WWE's SmackDown makes broadcast TV debut

Photo of Paul Schott

STAMFORD — WWE steps into the broadcast TV ring tonight.

SmackDown, one of its two flagship shows, will debut on Fox at 8 p.m., officially making its move from its longtime home on cable’s USA Network.

The show from Staples Center in Los Angeles will feature Superstars including Becky Lynch and Roman Reigns, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and other greats from earlier years are set to return, to launch a series that garnered the company a billion-dollar, five-year deal with Fox.

Airing since 1999, SmackDown ranks as the second-longest-running weekly episodic cable show in U.S. primetime TV history, after WWE’s other cornerstone program, Monday Night Raw. The latter show is staying on USA Network.

SmackDown has aired more original episodes than some of the most-popular TV series, including The Simpsons, Gunsmoke, Lassie and Monday Night Football, according to WWE.

WWE officials credit SmackDown with helping to launch the careers of some of their most-successful Superstars, including Johnson, John Cena, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Bella Twins.

At the same time, the company hopes SmackDown’s move to Fox will help turn around a disappointing run of results that has included two-straight quarters of declining revenues.

In the second quarter of this year, U.S. TV ratings for Raw and SmackDown, respectively, decreased by 14 percent and 11 percent.