For years, I thought World Wrestling Entertainment was a punchline. Why would people spend time watching a sporting event they know is fake?
When I first watched a WWE fight, I was shocked that there was almost as much time focused on the drama as there was on the actual fight. For wrestlers, mic skills are almost as important as physical ability. As a sports fan, it seems that the grandiose entrances and arguments take away from the already staged fight.
I used to think that all of this made WWE stupid. How can you have the arguments about who the best wrestler is when the entire argument is based off who has the storyline on their side?
Then I started watching. I noticed that WWE doesn’t consider itself a sport. It calls itself “sports entertainment.” Monday Night RAW, one of the brands of WWE, considers itself a TV show and not a sporting event. Wrestlers aren’t known as athletes, but as superstars.
WWE is not a sport, and that is what makes it fun to watch. People like to watch reality TV shows because of the overdramatic and competitive nature of the shows. WWE is reality TV on steroids.
But there are many televised sports and a wide variety of reality TV shows, all begging the question: Why is the sports entertainment industry limited to just wrestling?
I’d argue that the Harlem Globetrotters are a sports entertainment group. The basketball team’s games against the inferior Washington Generals are always rigged in their favor, while they exhibit awesome trick plays. Maybe a more competitive version with more teams would be an even bigger success.
Vince McMahon, the chairman, founder, and CEO of WWE, recently announced that he plans to restart his old foray into American football, a league called the XFL.
The original iteration of the XFL in 2001 brought some of McMahon’s showmanship to football. The league began as a serious competitor to the NFL, and its emphasis on increased violence and gimmicks, such as having the names on the back of players’ jerseys be their nicknames, sold well. However, the XFL quickly faded from interest, and the league folded after one season.
Now, as McMahon plans on restarting the XFL, he plans on not bringing back the gimmicks and instead will focus on being as serious of a competitor to the NFL as possible.
McMahon is missing an opportunity. Sports entertainment could easily be applied to American football. At a time when head injuries put the sport in jeopardy and leg injuries bar many stars from reaching the field, a staged version of the sport may be in growing demand.
Additionally, the XFL could make games constantly exciting, with pre-planned amazing plays, shocking comebacks, and exciting close games. To sweeten the deal, they could bring in players who already have interesting and well-known stories, like Colin Kaepernick, Michael Sam, Tim Tebow, and Johnny Manziel.
Instead, McMahon is pushing his luck by trying to actually compete with the NFL. It is really difficult to compete on real content with the sports league which already has all of the best players. However, there is not yet a sports entertainment league in football, even though that could be extremely successful.