Name recognition does go a long way.
Brock Lesnar, the former UFC champion, re-signed with WWE. Because of his UFC success, his name value is strong within mainstream sports media. That’s important in the evolution of WWE.
WWE brands itself sports entertainment. When you think about it, so do pro sports (directly or indirectly).
Sports are entertaining. Whether we spend our money to see the Miami Heat, New England Patriots, San Francisco Giants, Vancouver Canucks or WWE, we want to be entertained by the athleticism and/or theatrics.
Why do so many pro sports athletes enjoy WWE? Charisma, physicality, trash talk, crowd reaction. Think about it. That’s an extension of what they do on the football field or basketball court.
In pro sports, nicknames commonplace (Big Ben, Birdman, Cornbread, Diesel, Megatron, The Admiral, The Big Hurt, The Rocket, The Wizard of Oz). Players celebrating slam dunks, sacks, home runs or touchdowns with special dances or motions. How many times golfers at any level imitated Chi Chi Rodriguez’s famous sword dazzling putter after making a birdie. When the home team scores a goal in hockey, the red light brightens, the horn sounds, the music plays, the scoreboard flashes, and the fans erupt, cheering, dancing.
Sports are a show. The NFL Super Bowl, a lucrative money maker, is more than the big game. It’s a show.
With Lesnar’s contract ending after WWE’s biggest show, WrestleMania 31, on Sunday, March 29 from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Lesnar did field offers (strong financial ones) from his former employer, before re-signing with WWE.
Lesnar is 37. Age does matter in professional sports. As you age, your reflexes slow. It’s difficult to do now what you did when younger. The physicality, the travel, the mental toll. All a grind on the body and mind. That’s why good pro athletes retire in their 30s. Few are lucky enough to compete at 40.
Lesnar also had some health issues. A part-time schedule with WWE is far more attractive at this day and age for Lesnar and his family than the rigors of UFC.
WWE does go year round, running shows five days a week (a different city each night), including two TV shows. Unlike other weekly episodic TV shows, WWE does not have an off-season (no re-runs). That’s amazing, and fans should feel fortunate, very fortunate.
For Lesnar, he will not endure that grueling travel schedule, but even with a part-time work schedule, the money is very good.
To the naysayers, Lesnar already paid his dues, building his own brand. Lesnar starred in WWE in the early 2000s, after a successful amateur wrestling career. He then transitioned into MMA with UFC in the late 2000s and defied the odds by winning the UFC title.
With those successes, he returned to WWE in 2011, a bigger name, a bigger brand. That allowed him to negotiate a better deal. He earned it as have other WWE talent over the years.
The reason Hulk Hogan, at age 61, is still a viable commodity for any business, company, group, show is because of his name recognition, name value. His star power crosses over into mainstream from his WWE days, his reality TV show, movies, commercials, talk show appearances. That makes him worth it.
Hulk Hogan and Brock Lesnar are big names in the mainstream sports media. Hogan is also a name in the entertainment and mainstream media. The Rock is on par with Hogan. Probably bigger these days because of his Hollywood accomplishments.
Jesse Ventura -- the wrestler, movie star, radio talk show host, TV program host, teacher and Governor -- for sure. Stone Cold Steve Austin is another to consider in crossover mainstream appeal as well as Goldberg. Kevin Nash, Chris Jericho, John Bradshaw Layfield, Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, Diamond Dallas Page and Bret Hart, also. John Cena, too. The Miz is trying.
When you break other barriers, other grounds, succeed not only in your discipline but in other arenas, so to speak, that makes you a greater commodity for any company.
That’s why Lesnar signing with WWE is not only good business sense for Lesnar but also what’s best for business for WWE. Advertising, marketing, merchandising, publicity, promotions, sponsorships -- the ceiling is higher with Lesnar. Remaining successful in business is not just about inside the wrestling ring. You have to think bigger to grow the company. Those who enjoy the product or complain are already watching. It’s attracting those who are on the fringe or do not know or watch. You can not do that with fan favorite Joe Schmoe wrestler. You need a wrestler who is a consummate sports entertainer. Hogan and Rock did that. Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) is doing that.
To have Lesnar part of the team, when you seek advertising dollars, corporate sponsors, publicity, you have that star power to seal the deal. If I’m meeting with 7-11 Corporate or Home Depot Corporate or Viacom’s Paramount Corporate, and the figureheads ask why should we advertise with you. In my pitch, of course, I’m going to mention Brock Lesnar wholeheartedly, whether he competes once a week or once a month. Name value.
So with Lesnar continuing his WWE run, what match makes the most sense (cents)?
Brock vs . Taker in a WrestleMania rematch? I most like Brock vs. Rock, especially if signed for WrestleMania 32 on April 3, 2016 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
Forbes speculated WrestleMania 32 could break the wrestling attendance record of 93,173 set at WrestleMania III in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. That number also stood as the highest attendance for any indoor event until the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, drawing 108,713. What venue hosted that NBA game? AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The star power from a Brock vs. Rock main event coupled with the Super Bowl of WWE in WrestleMania 32 and the enormity of AT&T Stadium hits a grand slam, nets a hat trick, scores a touchdown. It could also break that indoor attendance record, set in 2010.
Will that dream matchup develop into reality in 2016 at AT&T Stadium? Hope so.
Actually, Lesnar vs. Rock became the plan for WrestleMania 30 in 2014 in New Orleans, but an injury to Rock during his match against John Cena at WrestleMania 29 in N.J./N.Y., which caused some concern by movie producers, prevented it.
At WrestleMania 30, Rock didn’t wrestle, but he did appear in a grand way, opening the show in the ring with Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin. A special WrestleMania moment for all.
At WrestleMania 31 on Sunday, March 29, Rock’s young cousin, Roman Reigns, is in the main event against Lesnar for the WWE World title. Rock did surprise the WWE Universe by helping his blood win the Royal Rumble in January. By winning the Rumble, Reigns earned the main event title match at WrestleMania 31. The WWE Boo-niverse had something to say about it, forcing (WWE) Reigns to battle their favorite, Daniel Bryan, at the WWE FastLane pay-per-view in February for that main event title shot at WrestleMania. Reigns beat Bryan clean. Good.
Bryan is already an established main event star. He won the WWE World title last year at WrestleMania 30. A great moment. Bryan against Lesnar (David vs. Goliath) would be cool, but with Reigns in the WrestleMania 31 main event, WWE is continuing to prove it is trying to build new talent, giving younger guys a shot to step-up on its grandest stage -- like Bryan did last year.
With Lesnar in the future mix, the possibility of Rock returning for one more huge match against Lesnar and the influx of younger talent like Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Rusev, Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens -- oops, I’m jumping ahead of myself -- best for business is best for you.
Lest not forget Lesnar’s legal adviser, Paul Heyman, the greatest mouthpiece going today. Lesnar and Heyman are one of the best 1-2 punches in pro wrestling history or any history. So Brock fever returning to WWE also means more cowbell, Paul Heyman. Even better for business.
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The future is Brock
Roman Reigns will battle Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) for the WWE World title in the main event of WrestleMania 31 on Sunday, March 29 on pay-per-view and WWE Network from Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.
Win, lose or draw at WrestleMania 31, here is my Top 10 potential future opponents for the Beast Incarnate.
10. Rusev (with Lana)
8. Bray Wyatt
7. Kevin Owens
6. Undertaker (only WrestleMania)
5. Seth Rollins (with Authority)
4. Dean Ambrose
3. Randy Orton
2. Daniel Bryan
1. The Rock