Only one day of the week will make clear sense to show AEW Dark on TNT. Let me explain.
AEW announced last week they reached an extension agreement with WarnerMedia and TNT to show Dynamite until 2023, with an option of an additional year. Tony Khan and the team are said to be “beyond thrilled”. This is great news for the company in many ways and proves there is a market for a challenger to NXT.
Adding a second show will do wonders for the diverse roster that seems to be expanding weekly. We’ve seen new faces from all professional wrestling organizations around the world join since October of 2019 when Dynamite first aired.
AEW already has a second show, technically, airing their pre and post-dynamite (dark) matches, appropriately named AEW Dark. This one hour YouTube show gives some of the future stars a television spotlight while providing a highlights package for feuds and upcoming matchups.
And AEW Dark isn’t showing bad numbers on YouTube either. With an average of 300,000 viewers, another 20,000 or so watching the en Espanol telecast, Dark has potential and might be the show AEW needs on TNT.
And TNT’s president mentioned that Dark would be on TNT “…in the near future”.
The Non-Negotiable days
So, what day would make the most sense? We can assume Mondays and Wednesdays are off the table, for obvious reasons.
Monday because of RAW, and quite frankly, even Dynamite isn’t ready for that slot.
Wednesday before or after Dynamite is a hard pass for me since it does nothing for the promotion of the show or its next show. There would also be a full week without any AEW, and as I mention later, it’ll be imperative for wrestling content to be spread by just a few days, not a whole week. I’d also take Sunday night off the table since it would be big competition with WWE PPV and during the day with the NFL during the season.
The possible (but unlikely) days
Tuesday could help spike Dynamite’s numbers since it’ll be promoting the next night’s show. This is the current programming format for Dark on YouTube. I like this potential move as it sets the tone against NXT, which is relying heavily on social media for their matchups or special appearances.
Sure, WWE will promote live on RAW, but that still gives AEW an edge to counter-program on Tuesday. It also has to compete with the NBA and NBA playoffs on TNT. I don’t think AEW has a chance to overtake that slot.
Thursday helps continue the momentum for AEW on back to back nights. For anyone who forgot to watch or record on Wednesday, no fear, Thursdays give you something to look forward to. Thursday also sets the tone for the following week’s promotion.
However, this leaves a good 5 days before the next AEW show and doesn’t help when promoting the next show with last-minute changes. This also would favor NXT as they now have the upper hand in promoting NXT (see Tuesday). Oh, and NBA Playoffs are also on Thursday. Out of all the available days in the week, Thursdays seem to be the worst possible day to air Dark.
The best days
If wrestling fans need more content, they’d like to see them just a few days apart (at least, I believe so). WWE does a great job of spreading the days of their television shows to just about every other day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday). And so, if AEW Dark followed in this direction, Friday would seem to make the most sense.
Friday seems to be the general census as the best day for Dark as it follows the winning formula for gently spaced days between content, allows for promotion and semi-lead in before their big event/PPV (Saturdays), and has the possibility for later night airings when the 18-34 demo might have the next day off.
But Friday, of course, has a big problem attached to it. Having to compete against Smackdown on FOX will not allow it to reach the heightened success it has against NXT on Wednesdays. To be strategic, it would have to air an hour before or after Smackdown. Plus, currently, TNT puts on a blockbuster movie during the 8 PM EST time slot on Fridays, which I don’t think will change just for a one-hour wrestling show. Putting Dark at the 10-11 PM time slot would also go against what their show is intended for – to promote and highlight their future stars and programming. Anytime after 9 PM would do AEW a disservice.
This leaves one last day. Saturday does a few great things for AEW. For starters, it fits the formula of having the shows spread apart just enough to keep the momentum going for wrestling fans. Saturday doesn’t compete with any WWE programming aside from any Network specials and NXT Takeover events (but even then, the rumor might be for Takeover events to be on Sunday), and helps drive promotion on a night open for that 18-34 demo to be home and up later to watch “live”. But Saturday also does one BIG thing for the company. It will drive promotion as their lead-in for their PPV events which are also on Saturday nights.
The elephant in the room …
Now, before you go and comment about UFC, let’s address it. Unless the early prelims are your thing, most fans will watch the main card, starting at 10 PM EST. Plenty of time for Dark to air at 7 PM Eastern (an hour before an AEW PPV, and an hour before prelims with UFC).
However, this isn’t even where I’d position Dark to air on Saturdays. In fact, there is only one timeslot on Saturday I’d position AEW Dark on TNT. If Cody and AEW’s executive team has shown us something the last few months, they aren’t afraid of mimicking World Championship Wrestling. And that’s a GOOD thing. So, that’s right, the 6 PM start time is where I’d show AEW Dark.
This does 5 BIG things for the company
- Builds excitement and energy to lead in to their PPV (if applicable).
- Challenges no other wrestling show for maximum exposure.
- It doesn’t necessarily challenge UFC’s preliminary or main card while sharing some of the UFC/Wrestling crowd who’s hungry for an appetizer before the main card.
- It provides nostalgia for WCW fans and/or fans of WCW Saturday Night.
- Give wrestling fans something to look forward to EVERY Saturday night.
In my opinion, Saturday makes the most sense for AEW Dark to air. And having it at 6 PM is all the better. Although, I’d love to see it on TBS at 6:05 PM EST. But, eh, we can’t have it all. Lastly, let’s just change the name to AEW Saturday Night. I mean, come on, it’s only logical at this point.
John Scafide is an avid pro-wrestling fan of over 30 years. He loves to tell the story of his wedding and how it was officiated by “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase in 2012. You can reach me on Twitter @JohnScafide