WWE posts 3rd Quarter results, will hold event in Saudi Arabia

October 26, 2018

The WWE announced its third quarter results for the year on Thursday morning.  It also confirmed that it will go forward with an event in Saudi Arabia despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The WWE addressed the controversial in today’s earnings release which called the killing “heinous” but stated that as with other US companies that are continuing operations in Sauid Arabia, the WWE decided to “uphold its contractual obligations to the General Sports Authority and stage the event.”

When asked by analysts today on the earnings call, Vince McMahon stated, “[i]t’s a very sensitive subject.  I think our statement says what we wanna say.”  In recent weeks, the WWE promoted the event without indicating that Crown Jewel on November 3rd would take place in Saudi Arabia.  The event will be the second in Saudi Arabia as the WWE held, “Greatest Royal Rumble” this past April.  The reason for the events in Saudi Arabia boil down to the massive amounts of revenue for the company.

The WWE earnings for the third quarter beat analyst expectations as Wall Street predicted Earnings Per Share of 21 cents.  The company announced an Earnings Per Share of 37 cents on revenue of $188.4 million.  Subscriptions to the WWE Network grew 9% to more than 1.66 million.  The media division increased 9% to $142.1 million due license fees and sales of ad and sponsorships.

Revenue at live events dropped this quarter by 15.5% to $26.7 million due to fewer events and an 8% decrease in North American attendance.  International events saw an even bigger decrease of 18% in average attendance.  In consumer products, revenue declined 18% to $19.6 million due to new revenue recognition standards and lower sales of merchandise online and at WWE venues.

WWE shares are at $75.68, down approximately 2.18% as of Thursday afternoon after hours trading.

Payout Perspective:

The Saudi Arabia event which will be held November 3rd likely will help with company’s revenue, but there will be a public relation hit based on the controversy surrounding the death of the Washington Post journalist.  The partnership with Saudi Arabia caused controversy as women couldn’t participate in the country.  But, the WWE has signed a 10-year agreement with Saudi Arabia and estimates $50 million of incremental revenue and more than $15 million in operating income to the company.  The infusion of cash will please shareholders.

 

The WWE has done well with its media division as shows like Total Divas and Miz & Mrs have increased license fees and sales of advertising and sponsorships.  Aside from its media division, the WWE has seen a decline in operating income in the other sectors of its business.  The decrease in attendance likely caused, in part, the lower revenue in the consumer products.

Cody Rhodes and the art of the promo

October 5, 2018

New Japan Pro Wrestling ran its third show in Southern California – Fighting Spirit Unleashed this past Sunday at The Pyramid in Long Beach, California.  It was an underrated card with some great talent and I was able to check out one of the best promos in the business as Cody Rhodes became a double champ.

The first match of the night featured two “young boys.”  A young boy is a young pro-wrestler still in the training stages of their career.  You might see these young boys act as ringside attendants in other matches to help veteran pro-wrestlers.  This match featured Clark Connors and Alex Coughlin.  Coughlin was a former WWE Tough Enough contestant and has wrestled on the indies.  Connors was trained by Lance Storm and wrestled in the Pacific Northwest.  Notably, I saw him wrestle for Washington state based promotion, Defy Wrestling.  New Japan opened up a Los Angeles-based dojo to train here in the states and these two are a part of the school.

Both Connors and Coughlin were indistinguishable in black trunks, black boots and no knee pads.  Both fighters ran to the ring and bowed to the crowd.  The match was devoid of any fancy moves or fanfare.  But, it was a solid performance focusing on the basics and strong style.  Connors won via Boston crab-type submission where he bridged over to obtain more leverage.

My favorite match of the night was Marty Scurll versus Will Ospreay.  It was a fast-pace back and forth match with both wrestlers working really hard.  Ospreay is one of the truly special guys in pro wrestling.  There are things he can do that no other wrestlers can.  Scurll plays up to his nickname, “The Villain.”  In the post-match press conference, he railed on the media calling them losers.  Perfect.

Then, there was the hometown favorite Young Bucks taking on the Tongans in a battle for the Bucks’ tag team titles.  The story of the match was the back of Matt Jackson.  I am not one to know how much Matt was selling the injury and how much was legit, but Nick had to do much of the load.  This was one of the best matches from Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.  They came off as great heels and the crowd just hated them.

The main event saw The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) take on Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.  Most of the match saw the tease between Omega and Okada as it was the first time since one of the best matches fans have seen this past summer.  It was a definite strong style match with Ishii giving and taking some very stiff shots.  In the end the Omega and Ibushi double knee “V-trigger” to Ishii won it for the Lovers.

One of the best promos of the night came after Cody won the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship over Juice Robinson.  After an unsatisfying stint in NXT as CJ Parker, Robinson left for New Japan where he has reinvented himself.  He has been on a roll as of late in New Japan and had won the belt in San Francisco at the G1 Special in July.

Unlike other wrestling promotions, New Japan Wrestling conducts post-fight interviews just like most other sports.  This is a great opportunity for the wrestlers to get reps to respond to reporter questions.  It’s also a way for the wrestlers (in character) to move forward their storylines and establish new ones.

Despite enjoying his time in the WWE, he laid into the company and Juice.  He talked about heritage, “Juice Robinson is one of what the NXT people said he was one of ‘Dusty’s Kids.’ Guess what, I’m his actual God damn kid!” He then exclaimed, “if you didn’t think it was personal, its very personal.”  The promo exemplifies Rhodes’ mastery of the mic and an audience.  Without concern for promoter or promotion, Rhodes rules his own world of wrestling and has attracted many searching for alternative options for pro wrestling.

His years of learning to cut a promo have helped him outside of the company in attracting fans.  The delivery is deliberate when it needs to be and he’s ready to adapt to any situation.  In fact, he called out several reporters when he asked them questions and complemented one who exuded passion for the sport.  He touted his championships and his success in the industry.  And, he’s not afraid to let people know it.  Cody has been able to create his own persona while reminding opponents and fans that the Rhodes name is royalty in the sport.

Since leaving the WWE, Cody has remastered his legacy and instead of being relegated to the mid-card and relative stability of WWE, he opted to go outside of the company on his own.  He’s linked up with the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Marty Scurll in creating a buzz with The Bullet Club.  Coming off of All In, his brand is at a high and concern about going back to Uncle Vince is always a worry.  He did talk a bit about this in his post-match press conference.  While he has used the WWE as a heel straw man in most of his setups, he admitted that he had a good time with the company.  He also didn’t rule out going back.  A concern for many non-WWE wrestling fans as the Bucks and Rhodes cite January 1, 2019 as the end of their current contracts.

With that being said, Rhodes is enjoying the freedom of being his own boss.  He talked about not being concerned about any of the promoters he worked for in New Japan, Ring of Honor or the NWA.  That’s why it doesn’t appear that Cody will be going anywhere.  Its always hard to do it yourself but its clear that Cody is happy where he’s at and how he’s done it.  While I wouldn’t rule out a return to the WWE (Royal Rumble surprise anyone), he’s become a much bigger star than he’d ever would have been in the WWE.

If you didn’t watch Fighting Spirit Unleashed, you can catch it Friday night on AXS TV.

Payout Exclusive: CM Punk talks new show, praises All In

September 10, 2018

CM Punk is back.

But it’s not in the octagon or the wrestling ring.  He is one of the hosts on Netflix’s Ultimate Beastmaster 3 which premiered August 31st.  Punk is co-host along with former NFL star Tiki Barber.

The show is an obstacle course reality series featuring teams from around the world vying to become champion.

Ultimate Beastmaster Season 3 (via Netflix)

Punk noted that they weren’t allowed to run the challenging obstacle course.  “I would have probably fallen and busted my head,” joked the former WWE star and UFC competitor.  At the end of shooting, they were given the opportunity but by that point, after watching the athletes from around the world struggle with one of the more demanding courses put together, no one wanted to do it.

Ultimate Beastmaster Season 3 (via Netflix)

There are localized hosts for each country participating including Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, South Korea, the UK, Mexico and Italy.  Reactions from all countries’ hosts are shown in localized versions.  Former UFC champ Anderson Silva served as Brazil’s commentator and Stu Bennett (aka WWE’s Wade Barrett) as the UK’s commentator.

The series executive producer Sylvester Stallone hosted the first season of the Ultimate Beastmaster which started on Netflix in February 2017.

Speaking frankly during the phone interview, Punk indicated that he got a call from his agent about the opportunity.  “I jumped at the chance,” Punk said when he heard that he would be working with the former New York Giants running back.  “I thought the entire concept and the different spin peaked my interest.”

Since we last saw Punk in the Octagon this past June, he has been branching out into new things. Although he says he will be back training at Roufusport in the future, he has taken on some acting projects.

Ultimate Beastmaster 3 was actually filmed almost a year ago but just released on Netflix late last month

“It was amazing,” Punk said of working on the set.  “There were so many neat and awesome people to work with.”  Notably, Punk worked with old WWE friend Stu Bennett, known in the WWE as Wade Barrett.  “It’s been nice to see how successful he’s been,” said Punk of Bennett who has carved out an acting career after leaving the WWE.  Also, on the set was fellow UFC athlete Anderson Silva.  Punk recalled Silva being a little late for filming each day due to training for an anticipated fight with Kelvin Gastelum.  “To do this show while training for the fight had to be tough on him.”  As we know now, that fight was called off as Silva was flagged for a potential UFC anti-doping violation.

In between contestants making their way through the obstacle course, the hosts openly root for their nations while (good-naturedly) rooting against others.  When nations are eliminated, the other hosts are not shy to make fun of the demise of their team.  “There’s a lot of ribbing that goes on,” said Punk.  Working odd hours, brought out a lot of personality with many of the hosts.  Punk observed rivalries between France and Mexico based on their soccer teams.  The hosts mocked each other and generally had a good time during filming.  “Imagine all the stuff they had to edit out,” said Punk.

Punk enjoyed the experience shooting Ultimate Beastmaster 3.  “I take every single opportunity afforded to me.”  He added, “[i]t was nice to learn their stories and get to know them a bit.”

While Punk may be taking a detour from combat sports, he made a rare fan meet and greet/photo appearance during “All In” Weekend in his hometown of Chicago.  “I’m really careful and choosy about where and when I do appearances.”  He talked a little about the event and his admiration for Matt and Nick Jackson.

“I love those guys.” Punk said of The Young Bucks. “For anybody to put 10,000 plus in a building and you don’t have the brand name WWE behind you its great.”

“They remind me when I was on the independents,” said Punk.  “I couldn’t be happier for those guys.”

Punk is currently working on a couple of movie projects including an upcoming film entitled “Girl on the Third Floor.”  After that, he will be back training in MMA.

All In Zero Hour draws 196,000 viewers

September 5, 2018

All In Zero Hour on WGN America Saturday afternoon drew 196,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event preceded the first major Independent Wrestling PPV in years.

The one-hour broadcast featured one match and a battle royale and more importantly, promoted All In, an event that sold out (over 11,000 in attendance) the Sears Centre in Chicago, Illinois.

Payout Perspective:

The ratings are on par with that of Professional Fighters League on NBC Sports Network and TUF on FS1.  It is slightly lower than an average Impact show on Pop TV.  Although it was a one-time show, WGN America, until recently has not been showing pro wrestling or any other sporting event for that matter (unless maybe its MLB).  Thus, the near 200,000 viewers followed via social media and regional promotions to know of the event.  The rating is a testament that there is a space for independent pro wrestling.

Cabana sues Punk over unpaid legal fees

August 9, 2018

Scott Colton (aka Colt Cabana) is suing C.M. Punk over unpaid legal fees the two shared as a result of a defamation lawsuit brought by a WWE physician.  Cabana and Punk prevailed in the lawsuit although the issue of the bill is in dispute.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, August 7th in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois.  According to the lawsuit, CM Punk assured Cabana that he was “100% covered” in relation to a demand letter he received regarding the infamous podcast in which Punk and Cabana spoke about the latter’s time in WWE including the physician’s lack of care for Punk.  Punk and Cabana were sued on February 19, 2015.

A retention agreement by Punk and Cabana’s defense law firm during for the trial indicated that Punk would be responsible for paying the legal invoices.  But, Cabana claims that in April 2016, Punk emailed him stating he would no longer pay the legal bills stating that Cabana would be responsible for half.  But, in June 2016, an agreement was brokered between the law firm, Punk and Cabana through trial.

In March 2017, Punk allegedly requested that the law firm representing them withdraw from the case as to representing Cabana.  As a result, Cabana had to retain separate counsel.

In June 2018, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Punk and Cabana.  After the trial, Cabana’s lawyers demanded $200,000 in legal fees and net costs incurred by Cabana.  But, Punk refused to pay.

Cabana has brought a civil lawsuit for breach of contract and fraud.

Payout Perspective:

It looks like the former friends are friends no more considering this lawsuit.  There were potential conflicts between Cabana and Punk from the outset and to have both represented by the same counsel seemed dubious.  Based on Cabana’s side of the story, it appears that he took no action to remove the podcast when the initial demand letter was sent by the WWE doctor because he believed that Punk would “cover” him.  In this case, withdrawing as counsel two years into the lawsuit is more damaging than letting him find his own counsel from the beginning because it would seem that the new counsel would cost more considering it would have to get up to speed with the lawsuit and duplicate efforts.  One would think that a settlement would have happened instead of this lawsuit but it may be a case of bad blood between the two.

Kenny Omega is the most interesting man in pro wrestling

July 6, 2018

Kenny Omega is the most interesting man in pro wrestling.

It’s not because he is one of the most athletic and entertaining wrestlers inside of the ring and a great promotional speaker, it’s his thoughtful delivery that makes him one of the best today.

Via AXS TV

In a recent teleconference to promote this Saturday’s New Japan Wrestling show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Omega answered a variety of questions about the upcoming event, video games and how he learned Japanese.  It was impressive to see how thoughtful and articulate he was in answering and responding to all of the questions.

If you have watched Omega, he has the versatility to converse with Japanese audiences in their native languages.  Omega promised to speak more in Japanese to the fans.  The Japanese promos are done in a conversational way and it took Omega time to learn.  He started to learn from a book in 2008.  But, he stated that he couldn’t learn from a book because that was not really used in everyday conversation.  He had a Japanese friend that he was fluent in both English and Japanese.  He’d ask about words and phrases and kept them in a notepad.  From the words and phrases, he began to recognize sentence structure and grammar.  By 2011, he had a breakthrough where he could approach someone and have a conversation.  It was also the first time that he was able to cut a promo.  He noted that it was difficult at first to cut a promo in Japanese as the intent is to be intense and strong and to do it without stumbling over the words.  But now, he’s able to do it with confidence and without having to search for the correct words.  The out-of-the-box thinking to learn Japanese to use in front of audiences is bold and dedicated for a non-Japanese wrestler.

The strategy, commitment and execution of learning Japanese is similar to his in-ring ability.  His ability to put on 60 minutes plus matches with the same intensity and athleticism is remarkable in a day and age when most WWE fans are used to short, TV-style snippet match.

Pro wrestling fans are beginning to see more and more of what he can do.  “I don’t want to be limited to strictly America, I would love for New Japan to have a multiple presence in numerous countries,” stated the NJPW champion.  “I’ve increased my training,” Omega said of his ability to perform in the ring as a heavyweight.  “I’m a better athlete and a more healthy athlete as of now,” said the NJPW champion in response to his move to heavyweight from junior heavyweight.

At 34, Omega does not see an end in sight.  Omega stated that he modeled his career similar to Chris Jericho, a man who he faced early last year.  He spoke highly of Jericho’s career outside the ring.  He noted his work with E3.  Omega is a gamer and did some work at the annual video game expo in Los Angeles this past June which included a face-off with the WWE’s New Day.  It’s clear that he would like to expand his reach into some of his interests.  During the teleconference he talked about shooting commercials and other promotional activities on behalf of his brand and New Japan.  “If it brings eyes to our company [New Japan], that’s what I’m going to do.”  As a veteran of the New Japan roster, he sees himself in more of a senior role for the company. “It’s not just to carry the belt out for every house show,” he added, “We have such and deep and talented roster, I think that they will be fine on the house shows. I think it’s my job to bring more eyes to the product and with the skill set that I have I can do more that is equipped.”

Omega noted that the wrestling is only just the surface to the package.  “I think as wrestlers we have to show ourselves as multi-layered.”  He eschews the meat-head moniker of pro wrestlers.  “That’s why I really want to have my voice heard.”

He preached being a positive role model and as pro wrestlers have more of their voices be heard.

Earlier this year, Omega was indifferent about perceptions about whether his character was a homosexual as he and Kota Ibushi reformed The Golden Lovers. “I can’t lie, that story was created for us,” Omega said about getting back together with Ibushi.   He told Yahoo, “If LGBT people can identify with our story, if they think ‘the Golden Lovers are my team,’ I’m good with that.  It’s the story of two wrestlers who share dreams on their way up, who became fast friends, who are now reuniting at the top of their game.” Omega’s viewpoint reflects an open-mindedness and sense of inclusion which is welcoming of all types regardless.

Via AXS TV

Perhaps the only concern fans have with Omega is that he might become to big of a star that the WWE will come calling.

Yet, he has amassed a following without the help of the WWE and is on the cusp of being a bigger star with AXS TV’s second United States show for the Japanese promotion.  Later this summer, he’s sure to be one of the headliners for the “All In” event in Chicago, an all-independent wrestling show which sold 10,000 tickets in one day, a remarkable feat.

Omega is in the main event against Cody Rhodes Saturday night at the ‘G1 Special in San Francisco’ on AXS TV.

WWE announces SmackDown Live deal with Fox Sports

June 26, 2018

The WWE announced its upcoming rights deal with Fox Sports with SmackDown Live starting on FOX Friday night October 4, 2019 according to a company press release.  The deal with Fox Sports more than triples the fees it was receiving in its prior deal with NBC Universal.

The show, which currently airs on the USA Network, will remain a 2-hour show airing year-round.

“WWE and FOX are a perfect match,” said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman & CEO. “Moving SmackDown Live to broadcast TV and having the ability to leverage FOX’s extensive portfolio of world-class sporting events will expand the reach of our flagship programming.”

The announcement is part of a new 5-year deal with Fox Sports.  In addition, it signed a deal with Comcast Corp.’s USA Network for Raw to remain on the Network.

Payout Perspective:

The announcement confirms that Smackdown Live will be on network television in 2019.  The news of the deal with Fox Sports last month boosted WWE stock.  Smackdown Live on network television is an even bigger coup for the company as its business continues to ascend.  The clamor for live content has made this round of rights fees for the WWE a bounty of riches as it adjusted its annual average rights fees from $468 million as compared to the $130 million in its previous deal for its two key programs.

Has pro wrestling evolved with The Golden Lovers?

March 25, 2018

A gay wrestling tag team?  Almost 20 years ago, the WWE gained notoriety when Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo teased a gimmick in which they feigned a homosexual relationship which led to a televised “commitment ceremony.”  In 2018, a similar tag team relationship is being teased, but with the times, it is not that controversial.

Billy and Chuck received national attention for an alleged stunt in which they were going to have a commitment ceremony.  The WWE had worked with GLAAD in securing publicity for the event.  Once the ceremony took place (which turned out to be a swerve), GLAAD denounced the stunt as they were duped into helping the WWE obtain awareness for the purpose of gaining ratings.

The Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are taking on The Young Bucks on Sunday Night in Long Beach, California in the main event of the New Japan Wrestling Show to be televised on AXS TV.  The promotion has taken off since airing on AXS and the event in Long Beach sold out its 6,500 or so venue within 15 minutes.

The issue of homosexuality in wrestling is no longer a de facto heel character as in the days of the WWE’s portrayals of Adrian Adonis or Goldust.  Omega even invites the thought that the characters may be homosexual.

For that matter, there is not much backlash from NJPW fans.  Arguably, Omega is the biggest fan favorite in the company, and maybe even all of pro wrestling.  His demand is through the roof and its clear that he is in no way looking to parlay his popularity into a shot in the WWE.

 

Via AXS TV

Omega does not care about the ambiguity of his character’s relationship with another man.  In an interview with Yahoo this week Omega let it be known:

“Let people think what they want to think.

If LGBT people can identify with our story, if they think ‘the Golden Lovers are my team,’ I’m good with that. It’s the story of two wrestlers who shared dreams on their way up, who became fast friends, who are now reuniting at the top of their game.

I think it’s important to show in the 21st century that if you’re gay, lesbian, trans, whatever, that you should feel just as welcome to be a wrestling fan as anyone else. You’re welcome in the space.”

Pro wrestling is made up of characters and sometimes it’s based on dredging up the stereotypes to illicit a response from the fans.  From the bad Russians, to the savage Samoans to the good guy American, characters were premised upon typecasts.  Since the WWE became a publicly traded company, the era of focusing on race, gender or ethnicity have largely gone by the wayside.

The newfound view of sexuality is inclusive for everyone and indicative of a new viewpoint on pro wrestling in 2018.  The fans have evolved and are much smarter and are less likely to be pulling for a wrestler based on vanilla characters.

Ronda Rousey signs with WWE

January 28, 2018

Ronda Rousey has signed with WWE as she made a surprise appearance at the Royal Rumble Sunday night.  ESPN revealed the news after Rousey came down the ramp wearing a jacket given to her by Rowdy Roddy Piper’s son at the end of the show.

There was much speculation about Rousey’s appearance tonight as she was scheduled to be out of the country to film a moving.  It was an obvious swerve.  Maybe there was some foreshadowing as Rousey’s photographer was in Philadelphia according to a tweet he put out (looking for weed).

Rousey indicates in the Ramona Shelburne story that she will be in WWE full-time despite there are other options for her career-wise.

She has not shut the door on an MMA return as Brock Lesnar has returned from WWE to head back into the Octagon.

Rousey’s last fight was at UFC 207 where she was stopped by Amanda Nunes in the first round.  The PPV drew 1 million PPV buys.

Payout Perspective:

Rousey is a life-long pro wrestling fan and it’s clear that living out her dream of being a wrestler is something that she would like to do.  She made a memorable cameo with the Rock at Wrestlemania a couple years ago.  Her friend Shayna Baszler is on the NXT roster and this past summer there was the hint of a possible feud between Rousey’s Four Horsewomen and the NXT Four Horsewomen of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Bailey.  All indications point to her wrestling debut this spring at Wrestlemania.

McMahon revives XFL

January 25, 2018

The XFL reboot is going to happen.  Vince McMahon is scheduled to make the announcement on Thursday.

Speculation about bringing back the XFL surfaced last month when SEC filings from the WWE indicated that McMahon sold 3.34 million shares of the company to fund a separate entity, Alpha Entertainment, LLC.  The company was established “to explore investment opportunityes across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football.”  In addition, USPTO applications for XFL and Alpha Entertainment provided further clues that the football league was coming back.

Payout Perspective:

Dependent on how this is set up, a spring football league would not be a crazy idea at this point.  Notably, Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee, was looking into establishing a league for those players that could not or did not go to college.  It would be similar to a developmental league like the NBA.  If it is structured like this, and not as a direct competitor to the NFL, there could be a viable market.  We shall see.

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