If you cant lick em…

In competing for the young-male audience, syndicated shows often lose out to cable wrestling series. The folks behind
, though, have a plan to get in on cable's game.

The Columbia TriStar Television Distribution show, a male-skewing effort pitting amateur athletes against costumed warriors, could use some extra ratings muscle: For the week ended Oct. 29,

posted a 1.2 rating, placing 93rd among all syndicated efforts, according to Nielsen Media Research.

"We were brainstorming how we could beat them," admits CTTD VP of Development Zack Van Amburg. "We thought, why not just join them?"

So Van Amburg has invited a pack of wrestlers from TNT's
World Wrestling Championship Monday Night Nitro

franchise to star in several

episodes during this sweeps month. As usual, real people fight the show's warriors, but WCW stars Diamond Dallas Page, Buff Dagwell and Rick Steiner, among others, attempt to sabotage the match.

Down the road, look for a joint pay-per-view event between WCW and
, which would be the first involvement of a syndicated series in a PPV event. The pair's courtship also fuels speculation that Sony is looking to buy the Turner-owned property, given that CTTD is Sony's in-house syndication unit.

With the downturn in ratings for many syndicated weekly hours, "we're forced to find new ways of being creative," says Van Amburg. "But we think there's an opportunity to be extremely successful."

In further support for weekend syndicated hour shows, New Line unveiled its NATPE 2001 centerpiece:
Hard Knox
, an actioner in which a martial-arts expert (played by Kim-Maree Penn) falls into a
-ish relationship with a cop (
Melrose Place
's Thomas Calabro).