WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown will make its long-awaited debut on Fox tonight, getting a new night and a slight name change as it becomes the first WWE program to air on one of the big four broadcast networks.
The main event of Friday’s SmackDown will feature Kofi Kingston defending his WWE championship against challenger Brock Lesnar, who will be wrestling in his first match since 2004. There will also be a rematch from SummerSlam between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon and a major tag team match featuring the Four Horsewoman, with Sasha Banks and Bayley facing off against Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.
A number of former wrestling stars are scheduled to appear on SmackDown Friday night to celebrate the show’s Fox debut and its 20th anniversary, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. But the biggest personality on hand will be wrestler-turned-movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, in his first appearance on a WWE program since WrestleMania 32 in 2016.
“He and I were on the first SmackDown Live together in the main event that night, so it’ll be a nice coming home for everyone,” WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque, better known by his wrestling moniker “Triple H,” said of Johnson during a recent appearance on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.
For the first time, wrestling fans will be able to live-stream SmackDown on the Fox Sports App and on FoxSports.com, though cable authentication will be required (USA Network didn’t have live-streaming rights). Episodes of SmackDown will also be available on-demand on the Fox Sports app for 30 days and on Hulu, despite some recent hiccups due to the network switch.
Complicating the debut is an ongoing dispute between Dish Network and Fox, which has left Fox29 blacked out to Dish TV and SlingTV subscribers in Philadelphia (and other affiliates across the country). The WWE took to Twitter last week to ask customers to find another provider to avoid missing Friday’s debut.
Fox secured the rights to SmackDown Live, the WWE’s flagship program, for five years in a deal reportedly worth $205 million per year. Prior to tonight’s broadcast television debut, SmackDown Live had aired Thursday nights on the USA Network, which drew nearly 2.1 million viewers to its final telecast on Sept. 24 (the network started airing NXT, which formerly aired on the WWE Network, last month).
Philly wrestling fans won’t have to wait long to check out the all-new SmackDown in person. The show will film an episode live at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 15.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch and stream Friday Night SmackDown’s debut on Fox:
When: Friday, Oct. 4
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Time: 8 p.m.
TV: Fox (Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Renee Young)
Streaming: Fox Sports app (requires cable authentication), FuboTV, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, Playstation Vue, DirecTV Now (all require a subscription)
Coverage will begin on Fox at 7:30 p.m. with the Friday Night Smackdown Kickoff Show, which will feature “blue carpet” arrivals and backstage access to wrestlers past and present.
Leading up to the debut, Fox aired a pair of hour-long WWE specials — WWE Smackdown’s Greatest Hits hosted by Charlotte Flair and The Miz, and WWE Wrestlemania’s Legendary Moments narrated by John Cena. The network also debuted a new week studio show Tuesday night on FS1 called WWE Backstage, hosted by Young and Booker T.
If you watched any Fox show this week, it was hard to avoid the cross-network promotion given to their new wrestling property, especially during NFL coverage.