In an interview with Bloomberg Business of Sports, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon was asked about WWE talent adjusting to working during a pandemic. According to her, the talent hardly missed a beat.
“I can’t speak from personal experience. I can as a performer but I didn’t have to wrestle,” Stephanie said. “All I can say is how much respect I have for them. To be able to do that and not miss a beat, not break character. It was just unbelievable to watch.
“I know what it takes to put on that kind of performance. And I just couldn’t imagine it without a live performance. I just have so much respect, all the time for our performers, but especially for their performances during this difficult time.”
Stephanie discussed how WWE manages their talent. This was an interesting topic given some of the controversies involving WWE and third party restrictions in recent months. As expected, Stephanie’s answer mostly glossed over the more polarizing aspects.
“WWE is a bit different than other leagues and properties,” said Stephanie. “We own all the intellectual properties, because we create them. So it’s very different from how the leagues operate. We have a whole pop culture strategy outside of our business. We cast our superstars outside of WWE programming; whether that’s partnership endorsements, cameos, roles in Hollywood films, red carpets, you name it. The goal is to get our stars out there as much as possible.
“We recognize there’s a huge percentage of the population that isn’t WWE fans that we want to attract. At the same time we also want to get athletes, pop culture influencers and celebrities into our programming for the same reason. The rising tide really raises all boats in terms of audience and growth.
“So we’re really excited; we have a few tricks up our sleeve for Wrestlemania. Bad Bunny has certainly been a huge part of our programming since the Royal Rumble. It’s a wild ride.”
The hosts brought up WWE’s success in getting engagement from their female fans in recent years. Stephanie credited the turnaround to her husband, Triple H.
“What happened was we started training and recruiting elite athletes, both male and female, at the Performance Center,” said Stephanie. “And I do give all of the credit to my husband. He started really recruiting these elite athletes and he started training women the same as the men. Started giving them the same match times, the same opportunities. And what happened was on NXT, which was our developmental at the time, our fans started chanting ‘women’s wrestling.’ It really gave rise to our fans and empowered them to make change on RAW and Smackdown.
“It was actually 2015 where we had a women’s tag match that lasted all of 30 seconds in a three hour show. And our fans had had enough. They actually started a hashtag called #GiveDivasAChance, calling for longer matches and better storylines. So we responded in the biggest way we could. And then a year later, at Wrestlemania, we rebranded the Divas division as the Women’s Division, we announced we’d call them superstars and created a new championship similar to the men’s belt.
“Since that time our women have been more regularly headlining and main eventing all of our programming, including Wrestlemania 35. Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair broke the gross entertainment revenue record at Met Life Stadium. Not only that but in Abu Dhabi we were actually able to have a women’s match. During that match a chant broke out of ‘this is hope’, which isn’t a normal WWE chant. Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks saw tears in the eyes of little girls in the front row. And now we’ve had not one, but two women’s matches in Saudi Arabia. And there were chants of ‘this is awesome’ in those matches, which is exactly how it should be.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Bloomberg Business of Sports and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription