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Gym Rescues, Skullbusters, and the value of classic fights

By Zach Arnold | August 11, 2014

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It is very interesting to watch WWE take shots at UFC’s programming value by essentially declaring that the repeat value of a pro-wrestling match is much more significant than the repeat value of watching an old UFC or boxing fight. I don’t doubt the power of watching old wrestling classics. I think a lot more of today’s wrestlers should be involved in tape study.

However, WWE is underestimating somewhat the value of re-airing old MMA and boxing fights. The Tuesday Night Fights re-branding lives on two decade after the franchise was ended by USA Network. Watch a Regional Sports Network and you’re bound to see some old Tuesday Fight Nights material. The same with boxing matches from the last few years. The UFC has turned the art of re-airing old fights into a cottage industry with the shows they aired on Spike and now on Fox Sports 1. Their DVD business isn’t hot but DVD biz isn’t solid unless you’re like Netflix. Fight Pass has done steady numbers so far, although fee increases in the future will sap the subscriber numbers. For all of the power of WWE’s tape archives, their Network subscriber numbers have reached a ceiling of around 700,000. The only hope they have is through international growth.

There is one thing that is not in doubt, however, and that is the appeal of combat sports mega stars in the television and movie business. The Rock is what everyone, including Ronda Rousey, aspires to be. Dave Batista. And you can certainly add Steve Austin and Randy Couture to that list.

Two reality TV shows, Gym Rescue and Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Ranch, are absurdly entertaining television programs to keep an eye on. Austin’s show got renewed for a second season and has prime potential to be a franchise player for years to come in syndication if they reach 100 episodes. Gym Rescue, a knock off of Spike’s Bar Rescue franchise series, is as Randy Couture-ish of a Randy Couture reality show as you could come up with. The show fits him like a glove.

The debut of Gym Rescue aired Sunday night on Spike. Nice timing with Expendables 3 coming out. If you’ve watched Jon Taffer on Bar Rescue, then you know the format that Gym Rescue cribs from. Randy Couture & Frank Shamrock are perfect together. They don’t insult the clients who want to get gym memberships to lose weight. They stress those individuals as people the gym owners should be making sales with. Spike found the absolutely perfect stereotypical gym owner for their first show. The kind of guy who build a homemade gym on a business model of obstacle course training, which is why he’s losing $1,500 a month. The kind of guy who sees an overweight person and gives him a body fat tester in the first five minutes before encouraging them to use a rock-climbing wall. It is so Spike-ish.

The show was better than I expected. I think they could do a better, tighter show with a 30-minute format than hour-long format but I suspect the numbers will turn out to be fair. Randy Couture made sure to retweet everyone on the #GymRescue hashtag. His celebration about the potential concept of a Strip (Joint) Rescue was perfect.

Gym Rescue can only hope to reach the annals of the Skullbuster.

The first time I watched Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Ranch show on CMT, I was appalled. It was so in-your-face. It was so Austin-ish that I thought it was a parody of Austin’s character. Then I watched another episode. And another episode after that. This show is truly like American Gladiators meets Texan ingenuity meets Strongest Man meets boot camp.

Austin, of course, makes the show. It is interesting to see the different dynamics between the way he interacts with male contestants versus female contestants. The Skullbuster is the greatest reality TV invention known to man. Jim Ross is right — the ladies competing to beat the Skullbuster are about 100 times more athletic and charismatic than anyone on WWE’s current roster.

If the viewer reaction is to be taken seriously, Austin has a hit on his hands here. If Randy Couture and Frank Shamrock can attract some numbers as well, the doors will continue to open for those in the combat sports world looking for a career after their fighting career. Not everyone can perfect the art of the beer commercial like Chuck Liddell.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, WWE, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “Gym Rescues, Skullbusters, and the value of classic fights”

  1. Alan Conceicao says:

    Personally, I don’t think the issue is that wrestling underestimates the value of classic sports programming as much as it overvalues the interest of the public in watching old wrestling. Why would anyone in their right mind believe that teenage or 20something fans really want to see grainy old World Class Sportatorium matches from 1980? The WWE needs original programming to draw in people, and that costs more money than a posting up stuff from tape library.

  2. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    Well, after 20 years we can see that the original claim that MMA teaches respect and honor is complete BS, as well the claim that MMA fighters suffer less damage is BS.

    We have a long list of MMA dirt bags just from the last month who seemingly exist only to eat, insult people to fight them, praise the great non existent one above, commit crimes and eliminate waste.
    With between 1/2-9/10 of fighters on PED. The non PED fighters like Tim and Luke are just as disrespectful as the rest and spend their time whining about other fighters instead of training harder or just quitting like Bocek because of the PED problem.
    So because of the rising tide of scum in all aspects of mma now I’m done with american MMA/stand and bang until the Diaz fight. Hats off to Diaz for being a real person who admits fighting sucks and he does it for the money.
    Since i’m not a TV show or wrestling fan, I’ll be watching some one fc every couple months until then.

    • hickson says:

      Im not sure where you got idea that mma equals respect and honour.
      CERTAIN martial arts do but mma is not a martial art. This is just mindless PR.
      And even then in the individual arts it depends.
      Our dojo and sport is very much into it and we even take troubled youth.

  3. Omar says:

    For christ’s sake Zach:

    “For all of the power of WWE’s tape archives, their Network subscriber numbers have reached a ceiling of around 700,000.”

    They lost subscribers since the initial push, they gained 150K SINCE Wrestlemania, they lost a few subscribers through pay pal, but they are gaining people. The problem isn’t the Network, the problem is the programming. They’re still trying to make the “PG era” work, and it really never has. They also just lost CM Punk and Daniel Bryan two of their three biggest regulars, so not for nothing.

    I know you think PPV will be around for forever (which is insane) but the WWE Network is the future of distribution, it’s easier to get more people to pay a little bit than it is to get a few people to pay a lot.

    Mayweather may have broken the all time revenue record, but Showtime probably lost money on two of his three fights. Obviously Showtime isn’t regretting the deal because of what Mayweather does for the platform, but still…2/3rds of his fights on Showtime haven’t broken 1M buys. Maybe even 3/4 in September, who knows. You think Ronda Rousey is this huge star? The last fight she headlined on her own (with Daniel Cormier and Rory MacDonald as support) did 340K buys. 168 did 1M buys but 164, 165, 166 combined didn’t even combine to 1M buys. Jones/Cormier probably gets around 1M buys, and yeah you and Meltzer are right, if you have the right fight a PPV can work. The problem is “the right fight” comes around rarely and if you’re a business like the UFC (or the WWE) you have 11 months out of the year to sell fights too, you put on too many garbage events in those you kill the brand and you hurt the right fight. How many fans stopped watching MMA after getting tired for paying for shitty PPVs in the 2010-2011 frame? Yeah, too many.


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