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The Return of the XFL

The Return of the Xtreme Football League

Is This the Right Move for Vince McMahon?

On January 25, 2018, Vince McMahon announced that in 2020 the XFL will be relaunching for your football viewing pleasure. McMahon has promised to bring football back to its pure form and back to the fans. The XFL initially launched in 2000 when McMahon wanted to be in opposition to the Canadian Football League. The league was advertised for its extreme hits, the ability for players to get bonuses for winning, and extreme names. We all remember He Hate Me (aka Rod Smart). So what pitfalls and dangers does Mr. McMahon face going forward?

Rod Smart while in the XFL

 

 

The XFL has Already Failed Before

Back in 2001, the XFL had one season. It limped through the year and it never really seemed to deliver on the X part of the equation. It burst on the season with promises to match the gridiron with more outrageous antics by the players. As someone who specializes in character and over the top personalities, you figure Vince would deliver more. However, it’s arguable that the only player to ever succeed post the league collapse was Tommy Maddox.

The ratings for the league that year were abysmal, and the attendance figures weren’t something to write home about. For a league advertised as over the top, at the end of the day football was football on the field. Vince needed to rely on the presentation of the game if he was going to live up to the hype and it never quite got where it needed to be in its short run.

The NFL Still Exists

The National Football League is football. Yes, there is the CFL, and yes there is the Arena Football League. But if you think of football you think of the SuperBowl, and you think of the NFL, they’re  synonymous. Now Vince McMahon believes he can put together a product to fill in a gap he perceives in the football market. However, there’s no proof this disparity exists. The NFL is already experience declining numbers, so maybe McMahon believes he can bring those fans to his league.

The XFL is positioning itself as the counterculture to the NFL. McMahon intends to stream XFL games on Sunday afternoons. The league will consist of eight team and 40-man rosters. The games promise to be shorter and a streamlined version of football. McMahon also stated there will be a code of conduct for the players in the league, likely to include no criminal record for the players. That’s an interesting way to cut the talent pool. The X in the XFL doesn’t sound very extreme anymore, so how will they differentiate themselves from the NFL?

Changing Attitudes Around Football

The halo that was once around football is slowing disappearing. As CTE is being shown to ravage players both long after they retire and as they play, more and more people realize the real strain put on these players.

When a player can begin their career in pop warner and potentially not retire until their late twenties, that is two decades of trauma to the human body on the field. Then the players are put through the rigor of numerous hours of physical exertion spent in the gym, traveling, and the stress of high-intensity sports. Compound that with the already improbable odds you’ll make the NFL, more parents are drawing back their kids from football.

There is also a social justice issue with the NFL at the moment. What started with Colin Kaepernick a couple of years ago has now become a flagship public issue. The fair treatment of American minorities has now been taken on Sunday afternoons and has caused a divide for fans of the game. However, Vince McMahon is again banking on picking up those fans who are souring on the NFL product. What he may be missing is that fans are souring on football in general, not the NFL.

Can the XFL succeed in 2020?

In 2001, the XFL was the loud, boisterous party that crashed on the scene and burned out just as quickly. In 2020, the XFL is going to be a rebranded, wholesome football league.

Vince McMahon’s history with alternative sports is a storied one. He was able to turn WWE into the empire of the professional wrestling world, and now he seeks to compete with the professional football empire. If McMahon is to be successful, he’s going to need to find a way to give fans a fulfilling, unique experience with this league.

McMahon should look to draw inspiration from his competitors in the professional wrestling world. Organizations like New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor are thriving despite a landscape dominated by one major player. They’ve been able to secure themselves due to excellent matches that go above and beyond the industry standard quality of WWE. It’s going to be a challenge for the XFL to perform at or above the level of the NFL talent. The XFL is going to need to get young talent that is capable of playing good football if it intends to compete. We’ll just have to wait until 2020 to see if the allure will be there.

Vince McMahon XFL announcement

Welcome back XFL!

Markus X. Murden, Esq.

Senior Editor/Heels of Wrestling

 

 

 

 

 

“The Big Dog” or “Super Cena?”

Roman Reigns vs. John Cena

Whose yard is it now?

“I can do this part time, better than you could ever do it full time.” Just like that, the two most polarizing superstars in WWE history, Roman Reigns, and John Cena became the center of attention in the wrestling world.

Their showdown, at this year’s No Mercy, will no doubt be hyped beyond belief, but who will ultimately come out on top? What’s the end goal for WWE? Is this their idea of a dream match, or is Cena just the latest superstar chosen to be sacrificed at the altar of Roman Reigns? What’s going to happen if Reigns wins and absolutely nothing changes?

Will Vince McMahon feed one of his most successful characters ever to a guy who just can’t get over with the fans? Or will “The Franchise” take down the most hated wrestler on the planet today, and regain the support of hardcore wrestling fans all over the world? The fact that all these questions exist make it one of the most compelling feuds WWE will produce this year. For the first time in a long time, I’m interested in John Cena, and Roman Reigns. Well done WWE, you’ve got my attention.

If Roman wins.

Will The Big Dog spear another victim?

If WWE puts Roman over in this match, it means they officially view him as their top guy, bar none. It means the days of Cena showing up with his “mythical golden shovel” are truly behind us. It means that no matter how much we boo and complain, Roman isn’t going anywhere. It would symbolize WWE taking a huge crap on its audience. I hate always to be “that guy,” but WE don’t like Roman Reigns. WE don’t accept Roman Reigns, and the only thing that will ever change that is the one thing WWE has already proven they won’t do, turn him heel. WWE executives act as if there’s just some golden feud out there that will change everyone’s opinion of Roman.

I get their logic, have Roman go up against the most hated heel in the company, and make the audience rally behind him in the process. The problem is, there’s no wrestler on the roster that hardcore wrestling fans hate more than Roman Reigns, and he can’t wrestle himself. Ultimately, Roman is in a “lose, lose” situation. If he beats Cena, then the marks (myself included) will just turn their noses at him and say “see, even Cena isn’t safe from Roman.” If he loses to Cena, it’ll make the fans happy, but it’ll also show that the powers that be might be starting to sour on their chosen one. Roman is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. He won’t get any sympathy from me though; I hate Roman Reigns…”Believe That!”

If Cena wins.

Or will we see the return of Big Match John?

If “Super Cena” shows up at No Mercy, and picks up a “W” over Roman Reigns, it can mean one of two things. First, it could mean that WWE has soured on Reigns so much that they had no other option but to go back to the well again. However, it couldn’t also be another weak attempt at getting Reigns over. WWE could see a loss to Cena as the last piece to the Reigns puzzle. They could theorize that losing to Cena might make fans rally behind Roman. I’d say the latter isn’t very likely, but  WWE has attempted dumber things to get Roman over before (retiring Undertaker).

As a hardcore wrestling fan, this feud conjures up mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’m glad someone is finally cutting Roman Reigns down to size. On the contrary, I hate that it’s the fucking “Golden Boy” John Cena doing it. Seeing as how WWE has refused to turn Cena heel for over a decade now, this is the closest he’ll ever get at being a fan favorite again. Cena has nothing to gain from beating Reigns at No Mercy. It won’t bring him that’s elusive 17th World Title reign; it won’t get him anymore over than he already is, and it won’t rid the WWE Universe of Roman Reigns. Don’t expect “Big Match John” to get his hand raised at No Mercy. However, do expect him to carry the entire build up to the match.

This match belongs on a WrestleMania card. We still might see it at WrestleMania next year, but it won’t be for the first time so that it won’t feel as special. Regardless of that, we’re going to see the top star of his era, John Cena, go up against what WWE is hoping will be their next top star, Roman Reigns, in a match that none of us thought we wanted to see. That’s something pro wrestling can do better than any other sport, create a classic moment out of thin air. Whether you’re a member of the “Cenation,” a fan of the “Roman Empire,” or just a guy who hated Cena, and hates Reigns (like me), odds are you’re going to be glued to the screen when this match starts.

No Mercy will air Sunday, September 24th 8 pm EST, Live on the WWE Network.

Wesly Avendano

Baseline Times

Roman Reigns Has to Destroy John Cena

Roman Reigns has to destroy John Cena in their upcoming match. It can be a No DQ match, it can be a Last Man Standing match, hell it can be a Hell in a Cell, but at the end, Roman Reigns has to have his hand raised, and he has to be a Heel.

On Monday night Raw, we saw Roman Reigns and John Cena team up to defeat The Miz and Samoa Joe to start off John Cena’s tour on Raw. WWE’s two top Faces of the company are together again on one brand. Vince McMahon has been trying to pass the proverbial torch of WWE from Cena to Reigns, but so far it hasn’t worked. Because WWE has gone about it wrong this whole time. Roman Reigns needs to be bad, this needs to be his yard, and he needs to take Cena’s head off to claim it. This is now WWE’s perfect opportunity to turn Roman Reigns into a heel.

Every time Roman cuts a promo, it’s obviously not him. The cockiness of beating The Undertaker. The boos and jeers of the fans. A track record of ruining everything. When we think about it…

Roman Reigns is already a Heel

It’s time for WWE to face facts. They’ve ironically created the biggest Heel in the business, and they’re too reluctant to pull the trigger on him. Let’s run down a list of some of the horrible things WWE creative have had Reigns do in just this year:

    • Roman Reigns tried to murder a man with an ambulance.

What we have brewing here is a perfect storm of how to turn Roman Reigns into the top heel of the company. Reigns is in a spot we haven’t seen him in since he was busted for violating the wellness policy in 2015. The spotlight isn’t necessarily on him right now as Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman are the leads of the title picture going into No Mercy.

Why Now?

The idea of turning Reigns or Cena heel has been tossed around ad infinitum on wrestling boards for the past few years. The void as the top Heel on WWE programing has been noticeable for quite some time. And much of it is to do with WWE’s booking of top Heels.

Since the breaking of the Authority, it seems as if every Heel has been booked as cowardly or needing help to get their title reign over. From KO and Jericho being best friends to Jinder Mahal having the Singh brothers in his corner, no Heel has been able to do it alone in recent memory.

The situation can all change with Roman turning Heel. We’ve seen him do heel tactics in matches. Brutal attack with chairs, powerbombs through tables, vicious spears, you name it he’s done it. However, that Superman punch does need to go, no Heel would do that. (No one should do a Superman punch anyway.)

But I digress, Roman can be believable as a solo Heel champion. A sort of reverse-Ultimate Warrior type. Except with Roman, we have someone who has the ability to do lengthy work rate matches. This also would open up the opportunity for a tweener like Samoa Joe or Braun to go full on in a character choice as well. There shouldn’t be these many tweeners at the top of the billing. Not for the sake of story and fan engagement.

Heel Roman would also give us a nice contrast with the reuniting of the Shield. I always thought Roman should have been the one in the Shield to turn heel, this could be a chance to retell angles from that period with a new lineup. Do the Shield turn heel with Roman? Do they maybe try to talk sense into him? All these stories could line up, drawing from past instances, and fuel some interesting story lines heading forward.

Heels Have and always will Rule Wrestling

Every real star needs a turn as an in-ring Heel. It’s too late for John Cena, but factors outside of the ring can be attributed to his lack of Heel. Maybe it was because of the PG era and Vince needing a Stallworth for the company? I don’t know. But right now, there is a bevy of talent on the roster, and all of them feel like tweeners or faces. We need a Heel revolution.

John Cena has been the Face that runs the place for quite some time. However, we need a Heel to take over. The Roman Empire needs to ride a wave of destruction across the WWE we haven’t seen in quite some time. Plus a Heel change has definitely never helped a struggling, over pushed baby face before.

And a Heel turn definitely hasn’t taken someone to heights unknown in wrestling:

So what’s up WWE? Vince needs to stop flirting with us and give us what we need, a new top Heel. And that Heel is Roman Reigns.
Markus X. Murden
Senior-Editor
Follow Markus on Twitter and Instagram @MXMurden

WWE Financial Review


Recently, WWE’s  2017 Q2 Financial Report was released. While it would seem that this quarter was strong, compared to years before, it’s taken some bigger spots to average out WWE’s books. Some of these trends should be worrying to WWE.

The following is a continued strategic analysis of the World Wrestling Entertainment Corporation (WWE). The following is profile information on the organization.

  • Company Name – World Wrestling Entertainment, an integrated media organization recognized as a leader in global entertainment.
  • The Company has four principal divisions within the organizational structure. Media 2. Live Entertainment 3. Products 4. Studios
  • The company Headquarters is in Samford, Conn.
  • Statement of Purpose, the WWE consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. WWE is committed to family friendly entertainment on its television programming, pay per view, digital media, and publications platforms.
  • With 115 Wrestlers, 28 Broadcast Personalities, 12 Ambassadors, 16 on the Board, 14 Senior Leaders, the company employees thousands to support these personalities and its programs on a global front. With offices in Ct, Mexico City, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, NY, LA, London, Munich, and Tokyo.
  • Financials for year end 2015
  • 659 Million in Revenue, a 21% growth in Revenue
  • 5 Billion Market Cap
  • 36 Million Dividend Payout
  • 2016 Q2 Financial Reporting shows revenue increased 32% (13% excluding the timing impact of WrestleMania1) to a record $199.0 million as WWE’s Live Event and Network segments achieved their highest quarterly revenue in Company history.
  • OIBDA2of $7.5 million was in line with the Company’s guidance
  • WWE Network reached a record of 1.52 million average paid subscribers over the second quarter 2016, which represented a 25% increase from the second quarter 2015
  • SmackDown transitioned to a live format on USA Network. Since July 25, WWE’s flagship programs, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown, have and will continue to feature unique talent and storylines
  • Through the first six months of the year, digital engagement metrics continued to grow with video views up over 100% to nearly 8 billion and social media engagements up 39% to 570 million versus the prior year
  • Stock Exchange – NY Shock Exchange tag WWE and as of 12:46 pm 10/3/16 the stock was trading at $20.92.
  • The Chairman & CEO of the WWE is Vincent K. McMahon.

McMahon, a visionary promoter and recognized presence as a broadcast leader, joined his father’s company, Capital Wrestling in 1972. Ten Years later he bought the company from his father, established the WWE and took it to the National Market through a newly formed cable network division that started with pay per view and strategically grew to a monthly subscription format.

McMahon’s strategy for the company was to leverage the new technologies of pay per view and closed-circuit television. He used this strategy for the first WrestleMania in 1985. By using these platforms, he has established and built not only a brand that people would watch in syndication but he also built the WWE into a brand that people would pay to watch. This strategy proved to be successful and by the year 2000 more than a million fans purchased WrestleMania X6. For the year 2000, this event was the most watched combat sport event in pay per view history. The strategy and brand loyalty continued and by 2014 the WWE launched its first ever 24/7 direct to consumer network in the United States. As McMahon’s direct to consumer strategy continues to grow the WWE events are continuing to show record-breaking attendance.

This year, WrestleMania 32 set a new attendance record of 101,763 fans. All their formats for Direct to Consumer are showing signs of success for the company. From its live events at its core to its television programming 52 weeks a year, to its newest monthly subscription, the WWE’s syndication strategy is working. The Company has created a brand, like no other in the entertainment industry, and with that brand has created great brand loyalty. They have rewarded that loyalty with continued enhanced ways to view their programming.

In looking at the financials for the WWE their OBIBDA was 35.1 million. They have 80 million in cash on hand and 190 million in available credit. Their current EPS is fluctuating between $20 and $21 / share on the NY stock exchange. Their Debt to Assets on their 2016 Q2 report shows Liabilities at 180.1 million and total Assets at 396.1 million. Important to note in looking at the entertainment industry is the payments related to the Company’s television rights agreements as well as payouts of management incentive compensation which can have a direct impact on cash flow and liquidity. This is not unusual for sports entertainment personalities. In the National Baseball League, they put a cap on salaries so no one team can have a competitive advantage in the sport. With the WWE there is no cap on salaries for the wrestlers with regards to competitors so they must not over extend their cash flow by over paying more popular personalities in their employ to avoid any negative cash flow or liquidity.

NXT has formed an alliance with the WWE and is to them as AAA is to the NBL. They are a feeder for them. The only other competition is the Ring of Honor. This wrestling company was purchased in 2011 by the parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting Group. The SBG is the largest television station operator owning 156 stations in 80 markets as well as 4 radio stations and the Ring of Honor Wrestling. Although the ROH was never a strong competition to the WWE, with this new parent company it has the potential to have a real presence if the SBG parent company chooses to focus on this small new division of its company. It is currently holding live events and pay per view events. SBG had 2 Billion in revenue in 2015 from its media group. They list out their TV channels, FOX, CBS, ABC, and others on their balance sheet but ROH is not listed. They could be lumped into their other assets line which is minimal compared to their TV channels income. Their stock was listed at $28.88 / share. They have 422 million in operating income and list Revenue in excess of 2 billion. The only thing found on ROH in the financial report was a national contract with Destination America to broadcast 26 weeks of wrestling. This parent company is clearly focused on their TV channels.

If they should put some focused effort on the ROH division they could make it more of a competitor to the WWE, cutting into their share of the market. They seem to be the only threat to the WWE in the national market place today. Their corporate Head Quarters is in Baltimore, MD. Their parent company is financially strong but is not diverse. They have a TV and Radio stage for the ROH. They know how to create on air personalities but they are not in the sporting entertainment field in any of their portfolios except for ROH. Certainly, a company that the WWE should keep an eye on.
Identification of Company Sources of Competitive Advantage VIRO Criteria.

In the WWE 2016 Q2 financial report it lists 1.2 million as cash used for capital expenditures as its cash flow source. Additionally, it lists purchase of property and equipment source, purchase of corporate air craft, as 8.8 million as a negative drain on cash flow. So they spent more than they had cash on hand by 7.6 million. In terms of VIRO, or the firm’s strategy. The value of the firm’s ability to exploit an opportunity is high due to its positive cash flow as well as a currently available credit line of 199 million. Now being a monopoly with a unique product form could make them blind to a competitor until it is too late. Take Blockbuster as an example. The all American way to rent a movie seen on every corner across America was taken down by a concept of direct to consumers with net flicks. They stole a huge market share and Blockbuster started closing stores as it rental boxes in supermarkets was too little too late for consumers.

The WWE needs to take a lesson from Blockbuster and be sure to be mindful of the competition out there. Rarity is strong as there are few people in control of the resources of the company. Those few have to make smart decisions on capital investments in salaries as well as luxury items like the airplane listed on the cash flow 2016 Q2 report. Imitability is strong as building a brand of solid characters and stories takes a special talent of writers to create the characters and talent to fit the roles. The company appears to be well organized in four key divisions. In conclusion, in terms of VRIO, the WWE corporate structure and strategies, as well as controls, seems to be solid.

The WWE brand is solid in the entertainment industry. They have very little competition in wrestling entertainment and none that currently leverages the syndication and monthly subscriptions that the WWE offers to its customers. The largest competitors in the National Market are ROH ( Ring of Honor) and NXT. The WWE has embraced the NXT and is using them as a feeder for its future personalities/performers. The writers at the WWE are world-class in their ability to create meaningful story lines behind the performers to make them part of the WEE Brand and leverage the personalities/talent coming up through the NXT to create new story lines. The Ring of Honor wrestling group based in Baltimore, MD with David Smith as CEO was not a threat to the WWE until they were bought out by the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG). The Sinclair Group is the largest owners of TV stations owning the likes of Fox, CBS, and ABC and others as well as 4 radio stations. The Ring of Honor has financial backing and TV and radio presence and is on the Pay per view front with the WWE.

They have not done any monthly subscriptions but this could be part of their future strategies for growth and if it is then the WWE needs to keep an eye on the ROH as they could become a stronger competitor in the future. Another privately held company to watch is the UFC. The UFC has personalities and are leveraging the pay per view networking for their events and do have live events as well. They are modeling themselves after the WWE. Now their mixed martial arts offering is a different sport from wrestling so although not a direct competitor in the same entertainment offering, the UFC could take some of their market share in the monthly subscription if the UCF offers this form and continues to grow its personalities. The consumers may decide to have one monthly subscription yearly and flip-flop between the two sports.

I would recommend that the WWE continue to connect with their consumers. I would recommend they add two things to their strategy to continue to retain and grow their consumer base. First I would recommend that they leverage mobile devices through the WWE AP and continue to develop this AP as a means to not only watch broadcasts on the go but also to connect with their customers through live blogs and live streaming interactive events. They need to create a FaceBook merged with Twiter type platform for WWE where the customers can share photos and interact with the stars of the WWE. My second recommendation would be to grow their international subscriptions. Current U.S. subscription revenue is 940 million and the international is only at 277 million. Part of their international growth strategy should include the enhancements to the WWE AP as well as advertising to increase their international subscriber base.

They need to keep an eye on ROH as their parent company could decide to invest in their wrestling division to make it a stronger competitor to the WWE. They have been the parent company for several years and perhaps have not focused on the division for growth. In 2015 they signed a contract for 26 TV shows for the ROH. They seem to be using their core business and contacts to leverage the new wrestling arm to SEG but have yet to try more than pay per view & live events with this division. The ROH does not have the brand recognition or following that the WWE has. Customer loyalty can change with the right introduction of a new product from but in the case of the WWE, they seem to still have a loyal and dedicated following for their personalities and their sport that appears to continue to grow year over year. That kind of customer base is hard to penetrate as long as the WWE continues to provide quality programming to its customers.