The Wrestling Post – Ross replaces Ranallo as New Japan announcer

January 21, 2016

AXS TV announced that former WWE announcer Jim Ross will join AXS TV’s “New Japan Pro Wrestling” as its play-by-play commentator.  Ross will join former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett to call the action starting Friday, March 4th.

Via the AXS TV press release:

A WWE Hall of Famer, Ross was known as the voice of WWE for nearly two decades, bringing his incomparable broadcasting talent to hundreds of TV and pay-per-view broadcasts for the organization. No stranger to New Japan Pro Wrestling, Oklahoma native Ross also called the first-ever, live English-language broadcast of NJPW with Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015.

“I’m excited to join the AXS TV team in presenting the amazing athletes of the New Japan Pro Wrestling brand,” said Ross. “I’m a major fan of NJPW and look forward to joining Josh Barnett to form the best broadcast team in the genre. Business just picked up!”

Ross replaces Mauro Ranallo who departed the broadcast team to join the WWE and its Smackdown broadcast team as it moved to the USA Network from SyFy.

Payout Take:  You may recall that Ross was dismissed by the WWE after an incident during a sponsored panel talk at Summerslam in 2013.  Ross was the fall guy for an obvious inebriated Ric Flair during a panel discussion for WWE 2k14.  The WWE announced that Ross was retiring but its clear that that was not the real reason.  Since then, Ross has started his own podcast, called an MMA event with Chael Sonnen as well as Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015.  Ross should be a very good addition to the popular show which airs on Friday nights.

2015: The year in pro wrestling

January 9, 2016

We leave the last review of 2015 to that of professional wrestling.

Let’s do some quick hits before we get to the high spots.

  • New Japan debuted on AXS TV to rave reviews. Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett served as the English commentators for the shows.
  • Ranallo recently made the move from New Japan and commentating boxing events to being the voice for WWE’s Smackdown. He debuted as the new voice as it the Smackdown brand moved from USA to SyFy this year.
  • Lucha Underground on the El Rey Network was the most-talked about independent hit. The mix of telenovela and independent wrestling action served as something different for wrestling fans.  The second season of the show was in peril as it lacked the necessary funding and a television deal.  However, news surfaced late in the year that it would return to the El Rey Network for a second season starting in January.
  • ESPN and the WWE entered into a partnership in which the sports cable network will feature a weekly segment with WWE wrestlers. 2015 saw ESPN expand a little more into the world of entertainment which included covering Summerslam (which was in Brooklyn, NY this year) and the announcement of Brock Lesnar’s re-signing with the WWE.
  • Lesnar’s signing in early 2015 was big news as it seemed as though he was going to head back to the UFC. He was in attendance at UFC 184 in Los Angeles. He re-signed with Vince McMahon in LA as the WWE was at the Staples Center at the time.  Also in LA at about the same time was Dana White who was promoting the Aldo-McGregor fight.
  • The much maligned TNA Wrestling organization was dropped by SpikeTV and then picked up by Destination America.  Soon thereafter, Ring of Honor was added to Destination America as a syndicated show for the network.  However, it has since moved once again to POP TV.
  • Ronda Rousey appeared with The Rock at WrestleMania in Santa Clara, California. The annual event drew in $139 million in economic impact for the Santa Clara/San Francisco region.
  • The WWE and TapouT announced a joint venture in which performers would wear the former MMA brand which revamped itself into an athletic performance brand.
  • The WWE was one of the many sports leagues to announces a deal with a fantasy sports operator as it announced a deal with DraftKings.

Hulk Hogan banished from WWE as a results of racist comments

Hulk Hogan was terminated by the WWE this past July after audio of a racist rant surfaced.  The audio relates to racist remarks he made 9 years ago.  It appears that the discovery was made as a result of an ongoing Gawker lawsuit in which the former pro wrestler sued the media outlet for publishing a sex tape.  Hogan’s Gawker lawsuit continues into this year as a trial date last summer was continued.

CM Punk sued by WWE physician

UFC contracted fighter CM Punk was sued by a WWE physician for libel.  The lawsuit stems from comments Punk made on Colt Cabana’s podcast about the type of medical treatment he received from the doctor while with the company.  The podcast was one of the most listened to podcasts from Cabana, who was also named in the lawsuit.  A motion to dismiss the case by Punk and Cabana’s lawyers was denied and the lawsuit continues.

More head injury lawsuits filed

The estate of former WWE performer Nelson Lee Frazier sued the WWE for wrongful death as a result of multiple head injuries/concussions while a wrestler with the WWE.  Matt Osborne’s estate filed a similar lawsuit.  In addition, Billy Jack Haynes,, Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton also filed lawsuits related head injuries they claimed they suffered while working in the WWE.  The WWE is aggressively defending these lawsuits claiming that they were filed by “ambulance chasing” lawyers.  The WWE file motion to transfer the lawsuits to the company’s home state of Connecticut.

In a unique strategy, the WWE filed a lawsuit against several former WWE stars seeking a declaratory judgment against them. The lawsuit would seek a ruling that any allegations of head trauma are “time-barred” by the statute of limitations.

Via our July post:

The WWE strategy is a result of the growing swell of lawsuits filed by former WWE performers claiming that the company knew or should have known about the risks of head trauma and that they suffered injury as a result.  Although not a named defendant in the lawsuit, the WWE names (and blames) plaintiff attorney Konstantine Kyros for the litigation.  It identifies several notice letters (below) which request that the WWE not destroy any information it may have.  The lawsuit identifies the existing lawsuits Kyros has filed on behalf of former WWE stars including Billy Jack Haynes.

The lawsuit requests a court ruling indicating that the defendants’ claims are time-barred by the statutes of limitations/repose under Connecticut law.  Essentially, the defendants did not file their claims on time.  This is always a very hard issue to consider as most of the claims that wrestlers could make occur when they are still contracted by the company.

The WWE Network

What was once thought as a foolish idea, now reveals that the WWE Network was ahead of the curve with it’s over the top platform.  With UFC Fight Pass making efforts to produce more content for its network reflects the fact that digital platforms are not going anywhere.  Of course, we don’t think the UFC is going away from its PPV business but its digital service is becoming more of an economic driver for the company.

The WWE Network has kept its strategy of offering a free month for new subscribers in growing its current paid subscribers.  Further, the expansion of the network to other countries has helped its subscriber base grow.  In January 2015, it surpassed 1 million subscribers.

Q1: 918,000

Q2: 1,156,000

Q3: 1,173,000

The fourth quarter has yet to be reported, but through September 2015, the WWE has brought in almost 2.3 million unique subscribers and half of those were active as of September 2015.

Judge denies motion to dismiss in Punk libel lawsuit

July 22, 2015

The Washington Post reports that the lawsuit between WWE doctor Chris Amman and CM Punk and Colt Cabana will continue after a Cook County (IL) Circuit Court judge denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.

As a result of the court’s denial to dismiss the case, CM Punk and Colt Cabana must answer Amann’s complaint claiming that the two libeled the WWE doctor during an episode of Cabana’s podcast.

On the Art of Wrestling podcast, Punk called into question Dr. Amann’s treatment of his concussion and an injury on his back with was diagnosed as a MRSA staph infection.  Cabana is being implicated for being the host of the podcast.  He is also a good friend of the now UFC fighter.

The WWE aided Dr. Amann despite not being a party to the lawsuit as it sent out a statement regarding the lawsuit and providing video purported evidence that Punk did not have a lump on his back.

Payout Perspective:

Procedurally, a motion to dismiss the lawsuit prior to answering the claims in a complaint is necessary and occurs when the one being sued believes that there is no merit to the claims.  Here, Punk and Cabana took their shot at dismissing the lawsuit.  But, there was a sufficient amount of information pled by Dr. Amman according to the court.  Its likely Punk and Cabana will deny the allegations in the Complaint when they file an Answer and we may see prolonged litigation.

The Wrestling Post – 06.02.15

June 2, 2015

Welcome back to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  This time around we take at the WWE Network offering another free month and the uncertainty of the status of TNA Wrestling.

WWE offers another free month on its Network

With the success of recruiting and retaining more network subscribers through its “free” network months, the WWE has added another free month of June for non-subscribers.  It just came off a “free” month of May which culminated in a special live show.

Payout Take:  There is no initial reason given for the second consecutive month of the “free” Network offer.  We can’t read into anything but from the past indicators, the WWE has been able to collect a fair number of new paid subscribers from its free promotion.  Thus, when people sign up for the free month, they tend to stay on and pay the following month instead of cancelling after the free month is up.  The one question is whether the “free” month will be a mainstay for the network.  It appears that the this strategy is the “go to” move to boost subscribers.  We shall see if this means another improvement with its overall subscription numbers when it makes another announcement after the end of the second quarter.

Ring of Honor now on Destination America; TNA status in jeopardy

In what was a newsworthy week last week for the Discovery Network’s offshoot, Destination America, it was announced that wrestling promotion Ring of Honor will air on the network starting Wednesday, June 3rd.  The interesting part about this situation is that the ROH announcement came after news that Destination America would not renew TNA Wrestling next year.  The Wrestling Observer first reported the news that TNA Wrestling would be not renewed as Dave Meltzer obtained an internal memo from Destination America indicating that the promotion would not be renewed.  TNA Wrestling is being moved from Friday to Wednesday and will now serve as the lead-in for ROH.  While there was the possibility that Destination America could have changed its mind if TNA ratings skyrocketed on Wednesday nights, the ROH announcement makes it highly unlikely TNA will be back on Destination America once its contract ends this year.   The station had an “out clause” at the end of the current TV season according to The Wrestling Observer.

Ring of Honor programming is currently available regionally via the Sinclair Broadcast Group. The Destination America deal is great for the promotion since it gives them national exposure and taps into markets that it could not reach with Sinclair.  According to The Wrestling Observer, the deal with ROH will only go through December 2, 2015 so we may see more movement from Destination America this year.

Payout Take:   Regardless of the semantics (cancelled vs. not renewed), Destination America made the decision that the production costs of carrying TNA Wrestling outweighed the ratings (and ad revenue) it received from the program.  Ring of Honor is a cheaper alternative for Destination America since it will not be paying for production costs for ROH.  Wednesday will be filled with wrestling as it joins Lucha Underground and NXT with live wrestling that night.

WWE Q1 2015 results

April 30, 2015

The WWE announced its results for the first quarter of 2015.  In a release from the company, it stated that revenues increased 40% to $176.2 million which is the highest quarterly revenue in WWE history.  The results exceeded analyst expectations for the company.

After five consecutive quarters in the red, it’s the first quarter where the WWE has shown a positive operating income.  As for the WWE Network, it reached 1.3 million total subscribers, a benchmark it announced the day after Wrestlemania.  The WWE reports that its average of network subscribers is at 927,000 at the end of the first quarter.  Again, the network’s free promotion, which was February this quarter, contributed to the Network’s growth as 154,000 subscribers converted from free to paid subscribers.

For its quarter ending March 31, 2015, it reported net income of $9.8 million ($0.13 per share) as compared to a net loss of $8.0 million ($0.11 per share) in the first quarter last year.

According to Chief Strategy & Financial Officer George Barrios the positive financial results were “driven primarily by the escalation of our [WWE] television rights fees and the expansion of the WWE Network subscribers.”

The WWE indicated that it will implement a five-part strategy the rest of 2015 for the Network.  This includes 1) creating new content; 2) implementing high impact customer acquisition and retention programs; 3) introducing new features; 4) expanding distribution platforms, and 5) entering new geographies.

As for the rest of WWE business, each division, except WWE Studios ($1.5M vs. $4.3M) is up over this quarter last year.  The total net revenues for this quarter were $176.2 as compared to $125.6 at the end of the quarter for 2014.  The Network segment, which includes revenue generated from Network and PPV increased $19.2 million from the prior year quarter.  The Network alone generated $28.6 million in revenue based on an average of 927,000 paid subscribers.

At the time of this writing, WWE stock is down slightly at $14.16 per share.

Payout Perspective:

A good quarter for the WWE.  Beating the analyst expectations is a good achievement by the company.  Wrestlemania was the likely key driver here especially when you look at the number of converted free to paid subscribers going into March, which was Wrestlemania month.  Of course, we do not know how many dropped the network in April.  We will see if the WWE can continue its positive momentum and see if its strategy for the network continues to net subscribers.

WWE Network averages 918,000 subscribers through Q1 2015

March 30, 2015

The WWE announced its network subscription numbers on Monday and Wall Street was unimpressed.  The WWE Network surpassed 1.3 million subscribers which is almost double its total from a year ago.  The current average is approximately 918,000 paid subscribers through the first quarter of 2015.

The WWE stock dipped during the day on Monday on “confusion over the company’s subscription growth,” according to analyst Laura Martin of Needham & Co.  Last year, the company announced WWE Network subscriptions at 667,000.  The average is at 918,000 per company press release.

The WWE Network surpassed 1 million subscribers in late January.

Payout Perspective:

As of the time of this writing, WWE stock was rallying in after-hours trading.  The 1.3 million subscribers sounds like a good number considering we are over a year in with the platform, but the fluctuations in how many subscribers there are at a current time still remains a source of confusion for investors.  Thus, this may be the reason the stock dipped today.  The network announced 8 new original series for the network during WrestleMania 31 on Sunday which the company hopes will facilitate consumer retention of the network.

WrestleMania 31 sets gate record, attendance record for Levi’s Stadium

March 30, 2015

The WWE announced an attendance and gate record for Wrestlemania 31 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.  In a press release it indicated that it grossed $12.6 million with an attendance of 76,976.

It was the 5th highest attendance figure in Wrestlemania history.  It also set a mark for attendance at Levi’s Stadium (previously 70,799 for the first regular season game for the San Francisco 49ers).  Wrestlemania 29 at MetLife Stadium in 2013 had the previous record for highest gross with $12.3 million.

For the Bay Area, Wrestlemania served as preparation for Levi’s Stadium to host Super Bowl 50 next February.

Payout Perspective:

The company’s annual event proved once again why cities vie to host WrestleMania each year.  All of the events during the weekend surrounding Sunday’s show also provided a great influx of revenue to the Bay Area economy.  Many fans make it an annual trip and local businesses benefit.  While the attendance figure might be skewed, and as Dave Meltzer pointed out, the attendance record for Levi’s Stadium will likely be eclipsed by Super Bowl 50 next year, it still shows the continued popularity of the event.  Even though the WWE has received criticism over the build of this show, it pulled off one of the best shows in Wrestlemania history.

Rousey makes appearance at Wrestlemania

March 29, 2015

Ronda Rousey made a special appearance at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara, California at the WWE’s biggest event of the year.  Rousey and The Rock appeared in a promo with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon which was signed off by the UFC.

Rousey actually got physical in the WWE ring as she gave Triple H a judo throw and grabbed McMahon’s arm and performed an arm crank and then “rag dolled” her around the ring.

According to MMA Fighting, The Rock and Rousey share the same agent.  The appearance was likely part of a promotion for “Fast and Furious 7” which both make appearances in.

It was clear that the UFC had agreed to her participation at Wrestlemania.  Rousey is a big wrestling fan and was in the front row of the event with the other three “Four Horsewomen.”

Payout Perspective:

It was definitely a Wrestlemania moment with arguably the UFC’s most popular star in a WWE ring.  Who said that the two audience demos are not the same?  Even though the physical altercation was minimal, it’s still surprising that the UFC allowed this to happen.  But, since Rousey is a big wrestling fan, it was probably something the UFC let her to do.  I doubt she appears in a WWE match while still under UFC contract without some sort of monetary exchange.

I realize that this is not her first physical involvement at a wrestling event as she did what seemed to be an unrehearsed weak chop on a wrestler at a PWG show late last year.  The Wrestlmania appearance was a way to promote Rousey and the Rock (who hosted SNL Saturday night) at the same time on one of the most viewed platforms (Wrestlemania) of the weekend.  It will certainly grab some mainstream interest on Monday.

WWE and NBCU announce new brand campaign

March 23, 2015

The WWE and NBCU have entered into a broad marketing plan the first of which will start during Wrestlemania this Sunday as Viacom’s Paramount has signed on to promote its new film, “Terminator: Genisys” with the WWE per company announcement. “For the Hero in All of Us,” campaign will air across NBC’s network and digital properties as well as all WWE platforms.

The new film, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger will be promoted by the WWE starting this Sunday through its release in July. This Sunday, Triple H will make his entrance to the ring utilizing imagery from the movie. Triple H has a match with Sting this Sunday in one of the featured bouts of the annual event.

In addition, the new campaign includes WWE giving unprecedented access to its Superstars and Divas for creating custom “on-air campaigns, in-show integrations, and social campaigns to its advertisers.”

The new campaign spot created by the WWE is here.

Via WWE release:

Four key, tentpole marketing opportunities have been created for advertisers to take advantage of by utilizing WWE’s powerful engagement at scale:

  • “The Road To WrestleMania” – a 32-day build up to the Super Bowl of sports entertainment.
  • “The Slammy Awards” – an amped up version of WWE’s annual awards show that moves to first quarter in the heart of the red carpet season.
  • “Champions of Fatherhood” – a special series which turns the spotlight on America’s unsung heroes.
  • “Heroes of Tomorrow” – a way to highlight WWE’s legion of young fans.

Payout Perspective:

It appears that the WWE and NBCU will work more hand in hand when approaching advertisers for the WWE product. Perhaps this is an effort to attract more advertisers with the eventual end game of boosting ad sales of the WWE product.   The new strategy hopes to capitalize on the WWE’s broad social media and digital presence and NBCU broad scope of mainstream contacts to enhance advertising for the WWE.

Professional wrestler dies at event on Friday

March 22, 2015

On Friday night in Mexico, Perro Aguayo, Jr. passed away during an event in Tijuana, Mexico.  The tragic death is a grim reminder of the safety issues associated with combat sports.

For those that do not know, the Wrestling Observer reports that wrestler Perro Aguayo, Jr. died, apparently in the ring, in a match  Aguayo, Jr. was in a tag team match which included former WWE wrestler Rey Mysterio, Jr.  Aguay, Jr., 35, was a popular wrestler in Mexico.

According to reports, Aguayo, Jr. died of a cervical spinal injury.  While it’s still unclear about whether his death could have been prevented after the in-ring injury, it should be noted that two other wrestlers were injured on the same event earlier in the night.  It’s not known at this time whether there was a delay in medical help to Aguayo, Jr. due to the other injuries.  But, the ringside doctor was in the back tending to another wrestler at the time of the incident.  The report is that there were two ambulances at the show but both stretchers were being used and a plywood board was used to carry Aguayo, Jr. from the ring to the back. Also, the match continued for a couple minutes before anyone recognized the severity of his injuries.

A CBS news report is stating that the Baja California state prosecutor is opening up an investigation of possible manslaughter.

Payout Perspective:

The death is a reminder that even in professional wrestling there are high risks taken by the performers.  It also reflects the fact for the need for medical attention at these events.  Unfortunately, it appears that the doctor on site was attending to another wrestler.  The medical needs of medical professionals at combat sports seem overlooked at times and there is a balance between the costs of providing such assistance versus the precautionary need to ensure safety.  Notably, in Washington State, it revised a law this year which requires at least one physician and an ambulance or paramedical unit on scene at the event.  Previously, it was either one or the other.  The implication is that if someone is taken to the hospital by the ambulance, the event must stop until another ambulance returns to the event.  Another issue is the cost to pay both physician and ambulance at an event.  This was brought up when comment was requested of the revision to the law.  Specifically, for smaller organizations, the costs are a hurdle.

It might be that even if there were a physician immediately there treating Aguayo, Jr., it might not have helped.  We may know pending further investigation.  Obviously, the Commission in Tijuana is different and has called the death “an unfortunate accident like those that occur in other high-risk sports.”

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