Last October I wrote about WWE and ESPN’s partnership; one that featured live coverage of WWE Summerslam and weekly guest spots. Less than one year later, the companies have developed the relationship even further. The world wide leader, ESPN announced that there will now be a WWE subsection on their main site.
In March on this year, Brock Lesnar made his announcement about returning to UFC on ESPN. With the publicity that came from his high-profile return a ratings grabber, it was telling to see the WWE freely hand over the press and ratings the company would have garnered, if not for something coming on their end. Granted, ESPN has been airing weekly spots on Sportscenter every Tuesday with a WWE guest, but the Lesnar news was undoubtedly going to garner the eyes of people who may have checked out of wrestling.
ESPN Launching Pro Wrestling Section
Since then, John Cena hosted the ESPY award show and left an impression on Chad Millman, the ESPN Vice President. Millman told Debbie Emery of The Wrap.com, that Cena’s success at the ESPYS “did speak to the relationship between sports fandom and wrestling fandom — and where the intersection is, which is why we are doing this right now,” he continued. “We see every day how passionate wrestling fans are and how often they are also sports fans. The way that they perceive wrestling and pro wrestlers is not that different to how we perceive other professional sports stars. We want to cover it like we do with any other sport such as the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and everything else that we cover — with credibility and authenticity.”
The WWE already has a stranglehold on the professional wrestling business around the globe. Whether you call it sports-entertainment of rasslin’, wrestling fans, by and large turn to the WWE for their wrestling needs. By moving forward with a true the brand split, instituting the Cruiserweight Classic and signing well-known independent stars to NXT, the company has begun to diversify it’s product to cater to all sections of wrestling fandom. The exposure that the company will not garner through being featured on ESPN so prominently will certainly drive WWE Network subscriptions from sports fans who may have once been wrestling fans but eventually grew away from the spectacle.
This will, however call into question the future authenticity of analysis from the writers as well as the wrestling podcast “Cheap Heat”, hosted by Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg. Professional wrestling, unlike the major sports organizations covered by ESPN, does not need bad press. With this partnership, will dissenting voices be heard, or will this soften the critical eye that ESPN uses while cover the NFL or MLB? With Summerslam less than two weeks away, we will get our first glimpse at how this relationship affects coverage.
THE 2016 ESPYS – Arrivals – On July 13, some of the worlds premier athletes and biggest stars join host John Cena on stage for The 2016 ESPYS Presented by Capital One. The 24th annual celebration of the best moments from the year in sports will be televised live from the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday, July 13 (8:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Photo by Image Group LA/ABC via Getty Images)
JOHN CENA, NIKKI BELLA