Looks like the ‘Road to WrestleMania’ ended way too soon for ABS-CBN Sports.
In an unexpected development, WWE programming was pulled out of the ABS-CBN Sports + Action channel at the beginning of March, and were replaced by either the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UEFA Champions League, Pinoy Pride and Top Rank Boxing, or the NBA. The pullout of WWE programs by ABS-CBN Sports comes in three years after Solar Entertainment’s Jack TV decided to cease airing all WWE programs.
As expected, some wrestling fans were angered by ABS-CBN’s decision to cancel its broadcast of the WWE. However, the reaction only paled in comparison to Solar’s pullout three years earlier, where an overwhelming majority of wrestling fans balked at the one-hour international format of Raw, the absence of SmackDown and Main Event (both currently airing on FOX Philippines), and the delayed broadcast of WWE pay-per-views on the Kapamilya’s UHF channel.
The absence of WWE programming on ABS-CBN Sports may have stemmed from the fact that the Vince McMahon-owned company recently established the WWE Network after the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. As many wrestling fans know, the new network is expected to carry every WWE pay-per-view beginning with WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. Because of that, ABS-CBN Sports may find it difficult to even broadcast the upcoming WrestleMania 30 in both SkyCable and Sports + Action, considering the already complicated situation.
Should ABS-CBN Sports officially close the door on the WWE, Fox needs to step up. While the channel already has SmackDown and Main Event along with other supplementary programs like Vintage, Afterburn and Bottomline, what Fox needs at this point are both Raw and the pay-per-views in order to satisfy the demands of loyal wrestling viewers. If that happens, perhaps a return to a two or three-hour format for Raw and free live pay-per-views is in order, provided that Fox airs WWE programs on the same week as the U.S.
The loss of WWE should not be a big deal for Kapamilya viewers. After all, there is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, another form of combat sports which is just as entertaining, but without the scripted excess that is featured in professional wrestling. However, it remains to be seen whether or not free TV will once again accept the WWE.