7:00 PM, followed by a "UFC Ultimate Knockouts" special at 8:00 PM. The proverbial main event of the evening will then start at 9:00 PM with the two-hour live airing of "UFC Ultimate Fight Night," followed by a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter at 11:00 PM.

Over on USA Network, WWE Raw will run for three-plus hours from 8:00 PM until 11:05 PM, with an airing of the movie "2 Fast 2 Furious" serving as a lead-in from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Following Raw, a pre-taped "Best of Raw" special will air from 11:05 PM to 12:05 AM, head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter.

October 3rd is the only occasion on which this WWE special is scheduled to air on a Monday night, as it will not be a weekly series. One of the conditions of WWE's deal with USA Network is that other than the occasional special, USA will only air two WWE shows per week: WWE Raw on Monday nights, and "WWE AM Raw" on Saturday mornings.

The WWE weekend shows (WWE Velocity, WWE Experience, and WWE Sunday Night Heat) were all cancelled because their ratings had slipped to a 0.5 average, and USA Network was not interested in airing those shows. So, with only two weekly series covered under the WWE-USA deal, the UFC does not have to worry about WWE putting some kind of WWE-related show head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter every week in an effort to suppress TUF's ratings.

As for the ratings expectations for the October 3rd head-to-head battle, WWE is expecting Raw's rating to be somewhere between 4.0 and 4.5, given the huge amount of advertising and star power that has been poured into the show (although 3.8 to 4.2 might be a more realistic goal).

Meanwhile, Spike TV is hoping that Ultimate Fight Night will be able to draw something close to the previous Ultimate Fight Night ratings (1.5 to 1.9), even though this time around it will be going head-to-head with WWE Raw. If Ultimate Fight Night's ratings are between 1.0 and 1.4, that would be considered respectable given the head-to-head competition with WWE, whereas anything under 1.0 would be considered embarrassing for Spike TV.

Role Reversal for the UFC
It wasn't so long ago that WWE Raw was the established, proven ratings draw that Spike TV hoped would provide a quality lead-in for the UFC, which was the unproven commodity that had yet to establish itself as a ratings draw on national cable television.

Less than a year later, the UFC finds itself in the exact opposite situation. Now, the UFC is the established ratings draw, and Spike TV is hoping to use the UFC as a quality lead-in for the NWA-TNA pro wrestling promotion, which is still an unproven commodity that has yet to establish itself as a ratings draw.

The weekly pro wrestling show TNA Impact debuts on Spike TV later tonight (October 1st), and there is not a single time that it will air in the forseeable future without the UFC to provide it with a strong lead-in. TNA Impact is scheduled to debut a new episode every Saturday night at 11:00 PM, with an Ultimate Fighter repeat providing a strong lead-in at 10:00 PM. Each weekly episode of TNA Impact is scheduled to be replayed every Monday night at midnight, with a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter providing a strong lead-in at 11:00 PM.

It's the exact same situation that existed in early 2005, only the UFC is now playing the role of WWE (the established ratings draw), while TNA is playing the role of the UFC (the unproven ratings commodity).

Spike TV is hoping that TNA Impact can average a 1.0 rating, but that might be a bit of a stretch given the fact that the highest rating TNA ever drew in its one year on Fox Sports Net was a 0.4 overall rating. TNA hopes to attract UFC fans by using Tito Ortiz, who will be a prominently pushed member of the TNA roster starting with the Spike TV debut show on October 1st.

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