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USA Back in the Ring

4/05/2005 1:15 AM Eastern

USA Network has stepped back in the ring with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

The grappling group, which hosted Wrestelmania 21, its signature pay-per-view event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles last night, today announced a three-year deal with NBC Universal that will return its Monday night Raw franchise to USA, beginning in October.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also calls for a one-hour weekend Raw-branded show on USA, while sister Hispanic broadcast service, Telemundo will air Spanish-language versions of the show. In addition, NBC will air annually at least a pair of 90-minute WWE specials in late-night windows, according to NBCU officials.

The deal brings WWE back to USA, which had an eight-year run with Raw on Monday nights, before the product moved to SpikeTV predecessor TNN: The National Network in September, 2000.

Although not quite the white-hot ratings juggernaut it was in the late 1990s, when Raw often helped USA finish as the top-rated basic cable network, the show remains a fixture among the weekly top 10 highest-rated shows in the medium throughout the year.

Spike TV officials said last month the male-targeted network would not renew its contract with WWE when it expires in September. Spike is committed to developing more original shows and purchasing other series, according to officials.

“I'm thrilled to be back in business again with Vince and Linda McMahon,” said USA Network and Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer in a statement. “I led the USA team that helped grow Raw into a true pop phenomenon, and it's great to welcome it home.”

September