For years, the WWE, WCW and GFW Impact air more than just their in-ring flagship shows (Raw and SmackDown in WWE’s case, Nitro and Thunder(?) in WCW’s case and GFW Impact Wrestling in Impact’s case), and in this article, I want to take you back to the (mostly) defunct lower card shows that used to be on television but got canned for any reason
As a side-note: The Original Networks listed in the article are mostly US, but alternate runs in the UK and other international areas will be detailed as well.
WWF Superstars of Wrestling (WWF Superstars in later years, Maple Leaf Wrestling in Canada)
Run: 1984 – 2001 (US), 1986 – 2002 (UK)
Original Networks: Syndicated (Debut until 1996), USA Network (1996 until 2000) and TNN (2000 until 2001)
This show used to be the A show of the WWF before Raw got on the scene. Before replacing WWF Championship Wrestling, Superstars of Wrestling used to be a weekly recap show hosted by Vince McMahon/Gene Okerlund and Lord Alfred Hayes in the first two years, but replaced Championship Wrestling as the syndicated A show in September 1986. During the period of 1986 – 1993, Superstars of Wrestling is where all angles began/ended and much of the non-PPV title changes took place (Although they would be taped in advance). By 1992, the show got rebranded to WWF Superstars because of Albert Patterson, who won a lawsuit against the WWF about the “Superstars of Wrestling” phrase. By 1993 the status of the show went down because of Raw replacing Superstars as the definitive A-show, but still was the A-show for syndication. In September 1996, Superstars got off syndication and replaced WWF Action Zone on the USA Network and slowly changed it’s format to a recap show for Raw and eventually SmackDown, retaining that format when moving to TNN in September 2000. The show got discontinued in the US by August 2001.
There were more local variations as well. Canada (as Maple Leaf Wrestling) was a localized variant that promoted shows in Canada instead of the US and occasionally aired exclusive matches taped from Toronto. The UK aired Superstars longer than the US, ceasing broadcast in December 2002 in favor of Heat.
WWF All Star Wrestling
Run: 1971 – 1986
Original Networks: Syndicated (Entire run)
All-Star Wrestling is the first real syndicated B-show of the WWF. Most of the matches featured upper card and midcard wrestlers defeating jobbers and jobber vs jobber matches, but at times had a “featured” match between established talent. All Star Wrestling ended in 1986 in favor of Wrestling Challenge.
WWF Wrestling Challenge (WWF Cavalcade in Canada)
Run: 1986 – 1996 (1997 internationally), 1987 – 1988 (ITV run in UK)
Original Networks: Syndicated (Entire run)
WWF Wrestling Challenge replaced All-Star Wrestling as the syndicated B show of WWF in September 1986. Just like All-Star, Wrestling Challenge mostly featured established talent defeating jobbers and jobber vs jobber matches along with promoting local WWF events. Wrestling Challenge did have talk show segments like The Snake Pit (Which debuted as a feature of the show to counterpart Pipers Pit on Superstars), The Brother Love Show and The Barber Shop amongst others. One title change did happen on Wrestling Challenge where Money Inc. defeated The Natural Disasters to win the World Tag Team Championship and the breakup of The Rockers also happened on Wrestling Challenge. On September 1996, Wrestling Challenge got discontinued in the US.
Much like Superstars, Wrestling Challenge had it’s own local versions. Canada repackaged it as Cavalcade, but the only other difference there is exclusive Canadian-made interviews. Sky 1 and ITV aired Wrestling Challenge in the UK, with ITV only airing it for little less than a year and Sky airing it until 1997 to repackage it as WWF Shotgun Challenge.
Run: 1993 – 1996, 1993 – 1995 in the UK
Original Networks: USA Network (Entire run), Sky One (UK)
WWF Mania was the weekend recap show of the WWF with an exclusive wrestling match or two. The show also had a call-in portion in it’s first year and hosted the 1994 Slammy Awards. In 1996, Mania got discontinued in favor of call-in show LiveWire on USA while being rebranded for Superstation WGN as WWF Blast-Off.
The UK had a localized version of Mania until 1995, when Raw premiered in that area on Sky Sports. During that time, it exclusively summarized Raw for the UK viewers. It also released as a VHS tape in 1994 with an exclusive ten-man tag match.
WWF Shotgun Saturday Night (WWF Shotgun Challenge/Shotgun as family-friendly remake, WWF New York on NY local stations and 11:Alive as a general airing of NY)
Run: 1997 – 1999 (Shotgun Saturday Night), 1997 – 1998 (WWF NY), 1998 (11:Alive)
Original Networks: Syndicated (Entire run, 1998 for 11:Alive), NY local channels (WWF NY run)
WWF Shotgun Saturday night began as an edgier counterpart of Raw on Saturday nights by airing live in unconventional locations such as clubs and stations in New York City (Which included Triple H getting a tombstone piledriver on an escalator and Marlena stripping to distract Goldusts opponent amongst others). After six weeks of that format though, that theme dropped and Shotgun got taped before or after Raw went live, replacing Superstars as the B-show of WWF programming until 1999, when replaced in favor of Jakked.
Shotgun Saturday Night also had a ton of alternative versions. WWF Shotgun Challenge (Later rebranded as WWF Shotgun) was a more family-friendly version of Shotgun Saturday Night and Shotgun matches also aired on international versions of WWF Superstars. Shotgun ended at the same time as Shotgun Saturday Night, when it got replaced by Metal. Local stations in New York aired Shotgun as WWF New York in it’s first two years, airing at midnight and showing matches in different order before getting rebranded as 11:Alive which had less references to New York before it’s ending in 1998. It’s last episode was a preview of WrestleMania XV.
Run: 1998 – 2008
Original Networks: USA Network (Beginning until 2000), MTV (2000 – 2003), TNN/Spike TV (2003 – 2005) and WWE.com (2005 until end)
WWF Heat began in 1998 as the supplementary show of Monday Night Raw, continuing storylines from the previous week’s episode of Raw and promoting the next Raw. Heat would also serve as a PPV pre-show including an exclusive match (Much like the PPV Kickoff shows now). Heat would mostly be aired live in it’s first run (Or occasionally taped before Raw) and continued after originally being signed for only six episodes due to popularity. After SmackDown debuted in 1999, Heat reduced in status as it’s C show, with even having a small period of being a recap-only show after SmackDown’s premiere, but reverting to a more match based show after a few weeks while being taped before SmackDown. Before moving to MTV, Heat had occasional special airings, such as Halftime Heat which included Rock vs Mankind in an Empty Arena match and Jerry Lynn winning the Light Heavyweight Championship before Backlash. After moving to MTV, the format got tweaked a little by airing it’s interviews from WWF New York (WWF’s own nightclub/restaurant) where wrestlers and other personalities came for interviews. After the Brand Extension, the WWF New York format got canned and non-PPV episodes of Heat taped before Raw to serve as it’s lower card show while featuring highlights of Raw. The show went from MTV to TNN/Spike TV by March 2003 where Heat stayed until WWE’s contract went up with Viacom. After Raw transferred back to USA Network, Heat did not get picked up by that channel so WWE aired it’s remaining episodes on it’s website for US viewers while still being aired internationally until May 2008, when international broadcasters replaced Heat with Vintage Collection and didn’t continue on WWE.com. The live PPV pre-show format discontinued after Backlash 2006 when PPV stations aired Heat for the half hour before the PPV after WWE left Viacom.
Heat also had a localized version in the United Kingdom which started in 2000 on Channel 4 as a magazine type show that recapped Raw and SmackDown and aired Heat matches as well, even having some matches exclusively aired on Channel 4 when Heat still got taped before SmackDown on PPV weeks (The latter not being exclusive to the UK while other countries also taped pre-SmackDown/pre-Raw matches on PPV weeks, even after Channel 4 stopped airing Heat). The Channel 4 run ended in December 2001 after getting it’s time slot moved around and would get the same version as the US from January 2003 until it’s end on Sky Sports.
Run: 1999 – 2002
Original Networks: Syndicated (Entire run)
WWF Jakked/Metal was a continuation of WWF Shotgun’s pre-Raw taped matches and Raw/SD recaps on syndicated television in the US and Sky One in the UK. The only difference between Jakked and Metal was the difference in timeslots and commentary teams. From April 2002 to it’s end in May, Jakked/Metal taped before SmackDown and was briefly shown as the brand’s B-show just like Heat was to Raw. Jakked got replaced by Raw recap show Bottom Line while Metal got replaced by SmackDown recap show After Burn. The pre-SmackDown taped matches went to Velocity.
Run: 2002 – 2006
Original Networks: TNN/Spike TV (Beginning until 2005), WWE.com (2005 until end)
WWE Velocity was the continuation of pre-SmackDown taped matches of Jakked/Metal, serving as the counterpart of Heat. Velocity became more known by featuring mostly Cruiserweights (Including CW title defences) and lower card wrestlers. Velocity switched from Spike to WWE.com in the US because USA Network didn’t pick Velocity up while it stayed on .com until it’s end in 2006 in favor of ECW (Which would replace Velocity as the pre-SmackDown taped/live show).
Run: 2009 – 2016
Original Networks: WGN America (Beginning until 2011), WWE.com (2011-2012 with a few short hiatuses), Hulu (2012-2014), WWE Network (2014 until end)
WWE Superstars was the lowercard show of the main roster featuring the Raw and SmackDown brands (And the ECW brand until it’s ending in 2010). Although the show had a hot start with matches such as Shane McMahon vs Randy Orton, Edge vs Kingston and Kingston vs Hardy vs MVP for the US Title, it quickly dwindled down to featuring the lower card of both brands. Episodes would get taped before Raw and SmackDown aired until 2012 when it changed to only taping before Raw. In 2011, the show stopped airing on WGN America and moved to WWE.com. In 2012, the format changed a bit after moving to Hulu to include more recaps of Raw (While still retaining two exclusive matches), a format that continued (Even after moving to the WWE Network) until the show got discontinued. After the Brand Extension of 2016, Superstars became the B-show of the Raw brand until it’s end in 2016, where it gets discontinued in favor of 205Live for the WWE Network, but the pre.
WWE Main Event
Run: 2012 – present
Original Networks: ION Television (Beginning until 2014), WWE Network (First run from 2014 until 2015, now only airs on delay), Hulu (From 2015 onwards)
WWE Main Event is the only non-main/divisional in-ring show that is currently running. Beginning as a third Interbrand show after Superstars went full low-card, it’s matches were well hyped. Like Superstars, Main Event had a hot start with matches such as CM Punk vs Sheamus (In it’s first episode even), Big Show vs Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston winning the IC Title from The Miz, it dwindled down the card with time featuring midcard talent. In 2014, Main Event got revamped as a live show for the WWE Network, as a test live broadcast at first, but remained the live main roster show of the Network until the Network’s UK release in January 2015 where it got dropped because of an agreement with Sky Sports who had the UK rights to Main Event (Episodes appear 18 days after it’s first airing). Despite it’s drop, the format of Main Event went unchanged until the Brand Extension, where it became SmackDown’s B-show (Much in the vein of Velocity) and weirdly recapped segments of Raw. The SD B-show status didn’t last long however, when Main Event moved to be Raw’s B-show after Superstars got cancelled for 205Live.
WCW WorldWide (Wide World Wrestling/World Wide Wrestling at first)
Run: 1975 – 2001
Network: Syndicated (Entire run)
WCW WorldWide began as Wide World Wrestling in 1975 by Jim Crockett Promotions (Predecessor to WCW) and got changed in 1978 to World Wide Wrestling to avoid confusion by ABC’s Wide World of Sports. World Wide Wrestling featured one hour of wrestling to supplement Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (Which would later evolve to WCW Pro) and got taped at various studio’s around the US. The name of the show changed in 1992 to WCW WorldWide and got revamped as a lower-card supplementary show to WCW Saturday Night and later, WCW Nitro and Thunder. In 1993, tapings were centralized to Orlando, Florida until 1999 when WorldWide taped alongside Saturday Night, and even later, Thunder until 2000. The format changed in 2000 as a recap/vintage show hybrid until it’s last broadcast when WCW got bought out by WWF.
WorldWide was broadcast in the UK as well from 1991 until 1995 on ITV (With no format changes). Between 1995 and 1999, WorldWide wasn’t broadcast on English speaking channels, but on German channel DSF which aired most WCW broadcasts in Europe. But WorldWide returned in 1999 on Channel 5 in a different format, recapping Nitro, Thunder and Saturday Night. Because the show would be aired for a younger audience, extreme action would get censored. That run of WCW WorldWide lasted until May 2001 because of the show moving around timeslots and even skipping some weeks. As a side-note, Sky Sports repeated older episodes of WorldWide for a while as well.
Run: 2002 – present
Original Networks: Sun Sports (US, Beginning until 2006), YouTube (2005 – 2010, 2014 – 2016, locally in US from 2016 onwards), Extreme Sports Channel (UK/International, 2010), Challenge (UK, 2011 – 2017), My5 (UK, 2017 onwards)
TNA/GFW Xplosion is the only B show of the promotion. It started in November 2002 as it’s only TV show (As their main show was a weekly PPV) and featured lower card matches from the old TNA Asylum with exclusive interviews. The format ended in 2004 to recap Impact after Impact debuted because of alterations in the taping schedule, but reverted to exclusive matches in 2005, taped in the Impact Zone. “Xplosion Xclusive” matches were aired on YouTube shows Global Impact! and TNA Today (until 2008, when the exclusive matches were uploaded as separate webmatches) featuring wrestlers that rarely appear on Impact, although angles, debuts, returns and title matches have happened as well. In it’s 2010 move to Extreme Sports Channel, Xplosion got an overhaul to celebrate it’s 300th episode, the new format focused more on own storylines or continuing storylines instead of random matches while the recaps and webmatches have been dropped as well. In 2011 however, Xplosion mostly returned to it’s old format, while adding the Spin Cycle (Roundtable interview segment) and one classic match despite hosting exclusive tournaments and occasional title matches as well. Although the format hasn’t changed that much (Only a more family friendly approach by 2015), Xplosion went through cosmetic changes in 2017 after the TNA name got dropped. After Impact’s rebranding to GFW, Xplosion changed it’s name to GFW Xplosion and still airs internationally.