Korey Gunz wonders out loud if WWE is selling out their own business by heading to FOX.
I was driving in my car last Saturday, listening to the Fox Sports Radio Network, when a certain commercial caught my attention. It was an ad for Fox, marketing some of its various radio and TV offerings, with a lot of noise going on in the background. The announcer then remarks alluding that the noise is two of its premier radio hosts “practicing for WrestleMania.” The spot ended with the tagline “we cover all the sports, even the fake ones.”
Did I just hear that correctly? Did the Fox network, who has made a billion dollar deal with the WWE, just run an ad that openly called its newest acquisition “fake?” And on WrestleMania weekend no less?
Wrestling is not “fake.” Though the WWE is obviously comfortable being “sports entertainment,” it still pushes (and rightfully so) that its superstars are true athletes that put their bodies on the line for the viewers’ sake every time they get in the ring. What they do is just as athletic and physically taxing as any other feat a professional athlete might perform. You may characterize wrestling as “predetermined” or “choreographed,” but it is definitely not fake (unless you are at Joey Ryan’s Penis Party). Physically, what you see is what you are getting. Of course kayfabe has long been dead in professional wrestling, and I’m not here to give a “it’s still real to me” speech, but the ad I heard last week was still a little jarring and, as a wrestling fan, gave me cause for concern. Even in today’s era, the “F Word” strikes a chord in both those in and outside of the business.
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We have heard reports that Fox plans to really push WWE programming on its channels, even including a studio-based show on Fox Sports Network, and Triple H has gone on record as recently as this week that Smackdown will be a “reimagined version.” What that might mean is yet to be determined. The worry, as perhaps evidenced by this recent radio ad, is that the Fox network is only quasi-embracing professional wrestling with a tongue in cheek approach. I could not imagine ESPN, by comparison, running an advertisement like the one I heard on FSN. And if this is the approach being taken, and if the WWE plays along, it would be the ultimate disrespect to the wrestling business and the people in it. Not only that, but think of the damage the WWE could do to its own brand by allowing Fox to control its message. Do you think a Rhonda Rousey or even a Brock Lesnar, athletes that pride themselves on their reputations and accomplishments in the UFC, would allow themselves to be associated with a company that is openly mocked by its TV partners? And ultimately, who has benefited more from these types of associations- the WWE or the individuals themselves? I would argue the WWE has. A “fake wrestling promotion” has no chance of fostering these types of relationships in the future if that is the road they allow themselves to be thrown down.
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Yes, being on Fox might have its benefits, and we have seen numerous examples that the WWE is not above compromising itself or its “values” for the sake of a huge payday. But one would hope that the intent of partnering with a major network television company would be to expand your product, establish its worth, and legitimize it to the masses, not to reduce it back to a weekly punchline for “real” sports broadcasters. And maybe I am overreacting or reaching a bit here. As a fan, I hope that I am.