WWF scores in TNN’s grappling debut

'Raw' trails only Olympics and 'MNF'

Wrestling fans found their way over to TNN on Monday, with the first week of “WWF Raw is War” on its new home pinning down the cabler’s largest audience in its 17-year history.

According to Nielsen, the program attracted an average of 7.14 million viewers from 9-11 p.m. Monday — improving by 3% over what USA averaged with its final week of wrestling on Sept. 18 (6.95 million). In the final hour, TNN was the third most-watched net on television, trailing only the Olympics on NBC and “Monday Night Football” on ABC.

“Raw is War” is the showcase program for the National Network as it makes the transition from the Nashville Network and shifts programming gears as well. The cabler, which had been primarily known for its country-music focus and is aiming to become a “pop culture” entertainment network, is airing a total of four wrestling hours a week, including “WWF Livewire” on Saturday mornings and “WWF Superstars” on Sunday mornings.

Of course, the World Wrestling Federation gave TNN a boost by skedding the return of popular wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin for the live telecast. Anticipation of Austin’s first appearance in the ring in more than 10 months ensured that fanatics would come up with the right combination of numbers on their remote controls to find TNN; viewership increased with each half-hour.

TNN is available in roughly 77 million homes in the U.S., compared with USA’s 78.5 million.

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