Why the WWE/UFC merger might be not good for wrestlers, followers or the business

Months of hypothesis ended on Monday when Endeavor, the father or mother firm of the UFC, formally introduced that it had reached an settlement to purchase 51 p.c of WWE with plans to merge the businesses. It brings collectively two of the largest fight sports activities manufacturers on the earth, with the UFC representing the unscripted athletic facet whereas WWE will proceed its model of sports activities leisure.

On the floor, it may appear that the whole lot is okay. In actual fact, in some ways, it is a lot better than the rumored various that may be a Saudi Arabian takeover of WWE to make use of the model as a part of a “sports activities wash” marketing campaign. Nonetheless, delving into the similarities and variations in how each the UFC and WWE are ruled, it is a lot tougher to see any benefits for anybody concerned – except the billionaires on the high.

How will this new firm work?

Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel and WWE President Vince McMahon met with CNBC to announce the merger on Monday and clear the air on how they see the operation progressing.

The intention is to maintain the UFC and WWE as utterly separate entities beneath the identical company umbrella, with Dana White remaining answerable for the UFC – whereas Nick Khan will stay as CEO of WWE. Nonetheless, in an interview, McMahon famous that whereas he wouldn’t be “within the mud” with artistic choices in WWE, he could be closely concerned within the course of.

Veteran wrestling author Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reports that McMahon will have the final say in all creative decisions again within the firm. A task he had beforehand stop in 2022 when he allegedly used $3 million in firm funds to pay hush cash to a former WWE worker with whom he was having an affair. McMahon retired from WWE and his daughter Stephanie McMahon turned a co-founder along with her husband Paul Levesque (former Triple H wrestler) overseeing artistic work.

It is unhealthy already

The top of Vince McMahon’s artistic period was broadly celebrated by die-hard WWE followers. Whereas McMahon is taken into account the godfather of contemporary wrestling, it was turning into clear that he was out of contact with what the followers needed. McMahon’s steely dedication about the kind of wrestlers he preferred and the tales he preferred had been rooted in antiquated outdated tropes. Consequently, his artistic model was boring and predictable. Skilled wrestling rapidly loses its attraction, not giving even the slightest likelihood to shock.

Along with this, McMahon was constantly cited as the rationale wrestling was turning into much less and fewer in his wrestling program. A lot of WWE’s many hours of TV every week had been dedicated to in-ring promotions and backstage interviews, with wrestling taking a again seat.

In distinction, Triple H’s artistic management was virtually universally beloved. The model had extra actual fan inventory, and long-term storytelling, typically devoid of McMahon’s imaginative and prescient, made a comeback, giving individuals a motive to tune in each week and put money into a number of pay-per-views.

That is over now and Vince is again to doing Vince’s stuff – specifically altering this system dozens of occasions on the fly on a whim and missing any kind of coherent imaginative and prescient.

There is no such thing as a query that Endeavor possession is unhealthy for WWE expertise

Traditionally, WWE is without doubt one of the most unfair and anti-worker organizations in all sports activities. For many years, the corporate retained its expertise as “impartial contractors”, utilizing its employment class as a solution to keep away from any profit legal responsibility whereas treating its wrestlers as full-time staff unable to carry out elsewhere – regardless of their standing as an impartial contractor.

Observe that I mentioned “some of the unfair” employers in sports activities right here, as a result of if there’s anybody who can carry that mantle, it is the UFC.

Since its inception, the UFC has constructed an empire of underpaying its fighters. Whole buildings are constructed internally to cover from one another what warriors do for fight. This has not solely helped Endeavor maintain its revenue margins hovering, however has additionally made it virtually unattainable for UFC fighters to unionise, as everybody’s private monetary state of affairs could be very totally different.

Whereas it’s true that high athletes earn good cash, they’re pitifully paid in comparison with different high athletes of their sports activities. A 2022 article from Yahoo! Sports activities famous that Conor McGregor earned $22 million immediately from the UFC in 2021, whereas high athletes in different sports activities earned three or 4 occasions as a lot — With safety of long-term contracts.

The article went on to recommend {that a} novice fighter within the UFC can solely earn $30,000 per battle – often having two fights a yr. That is $60,000 for an organization that was in a position to spend $9.3 billion on a brand new WWE acquisition.

Whereas speaking concerning the UFC’s unfair pay construction, Francis Ngannou revealed that fighters had been losing cash on sponsorships and the UFC was turning round to make their very own sponsorship offers – blocking fighters from the income they’ve obtained previously.

Regardless of WWE being beneath a separate umbrella, it’s absurd to imagine that Endeavor would enable wrestlers’ contracts to stay untouched. Given the historical past of making an attempt to squeeze each penny out of staff, it is fairly probably that we’ll see wages drop for WWE expertise as their present contracts are renewed.

Proudly owning Endeavor might be additionally horrible for followers’ wallets

Other than the artistic influence of Vince McMahon’s return, there is a very actual chance that followers will even undergo on this deal.

The final 10 years have been a golden age for WWE followers by way of product affordability. Regardless of how disappointing the scores or match bookings might have been, the saving grace is that followers by no means actually felt “robbed” by poor pay-per-view, locking them right into a month-to-month subscription service.

The WWE Community, now a part of the Peacock streaming service, allowed followers to observe every month’s pay-per-view totally free (along with their month-to-month subscription charge). This implies followers who used to solely purchase 1-2 exhibits a yr now watch all 12 – primarily for a similar worth they paid when the exhibits had been $60 one-time funds.

Ever since Endeavor purchased Zuffa LLC (the previous homeowners of the UFC), MMA followers have seen pay-per-views costs skyrocket. In 2020, a worth hike was introduced that raised the per-view charges to $64.99 (from $59.99), and the corporate elevated prices three extra occasions as a result of the occasion now prices followers $79.99. That is along with already requiring followers to have an ESPN+ subscription, making it much more costly to observe.

As with worker compensation, it’s unattainable to see how the 2 fashions work together with one another – at the same time as separate entities. Finally, it is nonetheless an Endeavour-owned firm, and their fan-unfriendly strategy has pushed income into the stratosphere. There is no such thing as a motive to worry that there’s an existential menace to WWE’s PPV mannequin on the horizon.

This merger can be unhealthy for the business

It’s all the time the market chief who units the tone. For almost 20 years, WWE has primarily had a monopoly on skilled wrestling exterior of a lot smaller manufacturers like Influence. The arrival of All Elite Wrestling in 2019 was the primary actual problem to the WWE throne. Whereas this didn’t present itself in an actual “conflict” equivalent to WWE vs. WCW in the course of the Perspective Period, it put strain on WWE to be extra employee-friendly and led to extra money for wrestlers.

The colossal cutbacks on the high, each from wrestlers being laid off and people pressured to just accept decrease contracts, will have an effect on the business. Not solely will this imply much less competitors and a burden on AEW to pay their high expertise extra to maintain up with WWE, however it’s going to actually damage these on the backside of the wrestling pay construction.

It additionally stays to be seen whether or not WWE’s growth system will stay intact beneath Endeavour’s possession and what influence this might have on younger expertise.

Nonetheless, none of that is carved in stone

On the finish of the day, all we are able to do is learn tea leaves. There are many worrying indicators that this merger could be very unhealthy, aside from these immediately cashing in on the deal, however in the end followers nonetheless have company.

The primary distinction between UFC and WWE is that wrestling followers have an actual various if they do not just like the product. Certain, there are different MMA promotions – however not with fighters of the identical caliber that the UFC has to supply.

In the meantime, AEW, NJPW and to a lesser extent AAA and Influence nonetheless boast a number of the greatest wrestlers on the earth on their books. Because of this if Endeavor is pushing too exhausting financially to make WWE a money cow on the expense of followers, they will simply divert their viewers to a competitor.

Followers can speak to their wallets, and if any unfavourable components come out of this sale, a turnaround that can damage their funds will power Endeavor-WWE on the correct course.

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