Survivor Series 2021 started with Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch’s worked shoot and closed with Roman Reigns outlasting Big E. All around those matches, there was a lot of promotion for Netflix’s Red Notice and Pizza Hut.
And not in commercials that aired on the Peacock stream, but in the ongoing “who stole Cleopatra’s egg?” storyline featuring Vince McMahon and a plot MacGuffin from The Rock’s latest movie, and as a centerpiece of the 25 man battle royal in the middle of the PPV.
It’s not an entirely new phenomenon. We’ve seen it on multiple occasions this year. There was the infamous zombie lumberjack match at WrestleMania Backlash to promote another legend’s Netflix flick (Dave Bautista’s Army of the Dead). At SummerSlam, we got a segment dedicated to Xavier Woods doing Razor Ramon so he could drench John Morrison & The Miz with Pure Life water from a Super Soaker.
Survivor Series was a step-up for WWE’s product placement efforts, though — and not just because it wasn’t confined to a Miz bit. And considering the trend over this year, and comments like this one from Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon on the company’s latest quarterly investor call...
“In terms of content integration, would you ever see a Pure Life truck drive into Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and have [Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback] Patrick Mahomes spray down fans with a Pure Life brand Super Soaker as part of a touchdown celebration? Or have zombies replace the offensive line for one down? My guess is no, but you can in WWE. Because we have all the exciting action of a live game, but are scripted like a great movie, we can write those integrations in ways that are fun and memorable for the audience and our partners...”
From a strictly business perspective it makes a lot of sense. And I personally think that some of these “integrations” can be fun. Vince McMahon’s Red Notice angle, which will continue tonight on Raw, is the kind of goofy wrestling fun I can get down with every once in a while (the 2012 holiday episode of SmackDown where John Cena avenges Santa Claus is a particular favorite of mine).
But given their track record, I’m dubious WWE creative will be able to make regular in-show advertising “memorable” in a good way. And if you take it as another reminder the company prioritizes shareholder value over producing fulfilling entertainment for their most devoted customers? It would be hard to argue with you.