During today’s WWE second quarter earnings conference call Vince McMahon was asked about the recent hires of Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman and what this means for the creative direction of the company.
During his answer Vince referenced AEW without mentioning them directy, this is what he said:
“We’re gonna be a bit edgier, but still remain in the PG environment. We won’t come anywhere close to going into another level. That will be something we do in terms of the direction of content, more controversy, and better storylines. “
“At the same time, we’re not going to go back to the Attitude Era. We’re not gonna do blood and guts, such as being done on perhaps a new potential competitor. We’re not going to go back to that gory crap that we graduated from. It’s a more sophisticated product.”
The CEO of WWE also mentioned TNT, AEW’s TV Network by name during the call. He said ” I can’t speak for TNT, but I can’t imagine they would put up with that” whilst talking about a bloodier product.
WWE has, this morning, released a major press release about the future of the creative development and the trajectory of their two flagship brands. Below is the full release from WWE:
WWE® NAMES PAUL HEYMAN AND ERIC BISCHOFF EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
Stamford, Conn., June 27, 2019–WWE (NYSE: WWE) today announced that it has named Paul Heyman as Executive Director of Monday Night Raw and Eric Bischoff as Executive Director of SmackDown Live, newly created positions reporting directly to WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon.
In their executive roles, Heyman and Bischoff will oversee the creative development of WWE’s flagship programming and ensure integration across all platforms and lines of business. The creation of these roles further establishes WWE’s ability to continuously reinvent its global brand while providing two distinct creative processes for its flagship shows.
With more than 30 years of experience in the sports entertainment industry, Heyman served as President of ECW from 1993-2001, securing pay-per-view distribution for the company as well as a national cable television deal with TNN. After his time with ECW, Heyman joined WWE’s Creative team and is widely credited with helping launch the careers of many current and former WWE Superstars.
Bischoff is a former WCW President and New York Times bestselling author. During his WCW career, Bischoff oversaw the signing of some of the biggest names in sports entertainment and helped create and develop the NWO storyline. He was also instrumental in securing a television deal for WCW Monday Nitro on TNT and WCW Thunder on TBS. After WCW, Bischoff co-founded Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment, a production company that launched TV reality shows and mobile games.
WWE wishes to create “two distinct creative processes for its flagship shows.” with Bischoff working closely with Fox executives when Smackdown makes the jump in October
In case you missed it, AEW are running their second major show, called ‘All Out’, in Chicago on August 31st in the same arena as the show which started all of this last year ‘All In’.
Tickets for All Out sold out in a mere 15 minutes this past Friday but this is not the biggest news coming out of this. Whilst a great achievement selling out the 10,000 seat Sears center, the real achievement is how many people were actively trying to buy tickets for the event.
The early estimates for numbers of tickets that could have been sold to the event are totalling upward of 137,600. More than 70,000 people were waiting in the virtual queues at any one time to try their hand at getting All Out Tickets.
Dave Meltzer said on WON that he has never heard of such demand for a wrestling show and that it is unprecedented and likened it to the UFC’s Silva fight in Brazil which had demand of around 150,000 for a 16,000 seat arena.
Wrestlemania this year, while a legitimate sell out at over 75,000 tickets took weeks to become a full sell out. This is on on the heels of the fact that this Sunday WWE are holding their Stomping Grounds PPV and are struggling to sell tickets.
WWE have, as of writing, been offering buy one get one free on tickets as well as handing out free tickets to the neighbouring area and have closed off several sections of the Tacoma Dome. Ticketmaster.com still shows dozens of tickets available in every section of the building that is open for sale.
Call it beginners luck if you want, however it is undeniable that AEW is sought after right now and has a traction behind it which WWE has lacked for some time.
Last March WWE and the Saudi General Sports Authority announced the start of a 10-year partnership as part of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ campaign, a public relations and economic programme aimed at boosting and repairing the image of the Saudi government on the world stage.
Next week, on June 7th, WWE will return again to Saudi Arabia for ‘Super Showdown’ which they are touting as “being as good as, or better than, Wrestlemania“. This event will feature The Undertaker taking on Goldberg in what many have called a once dream match.
Several superstars will miss this trip, including Daniel Bryan who has expressed his desire not to travel back to Saudi Arabia after feeling uncomfortable there previously. Also not returning will be Kevin Owens as well as Sami Zayn due to his Syrian heritage and Aleister Black because of his religious iconography on his tattoos.
The first event under this deal, the Greatest Royal Rumble, was held in April 2018 and was not met without controversy. First of all came the propaganda throughout the broadcast which attempted to signify an open and diverse Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the new Crown Prince, a video which received staunch criticism back in the west.
In addition to this, women were unable to compete at the event due to
the strict Sharia applications within the country. So much so that WWE ran an
advert during the GRR which featured female superstars which the
Saudi Authority publicly apologised for, for showing “indecent” women.
The money WWE is thought to have made from these events in Saudi Arabia is rather staggering. Although they do not publicly reveal the amount received from each event, estimates can be easily made through analysing the quarterly financial reports WWE release. The Saudi deal is included within the “other” figures of the quarterly reports alongside other programming such as Total Divas, WWE Studios etc and Q2 and 4 of 2018 saw huge spikes of financial growth. It can be estimated that for the Greatest Royal Rumble WWE received around $50- 55 Million and tens of millions more for Crown Jewel. The second event is harder to estimate due to the revenue from the Australian Super Show falling in the same quarter.
Surprisingly WWE’s deal with Saudi went more or less under the radar
until their second event, Crown Jewel, came along and the tide suddenly turned.
In the weeks leading up to the event Saudi Arabia was in the middle of a huge
international incident when journalist Jamal Khashoggi was lured from his home
to a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was then assassinated and
the order of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
When this information came out several high profile businesses withdrew
their support from the Saudi investment summit known as FII including the
Virgin Group, Uber, Google and Endeavour, the parent company of UFC. However,
WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia remained, and so became a focal point of a lot of
media attention; this included a piece by HBO’s John Oliver, who criticised WWE’s
continued support in this video:
The backlash before the event even began was immense; four U.S senators,
including Senator Chris Murphy of WWE’s home state of Connecticut urged WWE to
reconsider and said that the brutual murder of Khashoggi “should represent a fundamental break in our
relationship with Saudi Arabia”.
However, during the company’s Q3 earnings report WWE announced
that it would continue to hold the Crown Jewel event despite the huge pressure
being placed upon them by outside forces. During the 3 conference call many
questions were asked of the board regarding the event and they refused to
answer any of them, pointing instead to the statement within the report.
Why is Saudi Arabia
The killing of Jamal Khashoggi is the tip of the iceberg of
the controversies surrounding Saudi Arabia and was simply at the forefront of
the press at the time WWE were planning the Crown Jewel event.
It is stated by Human Rights Watch that Saudi Arabia is responsible
for a plethora of human rights abuses stemming back long before the current
Crown Prince through to today and are constantly ranked
among the most repressive nations in the world for rights and civil liberties.
HRW reports that in 2018 the Saudi regime detained peaceful activists for no reason and without trial for long periods, many of these dissidents have been imprisoned for criticising the government or advocating for reforms. In 2018, 148 people were executed, 59 for non-violent drug offences. Campaigns of unlawful airstrikes continue and repression of women and homosexuals and other minorities continues.
decision by the Crown Prince in 2017 to lift the ban on women driving was met
with Global applause – making headline news around the world. Despite this,
Saudi Arabia is still the most gender-segregated nation in the world and women
still face an uphill battle in the country. They have an inability to make
major decisions without permission from their male Guardian, the Saudi dress
code is also of strict Islamic interpretation and reportedly leads to
harassment from the religious police if not followed to the strictest degree.
is not just women who are subject to high levels of discrimination, under
sharia as interpreted in Saudi, consensual homosexual sex remains punishable by
death. Between 2011 and 2012 the government is said to have arrested over 260 people
for the crime of homosexuality.
In 2014 a 24-year old Saudi man was given 450 lashes for using Twitter to
arrange dates with men.
In the first few months of 2019 alone a mass execution of 37 men took place on April 23rd throughout the country. The majority of those executed were from Shia communities and were convicted following unfair and “sham” trials. These executions have received international condemnation in the weeks following.
Just two weeks before WWE head back over to Saudi the regime has received yet more international condemnation after arresting 3 scholars, These arrests and executions have been condemned by the UN, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.
One thing must be remembered here, it is not the fault of the Saudi fans, they deserve to see their favourite stars compete. However, Saudi Arabia are not bringing the WWE to their country for the fans, they are bringing them over as part of a propaganda campaign for Vision 2030. If it was for fan experience, the floor of the stadiums at these shows would not be reserved for the royals and be half empty as a result.
WWE are not going to cancel these shows unless they are ordered to do so by the United States government following a serious international incident. If the Jamal Khashoggi assassination did not tip the scales then at this rate nothing will. Since the Saudi deal WWE’s engagement has been down across the board, whether it’s related we’ll never know but one thing is for sure – WWE fans and wrestling journalists alike are disappointed by this deal.
Whether WWE truly believes this to be the case or not we do not know, but it is rather telling that the company will not say the name of the host country in the promotional videos. WWE is well aware of the PR disaster this deal has been but there is no chance of it stopping now.
Roman Reigns has, in an interview with Newsweek.com, spoken out about why he is making the trip to Saudi Arabia next week to compete on Super Showdown:
“It gets a lot of mixed and negative reactions. The bottom line for me is, if we’re going to help promote change, if we’re going to set out to make an impact than I have to be a part of it. I’m not going to sit on the sideline and talk about how we can get there. I want to be a part of the action. I look at it as being a part of the solution while still respecting cultures, but it’s a big world and I want to experience all of it. So if we can help make a positive impact that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to put smiles on everyone’s faces. We don’t discriminate, that’s our goal to help and promote positivity and take that to every inch of the world.”
Last month it was announced that All Elite Wrestling’s (AEW) first PPV event would be handled in the UK exclusively by ITV Box Office, not it appears that a TV deal is on the horizon.
While not officially announced yet, AEW is expected to debut on ITV 4 in October with a regular weekly live TV show. The deal will not be finalised until TNT makes the decision to air AEW on either Tuesday or Wednesday night.
The UK has been the number 2 market for WWE for many years in terms of live events and merchandise sales and the recent changes in the UK market may spell a shift in the way UK business continues.
WWE are expected to make the move, after more than 30-years on Sky, to BT Sports. A noted risky move due to the fact that BT Sport are in a third of the homes that Sky Sports are in. ITV 4 on the other hand is available in almost every home in Britain free-to-air; the downside of ITV 4 is that it is not a mainstream channel and is unlikely to garner the attention of a wide audience.
This is, however, AEW’s best chance at gaining a greater audience share in this key market than WWE, who will be available in more than 25 million less homes than AEW.
This new landscape will be interesting to watch as it develops, as BT Sport is a relatively new concept in to many peoples homes in the UK and comes at a rather large additional cost to TV viewers. As Dave Meltzer has pointed out in this weeks WON, WWE’s audience in the UK has been dropping massively in recent years and if they become a focal point of BT Sport this may well benefit them in the long run.
If AEW can prove a consistent audience on ITV 4 history has proven that ITV are willing to move shows on to their more prominent channels. It is definitely an interesting time both in the UK, USA and around the world for wrestling fans.
Ashley Massaro submitted an affidavit in 2017 in the course of a lawsuit between the two which claimed a series of serious allegations.
In the 15 page affidavit, Massaro claims that she was drugged whilst on tour with WWE in a US-Kuwait Military base in 2007. She says that she was subsequently locked in a room whilst unable to move and was subsequently raped and sodomised. She goes on to attest that several people were alerted to this happening, including Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn and other executives, Massaro says she was then asked to keep it quiet.
In the affidavit Ashley claims that:
“Vince did at least apologize for what I went through, but then stressed that if I disclosed this incident it would ruin the relationship between the WWE and the US Military. He told me not to let one bad experience ruin the good work they were doing“
WWE has responded to these allegations made by Massaro and made public just days after her death by lawyer Konstantine Kyros, who has been targeting WWE in numerous lawsuits for years, with the following statement:
“WWE is saddened by the death of Ashley Massaro, and we reiterate our condolences to her family. However, we regret that her attorney, Konstantine Kyros, who filed multiple cases against WWE, lost all of them, and was sanctioned multiple times by the Court for repeated misconduct and false allegations, is using Ashley’s death to further his malicious campaign against WWE by releasing an affidavit that she submitted to the Court and later apologized to WWE for being involved with, so we wish to make certain things crystal clear.
1) At no time was Vince McMahon or the management of WWE ever informed by Ashley Massaro or anybody else that she had been sexually assaulted, drugged, raped or sodomized by a military doctor with a nurse standing guard while on a goodwill tour in 2007 to U.S. military bases in Kuwait. In fact, if she ever articulated such a claim to WWE, we would have reported it immediately to the Base Commander.
2) At no time was there ever a meeting with Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, John Laurinaitis or other company executives in which she told them of such a claim and was instructed to keep it quiet.”
WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus has sent out a message of tribute to her friend Ashley Massaro following her tragic passing at aged 39.
Trish posted the following heartbreaking message for her friend:
“Darling Ashley Massaro my heart hurts so much with this news. I remember being off with an injury and watching this beautiful, charismatic, athletic girl crowned Diva Search winner. Once I got cleared they ran the idea by me to come back and work with Ashley against Vince’s Devils – Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle and Victoria . I didn’t know what to expect … what I met was a driven, hungry girl who was eager and all in. She was enthusiastic from the start, excited about the opportunity to prove she was more than just a model.
I was her first suplex, I stood alongside her as she took her first steps of her wrestling career… What a sport, a total pro and she loved every minute in the ring – and I loved living it with her, through her wide eyes of the newness of it all
When you work with someone in this business there is a bond that is forever formed. Even if the ‘work’/partnership is for only a brief time of your life, it is still a piece of your life that makes up your being. I’m thankful we kept in touch, every so often touching on those moments that we shared. I’m having a hard time processing this news of my friend, a fellow worker, a fellow mom. I’m both sad and mad …
Rest In Peace baby girl, I hope you know how much you were loved by everyone, especially your punx. Sending the brightest light and the most love to Ashley’s daughter and her family.“
Some very sad and shocking news today concerning former WWE womens wrestler and Divas search winner Ashley Massaro.
The Blast reported thi morning that Ashley has passed away at age 39. The circumstances of her death are unknown right now but it is said that no foul play was involved. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner added that Ashley passed away today and that the death is under investigation, but no further comment would be made.
The Blast also notes that a “rescue call” was made to Ashley Massaro’s home in Smithtown at 5:23am and she was soon taken to a local hospital where she passed away.
Massaro, was part of the second ever divas search contest. With background in modeling and a signature her tomboy rocker look, Massaro was a stand out on the show, before being declared the winner. She picked up a $250,000 prize and a one-year WWE contract. Ashley wrestled at wrestlemania 23 against Melina for the WWE Women’s championship and was involved in numerous feuds and storylines throughout her 3 years with the company.
Our condolences go out to Ashley’s family and loved ones at this time
WWE have for decades been exclusively with Sky TV for their UK broadcasting rights. However, it is being reported by The Telegraph that it will be announced very soon that WWE is making the move to BT Sports.
BT Sports has been growing as a sports broadcaster over the past few years and has been taking on a huge share of the UK viewing audience which was traditionally resting with Sky Sports.In the past few weeks BT have had football games with huge viewing audiences, such as the Tottenham 3-2 win over Ajax which peaked at 2.4 million viewers.
BT Sport have currently declined to comment on the report that WWE is making the move over to their product and WWE has also yet to confirm any such deal. There is no news yet as to when this deal will begin, rights fees or any further broadcasting details – which we will update when we have them.