Professional wrestling can be traced back to the mid-18th century, when two guys would perform moves, stunts and fights in a predetermined fashion. Although everyone now knows that the things we see in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) isn’t exactly genuine, it wasn’t exactly ubiquitous 50 years ago.
Sports entertainment is a very interesting business because it combines the elements of athleticism, carnival sideshows, soap opera dramas, rock concerts and motion picture entertainment, which captivates the imagination and attention of millions of spectators all over the world.
Indeed, professional wrestling isn’t as popular as it once was in the late 1990s, early 2000s, but it is still an enormous industry that sees certain performers earning millions of dollars a year and endorsing mainstream products (see John Cena and Foot Locker) or becoming major box office megastars (see The Rock or Batista).
Many people may scoff at pro-wrestling, but the fact is is that businesses can learn a lot from the predetermined sport. From brand recognition to listening to the audience, the industry offers a lot of tips and tricks for companies to incorporate into their own business models and improve upon their enterprise.
Vince McMahon didn’t become a billionaire overnight. But with hard work, determination and understanding business, he became a titan of the sports entertainment world and still remains king of the mountain in this diehard industry.
Here are four things business can learn from professional wrestling or WWE in general:
1. Listening to the Consumer
Professional Westling: When a wrestler receives a huge pop upon entering the arena, garners a massive reaction during their matches and generates big merchandise sales, it informs the company that their fans want to see more of this performer. If the company doesn’t give this wrestler a push then the consumer will be dissatisfied with the on-air product and look elsewhere for this similar type of gratification.
Business World: If a customer isn’t getting the type of product or service he or she wants then they will look elsewhere for this item or service. Moreover, if the client isn’t satisfied with the current array of products then they will simply stop frequenting the store. Essentially, businesses have to listen to the customer and give them what they want, or they go out of business. It’s that simple.
2. Media Attention
Professional Wrestling: When the mainstream media, or perhaps even independent media outlets, give any type of professional wrestling business attention it’s a good thing for that specific brand. This must be exploited and advertised regularly that their company was featured in USA Today, CNN or CNBC. Whether it’s because of a certain signing, an announcement or a return, any kind of media attention is of the utmost importance because it incites brand recognition and appeal.
Business World: Any media is good media - well, unless it has to deal with a corporate scandal or a lawsuit. With that being said, brands crave profiles, articles or segments highlighting the company and what it sells or services. Media spotlight can boost sales and inform people of the company.
3. Innovation vs. Complacency
Professional Wrestling: During the 1990s, there was something in the professional wrestling industry called the Monday Night War, which featured WWE vying against WCW for ratings supremacy. WWE’s Monday Night Raw would compete against WCW’S Nitro every Monday night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. WCW, owned at the time by Ted Turner, was decimating WWE with compelling storylines, unique matches and innovative production methods.
Meanwhile, WWE tried to be successful with its corny storylines, over-the-top characters like Doink the Clown and the status quo. It didn’t work. Eventually, the WWE had to mimic WCW and then some, which consisted of reinventing itself and offering the consumer an innovative product. This worked and now the WWE controls the business.
Business World: At times, companies rely too much of their success on one product and what worked in the past. This simply doesn’t work as the consumer can get bored and view the firm as being complacent and refusing to revamp their image. In order to be successful, businesses must keep up with the times and continue to evolve and become better.
4. Be Different
Professional Wrestling: Anyone who has ever watched wrestling during the Bruno Sammartino era, the Hulkamania period, the Attitude era or today’s product knows that the performers have dynamic personalities and pretty much all of the characters are different from one another. Imagine if every single mid-card or main event competitor wore black trunks, black boots and black elbow pads to the ring with the same entrance theme and moves? It’d be pretty boring. From Ric Flair to Randy Save, from Steve Austin to CM Punk, every performer is very different from one another.
Business World: A lot of companies offer the same products: McDonald’s and Burger King both serve burgers; Samsung and Apple both offer smartphones; and MSNBC and Fox News both provide viewers with (supposedly) news. However, they are all different from one another, whether it’s the Big Mac vs. Whopper, Galaxy vs. iPhone or liberalism vs. neo-conservatism. It’s all about creating their own unique image and personality and telling the marketplace that they’re different from their competitors. Again, imagine if both McDonald’s and Burger King simply served a hamburger patty with two buns and ketchup. That wouldn’t be a successful business model.
The business model that WWE has is something that a lot of firms should emulate. The company has been around for a half century and continues to rake in millions of dollars every single year. It has transformed into a global brand and is known to most people. This is the goal that most companies should have.
Of course, many fans feel bored about the product and they accuse the WWE of being complacent. This has more to do with WWE essentially owning a monopoly in the pro-wrestling industry, but that’s a whole other topic.