The relationship between WWE and ESPN has been interesting to follow. The Disney-owned network’s coverage of pro wrestling is often the target of jokes from viewers who identify themselves as “real” sports fans. That the Jonathan Coachman-led SportsCenter coverage mostly sticks to kayfabe - venturing behind the curtain is limited to “getting to know” wrestlers with questions about their favorite sports teams - doesn’t offer much in the way of evidence to refute critics.
They’ve avoided talking about newsworthy topics before, such as when Charlotte was a guest the night after Paige’s Raw promo alluded to her brother’s suicide, so no one was expecting much, if anything, on Roman Reigns’ 30 day suspension for a Wellness violation on Tuesday’s “Off the Top Rope” segment with Coach. Even though Reigns would be a key figure in his recap of the week’s events, his guests (Rusev & Lana) don’t have much of a connection to the former WWE champ on-screen.
Surprisingly enough, the suspension did merit not only a mention, but was highlighted outside the recap and interview portions of Coachman’s coverage (ESPN & WWE are still blocking embedding of “Off the Top Rope”, but you can watch the segment on the former’s site here).
It’s very brief and still spin-heavy... as much time is spent on Reigns’ apology Tweet as the suspension itself... but it’s the first time “real news” has been a part of their partnership, with the possible exception of when they discuss Brock Lesnar’s contract status.
Does this tell us anything about how WWE will handle the suspension on their own programming? Probably not. If the SmackDown spoiler reports are any indication, their plans aren’t changing because of Roman’s absence. Having ESPN cover the suspension is likely a move to show a wider audience how serious they are about the Wellness Policy more than an indication it’ll be a part of their storylines.
Surprised Roman’s bad news made the so-called “Sports Leader”, Cagesiders?