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A New Look WWE Could be on the Verge of Their Biggest Ever Era

By 27 February 2024News

By Joe Baiamonte

“There’s hot and then there’s ‘Run a 50k seat building, don’t have Cody wrestle, don’t have Roman even appear, and a Nia Jax match main events’ level hot.”

No words more appropriately summed up WWE’s current white-hot streak than those of wrestling writer (and beloved Twitter curmudgeon/press conference live Tweeter) Trevor Dame. The promotion announced an attendance north of 52,000 for their most recent Premium Live Event ‘Elimination Chamber’, this past Saturday at the Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia. Only four matches were announced for the main card, with only one of the company’s World Titles on the line, as Aussie native Rhea Ripley successfully defended her Women’s World Championship against Nia Jax.

Only a month ago, another stadium-sized crowd in the 50,000 region filled Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida for the Royal Rumble. Again, only four matches were announced for the main card and only one World Title was up for grabs, with Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns continuing his three-and-a-half year era of dominance by defeating Randy Orton, AJ Styles and LA Knight in a fatal four-way bout.

That 100,000 people across two continents parted with substantial amounts of money to witness these extravaganzas in person only tells a snippet of the story of where World Wrestling Entertainment currently finds itself at the beginning of 2024.

Mami celebrates with just a few of the 52,000 Aussies who came to see her at Elimination Chamber. Image: WWE

Until recently, stadium shows were the reserve of WrestleMania. The Grandaddy of ’em All isolated as the sole event in the WWE calendar worthy enough of venturing outside of the confines of the arenas. There were select cards that may venture outdoors or into the domes from time-to-time, but for the most part, ‘Mania sat alone with its attendances constantly hovering above the 60,000 mark.

This year’s WrestleMania, the fortieth iteration of the spectacular, will be WWE’s third and fourth stadium shows in three months. Now a full weekend affair rather than a solitary night, ‘Mania guarantees at least 120,000 ticket sales over two nights. At Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in early April, WWE’s Chief Content Officer and Head of Creative, Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque, will no doubt rhyme off a litany of records that have been broken by this year’s event, from sponsorship revenue to merchandise sales to social media interactions and beyond. He will also share a stage at post-show press conferences with a selection of superstars from the company’s most popular roster in a quarter of a century.

When the 14-time World Champion heralded “a new time, a new era and a whole new WWE” at the recent WrestleMania XL kick-off press conference in Las Vegas, he wasn’t merely spitting hyperbole to sell an upcoming card. The Game was telling everybody what they have already come to realise during his time in the driver’s seat, in which the once McMahon-helmed sports entertainment juggernaut was merged with UFC, platformed to the tune of $5bn in a historic deal with Netflix and overseen in part by a returning Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Without a member of the old family in sight.

Triple H announced a new era and a new WWE at a recent press conference in Las Vegas. Image: WWE

No McMahon involvement, as we are all now aware, is not a situation that has arisen through a passing of the torch and a waltz into the sunset. Vince McMahon, alongside his former Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis and WWE as a whole, are currently in the midst of legal action, brought forth by former employee Janel Grant who, in a horrifically hard-to-read 67-page lawsuit, has detailed gut-churning allegations against the former Chairman of the Board, citing sexual assault, including rape, and sex trafficking.

The lawsuit, which given McMahon’s typically robust protestation of innocence, is likely to endure a lengthy spell in the public eye, will undoubtedly serve up a plethora of further horrendous revelations about an unspeakably toxic culture that has been allowed to fester within WWE for decades under McMahon’s iron fist. Grant’s lawsuit details levels of manipulation and cover ups from members of WWE management, allegedly under McMahon’s orders. Major stars, such as Randy Orton, Becky Lynch, Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes have expressed their horror and disgust at the lawsuit’s contents in recent weeks.

Ari Emanuel, the Endeavour and TKO CEO, was quick to demand McMahon’s resignation when the new revelations broke in January. The man who brought Hulkamania and the Attitude Era to the masses, turning professional wrestling into sports entertainment along the way, had already been identified as a potential issue when Endeavour completed their multi-billion dollar merger last April. Historic sexual misconduct claims and hush money payment investigations had already caused the 78-year-old to resign initially in the summer of 2022, with his daughter Stephanie replacing him as Chairwoman of the company.

Although Vince did force his way back into proceedings in order to negotiate a sale at the beginning of 2023, Emanuel is reportedly keen to rid anyone and everyone who helped foster McMahon’s allegedly sexually exploitative culture and begin afresh with WWE under the TKO banner. Of course, it would be far more preferable if it had not taken the alleged mental and physical suffering of several former employees for the company’s workplace environment to be cleansed, and in fact, more preferable still if it didn’t need to be cleansed at all. But if Emanuel and co. are to make good on their reported promises to distance their new sports entertainment freight train from Vincent Kennedy McMahon and his cohorts, it can only be a huge step in the right direction away from the sleaze-ridden reputation pro-wrestling in general has endured for generations.

And no new direction is better represented than WWE’s staggering new streaming deal with Netflix.

Image: WWE

With an announcement breaking only days before the McMahon revelations broke, the streaming service announced it would become the new home for Monday Night Raw, beginning from January 2025, taking the flagship show off the regular airwaves for the first time in history. Not only that, but in several markets outside of the US, including the UK, SmackDown, NXT, Premium Live Events and WWE Network content would also sit on the service. The $5bn, 10-year deal is historic as the first regular live content to be broadcast by Netflix, and could even be extended by a further decade if the streaming giant so wishes (or severed at the five-year mark).

The timing of the ‘E’s arrival on Netflix is key as it will be slap bang at the beginning of WrestleMania season, just weeks before the Royal Rumble, an event that traditionally commands the eyeballs of more casual and lapsed fans. With the multi-billion dollar level of hype that will trumpet WWE’s arrival on the platform throughout December, there is a very real chance that more viewers than the company has seen since the heady days of the Attitude Era will be zoned in on Levesque and his team’s product. With an extensive library to delve back into in order to relive the glory years while looking ahead to the upcoming Rumble, interest levels ought to be sky-high, meaning each and every episode of Raw will demand newsworthy happenings.

At a time when random live events in Fresno, California are hitting almost 10,000 ticket sales and weekly television is regularly attended by crowds north of five figures, the momentum is at a generational high for WWE. We are now at a point where losing a returning CM Punk for 6-8 months and (rightfully) losing Brock Lesnar potentially forever more, right before a gargantuan WrestleMania match with GUNTHER, are losses that are easily absorbed, due to not only the depth of the current talent roster, but the immense popularity of it too. Roman Reigns has been able to part-time his way through a marathon title reign of almost Hulk Hogan proportions and the crowds have not thinned. Instead, they have been bolstered by Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, The Usos, Rhea Ripley and the Judgement Day, Becky Lynch, LA Knight, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, Bianca Belair, Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins and Gunther. Starlets from NXT, such as the recently promoted Tiffany Stratton, have immediately captured the imaginations of fans, while Bron Breakker seems positioned for a rapid ascent along with recent signee Jade Cargill.

Stratton has rapidly emerged as one of the hottest rising stars in recent WWE history. Image: WWE

The likes of Stratton, Breakker and Cargill could be well positioned for prime time spots by the time the Netflix era rolls around. With the potential for monstrous global viewership almost forcing Levesque’s hand to have blistering hot storylines in place to immediately snag both new and former fans alike. It is rare that such a window of opportunity on such an enormous scale presents itself in this manner. Which is why having so much star power, both old (respectfully) and new at their disposal could not have come at a better time for WWE.

Oh, and FINALLY, there’s someone else that warrants discussion, isn’t there?

The newest member of the board. A People’s and Corporate Champion. A Great One. The proprietor of the SmackDown Hotel and the owner of the most mammoth family tree in wrestling history. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Not content with his seat on the board and the $30m of shares that come with it, The Rock is not only back on WWE Television, he’s back in his finest form – bedecked in the garish Versace shirts of a Neapolitan hitman on holiday, the Brahma Bull isn’t cherishing the cheers of capacity crowds any more. Instead he’s letting the fans know how little he thinks of them, he’s regurgitating the greatest hits from ’98-’99 and he’s drinking in the boos on a weekly basis. He’s also priming himself for some of the loftiest pieces of wrestling real estate across the next 12 months – primarily a WrestleMania 40 bout involving Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins and then a little further down the line a years-in-the-making mega match against his cousin Roman Reigns.

The Rock is ready to party like it’s 1999. Image: WWE

The Rock’s comeback has even come complete with a renewed rivalry with Triple H, just to set the nostalgia levels racing even higher than they ordinarily do around ‘Mania season. And when that Netflix premiere comes calling, Maui will no doubt be letting everyone know how welcome they are to have him back inside the squared circle, fresh off a month of Moana 2 promo with more history to raise his eyebrow towards.

Should the WWE’s current level of momentum continue throughout 2025, eyebrows will be raised across the entertainment industry at how over Netflix’s hottest new act is.

WrestleMania 40 will emanate from Philadelphia, PA on 6th and 7th April, 2024, available only on Peacock, WWE Network and PPV

Featured Image Credit: WWE

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