Coaching em up at WWE SummerSlam
The Coach Jonathan Coachman will bring his two worlds together, bridging his former employer with his current one in a groundbreaking effort as ESPN will be covering WWE SummerSlam Weekend on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Unprecedented, this is a first for the colossal network. The dynamic of the two seemingly fitting with the global entertainment and sports programming leader covering the global leader of sports entertainment.
“We know part of the game plan [of coverage],” Coachman said. “This is the first time we are covering these athletes. these superstars like this on ESPN; so what we’re going to do is sit down with several different guys and girls, who may have a big crossover appeal, who may have sports in their background -- like John Cena, Roman Reigns, The Miz.
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“The Miz was a big reality star [MTV Real World], before he was a WWE superstar. We really want to introduce guys and girls who maybe our fans know or have heard of and say, ‘Oh, wait a second. Oh, so that’s who that is,’ and kind of bring them into the WWE world, and at the same time bring the WWE world into the ESPN world.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re going to do live shots just like we would if we were at the Super Bowl or at a basketball game. We’re going to be outside [the Barclays Center] where all the fans are going to be and have a couple of different superstars out there with us. It’s going to be fun to be there and show the world the atmosphere surrounding SummerSlam.”
The Coach participated in 10 of them during his WWE career as a commentator, interviewer and heel persona.
“I know how big this event is and how much fun it is,” he said. “I want people to know that this is fun. I think a lot of times in life we get so caught up in the seriousness of everything and try to be so in the box that we forget to have a good time. When they watch us on Saturday and Sunday, they’ll say, ‘You know what? That looks like that’s a really good time.’”
The ESPN/WWE project is meaningful. A time existed in the 1990s when tag partners ESPN and ABC felt angst -- bothered and worried -- with the growing viewership of WWE’s flagship weekly program “Monday Night Raw” cutting into Monday Night Football’s young demographic. ESPN, which never covered WWE in those days, did broadcast a special segment on WWE claiming a negative impact on kids.
Times have changed, and so have the companies.
“You have to change with the times, because if you don’t, you’re going to be left behind,” Coachman said. “You have to evolve with the times. You can’t look at these millions of fans who watch wresting and say that they don’t exist or that they don’t spend money or that they don’t want to be a part of what ESPN is doing. We have to bring ourselves to them. They’re not going to come to us.
“I’ve been pushing for this for a while, and I kind of joked around on Twitter a little bit a few months ago, ‘Hey WWE Universe, let our bosses know,’ [and they did]. I love ESPN. I love being there. The people I work for I have a great deal of respect for, and they have a lot of respect for me. I’ve been pushing them pretty hard to make this happen -- just from a shear entertainment standpoint -- because we’re in a very, very different age now. It’s about eyeballs, and eyeballs turn into revenue.
“To ignore a company that has three to four millions viewers a week on each show, to me, was a little bit close-minded. Now, with new people in charge, they’re not close-minded about it, and that’s what I respect about them the most.
“To me, it’s not taking a risk either, because in this day and age, I can tell you 10 different stories that people thought would last forever that were gone by the next week. So if we do this, and there’s so much negativity, then by Tuesday morning, people will have forgot that we did it, but I know that’s not going to happen. There’s going to be people saying I want ESPN and SportsCenter at WrestleMania. I want them at AT&T Stadium next year to show the experience, because that’s what sports is; it’s an experience, and a lot of times people can’t go there to experience it, and that’s what were in the TV business and entertainment business for.
“So I kind of spearheaded this, but certainly a lot of other people at ESPN were a part of making it happen and getting everything cleared for us to be there ... and I’m extremely happy about it.”
The Coach not surprised it took this long for ESPN to embrace WWE at this level.
“I know what I was up against at the start of my career there [at ESPN in 2009],” Coachman said. “During my time at WWE, you had people who either just didn’t get it, didn’t like it, whatever. The one thing I learned working for [WWE CEO/Chairman] Vince [McMahon] is you can’t care what other people think.
“I worked with [the late, great] Stuart Scott [at ESPN] for many, many years. He didn’t care what other people thought either. The last seven, eight months -- having gone to his funeral and really dealing with his passion and what everybody said he was like and what I experienced – I said to myself, ‘This is who I am.’ I’m a SportsCenter anchor, yes, but I’m also a performer, somebody who loved being a part of WWE. I’m not going to ignore that. I’m not going to hide that. It’s who I am, and the last time I checked there wasn’t any negative feedback on me the last eight years at ESPN.”
The Coach, an ESPN SportsCenter anchor and former WWE commentator/interviewer, will handle the two-day SummerSlam duties from the Barclays Center. It will have the big show feel, while including a Big Show, former Wichita State basketball player Paul Wight.
“On Saturday, we’re going to be sitting down with them and doing the interviews,” Coachman said, “and we’re going to be more than just TV. This is a social, digital world that we’re in now. SportsCenter’s Twitter feed has 19-million followers. Arguably people could see more on our Twitter feed than people may watch in an average SportsCenter.
“So we’re going to sit down with the [WWE] superstars on Saturday, because on Sunday...remember I was there, and I know how long it takes to get ready for a SummerSlam match -- I don’t want to be in the way. WWE is being very accommodating, bringing the superstars to the [Barclays Center] on Saturday. It’s going to be set-up for NXT [TakeOver: Brooklyn] anyway, and we can get interviews done there and post them on ESPN.com. We can post them on Twitter. People can get an idea of what these guys and girls are like off camera and in a very relaxed atmosphere with someone like me, who they know and who once was a part of their world for such a long time.
“That’s what’s going to be more on Saturday, getting content for social and digital as opposed to live on SportsCenter.”
Sunday will also be geared toward social and digital, but that’s when television drop kicks into SummerSlam.
Coachman noted: “Sunday morning we’ll be live in the 11 o’clock hour. We’ll be live at the 12 o’clock hour. We’ll be live at the 6 p.m. hour, and we’re also planning, if it plays out like we hope it will, to be live on our signature TV show of the week -- the 11 p.m. SportsCenter.
With cool interviews post SummerSlam, too?
“Any time you do anything for the first time, it’s kind of hit and miss,” Coachman said. “My vision is to have so much interest in this that people want to see it. There’s people in California who can’t come to the Barclays Center, but they would sure like to see John Cena outside the Barclays Center [via television, social media, digital] or after his match on SummerSlam.
“So we’re hoping, but they’re not making any promises for after the event. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, maybe we can put together a little ‘Best of’ package like we do for big NCAA tournaments or the Super Bowl.”
WWE WrestleMania is the Super Bowl of pro wrestling/sports entertainment. If the ESPN/WWE SummerSlam experiment works, it’s likely the two will do it again for WrestleMania 32 in April at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“Maybe even a Royal Rumble [in Orlando 2016],” Coachman said. “I think you can do two or three events a year. I also think with the WWE Network there can be some cross-pollination throughout the year, whether it’s me doing something on WWE Network -- hint, hint -- or them promoting SportsCenter. It would be a nice partnership without having to jump through eight different hoops.
“With Twitter and digital and being able to gauge how many hits, how many downloads for whatever it is, I think we’ll be able to tell how many people watch these interviews, watch SportsCenter, and I think that’s how we will tell, if it is a success. I think the SportsCenters are going to be very highly rated, much higher than the normal SportsCenter at that time any other week.”
Coachman, 43, worked 10 years (1999-2008) for WWE. During his tenure as commentator and interviewer, he worked some memorable backstage interview segments with The Rock. A fun and seasoned talent during his WWE days, he transitioned into a fine ESPN anchor, show host and radio voice. Following his WWE stint, he always remembered his WWE roots delivering snappy catch phrases and interviewing WWE CEO/Chairman Vince McMahon, John Cena and The Rock on ESPN.
ESPN, led by former WWE commentator/interviewer The Coach Johnathan Coachman, will be covering WWE SummerSlam Weekend on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23.
Coachman, who hosts Coach & Company on ESPN Radio, is an ESPN SportsCenter anchor.
ESPN senior coordinating producer Glen Jacobs (not Kane) said: “We are always looking for new ways to engage and serve our fans. This is an opportunity to do that and provide coverage of a big event.”
Other WWE personalities working at ESPN
Grisham tweeted humorously: “To those asking, no I won’t be at Summerslam. Once again @TheCoachESPN has to hog all the spotlight.”
Coachman responded with a smile: “Vince always loved me best anyway. #superkick.”
Coachman revealed: “#superkick because one time [at WWE] they asked him to be in the ring and take a superkick from Shawn Michaels, and the one thing you can’t do is lean back, and it’s easy to tell yourself that, until that superkick is coming, and he did the one thing you can’t do. He leaned back, and Shawn missed by a mile. He never lived that down. So I made sure to remind him of that, because he wanted to throw a little shade my way.”
Coachman and Grisham are good friends, best buds for 12 years, in each other’s weddings.
“By [WWE personalities] doing well at ESPN, I think it shows people, particularly at ESPN, who may have been a little bit close-minded or a little bit jaded, maybe leery about would we be good enough, would we know enough, would we be knowledgeable enough -- all those types of things -- to do SportsCenter, to do the shows at the knowledge level that they need to be done at -- that we could do it.”
Coachman, who helped McPherson High School in Kansas win two state basketball titles, graduated from McPherson College where he played basketball, was sports editor for the school newspaper, did play-by-play and color commentary for the local basketball and football radio broadcasts.
He worked for a Kansas City news station, before signing with WWE. Coachman called various sports events on College Sports Television including football, basketball, baseball and softball. He also called college basketball for CN8. In addition, he served as the part-time play-by-play announcer for the WNBA’s New York Liberty on the MSG Network, as well as the studio host for New York Knicks games. He also hosted the weekly MSG program MSG, NY.
Coachman enjoys all sports.
“I take a great deal of pride in my sports knowledge,” he said. “I consider myself an expert in a lot of sports...Knowledge is power, and I tell our new anchors all the time that if you don’t know these sports, you are going to be hung out to dry, because you can not just call a highlight. You got to know what you are talking about. I’ll put my knowledge up there against anybody at ESPN in a lot of sports, because you have to, you have to do the work.”
WWE SummerSlam in Brooklyn
WWE SummerSlam is 7 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 23 live on pay-per-view and WWE Network.
This year SummerSlam has been extended to a four-hour broadcast plus a one-hour pre-show beginning at 6 p.m. EST on WWE Network. Emanating live from a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., SummerSlam will feature WWE Superstars Undertaker and Brock Lesnar in a rematch of their historic WrestleMania 30 bout where Lesnar ended Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak.
ESPN with The Coach Jonathan Coachman will be covering SummerSlam Weekend, an ESPN first.
“There’s no question that Brock Lesnar, being the athlete who he is, and the fact that he crossed over to UFC and came back to WWE certainly helped this,” Coachman said. “I also feel like on some level maybe we missed on the UFC, because we cover a lot of UFC on SportsCenter. We go to all the big UFC fights. I wasn’t in the negotiations, but I feel like we could have had UFC, if we had gone after it.”
Brock Lesnar in studio on ESPN on Tuesday, Aug. 18
It marks the first time ESPN is covering a WWE event in this manner.
ESPN provided some social media coverage of WrestleMania 31 in March.
ESPN covered Brock Lesnar’s big decision between UFC and WWE in April.
ESPN E:60 broadcast a very good special on the making of a WWE superstar with the documentary “Behind The Curtain” in May.
ESPN E:60 also had an interesting segment on WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall in 2011.
ESPN is in Bristol, Conn., about 60 miles from WWE in Stamford, Conn.
More Star Power at SummerSlam
Comedian Jon Stewart, formerly of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, will host SummerSlam.
Stephen Amell of Arrow on CW (based on the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow) is in a tag team match at SummerSlam. The Arrows (Stephen Amell and Neville) vs. The Cosmic Kings (Stardust & King Barrett).
Amell portrays Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) on Arrow.
Amell and @WWE collaborated on a SummerSlam style T-shirt -- highlighting his SummerSlam confrontation with Stardust -- to raise money for Emily’s House in Toronto.
SummerSlam spent the past six years in Los Angeles but moved to New York for the 2015 version. It is the fourth time emanating from New York with three times (1988 debut, 1991, 1998) at Madison Square Garden.
- WWE SummerSlam Matches
WWE SummerSlam is 7 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 23 live on pay-per-view and WWE Network from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There is a pre-show at 6 p.m. EST on WWE Network.
WrestleMania 30 Rematch: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. The Undertaker.
Title vs. Title: Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight Champion) vs. John Cena (United States Champion).
Randy Orton vs. Sheamus.
WWE Intercontinental Title: Ryback vs. Big Show vs. The Miz.
The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper) vs. Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns.
WWE Tag Team Titles: The Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neil and Darren Young) vs. Los Matadores (Diego and Fernando with El Torito) vs. The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara and Kalisto) vs. The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston with Xavier Woods).
Special Attraction: The Arrows (Stephen Amell and Neville) vs. The Cosmic Kings (Stardust & King Barrett).
Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro.
Team Bella (The Bella Twins and Alicia Fox) vs. Team B.A.D. (Naomi, Sasha Banks and Tamina) vs. PCB (Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch)
Dolph Ziggler (with Lana) vs. Rusev (with Summer Rae).
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
Put Me In Coach on ESPN
With The Coach Jonathan Coachman returning to his roots, covering WWE SummerSlam for entertainment and sports leader ESPN on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, here is my Top 20 list of entertaining sports’ coaching personalities in entertainment.
20. Gordon Bombay (The Mighty Ducks)
19. Molly McGrath (Wildcats)
18. Ronnie Hortense (Goon)
17. Patches (Dodgeball)
16. Tony D’Amato (Any Given Sunday)
15. Pop Fisher (The Natural)
14. Jackie Moon (Semi-Pro)
13. Lou Brown (Major League)
11b. Jimmy McGinty (The Replacements)
11a. Norman Dale (Hoosiers)
10. John Tolos (WWF)
9. Mr. Coach Klein (The Waterboy)
8. Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights-TV)
7. Chubbs (Happy Gilmore)
6. Jimmy Dugan (A League of Their Own)
5. Morris Buttermaker (The original Bad News Bears)
4. Reg Dunlop (Slapshot)
3. Ernie Pantusso (Cheers)
1b. Nickerson (All the Right Moves)
1a. Hayden Fox (Coach)
NOTE: Sports movie/TV enthusiasts G-Man George Richards and Mike Steinberg helped compile coaches for the list.