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WWE’s race to $1 billion starts with WrestleMania 35 'Showcase of the Immortals'

On Sunday, April 7, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will put on its biggest event of the year: WrestleMania 35, held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Nicknamed "the showcase of the immortals," WrestleMania is WWE's annual flagship event, where the biggest names in the business compete for glory and championship gold.

Kofi Kingston will challenge Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship. Seth Rollins takes on Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, and for the first time in WWE history, a women's match will be front and center, when Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch compete in a winner-take-all championship match.

Fans cheer during WrestleMania 33 on Sunday, April 2, 2017 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

WrestleMania 35 will also have some mainstream star power. “Saturday Night Live” stars and “Weekend Update” hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che will actually compete in a match at this year's event. WWE even invited comedian John Oliver to WrestleMania after the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” went after the company over the alleged treatment of some of its stars.

But the Super Bowl of pro-wrestling isn’t just a one-day event; it’s a weeklong series of community-based activities, including stops at children’s hospitals, a Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game, and a fundraising initiative called Superstars for Hope to raise money for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. WWE will also present its annual WrestleMania fan fest Axxess at Pier 12 in Brooklyn.

When it is all said and done, more than 150,000 fans will attend WrestleMania events. And, of course, that doesn’t include the millions more watching the broadcast on the company’s streaming service — WWE Network. WrestleMania 35 will be broadcast in 180 countries and in 25 different languages.

WWE’s massive reach

Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

The company currently has over 1 billion fans through its global social media platforms, including 221 million Twitter followers and more than 500 million Facebook followers. WWE is also the No. 1 sports channel on YouTube (ahead of the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, ESPN, and NASCAR), with more than 40 million subscribers and 30 billion views.

Investors are fans of WWE, as well. In 2018, while the overall stock market had its worst year since 2008, WWE thrived, having the best year in its public history. The stock is up 150% as of April 2018.

The stock soared to an all-time high of $96.73 per share on September 28, 2018. And its meteoric rise was due in no small part to the news that the company secured two major television deals — one a $265 million renewal with NBC Universal (CMCSA) for “Monday Night Raw” and the other a five-year $1.025 billion deal with Fox (FOX) for “Smackdown Live.” This all added to the company’s record revenue, which saw an 16% increase in 2018, to $930 billion — and in 2019 according to Bloomberg data WWE is expected to surpass the $1 billion revenue mark for the first time in the company's history.

Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

WrestleMania is a significant part of the WWE’s economic prowess. Over the past 12 years, it has generated over $1.2 billion for the company. Host cities benefit as well. WrestleMania 34, in April 2018, created $175 million of new spending for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

What makes Wrestlemania so popular? “[It’s] is an amazing journey, and one that is designed to stimulate every one of the senses and to create an unprecedented experience for fans attending live and the millions more watching around the world on the network. It is that place where once a year, everything taking place in the WWE universe converges in spectacular fashion. Our fans have experienced everything that their favorite superstars have achieved in making it to WrestleMania,” WWE’s executive vice president of special events John Saboor told Yahoo Finance.

Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade

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