Triller's Jake Paul-Ben Askren PPV leaned too hard into sideshow, but future carries major potential

As a DJ spun music above the ring, Jake Paul stood bouncing around, posing for photographs and dancing with his team. About 10 minutes earlier, he landed a single straight right hand to the face of Ben Askren, knocking him out in the first round.

It was a short end to a night big on spectacle -- a night billed as Triller Fight Club, but one that felt more like an hourslong concert with high-level music acts and a variety show, with boxing trickled in.

Ric Flair, "Woooooos" and all, refereed a slap fight. Seriously. Saturday Night Live cast member and comedian Pete Davidson made fun of almost everything. The Black Keys opened the show with a 20-minute set, and Justin Bieber was the musical headliner.

This was boxing in an alternate universe, a sideshow almost to the point it felt like the actual sport was the least important part of the presentation. Some of that had to do with the actual fights -- only one of the four pay-per-view bouts had two experienced boxers against one another -- and some of it had to do with how the show treated itself.

Within the first seven minutes, it became clear this was going to be different. The open featured a sketch with Snoop Dogg and Jaleel White, the latter in his most famous acting role as Steve Urkel from the '90s sitcom "Family Matters." They explained what they were trying to do with Triller Fight Club, as well as made references to Gin and Juice, and marijuana. Davidson made jokes about his mother, and then The Black Keys immediately took the stage.

Almost every musical act played at least a three-song set, including Snoop Dogg's new supergroup, Mount Westmore, and Bieber.

Boxing was not the center stage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. In fact, the action happened in what appeared to be a smaller-than-usual ring in front of the stage where most of the musical artists performed, a fitting visual that fit snugly as a metaphor. Saturday's card was an expansion on what Triller accomplished in its first foray into boxing in November, when the promotion received praise for how it intermixed music and boxing during a sharp-looking Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view broadcast.

This did not have the same level of spacing or pacing, leaning much heavier into the music and sideshow instead of the fights.

At one point, while getting ready to watch a slap fight in a cage as part of the broadcast, Davidson joked that it felt like he was on acid and that he needed to reach out to his agent to fire him. Interviewing Askren before his fight, Davidson described it as a "circus of a joke of a thing."

It's likely Davidson was joking, or perhaps referring to Paul, who he hammered often during the broadcast. But it also spoke to seemingly everything else going on during an epically long event in which the first two hours had at least three musical acts and one fight that lasted two rounds.

Alcohol and marijuana were clearly present throughout the broadcast -- during the Frank Mir-Steve Cunningham fight, the broadcast team made copious references to weed and contact highs. The five-man announcing booth toasted one another with alcohol during the Regis Prograis-Ivan Redkach fight.

This was unlike any boxing pay-per-view in history, and yet ... it got people talking. "It's a great night, man," Snoop Dogg said during the broadcast. But of course Snoop Dogg is going to say that, because it's his show, his promotion.

But Triller's Fight Club accomplished something so much of boxing outside of mega fights ends up able to do: It caught the attention of the social media sphere. That's always a tricky measure to go by, but it showed that people were at least tuning in.

Was Saturday night too much in terms of everything other than boxing? Yeah, it was. Was it a possible gateway to have more people tune into a sport that needs viewers and that doesn't have many marketable stars who can truly sell pay-per-view cards?

If done right, potentially.

That's where Triller's next big pay-per-view is going to be the real test. The June 5 card won't feature a YouTube star in Paul making a transition from novelty act to potentially serious fighter. It'll feature a legitimate title fight, with Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos Jr., along with an undercard exhibition between Evander Holyfield and Kevin McBride.

More boxing purists will be tuned in, and if Triller can find its sweet spot between spectacle and serious in June, it might be onto something. And there were some signs of that potential during the most legitimate fight of the night, between Prograis and Redkach.

In that fight, there was real analysis from the more experienced members of the announcing team, Al Bernstein, Ray Flores and Mario Lopez. It showed what the promotion might be able to deliver in its next fight night.

What Triller is doing is an interesting approach to boxing, to meld the celebrity that always seems to be around big fights and interspersing it with the fights themselves. The future goal should be to get a good card. Get an announcing crew worthy of a title fight and allow them to loosen up a bit and have fun while keeping Snoop Dogg mixed in. Make sure everyone in the booth has value, which didn't always happen Saturday.

But Triller did catch the attention of some fighters -- Amanda Serrano tweeted she would be open to being on a future Triller card -- and this approach could open up new audiences for fighters. It's reasonable to think there's a segment of the population who paid for the PPV because of Bieber and The Black Keys and Doja Cat instead of Mir, Askren and Prograis.

There's an idea here, one that can be honed. And if Triller can do it, it might be onto something in the world of boxing.