TNN pins down Taz

Cabler secures grappler on eve of EWC debut

NEW YORK — The Nashville Network has gone to extreme lengths to pin down grappler Taz for a three-year contract extension before it climbs into the TV wrestling ring.

Landing the Taz man, the top draw in Extreme Championship Wrestling, was crucial to the CBS-owned cabler because it solidifies the potential audience appeal of weekly primetime ECW matches, which will premiere Aug. 27 on TNN.

WCW, WWF made bids

Brad Small, the attorney who negotiated the seven-figure deal for Taz, said ECW’s two bigger wrestling federation competitors, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation, both made aggressive bids for the grappler’s services.

But ECW sweetened its renewal offer because it didn’t want to lose its most colorful star on the eve of the federation’s first regularly scheduled national showcase.

TNN is pairing the hourlong “ECW Wrestling” with its ongoing “Rollerjam” weekly hour Friday between 8 and 10 p.m. ECW puts on six pay-per-view specials a year, compared with the 12 the WCW and WWF each produce.

Wrestling a ratings winner

Weekly primetime wrestling matches on USA, TNT and TBS consistently show up among the top 10 highest-rated series on cable, and the UPN broadcast network starts a new “WWF Smackdown!” weekly hour on Thursday starting next month.

Taz’s specialty is the Tazmission, a judo chokehold that’s illegal in martial arts competition, but a real crowdpleaser in the arenas.

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