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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Why the WWE/UFC merger most likely isn’t good for wrestlers, followers, or the business

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Months of hypothesis ended on Monday when Endeavor, the mum or dad firm of the UFC, formally introduced it reached an settlement to buy 51 % of WWE with the plans of merging the businesses. It brings collectively two of the most important fight sports activities manufacturers on the planet, with UFC representing the unscripted athletic aspect, whereas WWE will proceed its sports activities leisure model.

On the floor it’d seem to be that is all effective. In reality, in a number of methods it’s vastly preferrable to the rumored different, which would have been a Saudi takeover of WWE with the purpose of using the brand as part of its “sportswashing” campaign. Nevertheless, when digging into the similarities and variations of how each UFC and WWE are run, it turns into far harder to see any upside for anybody concerned — besides the billionaires on the high.

How will this new firm function?

Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel and WWE chairman Vince McMahon sat down with CNBC to announce the merger on Monday and clear the air about how they see operations transferring ahead.

The intent is to maintain UFC and WWE as wholly separate entities beneath the identical company umbrella, with Dana White remaining answerable for UFC — whereas Nick Khan will keep on as CEO of WWE. Nevertheless, within the interview McMahon famous that whereas he gained’t be “within the weeds” with the inventive choices inside WWE, he will probably be closely concerned within the course of.

Veteran wrestling author Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reports that McMahon will have final say on all creative decisions inside the corporate as soon as extra. A job he previously gave up in 2022 when it was alleged he used $3M in company funds to pay hush money to a former WWE employee he had an affair with. McMahon retired from WWE, along with his daughter Stephanie McMahon stepping in as co-CEO, and her husband Paul Levesque (former wrestler Triple H) overseeing inventive.

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That is already dangerous

The top of the Vince McMahon inventive period was broadly celebrated by die-hard WWE followers. Whereas McMahon is taken into account the godfather of contemporary skilled wrestling, it was changing into clear that he was out of contact with what followers wished. McMahon’s steely resolve when it got here to the sort of wrestlers he appreciated, and the tales he appreciated had been rooted in stale, {old} tropes. Because of this his inventive model was boring and predictable. Skilled wrestling shortly loses its attract with out even a slight risk of shock.

Along with this, McMahon was persistently cited as a motive that much less and fewer wrestling was on his wrestling present. A considerable quantity of WWE’s a number of hours of TV every week was dedicated to in-ring promos and backstage interviews, with wrestling itself taking a backseat.

In distinction, Triple H’s management of inventive was virtually universally beloved. The model had extra precise wrestling for followers, and the long-term storytelling usually devoid in McMahon’s imaginative and prescient, was again, giving folks a motive to tune in every week and keep invested throughout a number of pay per views.

That’s gone now, and Vince is again to doing Vince issues — specifically altering the present dozens of instances on the fly at a whim and missing any cohesive imaginative and prescient.

There’s no query Endeavor possession is dangerous for WWE expertise

Traditionally WWE is likely one of the most unfair and anti-worker organizations in all of sports activities. For many years the corporate has saved its expertise as “unbiased contractors,” utilizing their employment class as a option to dodge any duty for advantages, whereas treating their wrestlers as full-time staff incapable of pursuing work elsewhere — regardless of their unbiased contractor standing.

Word that I stated “probably the most unfair” employers in sports activities right here, as a result of if there’s anybody able to carrying that mantle it’s the UFC.

Since its inception UFC constructed an empire of underpaying its fighters. Whole constructions are internally constructed to cover what fighters are making per-fight from one another. This has helped not solely Endeavor maintain its revenue margins hovering, but additionally made it practically inconceivable for UFC fighters to unionize, as a result of everybody’s private monetary conditions are so totally different.

Whereas it’s true that high fighters are making good cash, they’re paid woefully in comparison with different high athletes of their respective sports activities. A 2022 article from Yahoo! Sports noted that Conor McGregor made $22M from UFC instantly in 2021, whereas high athletes in different sports activities had been making three, or 4 instances as a lot — with the safety of long-term contracts.

The article went on to recommend {that a} rookie fighter in UFC would possibly solely earn $30,000 per battle — usually having two fights a 12 months. That’s $60,000 to an organization which had the power to spend $9.3B on their new WWE acquisition.

Throughout speak of UFC’s unfair pay construction Francis Ngannou revealed that fighters had been dropping out on sponsorship cash, with UFC pivoting to make their very own sponsorship offers — locking fighters out of income they used to get prior to now.

Regardless of WWE being beneath a separate umbrella, it’s ridiculous to imagine that Endeavor would enable wrestler contracts to stay untouched. With a historical past of attempting to squeeze each final penny out of staff it’s solely seemingly we’ll see compensation drop for WWE expertise when their present contracts are up for renewal.

Endeavor possession might be horrible for followers’ wallets too

Exterior of the inventive influence of Vince McMahon’s return, there’s a really actual risk that followers get damage on this transaction as effectively.

The previous 10 years have been a golden age for WWE followers when it comes to the affordability of the product. Regardless of how disappointing the outcomes or match reserving could have been, the saving grace is that followers by no means actually felt “robbed” by a poor pay-per-view by locking them in to a month-to-month subscription service.

The WWE Community, now part of the Peacock streaming service, has allowed followers to look at every month-to-month pay-per-view, without spending a dime (outdoors of their month-to-month subscription payment). This has meant that followers who sometimes solely bought 1-2 exhibits a 12 months, now watch all 12 — basically for a similar worth they had been paying when exhibits had been $60 one-off funds.

Since Endeavor bought Zuffa LLC (the previous house owners of UFC), MMA followers have seen the costs of pay-per-views skyrocket. In 2020 a worth enhance was introduced which took pay-per-views to $64.99 (up from $59.99), and the company has increased the cost three more times since, with an event now costing fans $79.99. That is on high of already requiring followers to have an ESPN+ subscription, making it much more costly to look at.

Very similar to the difficulty of employee compensation, it’s inconceivable to see these two fashions jiving collectively — whilst individually run entities. On the finish of the day that is nonetheless an Endeavor-owned firm, and their fan-unfriendly strategy has pushed income into the stratosphere. It’s not fearmongering to be involved that an existential risk to WWE’s PPV mannequin is on the horizon.

This merger is dangerous for the business too

It’s all the time a case that the market chief units the tone. For nearly 20 years WWE basically had a monopoly on skilled wrestling outdoors of a lot smaller manufacturers like Affect. The 2019 arrival of All Elite Wrestling represented the primary actual problem to WWE’s throne. Whereas that hasn’t manifested itself in a real “struggle” like WWE vs. WCW in the course of the Angle Period, it has put stress on WWE to be extra worker-friendly, and led to an increase in cash throughout the board for wrestlers.

A colossal reduce on the high, each from wrestlers launched and people who are compelled to simply accept decrease contracts will impact the business. Not solely will it imply much less competitors and onus from AEW to pay its high expertise extra to maintain up with WWE, however really harm these on the backside of wrestling’s pay constructions.

It additionally stays to be seen whether or not WWE’s developmental system will stay intact beneath Endeavor possession, and what impact that would have on younger expertise.

None of that is set in stone, nonetheless

On the finish of the day all we are able to do is learn the tea leaves. There are a number of worrying indicators that this merger may be very dangerous apart from these instantly making a living off the deal, however in the end followers nonetheless have company.

The foremost distinction between UFC and WWE is that wrestling followers have an actual different in the event that they don’t just like the product. Certain, there are different MMA promotions — however not with the identical caliber of fighters UFC has to supply.

In the meantime AEW, NJPW, and to a lesser extent AAA and Affect nonetheless boast a number of the finest wrestlers on the planet on their books. Because of this if Endeavor pushes too exhausting financially to make WWE a money cow on the expense of followers, they might simply drive their viewers to a competitor.

Followers can speak with their wallets and if any detrimental parts come to go from this sale then a pivot that hurts their financials will pressure Endeavor-WWE to course appropriate.

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