WWE keeps on rolling—in cash

When it comes to making money, the Hogan era is no match for today’s men in tights


J.B. Forbes/AP Photo

Back when Hulk Hogan was the WWF champion—leg-dropping Nikolai Volkoff and body-slamming André the Giant—children everywhere ate their vitamins and said their prayers. Hulkamania was as much a part of the 1980s as Cyndi Lauper and leg warmers. Even now, approaching his 60th birthday, Hogan and his “24-inch pythons” are synonymous with professional wrestling. (Quick, name the current belt-holder.)

But when it comes to making money, the Hogan era is no match for today’s men in tights. As improbable as it sounds, the WWE (as the federation is now called) has never been more successful.

Despite the emergence of mixed martial arts—with real violence and real victories—the scripted soap opera of pile drivers and Royal Rumbles is not only surviving, but thriving. The latest installment of Wrestlemania (No. 28) drew a record pay-per-view audience of 1.2 million. The WWE’s signature show, Monday Night Raw, recently celebrated its 1,000th episode. And earlier this month, during a conference call with analysts, CEO Vince McMahon said the publicly traded company is on the cusp of launching its very own cable network, à la Oprah. “I hope next quarter I will be making an announcement,” he said.

Next up? Pinning down China.

In 2010, the WWE made its inaugural visit to China, handing out an arena’s worth of free tickets to anyone willing to go. Last week, the wrestlers returned to Shanghai—where customers happily paid up to US$235 a ticket. “I’m here for the hot guys,” said one woman. Another local, who organizes a WWE fan club, said she got hooked after stumbling across wrestling on her satellite TV. “Boxing is boring,” she told one reporter, “but professional wrestling has a plot.”

Ed Wells, the WWE’s senior vice-president for international operations, said the company’s growth in China has consistently been in “double digits” since 2007. The product has grown so popular, in fact, that there’s talk about introducing a Chinese character to the roster. “We’d love to have a Chinese star,” Wells said. “And we’re certainly open to working with Chinese talent.”


WWE keeps on rolling—in cash

  1. A sad reflection on our current society and values… The WWE has too much sleaze for my liking.

    • Good for you.

  2. WWE has grown as a business in every facet since the Hogan days, Hogan was their biggest star ever but the infrastructure wasn’t there like it is today to cash in on it. The next best era was the Steve Austin era. Then there is this era, the star power isn’t nearly as high today as it once was, but the WWE brand is as strong as ever despite all the controversies that have surrounded this company in it’s history; the brand is resilient.

    Financially they have one stellar show per year (wrestlemania) but attendance and the ppv buys for all their others shows are down compared to previous eras. The new network launching is poised for failure with constant delays and networks not signing on. Yes their television is relatively strong but down significantly from previous times. WWE is by no means a doom and gloom story, but this piece paints a rosy picture even though the WWE stock was at record lows this year.

    Is this an article or an advertisement? There are blatant fasle hoods in here, wrestlemania was not a record in ppv buys for the company, and saying “the WWE has never been more successful” is based on what? That is an outright stretch of the facts at best.

  3. Maclean’s and readers…don’t you find it amazing that a small 1/2 page column (WWE) was the 2nd most read story in this issue of MacLeans??
    Either the magazine needs some self analysis or Canadians and MacLean’s readers are deteriorating to the level of the all to popular sit-coms on TV and its’ reality programs.
    Please say it isn’t so; I recall when the Phil Donahue TV Show went from a stimulating, interesting and provocative TV show back in the 1970’s to male strippers and other mindless shock TV events with Phil Donahue cheering them on.
    Is there life on Mars??

  4. Hogan helped put wrestling on the map and bring it to what it is today.