WrestleMania 35, undoubtedly the biggest week of the year for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: WWE) will see a historic first with female wrestlers Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair headlining the event.
Speaking at CAA’s World Congress of Sport event this week in California, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon said the fans demanded the company put women front and center.
“Fans started a hashtag called #GiveDivasAChance [in 2015], which is how we branded our women’s division at the time and it trended worldwide for three days, specifically calling for better character development, longer matches, more athleticism [and] better storylines,” McMahon said.
“We can see the acceptance beginning to happen. We just listen to our fans, something that we do very well I think. Once we put [female wrestlers] out there, they just started tearing it up,” said Paul Levesque, better known by his ring name Triple H. “The male wrestlers are thrilled that the women are the main event.”
Developing Talent, Brands
Levesque, who serves as the company's Executive Vice President of Talent and has been married to Stephanie since 2003, said part of the reason for WWE’s success is its ability to develop and foster talent, and says the best business people are the best performers.
Levesque has worked with WWE since 1995 and been involved in various on-air storylines with his real-life wife. The two most recently performed together at WrestleMania last year, taking on industry veteran Kurt Angle and Rousey in her first WWE match.
“You can look across the brand, with stars that resonate with generations. Its constantly recreated those stars and brands. Every one of our performers is an individual brand and we teach them to be that,” he said this week.
WWE has developed a content innovation lab to help the athletes build their brands.
“We are given them content training, language skills, financial training. It’s really important to invest in these resources and our talent,” Levesque said.
“We are looking for the emerging leader, because the truth is we are the ultimate team sport. Two people step in, they have trust each other, 'we are going to work together with this performance happen.'"
WWE + Disney?
Levesque says the WWE is looking to expand to strategic markets, including the Middle East, China and India.
When asked where she sees the organization within the next 10-15 years, McMahon said there's no reason why the brand can't be as big as Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS).
“Our of our lines of business they really are more akin to Disney. We are a media property, with the consumer products, television studio, film studio. We have all the different aspects,” she said.
Levesque affirmed this notion: "We will transform as a business over the next many years, to be so much more to where the WWE becomes this massive entertainment juggernaut, that it is now, but much larger and more expansive.”
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