Time has an interesting new article focused on WWE’s Next In Line program, which uses the latitude now given college athletes to monetize their name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights by signing third-party sponsorship agreements to hopefully build a pipeline of new talent for the company.
Or as Time describes it, while also providing the first information on what WWE’s offering college athletes financially:
In exchange for compensation ranging from low five-figures up to six-figures, athletes will create social media posts plugging WWE and make appearances at WWE events: athletes will also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Florida, where they can learn the acrobatics and other skills needed to become wrestling stars.
The article has a few comments from Paul “Triple H” Levesque about the programs goals, but the most eye-catching quotes are from Fresno State basketball players and social media powerhouses* the Cavinder twins. The reason Hanna and Hayley’s remarks stand out is the same reason their names — and images — did when WWE announced the first NIL class. They’re pretty clear evidence of the rumors and reports we’ve been hearing about the company’s new developmental strategy.
Haley’s quote lines right up with what WWE President Nick Khan’s been saying about wanting to build future Superstars from the ground up, without anyone else’s wrestling training diluting the Performance Center’s message:
“We definitely didn’t grow up wanting to become wrestlers It just kind of happened. It’s right up our alley because it is entertainment. And that’s what Hanna and I do on the side.”
And Hanna’s response to questions about if the twins are worried about the pro wrestling business’ sometimes shady past damaging their brand show that the McMahons’ “we make movies” message has been effective:
“I don’t think there’s any concern. It’s just entertainment. We love connecting with our fans and bringing our audience to their audience and meshing them all together.”
She didn’t use the preferred “putting smiles on faces” verbiage, but she’ll learn.
The Cavinders also apparently don’t want to play heels, with Time saying they said “they’d be more comfortable in a more benevolent WWE role.” That also speaks to a challenge Vince McMahon & team may have getting college athletes who bring their own following to be cogs in the sports entertainment machine.
But WWE probably isn’t under any illusions that everyone they sign to NIL deals will eventually be on Raw or SmackDown. If Haley & Hanna just plug a few PPVs on their social media and never work a match, that’s okay. They’re also signing folks like Northwestern football player Joe Spivak, who wants “to be bigger than The Rock”, and Wake Forest track & field athlete Aleeya Hutchins, who would “love to throw a chair at somebody, but not hurt them.”
Developing stars has always been a numbers game, and this new aspect of the program won’t change that.
Check out Time’s article here.