Wrestling With The Media
How Professional Wrestling has used Social Media to advance and enhance it’s product.
“It’s important to know your audience, keep them engaged and always stay relevant.” Vince McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
From Attitude Era to Ruthless Aggression to Angry Twitter wars??
Professional Wrestling has always been a business that has relied on constant adaption and change as it is the fans that predominately control the direction of the company. Placed under the category of ‘Sports Entertainment’, pro-wresting was created as means to portray unarmed combat(although in the case of some matches including Tables Ladders and Chairs, this isn't always the case) in a highly exaggerated manner.
What most people commonly associate Pro-Wrestling with however, is that this is a form of scripted entertainment, in which the results of matches are predetermined and the moves performed in these matches are performed in a manner in which they are too look painful but not intentionally harm the competitors. What may turn people off from this product as it has given it the reputation of being ‘fake’ is actually advantageous when it comes to creating story-lines and developing intriguing characters that will make fans cheer and boo.
With the introduction of what is now known as the Social Media Era, Wrestling fans are now able to follow their favorites superstars on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, just like they would for any of their other sporting heroes. What differs between regular sports stars on twitter and pro-wrestlers on twitter, is that pro-wrestling companies began to realize that they could use Social Media as a new method of storytelling.
Steven Amell vs Stardust (Cody Rhodes)
In the lead-up to Summerslam 2015, WWE’s second biggest PPV in the calendar year, it had been announced that Stephen Amell, who plays the Green Arrow on The CW Show ‘Arrow’, would be making a guest appearance on Raw.
Cody Rhodes, playing the role of a pseudo comic book villain wrestler known as Stardust took to twitter to respond to this news.
Steven took to twitter immediately to reply;
This started a back and forth twitter war which ended with a confrontation between the two after a match between King Barrett and Neville.
The culmination of this social media war was a Summerslam tag-team match between Neville and Steven Amell against Stardust and King Barrett.
In reality, WWE and Steven Amell came to an contract agreement in which he would engage with Stardust in a twitter war and appear that they have a problem with each other, which would then lead to a match. To most fans, this would have seemed like your standard twitter feud between celebrities, with the notable exception of this occurring in the world of WWE, which allowed for these two men to actually have a physical encounter. From WWE’s perspective, this match draws attention from the mainstream media as many of the fans of the TV Show Arrow will want to watch Stephen Amell in a ‘real fight,’ and put money into their product.
WWE’s Global Enterprise
With five weekly shows worldwide in over 190 countries and other two shows shown live through online media; WWE is also available on the WWE Network for just $9.99 a month and has a total of 540 million social media followers across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat combined. These are numbers that rival the likes of the NFL, the NBA and the NHL and significantly outshine any of the Australian Sports codes such as the AFL, NRL and the A-League.
In comparison to major sporting companies that make significantly more money in comparison to WWE, their social media grasp has allowed for them to maintain its grip on the mainstream media. WWE’s facebook page has 27,500,000 likes and each post it makes attracts an average engagement of 15'000 per post.
Having its Superstars and Divas (WWE’s terms for Male and Female wrestlers) have their own twitter accounts and facebook pages and allowing them to communicate with the fans as well as interact with their fellow co-workers both for personal use and in order to enhance a storyline only adds to the legitimacy feel that most WWE fans are looking for when watching the product.
With the nature of the business and with a fan base that is always ready to voice their opinion with the current direction of WWE programming, the fans are able to use themselves as a form of protest. During the early part of 2014, fan favourite Daniel Bryan was not receiving what wrestling enthusiasts refer to as a push (which is the company giving a particular superstar a rise up the match card towards the main event) and started a facebook campaign known as #Hijack Raw. The campaign claimed that when Raw came to visit Chicago on March 3rd, the crowd would turn its back on any match that didn’t involve Daniel Bryan and only chant for him.
Rather than try to fight it, WWE integrated the idea into their weekly programming, using the hashtag on the episode of raw and incorporating it into Daniel Bryan’s storyline which resulted in #HijackRaw being a worldwide trend on Twitter. This also showed to the fans that they were listening to their voices and at Wrestlemania 30, Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
With the introduction in February 2014 of the WWE Network, the WWE’s version of netflix for WWE exclusive videos, the WWE continues to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of social media and in a business in which the focus is always on the fans, evolving with society is a necessity in order for them to thrive.
Written by Joshua Campbell