According to an official press release issued by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and the ION Televesion Network, the debut of WWE’s latest prime-time weekly series, “Main Event,” was a huge success. The one hour program, which was headlined by the Champion vs. Champion Main Event pitting WWE Champion CM Punk and World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus as opponents for the first time ever, garnered closed to 1.4 million viewers while dominating several key demographics. “Main Event,” which premiered during the 8 p.m. hour, brought ION its biggest male audience in over a year and wound up toppling total male viewership for ESPN and ESPN 2’s coverage of the final day of the Major League Baseball season.
Brandon Burgess, CEO of ION Media Networks, commented on the success stating “Fans of the WWE are passionate and seem to have a knack for finding their favorite Superstars wherever they live. Needless to say, we are particularly pleased that WWE has found a new home on ION Television, and we congratulate our new partner in the success of the premiere.” WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon also chimed in, proclaiming that “We expect our fans will make WWE Main Event the number one show on the network as they have done for WWE programs with all of our other TV partners.” The series has been promoted ferociously by WWE over the last several weeks, so the success shouldn’t come as a surprise and while ION was quick to tout male viewership figures, it’s the 518,000 women who tuned in to the premiere of the show that goes a long way in proving WWE’s widespread appeal.
Will WWE be able to keep it up? It’s not the first time they’ve launched a mid-week series in between their flagship telecast Raw on Monday and Smackdown! on Friday. In 2006, WWE launced their own version of “ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling)” on Tuesday nights to similar success, but WWE’s interest in “ECW” seemed to wane after time. Most top WWE stars were kept far away from their “ECW” telecasts and “ECW” became a proving ground for brand-new, up-and-coming hopefuls. The entire run lasted less than four years with ratings dwindling near its end. WWE decided to replace “ECW” with “NXT,” a brand new program that took the concept of “ECW” quite literally to the extreme. “NXT” featured the WWE’s equivalent of rookies trying to break into the big time with guidance from WWE’s veteran stars, but shortly after ratings had dwindled and “NXT” moved exclusively to WWE’s own website for streaming. Their most recent attempt at trying to establish a third prime-time series came with “WWE Superstars” which debuted on the WGN network in 2009. Upon its initial launch, “WWE Superstars” featured some of the most highly regarded stars in the entire WWE, but it wasn’t long after that the top stars disappeared and “WWE Superstars” became irrelevant and went the way of “NXT.”