The future of the biggest company in the history of the pro wrestling business is always on the minds of fans and industry watchers. But there are a few reasons why it’s especially front of mind as we roll into 2018.
One is Vince McMahon selling roughly $100 million in WWE stock amidst talk of a XFL return, based in part on confirmation from WWE McMahon has “established and personally funded” a new venture to explore sports and entertainment investment opportunities. Another is WWE partnering with Facebook on a live show for their Watch service, Mixed Match Challenge, that will test the waters with a new broadcasting partner and could bring new bidders into negotiations for television rights to Raw and SmackDown.
Into this, the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required) dropped an informed speculation bomb stemming from the fact UFC’s TV contract with Fox is up this year, yet the MMA giant hasn’t locked in a new deal with anyone. Fox is also coming into a lot of cash thanks to their sale of the 21st Century Fox movie studio to Disney - which also sent their regional sports networks to ESPN - for $52.4 billion.
Here goes... and remember, usual rumor caveats* apply:
- Triple H met with Fox Sports execs several months ago for preliminary talks, believed to be based on Fox’s plan to go aggressively after the WWE rights if UFC goes elsewhere. MMA is part of the main Fox Sports schedule, and even bigger for the national cable/satellite channels Fox retained after the Disney deal like FS1 and FS2. Raw, SmackDown and other/new WWE shows would fill that time.
- Filling time with MMA/wrestling shows is key for Fox, to the point they were in the running to buy UFC until the bidding got too high for them (WME-IMG bought from the Fertittas for $4 billion). If the price is right, Fox would consider buying WWE to lock in rights to their programming for good.
- It’s not believed Vince is looking to sell, as he thinks the new broadcasting deal will raise stock prices and he can continue selling off blocks of shares to fund Alpha Entertainment and other projects while keeping full control of WWE (they’re hoping players like Amazon, YouTube and Netflix will push the deal above $400 million). Dave Meltzer thinks he would sell if Fox came with the $3.6 billion they reportedly offered for UFC, though.
- If the move happens, Raw would likely be on Fox and return to two hours (8 - 10PM Eastern) with SmackDown heading to FS1. WWE obviously loves this as it would put them on a traditional network in prime time, giving them mainstream entertainment cred. If UFC stays with Fox, this is less likely but still possible, since MMA usually happens on weekends.
- Viacom (owner of, among other things, Spike TV, the former home of Raw and TNA about to be rebranded as The Paramount Network) has also taken a preliminary look at getting in the wrestling business as an owner, but not with WWE. It’s unclear whether that means starting a new promotion or buying a smaller player, as they did with Bellator in MMA.
* Important reminder: Rumors are just that -- rumors. None of this has been confirmed as legitimate news or fact, it’s just circulating around the pro wrestling rumor mill. Remember, take it all with a grain of salt.
If you have heard of any interesting rumors that you’d like to add, feel free to post them in the comments section below. Just remember they are rumors and not confirmed as fact, so please take them as such. Have fun with it.