Ignore the sensationalist headline. Hold your smart-aleck quips for the comments section below. Take a moment and just hear what I have to say.
This is a defining moment for WWE.
Most importantly, it’s a re-defining moment for professional wrestling. People who hate the term “sports entertainment” are about to be sorely disappointed when they find out that the world’s biggest wrestling company is hedging all of its bets on a strategy that involves social media, innovative technology, backlogs of content, and new delivery streams. Notice that list didn’t include ‘pro wrasslin’? Well, it doesn’t. It shouldn’t.
Shoot the messenger, vilify me on Facebook, and burn my whole village down for saying something that blasphemous. But I stand by the notion that WWE is building an entirely new pillar of business via their rumored online network. The company isn’t a “pro wrestling” company, for better or worse, it’s a brand of entertainment. And tonight’s announcement, whatever it is, means that they’re the only game in town worth giving any attention too. Ring of Honor who? Total Nonstop what? Both instantly become minor league. Actually, they’re worse than minor league, because WWE has already positioned its own NXT and developmental system around the idea that they can control everything in-house. The company has a gravy train that goes from amateur hour all the way to superstar.
We don’t know… yet… what the specifics of the network are, and whether it will include new content and shows, or strictly old stuff from former rival promotions. But the mindset going forward will be that “sports entertainment lives here.” It lives on WWE’s weekly content, it lives on WWE’s YouTube Channel, and now it lives on the WWE Network. Why settle for something out-dated and dusty, something old your parents watched like “professional wrestling,” when you have what Vince McMahon’s believes is “Wrestling 2.0.” Do you know why WWE doesn’t stand for “World Wrestling Entertainment” anymore? Because “wrestling” is the European equivalent of “football” – it means something different to a different place. Here in America, we watch ‘Sports Entertainment.’
And I’m actually okay with that. When this network unfolds, it puts WWE years ahead of what anybody else IN THE WORLD is doing. There’s unmistakable magic in that 20 X 20 squared circle. But what does it mean to people who aren’t watching RAW every Monday night? So WWE now establishes itself as a brand – not a company brand, like Coke or Apple, but a SPORTS brand. How can it not be a sport when the name of the game is “Sports Entertainment”?
Listen, people (as in the general public, not hardcore football fans) don’t talk about the NFL because they love zone reads, the flexbone option, or a 3-4 defense. They love the drama of seeing incredible matchups each and every week. They love Tony Romo, or Tom Brady, or whoever, and they love pulling for, and against, the superstars on the field. Fantasy football has driven that ferver to all-time highs in recent years because it lets fans, whether they care about the sport or not, have a small part to play. The whole package is delivered with a big red bow on top.
And so after the Network is announced, the dust settles, and we all wake up tomorrow trying to figure out what the impact of this really is, just keep in mind that WWE is better off for it. This is the bridge between wrestling as your parents knew it, and sports entertainment as your kids will know it.
And I couldn’t be more excited.
Got you hate-mail ready? Get the discussion started in the comments section below. Or, follow me on Twitter @therealwiseman, and tell me how you really feel!