New on Syfy: WWE Friday Night SmackDown

By Karen Moul

WWE Friday Night Smackdown
Syfy continues to shake up the schedule and expand beyond its sci-fi roots with new and different programming, and things got very different this month when WWE Friday Night SmackDown premiered on October 1.

While many have had trouble understanding the move, SmackDown could be a shrewd move for Syfy as the network looks to expand into other entertainment platforms, including gaming. SmackDown is a big draw among a critical audience, males aged 18-49. If the existing WWE audience makes its way over to Syfy, the network has the opportunity to engage them in other Syfy programs and grow its overall audience.

It's a good move for WWE too. By joining Syfy, Friday Night SmackDown is now part of the NBC Universal family. That means considerable marketing across NBC platforms which include such properties as USA, Telemundo, the Universal theme parks, and Hulu. Opportunities for cross promotion are almost endless.

So far SmackDown is settling into its new home nicely. The ratings for the past four weeks have been pretty solid and SmackDown continues to be a top five show among males 18-34. It was actually down a bit last week (October 22), but the Major League Baseball playoffs over on TBS have been stiff competition. Nevertheless, SmackDown was the number two cable show among males 18-49, behind the final game of the Yankees-Rangers series. It will be interesting to see what happens after the World Series when viewing habits get back to normal.

Meanwhile, the WWE crew is getting comfortable in their new digs. "We have a whole new audience now with Syfy," says two time women's champion Beth Phoenix, "and I feel like WWE is just as excited to cross over with them as they are to have us cross over." Superstar Cody Rhodes is taking the crossover very seriously - in August he was a guest star on Warehouse 13.

Beth Phoenix and·Kofi Kingston recently met with journalists to discuss life as WWE Superstars. Two of the most engaging performers on the press tour, they discussed everything from diet and exercise to their favorite Syfy shows.

Syfy Digital Press Tour
October 11, 2010
Q&A with stars Kofi Kingston and Beth Phoenix
Moderator: Erika Kennair. Syfy

MARK STERN: All right. Let's start our next panel. So I'm actually going to sit this one out, and Erika Kennair, who is much more a wrestler than I am, is going to run this panel. So let me introduce Erika Kennair.


Don't let her size fool you.

ERIKA KENNAIR: As I adjust the mic. So on October 1st, one of television's longest running programs, WWE Friday Night SmackDown, made its debut at its brand-new home at Syfy. Fun fact about SmackDown: The term was once just part of The Rock's catchphrase. Then it became such a popular part of the American vernacular that it now can even be found in the dictionary. Here to talk more about Friday Nigh SmackDown are two of our wonderful superstars: WWE superstar, Kofi Kingston, and WWE diva, Beth Phoenix.


And now we are going to watch a quick clip.

(Clip shown.)

So I am going to start with my question. Kofi, you are the son of two teachers. Beth used to play the organ at her local church. How did the two of you get to the WWE?

Kofi Kingston and Beth Phoenix
KOFI KINGSTON: Gosh, I mean, I get asked that question all the time. And as long as I can remember, I've always been a fan of the WWE. I mean, I used to watch Saturday morning guys like Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, which is pretty crazy. Now that, like, I'm on the same roster as The Undertaker, I'm getting goosebumps even, like, talking about that. But yeah, I just -- you're always told that you can be whatever you want to be growing up as a kid. And for whatever reason, sometimes we just follow a certain path just because everyone else is doing it. That's kind of what I did. I graduated college and everything. I went to Boston College, graduated. I was working in the corporate world for about two years, knowing fully well that it's not what I wanted to do. I wasn't fulfilled at all. So I decided to actually follow my dreams and start training for -- to become a WWE superstar. And for me, it was kind of like a lot of "right place at the rght time." There's an independent scene. Basically, the independent circuit is where -- it's like the minor league system that we all try to go through and hopefully get signed to the developmental deal, which is kind of the farming system for WWE. So that's kind of like what my path was. I had to try out. And a lot of the different agents were there, the head of talent relations. And again, it's just a lot of "right place, right time." And here I am, so yeah.

ERIKA KENNAIR: Cool. Beth, how about you?

BETH PHOENIX: My story is kind of similar to Kofi's. I grew up as a wrestling fan. My grandmother actually got me into it. They're immigrants from Poland, and they're favorite wrestler was Ivan Putski. So, you know, that was a wonderful family experience growing up, watching wrestling together. And again, much like Kofi, my parents emphasized "Go to school first. You have to go to college." That's all I wanted to do, talk about wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. But they're like, "Education first." So I went to college in Buffalo, New York, at Canisius. And I moonlighted on the weekends at a wrestling school in Medina, New York, and worked the independent like Kofi did. I sent in numerous tapes and kept knocking on the door with WWE. And they said "Not at this time. We don't have anything for you." I can't tell you how many times I was told no, no, no, no. But, it was just a dream that I really felt in my heart that I wanted to pursue. So with much perseverance and after graduating from school and coming to a crossroads, do I -- do I go on with a career with my degree, or do I, at 21 years old, give this a shot and give it my all? And I decided to pursue WWE full-time. And after a few years and a lot of disappointments, I picked myself back up and found myself here working for WWE. And now being on "SmackDown," like Kofi said, walking through our locker rooms and the hallowed halls of WWE, to see guys like Kane and The Undertaker and Rey Mysterio, it's an incredible, phenomenal experience because I come from a pretty humble beginning. And somehow now I find myself a WWE diva, which is very, very important to me and a huge honor.

And that makes me feel like, Erika, that at this moment I'd like to offer you a very special honor. Because being a WWE diva is very important to me, I'd like to know if I could make you, right here, an honorary WWE diva.

KOFI KINGSTON: Oh, snap. Oh, snap.


ERIKA KENNAIR: Okay. Is there, like, a ceremony? What happens now?

BETH PHOENIX: No. Really -- all that really encompasses and what we try to put forth to the public as being a WWE diva is, first of all, you have to be smart, which you obviously are very, very smart. You have to be sexy, which I'm sure everyone in this room can agree Erika is beautiful; am I right?


And thirdly, the one that's special to my heart, is you have to be powerful. You have to be willing to be an upstanding, strong woman. And a part of that is being able to perform incredible maneuvers in the ring.



BETH PHOENIX: So I'd like to employ the help of young Kofi Kingston right here right beside me --


BETH PHOENIX: -- to possibly teach you one of his signature moves right here and right now. Do you guys want to see that?

KOFI KINGSTON: Right here.

BETH PHOENIX: Would that be cool?



All right. I mean, now that you're an honorary WWE diva --

Kofi Kingston
-- You're probably going to have your fan base, your Erikaholics or Erikamaniacs, whatever you want to call them.

BETH PHOENIX: We've got to get that on the T-shirt for sale.

ERIKA KENNAIR: Okay. I'll think of one. Okay.

KOFI KINGSTON: My fan base is the Boom Squad --


KOFI KINGSTON: -- you see, because I come out and I yell, "Boom" a lot because I try to be explosive in everything I do. And one of the moves that I like to do is called the thunderclap.


KOFI KINGSTON: First of all, let's loosen up because I can't have you all here all --

ERIKA KENNAIR: Okay. Totally. I got it. Okay.

KOFI KINGSTON: Loosen it out. Loosen it out. You know what I mean?

ERIKA KENNAIR: I'm loose. I'm loose.


KOFI KINGSTON: Can't have you out here pulling a muscle or whatever --

ERIKA KENNAIR: No, that would be bad.

KOFI KINGSTON: -- at my expense. Take your left hand and reach it toward the sky.

ERIKA KENNAIR: All right. I got it.

KOFI KINGSTON: Take the right all the way down. This is very simple.


KOFI KINGSTON: You could probably mess it up, so don't --

ERIKA KENNAIR: I'm sure I could. All right.

KOFI KINGSTON: Okay, here we go. Boom.




KOFI KINGSTON: Okay. You got it. Now let's do it with a little more enthusiasm; okay? This is a dangerous move. Once again --


KOFI KINGSTON: -- loosen it out. Loosen it out.

ERIKA KENNAIR: It could change the weather, so yeah.


KOFI KINGSTON: It could change -- this is not to be trifled with.


KOFI KINGSTON: Here we go. Boom.








KOFI KINGSTON: That's the thunderclap. You are --



KOFI KINGSTON: -- a member of the Boom Squad as well. Congratulations.

BETH PHOENIX: Erika, you can see being a WWE diva is a lot of hard work.

ERIKA KENNAIR: Yeah. And I have a feeling now that I'm an official honorary diva, I'm kind of biased on this panel. So I'm going to have to open it up to you guys now to ask the rest of the questions.

QUESTION: Beth, your body is outrageous.

Beth Phoenix
Ah, shucks. Thanks.

QUESTION: Well, Kofi is --

BETH PHOENIX: Stop, stop, stop.

QUESTION: I want to know what your diet and your workout regimen is like.

BETH PHOENIX: Well, I have enjoyed, like, powerlifting and weightlifting since I was very young. Maybe at 13, 14 years old, I kind of got into the gym. I did amateur wrestling in high school. There wasn't a girl's team, so I was on the boy's team. And I was always beat up, pushed around, kind of at a disadvantage. So very early on in life, I learned that you have to put that elbow grease in in the gym. And as far as diet goes, Kofi can tell you too, diet and training on the road is very, very difficult. You have to really pay attention and be motivated and dedicated to it. And if I could give anybody any fitness advice, it would just be consistency. You know, stick to a plan. Don't go on a diet. Just eat healthy and train regularly.

QUESTION: This is for both of you, actually. What advice would you give really young kids that want to be wrestlers like you that look up to you and try to be like you?

KOFI KINGSTON: I'd definitely say just to -- again, consistency. Constantly pursue that dream and attack it. A lot of people say follow your dreams. I say chase your dreams aggressively. For me, I was always told that I wasn't big enough or I wasn't strong enough. And I just had to shut everybody out and pursue aggressively because in my heart I knew what I was capable of and where I wanted to go. So just definitely just do not take no for an answer. And that goes for anything, not just if you want to be a WWE superstar. But whatever you want to be, just chase that dream aggressively, and it will happen for you.

QUESTION: In your line of work how important is it to have the college education?

BETH PHOENIX: A college education?

KOFI KINGSTON: Oh, college education.

BETH PHOENIX: Well, I mean, our company has expanded globally, internationally. Almost all of our superstars speak a second language. Our international markets are some of our strongest markets. A college education just can help you in every single way of life. And I know for myself, the big reason my parents pushed me to get an education was this is a very risky business. I mean, the reality of getting hurt or having your career cut short is very real. And having an education just means that you have something to fall back on in case the unthinkable happens. So, I mean, I feel that being educated is almost a necessity in today's world in no matter what you do, and especially for what we do.

KOFI KINGSTON: Absolutely. I mean, for one, "Ghost Hunters" is a pretty cool show. I'm definitely interested in the paranormal and whatnot. Scare Tactics is one of my all-time favorite shows. I mean, gosh, one time before I was actually wrestling, I came home from work, and my -- well, my wife now, she was sleeping on the couch. So I came in, and I laid in between the couch and the table, and I put the telephone -- the house phone on the table, and I called her on the cell phone, called the house phone. So she woke up, went to go reach over and grab the phone. And I reached up, and I grabbed her arm and just, like, scared the crap out of her.


So it's just one of my all-time favorite shows. I love the way that they just get people. We were talking about it earlier, how people just get lost in the moment. They don't know what to do. And then all of a sudden, you tell them, "You're on 'Scare Tactics,'" and they just --

BETH PHOENIX: Jeez, Kofi, after that one I think you're going to be sleeping on the couch.


Naughty, naughty.

Kofi Kingston and Beth Phoenix
Yeah, well -- yeah, it's a great show. But yeah, we definitely do love the fact that we're on Syfy now.

QUESTION: Would you wrestle Sharktopus?

KOFI KINGSTON: What's that?

BETH PHOENIX: Would you wrestle Sharktopus?

QUESTION: Would you wrestle Sharktopus?

KOFI KINGSTON: I'll wrestle anybody, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

QUESTION: How old do you think kids should be before they start training? Is there a specific age or anything?

BETH PHOENIX: I started very young. I started at 19 years old. I think that physical fitness is a big part of it. And I think that just because it is so grueling and stuff, definitely I would say the adult age is the time to start doing that. But as a kid, that doesn't mean you can't be creative and draw costumes and come to your favorite event and cheer on your favorite WWE superstar and, enjoy the creative side of things. Dream of one day being the person to step in the ring. What would you do? What would you say? What costume would you wear? I think there's no rush to skip youth and step right into the ring that young. But just from a physical standpoint, it is a very physical business, and I think that you ought to make sure that you're physically ready and an adult.

ERIKA KENNAIR: Anybody else?

QUESTION: Hello. I just had a question about sort of like your preparations for safety in the ring. Like you obviously all have your own unique moves. Like how familiar are you with your opponents' moves, and how are you trained to sort of react to what they throw at you? No pun intended.

BETH PHOENIX: No. It was just actually a simple move I've done a million times before, just jumping over my opponent in the corner. And I blew out my whole knee doing it. It's just one of those days. And the doctors told me, "There's nothing you could have done to prevent it. It was just your time and your day." What we do is we're trained to minimize injury and protect each other. We're not out there to cause serious damage or anything like that. We're out there to minimize potential serious injury.

QUESTION: Guys, just wanted to ask what was your favorite match on SmackDown for yourselves?

KOFI KINGSTON: Favorite match for me on SmackDown -- actually, it was one -- when I first got drafted, I had a match with Drew McIntyre. And we went through, had this great match. He's a phenomenal competitor. And we go through -- it was actually for the intercontinental championship, and I won and -- oh, no, actually, I'm sorry, it was with Christian. And Drew McIntyre came out with a letter from Vince McMahon and basically had the title stripped from me after I won it, which was pretty cool because no one knew what was going to happen. You know what I mean? And it was just a moment where I felt that I was really in the mix and really had the crowd kind of eating out of my hands. And Christian and I had this awesome match, just back and forth, back and forth. And he was another guy who I watched growing up. So a lot of times in these matches, I have to, like, snap out of -- take a step back and realize that I'm actually working and not just in there having fun with a guy who I used to watch on TV. But yeah, and Drew McIntyre came out and basically took that title back. So it was really a cool moment for me, even though I didn't win. But it was still pretty interesting.

BETH PHOENIX: Well, my favorite match was my last match before my surgery. I had already -- I went into the match having a torn ACL and knew I was going to have surgery. And I was women's champion at the time. So it's kind of one of those things that I was going in there to give it all I could, hurt or not. And I ended up being put into a handicap match against Lay-Cool. And again, it was -- I had the fortune to be in Buffalo, New York, my hometown. So, I mean, I lost the title that night, and it was -- it was a quick, short match. But the coolest thing was just coming out and getting a reception, like you say, Kofi, kind of like feeling like the crowd was just on fire. And it was an amazing memory. Really cool.

QUESTION: Hey, guys, do you ever play fight club-type scenario games where "Who would you like to fight as far as historic or fictional characters?" or "Who would win in a fight, Benjamin Franklin versus Captain Kirk?" Do you play those kinds of games?

KOFI KINGSTON: I don't know. I mean, to be honest, I would like to get in the ring with our boss, Vince McMahon.


KOFI KINGSTON: And I know --


-- Yeah, it's just -- he is such a character when he gets in the ring. And I mean, who doesn't want to beat up their boss?


I wouldn't mind taking it to him and being able to say that I beat up my boss.

BETH PHOENIX: I'd probably side with the boss on that one, Kofi.


No offense, but he signs my paychecks. So --


BETH PHOENIX: -- Sorry, got to go with Vince.

KOFI KINGSTON: I never was the smartest one, huh?


BETH PHOENIX: Tough, though, tough.


ERIKA KENNAIR: Thank you guys very much

Latest Articles