A new WWE show debuts on Tuesday night after Smackdown Live called Mixed Match Challenge. It’s a show pairing 12 men and women from Raw and Smackdown in a single-elimination tournament where the winning team will donate $100,000 to the charity of their choice. Do the wrestlers really get to decide the charity or is it just WWE cutting a check for a charity they want? It’s probably the latter, but there will be a charitable donation at the end of it.
The unique thing about the show is that it won’t be broadcast on television or WWE Network like every other show WWE produces. Instead, it’s going to air on Facebook Watch (in the United States) at 10 p.m. ET right after Smackdown ends with an expected run time of about 20 minutes. The plan is to air one match per show every week until the finale on Tuesday, April 3, which is five days before WrestleMania takes place on April 8.
The commentary team for Mixed Match Challenge will be Michael Cole, Corey Graves and WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix. It is Phoenix’s first time calling matches on a WWE show. She should do a good job and it’s smart to have her there to add a woman’s perspective.
I’m going to dive into WWE broadcasting on Facebook at the end of the preview because I think it’s a brilliant move for both sides, but first here’s a preview of the tournament.
Mixed Match Challenge Predictions
The teams for the Mixed Match Challenge were revealed over the last couple of weeks. In some cases, the talents didn’t know who they were teaming with until they saw that person in the same room as them. It led to a bunch of different teams including two husband-and-wife duos, mixing faces and heels together and some other unique pairings that will be interesting to watch.
There are specific rules for mixed tag matches in WWE. From WWE.com: “When tagged, male Superstars face off with the opposing team’s male competitor and female Superstars battle fellow female competitors.”
In other words, guys against the guys and girls against the girls. No man on woman violence, which is a good thing.
The brackets of the tournament were revealed on Thursday in the video you can watch above and I’m also going to share the graphic below.
Here are the six matches we know are coming with my predictions for each of them.
Week 1: Finn Bálor & Sasha Banks (Raw) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Natalya (Smackdown)
This will be one of the better matches because they’re all very good in the ring. Natalya’s the only heel involved, so this could be a case where her ego gets in the way for her team. It will be great to see Balor face off with Nakamura, since they are close friends that had good matches together in NXT. I’ll go with Nakamura and Natalya to win.
Week 2: The Miz & Asuka (Raw) vs. Big E & Carmella (Smackdown)
Any time Asuka is in a match, it’s smart to go with her, so that’s an easy choice. Carmella is not really considered a top woman on the roster, even though she’s been carrying the Money in the Bank contract around for half a year. Seeing heel Miz with face Asuka on the same team should be entertaining to watch. I’m picking Miz and Asuka here.
Week 3: Braun Strowman & Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss (Raw) vs. Sami Zayn & Becky Lynch (Smackdown)
This should be interesting because of Zayn’s history against Strowman when he was on Raw and Zayn was trying to prove himself. A lot has happened since then, with Strowman as a face and Zayn as a heel. Lynch had a rivalry with Bliss on Smackdown as well (Bliss won the SD Women’s Title from her), so it will be cool to see that again too. The Strowman/Bliss duo features two people that are pushed as much as anybody on Raw, so it would be a surprise if they lost. Strowman and Bliss is the pick.
Week 4: Goldust & Alicia Fox (Raw) vs. Smackdown Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso & Naomi (Smackdown)
It’s one of the weaker matchups in the first round since Goldust and Fox barely win any matches. Jimmy and Naomi are a husband-and-wife duo that are probably thrilled about being together in this tournament. I’ll go with Jimmy Uso and Naomi to get the win.
Week 5: Elias & Bayley (Raw) vs. Rusev & Lana (Smackdown)
Rusev and Lana are the second husband/wife duo in the tournament. It could go either way, but I’m going to lean towards the awkward duo of the singing Elias and the hugger Bayley just because it would help Elias get over more. That seems to be a goal for WWE. Elias and Bayley is my pick.
Week 6: Apollo Crews & Nia Jax (Raw) vs. Bobby Roode & Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair (Smackdown)
This feels like a no-brainer with Charlotte teaming with Roode, so they’re a higher profile team. It would be a surprise to see them lose when a guy like Crews is on the other side and he doesn’t win a whole lot. I doubt Jax would get beat by Charlotte here because Jax is always protected a lot. Jax vs. Charlotte should be interesting because it hasn’t been done much at all. I think it will be Roode and Charlotte winning with Roode beating Crews.
That means I went with three Raw teams and three Smackdown teams. It would be a surprise if they booked it where four teams won from one show against two teams from the other one, so I think 3-3 is the right way to go with it.
Based on my predictions, here’s how the remaining matches would go.
Week 7: The Miz & Asuka (Raw) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Natalya (Smackdown)
Two interesting teams here. I like the dynamic of Asuka and Nakamura on opposite sides as two awesome Japanese wrestlers who are popular. I’m also intrigued by Asuka facing off with Natalya because they can have some great matches together if they ever meet in singles. Tough call, but Miz and Asuka makes sense here.
Week 8: Braun Strowman & Alexa Bliss (Raw) vs. Jimmy Uso & Naomi (Smackdown)
This is probably the easiest prediction. Easy win for Strowman and Bliss. You can tell how the brackets are set up that WWE is going to put over Strowman and Bliss strong in the first two matches.
Week 9: Elias & Bayley (Raw) vs. Bobby Roode & Charlotte Flair (Smackdown)
I’ve already gone with two Raw teams in the second round, so it makes sense for Roode and Charlotte to get the win here.
The fourth team in the semifinals would be based on a fan vote. I think it could be Balor/Banks or maybe Nakamura/Natalya. I’ll go with Nakamura/Natalya winning the fan vote due to Nakamura’s popularity.
Week 10: The Miz & Asuka (Raw) vs. Braun Strowman & Alexa Bliss (Raw)
These teams are on a likely collision course because Asuka’s feuding with Bliss while Miz is a top heel against a top face like Strowman. Tough call because Asuka’s involved. If her team loses, does that mean her undefeated streak is over? I don’t think so because it’s likely going to be Strowman beating Miz while Asuka is protected. Strowman and Bliss moving on to the finals is likely.
Week 11: Bobby Roode & Charlotte Flair (Smackdown) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Natalya (Smackdown)
The second team in this match isn’t known because it’s up to the fan vote. I think Roode and Charlotte going over is a good idea since Charlotte is considered one of the top women in the company right now.
Week 12 FINAL: Braun Strowman & Alexa Bliss (Raw) vs. Bobby Roode & Charlotte Flair (Smackdown)
When I first looked at how the brackets were set up, I figured this would be the final because WWE likely wants it to be a Raw team against a Smackdown team. Strowman and Bliss are my pick to win the whole thing from the moment this tournament, so that’s my pick here in the finals too. Seeing the 6-foot-8 Strowman team with the five-foot Bliss will look funny, but once the bell rings they should dominate this whole thing.
WWE Mixed Match Challenge on Facebook Is Smart For Both Companies
I think WWE is very smart to partner up with Facebook to run this tournament. We don’t know how much money Facebook is paying WWE to air this content, but I think it’s going to be beneficial for both sides.
Facebook is trying to expand as a business by airing live content. Perhaps one day, they might get to air pro sports like the NFL or NBA, but giving WWE a try with this new show is wise. We all know WWE fans are passionate about the product and WWE promotes their social media platforms very well.
Dan Reed, who is Facebook’s Head of Global Sports Partnerships, explained to WWE.com why WWE is an ideal partner for them:
“As a leader in entertainment innovation, WWE is an ideal partner to demonstrate how the live sports viewing experience can be reimagined on Facebook Watch. Mixed Match Challenge is a new competition produced specifically to take advantage of the reach, interaction and ongoing engagement enabled by our platform. Fans will be able to directly influence and interact with the in-ring action, follow the rivalries and storylines in between events, and connect with one another as the drama unfolds. We’re excited for the WWE community to come together on our platform to watch some of the biggest Raw and Smackdown Live Superstars and engage with WWE like never before.”
Look at the numbers WWE brings to the table on Facebook. On WWE.com, they mentioned their social media strength.
WWE is a powerhouse on social media with more than 825 million followers globally. WWE has nearly 500 million likes across all Facebook Pages, and WWE’s main Facebook Page has more than 38 million likes. WWE Superstar John Cena is the No. 1 most-followed active U.S. athlete on Facebook with more than 45 million likes.
The Raw Facebook page has 13.5 million Likes and the Smackdown Live Facebook page has 9.7 million Likes. There are also individual pages for WWE superstars, which promote the MMC a lot. The Mixed Match Challenge Facebook page is only at 187,000 Likes right now, which is low for WWE, but that number should grow as the show launches next week.
From WWE’s side, Michelle Wilson is their Chief Review and Marketing Officer who pointed out Facebook’s strengths are beneficial to WWE.
“As we continue to expand our strategic partnership with Facebook, this new series, Mixed Match Challenge, jointly reflects our innovative approach to content distribution and fan engagement. This show will deliver the action and excitement our passionate fan base is accustomed to while offering new production elements and social experiences that only Facebook can provide.”
That’s a great point about how it’s something that only Facebook can provide because people that use Facebook are very active. They want to share their opinions. You can watch the show on Facebook and comment on it with your friends or strangers if you prefer.
How many views will Mixed Match Challenge get? No idea, but it should be in the millions especially as the tournament grows. There’s no way of accurately guessing because it’s the first time a show like this has happened to WWE. The hope from WWE’s side likely is for it to reach Raw and Smackdown TV numbers (both shows get between 2.5 to 3 million viewers on USA Network live broadcasts) or even more since cable TV costs people money while Facebook is free for anybody to use.
From a logistical standpoint, it’s an easy show for WWE to produce. The show is taking place after Smackdown airs, so it’s not costing them extra money to put them on. Some of the Raw talent will have to be on the road for an extra day, but other than that it’s just another show in front of an arena full of WWE fans.
I think the Mixed Match Challenge is going to be a big success for WWE in terms of reaching their fans on Facebook. It’s putting money in WWE’s pocket because of whatever Facebook is paying them. This should open doors for future events on Facebook.
For fans complaining about there being too much WWE content, it’s not a big deal considering this is only a 20-minute show that will air for 12 weeks. It’s WWE testing out a new way to broadcast a show with little to no risk. If the numbers are disappointing then they will probably never do it again, but if both sides are happy with the numbers (which is what I expect) then there will be more.
This show is not about who wins or loses wrestling matches. It’s not about a push of a certain wrestler. It’s about WWE partnering up with a huge company in Facebook to broadcast their programming. In my opinion, it’s a smart business move for both sides and it could be the start of a partnership that benefits both monstrous companies for many years to come.
You can watch WWE’s Mixed Match Challenge on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET starting this Tuesday, January 16 on Facebook Watch. The finale for the 12-week series is on Tuesday, April 3.