Monday, July 27, 2015

Batten Down the Hatches: SummerSlam's Going Four Hours

Undertaker's entrance should take up a good portion of the extra hour added to SummerSlam this year
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The rumors that abounded for the last week have been confirmed to WWE's distributor in Italy, of all places. SummerSlam will be a four-hour telecast this year. The pre-show will start at 6 PM ET, and the main telecast will begin at 7 PM, as announced by Luca Franchini via a Facebook post. Franchini is the main WWE announcer for Sky Italia, which airs WWE events in said country. The increase by an hour makes SummerSlam the second four-hour extravaganza on WWE's calendar this year, the first being WrestleMania.

The extension appears to be the latest in a string of moves to give the event more of a WrestleMania-like prestige. It has already been coupled by a live NXT special in the same Barclays Center, and big, part-time names have either been announced (Undertaker) or are rumored to be booked (Sting). The fourth hour will do more to give it that "Mania of the Summer" feel, although I suspect the addition of time won't necessarily add more time for matches. Undertaker will definitely get an elaborate, time-consuming entrance, and I bet he won't be the only one.

The news won't dissuade people from accusing WWE of overkilling its product. The three hours of RAW, two of Smackdown, two C-shows, an hour for the separate NXT narrative, no fewer than two hour-long reality shows, and the various pre-and-post shows that go along with these kinds of events gives WWE's output the kind of saturation that might kill showrunners in other forms of scripted media aneurysms just thinking about it. However, people out there at least attempt to consume all of it, God bless 'em, and if the footage helps sell subs or boost ratings, then WWE is not going to stop. A four-hour spectacle for the second biggest event of the year falls in line with that MO.

Speaking of NXT, the latest in WWE using that developmental/premium arm to wage war against Ring of Honor has manifested itself in the latest set of dates announced. NXT will be hitting the east-central Texas loop September 17 through 19 in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, respectively, not coincidentally at the same time ROH will be in the area. The indie-turned-corporate-owned promotion will set up shop in San Antonio on September 18 and 19 for a pay-per-view telecast of All-Star Extravaganza 7 and a second show that presumably will be reserved for television tapings. If any doubt remained on WWE's intentions on smoking out ROH and sending it back to the stone age, this announcement of dueling dates should dispel it completely.

Also, if you take a gander at Destination America's TV schedule Flash-thingy and scroll over to Wednesday at 8 PM, you won't find ROH's television show there. The slot is now occupied by Bigfoot in America, and the 11 PM replay that airs after TNA Impact is now the first-run on DA for the weekly show. For DA to lose such favor with the program it brought in to replace (or if you believe the fringe, "stimulate/challenge") TNA so quickly either speaks to the network as too impatient for its own good, or that it's easily compromised by bigger money. The implication is that WWE had a talk with the outlet and maybe flashed some money at it to knock ROH down a peg or two. Either way, WWE appears to be showing more of a killer instinct with less of an established opponent than its war with World Championship Wrestling in the '90s. Honestly, if ROH survives the year intact with its same momentum, I will be shocked. I hope I'm wrong though. WWE pervading the scene like Sauron-with-the-One-Ring is bad for everyone, no matter how good NXT is or how much money it can pay your favorite wrestlers.

But hey, SummerSlam's gonna be four hours, so yeah.