Later tonight, the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will battle it out on the gridiron during Super Bowl LIV. Millions will be watching around the world and, as a wrestling fan, I can’t help but wonder one thing: why aren’t we getting Halftime Heat again?
As a quick reminder, WWE Halftime Heat has happened thrice in the past. The original incarnation was January 31, 1999 when Mankind beat The Rock in an Empty Arena Match to win the WWF Championship during Super Bowl XXXIII. The following year, there was just an interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Then, he concept went away for nearly two decades.
But last year, during Super Bowl LIII, it was revived with a match that took place at the WWE Performance Center featuring NXT superstars Aleister Black, Ricochet and Velveteen Dream against Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
This year? Nothing. Not a peep. Not even any rumors or speculation that it would return, from what I’ve seen. And I think that’s a mistake.
The Fox Relationship
The Super Bowl is airing on Fox and now that they are officially involved with WWE after SmackDown’s transition last October, they have an investment in each other. By all means, Fox should be trying to bring viewers to Friday nights to watch WWE’s programming, as it’s a win-win situation, rather than if WWE was only associated with USA Network like in the past.
Of course, I expect there to be promotional material throughout the night to remind people that SmackDown is part of the Fox family in the hopes to bring attention to the brand. But a quick mention a handful of times from the commentators reminding people to “tune in to WWE Friday Night SmackDown every Friday at 8pm ET” is not going to matter much.
Worse still, if there are more instances of Fox outright crapping on the product, like what happened in the past, those half-assed plugs could actually do more harm than good. WWE doesn’t need Rey Mysterio being equated to Nacho Libre. That isn’t going to tune casual Super Bowl viewers in to SmackDown. It’s going to perpetuate the idea that it’s “not real sports” and something to laugh at. “Did you see that match the other day where they made the one guy eat dog food? Ha. Silly stupid rasslin’ stuff. How dumb. Anyway, this is what the Chiefs need to do to get a few more yards…”
I can guarantee you there won’t be some groundswell of ratings support next Friday if all WWE gets out of the Super Bowl and Fox association is Terry Bradshaw and company mentioning how they used to like to watch Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat decades ago, as none of them are going to be on the modern programming—especially if they focus on those who have passed away, like Andre the Giant. At most, older fans will reminisce that they used to watch WWE “when it was good” and scoff at the newer characters as people they don’t know or care about, and a few seconds later, they’ll be back to watching the game and will have forgotten completely about WWE.
Now, I know what some people must be thinking. Why would Fox want to have a Halftime Heat show that would take viewers away from the halftime show and hurt their ratings? Plus, there’s no way they would ever have wanted to bump the musical act idea from the halftime show and replace it with a WWE performance, as professional wrestling is nowhere near as much of a mainstream interest. It’s an unarguable fact that more people will want to tune in to see Jennifer Lopez and Shakira than would give a damn about even the most popular WWE Superstars like Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch.
But what about FS1?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re interested in watching the Super Bowl, you’re going to be watching it on Fox, not FS1. Any material they air on that channel during the Super Bowl halftime slot will probably be the exact same analysis that has been going on constantly leading up to this point, every second of the game, and will happen after the game. Maybe, there could have been an alternative.
Let’s just say you’re watching the game, but you have no interest in the musical performances. I’m far from the best example to judge from, as I’m not only not a football fan and couldn’t care less who wins this game, but I also will have zero qualms about missing Jennifer Lopez and Shakira sing songs that I don’t find catchy with a bunch of colorful nonsense going on to make me think its more entertaining just because it’s flashy and loud.
But, at the very least, there have been years where I did watch the game in full and the halftime show, or maybe just one or the other, and I know I’m not the only person who has done that. Some people will tune in ONLY to halftime. Others will spend that time in the bathroom, getting food or stretching their legs.
Maybe you’re someone who is super into sports and you have no interest in the musical performances and just can’t wait to see some more action. Wouldn’t it be possible you’d switch over to FS1 to watch a WWE match that will take place as a sports-oriented alternative to the music? Hell, you might even become a lifelong fan with that one match if it is good enough to catch your attention.
WWE could have done the exact same setup as last year in that people could have wrestled at the Performance Center. In an ideal world, there could have been even more to it than that, actually. WWE could have made it an actual event with more matches leading up to that point and had a bigger venue (albeit not a stadium or something, naturally) and timed it out so the one featured match would take place around 8 p.m. or whenever halftime is.
The whole show could have aired on FS1, which should have some people familiar with due to WWE Backstage having its home there. Or, maybe only the halftime section would be on there. Or, maybe all of it would have aired on WWE Network after the fact. That’s up to the network and WWE hashing that out. 90% of it being a house show for just those involved in the stands would still be okay.
During the first half, there could be promotion for how during halftime, a live WWE match will take place over on FS1. If you don’t want to watch Shakira and Lopez, tune in to that. Then, people could switch over, Fox’s ratings won’t likely go too drastically down (and even if they did, it would be them bumping up the FS1 numbers, so that’s okay, rather than just flipping the channel to a competitor). WWE would time out the match to coincide with halftime and when that was about to wrap up, the match ends and everyone goes back to watching the game. In the meantime, WWE’s promoted SmackDown as well as Raw and NXT, the WWE Network, the upcoming TakeOver: Portland and Super ShowDown and Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania events, and so on.
What is the Match?
As far as what match could happen, that’s up for fantasy booking. Obviously, WWE would be better off showing people some featured stars who can look larger than life and captivate them with not only their characters, but also their performances. This wouldn’t be a time to put Shorty G vs. Sheamus that nobody is invested in, nor would it be smart to put Roderick Strong against Tyler Bate, no matter how good they are.