ESPN to Pay $1.5 Billion for UFC Broadcast Rights

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Just two weeks after ESPN agreed to purchase the rights to broadcast 15 UFC events annually for $750 million, the company acquired exclusive linear broadcast rights to the MMA promotion’s cable television package. The newly signed deal, worth $150 million annually, will give fans 27 additional fight cards each year (consisting of 10 new linear cards, 12 PPV prelims on linear, and five new OTT cards); meaning ESPN will pay a staggering $1.5 billion to carry 210 UFC events over the next five years. Earlier this week, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro called the UFC an “ascendant property”, while touting its young and diverse fan base. It must be noted that despite the $300 million ESPN will pay UFC annually, UFC will retain the rights to its 12 annual PPV events (i.e. their best content). 

Howie Long-ShortWe told you that once the WWE SmackDown Live deal with FOX was completed, UFC’s linear broadcast offering would be the next set of sports rights to fall. What we didn’t project was ESPN (DIS) acquiring them after spending $150 million per year on digital rights for ESPN+ and hearing that Fox Sports had increased its bid to $175 million/year for the package (up from $165 million). UFC may have left some money on the table to do this deal. Experts projected the linear package to draw $200 million and several networks (i.e. Turner, NBC, Fox Sports) reportedly had interest.

$1.5 billion for UFC cards between fighters no one has ever heard of (yes, that’s a bit of hyperbole) does not sound like a great investment. The UFC lacks mainstream star power to begin with and naturally the promotion places its biggest stars on PPV cards (which they’ll retain); meaning the cards appearing on ESPN & ESPN+ won’t include Connor McGregor (or any other mega star) anytime soon. Did I mention Fox Sports’ ratings for UFC events declined double digits in 2017?

Need reasons to believe ESPN made a wise investment? UFC has the youngest fan base in sports (median age 40). Males aged 18 to 34 are particularly valuable to advertisers and at $150 million annually the package is still cheaper than what NBCUniversal and FOX will pay for RAW and SmackDown Live.

Fan Marino: I’m certainly not surprised that WWE content is valued more than UFC content, as WWE has a far better business model. WWE stars headline tentpole events (like WrestleMania) and more than 500 other shows each year, so fans get to see their favorite Superstars on a weekly basis. UFC’s biggest names might fight twice a year and are always one fight away from never headlining another event, either because they’ve lost their sense of invincibility (see: Rousey) or because they’ve made so much money that getting punched in the face for a living no longer makes sense (see: McGregor). UFC promotion can also be limited by the outcome of fights, as the best fighters aren’t always marketable (see: Stipe Miocic). You’ll never find WWE in that situation, as career arcs are decided before the Superstars get to the ring.

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WWE Gets $1 Billion for SmackDown Live, Shares Up 33% in Last Week

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21st Century Fox (FOXA) has agreed to a 5-year deal worth more than $1 billion for exclusive broadcast rights to WWE’s SmackDown Live show. Effective October 2019, the 6th highest rated original show on cable television will move from USA Network to FOX’s over-the-air TV network. FOXA plans to move the Tuesday night staple to Friday evenings and will continue to broadcast the 2-hour show live. WWE reportedly chose the FOXA bid despite a larger offer, as “new Fox” committed to promoting the show during tentpole sports broadcasts (think: NFL on Sun, NFL on Thurs, MLB, CFB). NBCUniversal, the show’s current rights holder, declined their right to first refusal to negotiate a new contract after deciding to retain WWE Monday Night RAW with a deal worth $240 million annually; that show will continue to air on USA Network. Combined the new deals are worth +/- $445 million annually, a +/- 145% increase on the $180 million/year that the company currently brings in for the 2 prime-time shows.

Howie Long-Short: We noted in yesterday’s newsletter that Fox was among the favorites to land the WWE franchise and should it do so, was likely to air SmackDown Live on its Big 4 network; so, we weren’t exactly shocked by Monday’s news. The deal’s total value had us doing a double-take though, as earlier reports pegged the show’s value at +/-$110 million/year (up from $30 million/year on deal signed in 2010). WWE shares rose again on Monday, closing +12.5% (at $57.86); the stock is up 33% since last Wednesday’s close (RAW deal broke Thurs.) and a whopping 192% over the last 12 months (from $19.80).

The next shoe to drop is likely to be UFC’s linear cable broadcast package, with 20+ live events. FOXA currently pays $165 million annually for exclusive broadcast rights, but that deal expires in December. While earlier reports indicated that FOXA would let the UFC walk if it successfully acquired WWE rights, it now appears as though the company wants to retain the rights and is willing pay an extra $10 million/year ($175 million) to do so. Of course, it’s no guarantee that will be enough, as industry experts have been expecting the UFC’s deal to fetch $200 million+.

Fan Marino: There is the possibility (if not high probability) that SmackDown Live will outdraw RAW during the deal’s duration. While RAW currently draws 3 million viewers (compared to SmackDown Live’s 2.59 million), SmackDown Live’s pending move to FOX will put the show in 30 million additional homes on a night with far less competition in terms of programming.

For those who don’t follow the WWE, SmackDown Live was historically an inferior product to RAW (even taped at one point). However, a 2016 draft split the company’s talent roster, requiring fans to watch both shows to see all their favorite superstars. Should SmackDown Live begin to outdraw RAW (as we expect), look for some of the promotion’s biggest names (think: Roman Reigns, Ronda Rousey) to join Miz and AJ Styles on the SmackDown Live roster; the WWE will want the opportunity to put forward its best product on its biggest stage (i.e. broadcast television).

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NBCUniversal To Sign Monster Deal for RAW, WWE Shares Skyrocketing

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It’s been reported that NBCUniversal (CMCSA) intends on retaining exclusive broadcast rights to WWE Monday Night Raw with a deal worth +/- $240 million/year. Under the terms of the proposed contract, RAW will remain on USA Network where it’s resided since ’05. WWE will have to find a new home for SmackDown Live though, as NBCUniversal passed on renewing its expiring deal with the franchise. It’s been rumored that the SmackDown Live package could be worth an additional +/- $110 million/year (worth $30 million/year under current deal), with Fox, Amazon Prime and Facebook Live all considered viable landing spots for the Tuesday night show (6th most watched on cable TV).

Howie Long-Short: The outcome of this deal represents best-case scenario for the wrestling promotion. The value of their broadcasts will double (worth $180 million in ’18) and should Fox (FOXA) land SmackDown Live, it’s possible that they would broadcast the show on their over-the-air TV network; had Fox won rights to both shows, it’s likely SmackDown would have been relegated to FS1 (30 million less households). Should SmackDown Live end up on Fox, the show would have the opportunity to beat RAW in the ratings for the first time since the company split the roster in 2002.

The WWE is projecting record revenue in ’18, boosted the company’s deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (reportedly worth +/- $20 million/year) and with a reduced corporate tax rate, it’s possible (if not likely) the company will set a record for profits too. Combine that rosy outlook with the enthusiasm over the company’s pending TV deals and it explains why shares are up 18% (to $51.42) since Thursday (5.17).

Fan Marino: Hulk Hogan, who has been out of favor with the WWE since ’15 (racist comments), is reportedly in discussions with the promotion about a return. Once the face of the organization, the company was quick to remove all references to the Hulkster following the incident. While purely speculation, WrestleMania 35 (New York City, April ‘19) would seem like an opportune time to bring him back; of course, Hogan and Mr. T faced Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff in the main event at WrestleMania I in 1985.

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WrestleMania’s Economic Impact Trails Just Super Bowl, Olympics, World Cup and March Madness

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WrestleMania 34, “Showcase of the Immortals” is Sunday Night in New Orleans. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns will headline the event. JohnWallStreet had a chance to catch up with WWE Co-President George Barrios to discuss the mathematics behind the company’s subscription based model, the economic impact WrestleMania has on the host city and why the company is more attractive than ever, from a marketing standpoint; days before the company’s biggest show of the year.

JWS: Roughly 3 years ago, the WWE moved from a PPV driven business to a subscription based model. If WrestleMania is the “Super Bowl”, how does the company ensure there isn’t a drop-off in subscriptions following the biggest show of the year?

George: “There’s a certain math to subscription businesses. Every day that you bring in new fans, they will eventually fall into one of three buckets. The first is someone who joins and says, “it’s not for me”; they come, they try it and they leave. The second one is somebody who comes in and says, “I like it, but in this digital subscription world, it’s easy to come in and out”. Then the 3rd group, which is obviously our favorite, comes in and says, “I love this, I’m in and stays.”

So, WrestleMania, because it’s so big, will draw a disproportionate number of people into the service. By definition, all 3 of those buckets will be the largest at that moment in time; including the first bucket, which is the people who leave. You can’t really get away from that. We know it’s a normal part of the cadence of the business. The math means that because it’s the biggest gross ad event, it’ll also be the biggest one where we lose people. As long as we keep growing, we’re fine.”

JWS: Over the last 11 years, WrestleMania has generated more than $1 billion in economic impact for the host cities. What is about the event that has cities bidding for the event time and again?

George: Forbes has a ranking of the biggest drivers of economic impact and every year we’re in the Top 10, last year we were number 6; it’s the Super Bowl, the Olympics (Summer/Winter), the World Cup, the NCAA Tournament and WrestleMania. Not only will we have fans from all 50 states in attendance, but we’ll have fans from 30 or 40 countries there; those other properties don’t do that. So, our ability to bring in people from literally all over the world, is what drives the economic impact (and cities interest). Last time we were in New Orleans (WM 30), we did $140-$150 million of economic impact; it’s what got us on the Forbes list. Last year in Orlando, we did a record $181.5 million.

JWS: Corporate sponsorship revenue grew +29% YoY in ’17. Why is WWE more attractive than ever, from a marketing standpoint?

George: I think it’s a confluence of a couple of things. Number one, we went TV-PG with RAW and SmackDown! in 2008; so, we’re now 10 years in and I think that it takes time. That move did a lot for the perception of the brand, which is important for the advertising community. The second thing is the technology that enables us to go to any home in the world with a video broadband connection, that was not possible 7 or 8 years ago. We now aren’t just known as a company that creates this interesting wrestling content, in the B2B community we’re now viewed as the poster child for social, digital and direct-to-consumer engagement (Editor Note: in Part 1, George discusses the company’s transition to a multi-platform model). It’s changed our business profile.

Howie Long-Short: WWE reported record revenue ($801 million, +10% YOY) for full-year 2017, with adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) also setting a company record ($101.9 million, +40%). For Q4 ’17, the company increased revenue 9% YOY to $211.6 million; while increasing paid subscribers to the WWE Network from 1.41 million to 1.48 million. Shares are up 67% since October 25th, 2017 (and 17.75% in 2018). The primary catalyst is the optimism surrounding the company’s next series of television contracts. The current deal with NBCUniversal (for RAW/SmackDown) pays the company $200 million/year. It’s expected the next deal will double in value. Broadcast deals in India and the U.K. will also be expiring at the end of Q4 ’19.

Fan Marino: WWE fans aren’t going to be pleased to hear this, but UFC President Dana White reported “Brock Lesnar’s coming back (to the UFC).” The return may not be imminent though, as White left himself a little wiggle room adding, “I don’t know when, but yes he is.”

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WWE Co-President George Barrios Explains Selling a Timeless, Universal Product

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The WWE released a statement along with their Q4 ’17 and FY17 earnings report announcing that CFO George Barrios and CMO Michelle Wilson were being promoted to Co-Presidents, a reward for “their contributions to four years of record revenues and the successful transformation to a multiplatform business model.” In part 1 of a wide-ranging 2-part interview, JohnWallStreet asked Mr. Barrios about the WWE’s evolution as a business, its position as a pioneer in the OTT space and what drives the company’s popularity across so many international markets.

JWS: The WWE business model has changed several times under Vince McMahon’s ownership. For readers that aren’t familiar with the company’s history, can you provide some background on how the business has evolved to where it is today?

George: The company has reimagined itself multiple times over the last 30-40 years. It went from selling tickets in the northeast, to taking advantage of that great technological innovation that was fiber (or cable) to the home and creating media, to then allowing the media to create a product business so that you could engage with the product on a video game or with apparel or an action figure, to playing those technologies to go global and then the latest re-imagination is this social, digital and direct to consumer transformation.

JWS: You’ve been credited with leading the company’s latest transition to a multi-platform model. Can you discuss your initial vision and how you’ve seen it come to fruition?

George: In 2008-2009 we laid out where we wanted to go, where we thought the world was going and went about it step by step. It was about getting deeper locally, creating new content and data technology. The big “leave-behind” was our PPV business. We said we’re going to take our most premium content and go direct to consumer. It was a lot of thinking about where the world was going, not just where it was; and then just committing to it in a big way. It wasn’t that long ago, maybe 2-3 years ago that people criticized us, made fun of us or ignored us; today we’re at a place where people are saying, “how did you do it, we’d love to do it too.”

JWS: The WWE has a global following (India, Pakistan, Mexico, U.K. China etc.). What is it about the company that enables it to resonate with audiences across the world?

George: There are two things that come together that are both universal and timeless. The first part is the story telling. If you look across cultures and across time, the stories remain the same. Whether it’s Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games or Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, it’s the hero’s journey. John Cena is going through the hero’s journey, Roman Reigns will go through the hero’s journey. The second thing that is universal is the ring. Whether it is the ancient Greeks or a village in India, everyone in the world, since the beginning of time, knows what happens in the ring. They may not know every nuance, but they get 80-90% of it. I love the NFL, but it’s a complex game that most people don’t understand.

Howie Long-Short: WWE reported record revenue ($801 million, +10% YOY) for full-year 2017, with adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) also setting a company record ($101.9 million, +40%). For Q4 ’17, the company increased revenue 9% YOY to $211.6 million; while increasing paid subscribers to the WWE Network from 1.41 million to 1.48 million. Shares are up 67% since October 25th, 2017 (and 17.75% in 2018). The primary catalyst is the optimism surrounding the company’s next series of television contracts. The current deal with NBCUniversal (for RAW/SmackDown) pays the company $200 million/year. It’s expected the next deal will double in value. Broadcast deals in India and the U.K. will also be expiring at the end of Q4 ’19.

Fan Marino: WrestleMania 34, entitled “Showcase of the Immortals” is Sunday Night in New Orleans. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns will headline the event, competing for the Universal Championship. Brock won’t be the only former (his return may be pending) UFC star on the card though, as Ronda Rousey makes her biggest WWE appearance to date in a mixed tag-team match with Kurt Angle, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. WrestleMania 34 will stream live around the world on WWE Network this Sunday, April 8 at 7pm ET.

Editor Note: In Part 2 of the interview (to be released on Friday) we ask George why the WWE is more attractive than ever from a marketing standpoint (corporate sponsorships +29% YoY in ’17), about the financial impact WrestleMania has on the host city and to explain the mathematics behind the company’s subscription business model.

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Fox to Pursue WWE TV Rights, Let UFC Walk If Successful

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As we wrote in January, the UFC’s 7-year broadcast deal (worth $160 million in ’18) with 21st Century Fox, Inc. (FOXA) expires at the end of 2018 and the size of the extension the promotion is reportedly seeking ($450 million annually), has created the possibility (if not likeliness) the companies will be heading for a divorce (FOXA offered $200 million). It now appears as if FOXA will pursue WWE TV rights (expiring in September 2019), with the intention of passing on the UFC should they be successful. FOXA is selling the wrestling organization on the attractive opportunity to air their feature program, Monday Night Raw, on broadcast television (i.e. in 115 million homes); the show currently draws 3+ million viewers/week on USA Network. The WWE will announce their decision on a U.S. TV partner between May and September.

Howie Long-Short: NBCUniversal (CMCSA) currently pays $200 million/year for the rights to televise WWE Monday Night Raw and SmackDown. The WWE is reportedly seeking $400 million annually on their new deal, a figure FOXA is far more inclined to pay for their content than the UFC’s. That makes sense to me, the WWE can script their outcomes and ensure their stars’ staying power; a UFC champion is always one fight away from never competing again. WWE shares hit an all-time high earlier this week ($38.77), closing on Thursday at $37.91.

Fan Marino: Ronda Rousey spent her first 2 Monday Night Raw episodes engaged in a feud with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, that will culminate in a tag-team match (Ronda will be paired with Raw General Manager Kurt Angle) at WrestleMania. One would think the curiosity surrounding Rousey would have TV ratings on an uptick, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, ratings have declined in the hours Rousey has appeared on the show. The WWE must be disappointed in lack of pop the signing provided.

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WWE Reports Record Revenue, Adjusted OIBDA for Full-Year 2017

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WWE reported record revenue ($801 million, +10% YOY) for full-year 2017, with adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) also setting a company record ($101.6 million, +40%). For Q4 ’17, the company increased revenue 9% YOY to $211.6 million; while increasing paid subscribers to the WWE Network from 1.41 million to 1.48 million. Along with the earnings report, the WWE issued a statement announcing that Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson and Chief Financial Officer George Berrios are being promoted to co-presidents (and being given spots on the board) as a reward for “their contributions to four years of record revenues and the successful transformation to a multiplatform business model.”

Howie Long-Short: WWE shares are up 62% since October 25th, 2017 (and 14% in 2018). The primary catalyst is the optimism surrounding the company’s next series of television contracts. RAW and SmackDown deals expire Sept. 30, ’19, while broadcast deals in India and the U.K. will end on December 31, 2019. It’s not just broadcast television providers that are interested in the WWE though; 70 new brands have signed on as sponsors since the start of 2015 and corporate sponsorships grew 29% YOY in 2017.

Fan Marino: Paul Levesque (Triple H) noted on the earnings call that the company is finalizing contract terms (i.e. not yet done despite rumors/reports) on a multi-year deal with Ronda Rousey. This isn’t a publicity stunt for the WWE; Levesque was clear in stating “we are her #1 focus and goal. This is her life now. She wants to be with us for a long-time.” Seems like a win-win to me; Rousey brings additional star power to a burgeoning women’s division, while she makes a lucrative living without having to be punched in the face daily. I also LOVE that she’s adopting the Rowdy Roddy Piper gimmick (or at least attire).

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Finn Balor Discusses Rise from Indie Circuit to WWE, WWE Sponsorship Sales Booming

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The WWE celebrated the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw on Monday night, with dozens of WWE legends including Shawn Michaels (link to JWS interview with HBK), Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker participating in the celebration. Just prior to the conclusion of the show, the Balor Club defeated The Revival; celebrating the win in ring with a reunited Degeneration X (must watch). JWS met up with Finn Balor, the leader of the Balor Club and one of the WWE’s biggest stars, at Manhattan Center and got the chance to ask him about his rise from the indie circuit to the WWE and his favorite NFL team (hint: they are playing in the Super Bowl).

Editor Note: The 2018 Royal Rumble PPV event is Sunday evening. Finn Balor is competing in the 30-man Royal Rumble match. WWE.com is offering a 2-month free trial of the WWE Network, for fans interested in watching the event.

JWS: Do you get nostalgic about being in the ring with the guys you grew up watching?

Finn: Yeah, it’s still pretty surreal. Just seeing Shawn Waltman (X-Pac), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), backstage; Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, it’s really cool. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten to meet and work with most of these guys during my career and to learn from them; especially since I came to NXT and WWE, and it never gets old. 

JWS: You spent a lot of time on the indie circuit before making it to the WWE. How has the lifestyle changed?

Finn: Coming up on the indie circuit you’re wrestling in community halls, churches, warehouse basements and old theatres, now we’re wrestling at Madison Square Garden (MSG) and stadiums but the lifestyle is the exact same because no one that is in WWE is doing this for the money. Obviously, that’s a benefit but we’re all doing this because it’s our passion. You wouldn’t get here (WWE), if you were strictly doing it for the money. It took me 16 years to get here and I wasn’t making any money (along the way). There was no incentive to go out there and perform for the money. You had to go out there and perform because it’s an addiction.

Howie Long-Short: The transition from the Attitude Era (the Degeneration-X tagline was suck-it!) to the family/female friendly product the WWE sells today (the Balor Club tagline is too sweet!), has made the company particularly attractive to advertisers. 70 new brands have signed on since the start of 2015 and corporate sponsorships grew 29% YOY in 2017. It’s not just the demographic that is appealing though, the audience numbers are impressive too. RAW averages 3 million viewers/week. For comparison purposes, ESPN/ABC & TNT (i.e. national broadcasts) are averaging 2.2 million viewers per NBA game this season.

Fan Marino: I read Finn was a Patriots fan, so I had to ask if that was fact or internet rumor?

Finn: Actually, I heard something about Tom Brady having hand surgery to apply a 6th finger for a 6th ring on his left hand? It is true, Matt Bloom (best known as Prince Albert) converted me.

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McMahon Announces XFL Reboot, WWE Stock Sets All-Time Closing High

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The XFL is returning in January 2020 with 8 league-owned teams, a 10-week regular season (plus a 4-team playoff) and none of the gimmicks (i.e. no fair catch) that the league was associated with during its 2001 iteration. McMahon is hoping shorter games (2 hours) and more wholesome players (i.e. without a criminal past, DUI included) and simplified rules (did you know leaping is banned on field goals in the NFL?) will win fans over. Few details of the league have been released (i.e. cities, team names, player salary structure etc.), but McMahon has promised the games will not be a platform for social and political statements and the XFL will not be a developmental league for NFL talent. The NFL has chosen not to comment on the announcement.

Howie Long-Short: This is a $100 million venture personally financed by Vince McMahon (he recently sold 3.5 million shares to fund it), not the WWE, and McMahon was clear there will be no crossover between the league and WWE talent; but that didn’t stop investors from bumping the stock up 2% following the press conference. Shares closed on Wednesday at $34.13, the first time the stock has ever closed above $34. The stock is up more than 50% since October.

Fan Marino: When you consider McMahon’s statement, “we have two years to really get this right”, you begin to realize it isn’t a coincidence the league is starting in 2020. The public line will be that the extra time will give teams a chance to gel and it will result in a better on field product; but, the NFL CBA expires following the 2020 season. Should a strike or lockout occur, McMahon is going to try and sign top-tier NFL talent to provide his league with some credibility. It’s a long-shot, but he has the money to gamble with and knows there is a $14 billion pot of gold (NFL revenue in ’17) on the other side if he can pull it off.

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Shawn Michaels Returns to the WWE to Celebrate RAW25

Shawn Michaels

The WWE celebrated the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw on Monday night, airing the show from both Manhattan Center (site of the 1st episode of RAW) and Barclays Center. Dozens of WWE legends (including Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Undertaker and Razor Ramon) participated in the celebration. Just hours prior to the event, JWS got the exclusive opportunity to talk to The Heartbreak Kid, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, about the first episode of RAW, his original idea of success and a brief phase where he tried on “the whole nature boy thing.”

JWS: When Monday Night Raw started on January 11, 1993, no one could have imaged it would become the longest running weekly episodic show in U.S. TV history. Did you know it was going to be a success from the start?

Shawn: I was sort of skeptical, because I was raised on the traditional Saturday morning, late Saturday night programming that we always had in the past. Monday nights. Live. Prime-time. It was so new, so different; I guess, I was like “how long is this going to last”. We had no idea that the first show was going to be the foundation of what would become the WWE. More importantly, from the personal perspective, there was no security back then in this line of work. 25 years later, you’re sitting there going jeez I wonder how much I’m going to put in the old 401K this year. You just felt like your future was so iffy back then and honestly, this was the show; it was Raw going live on Monday Nights on USA that was the foundation for everything that would be in our futures.

JWS: I’m glad you brought up your 401K, because no one gets into wrestling for the money; but, by the mid 90’s you were headlining PPV’s and making a lot of it. Did the money matter to you or was the success you were having most important?

Shawn: Honestly, it (the money) wasn’t (important). When I was young and I first started doing this, it was just “I want to be a wrestler” and then “I want to make it to the WWE”. I can remember my idea of success was gosh, if I could just have my own one-bedroom apartment and my own car; that would be awesome.  

JWS: You may not have gotten into wrestling for the money, but you made a ton of it; yet, from what I understand, you’re a pretty regular guy. You never wanted to live the “limousine riding, jet flying” lifestyle?  

Shawn: So, I went through a brief phase of that. I tried on the whole being the “nature boy” thing. Then one day you look at yourself in the mirror and you’re like “look dude, you’re a redneck from San Antonio, Texas”. So, you say to yourself, maybe I’ll just have a nice watch. But yeah, I drive a truck, I live a regular life. I’m not all that flashy and it bodes well for the saving aspect because except for some gym and hunting stuff, I don’t spend a lot of money. Ultimately, it’s the more responsible thing to do. You also have to figure nothing lasts forever, so you can’t be a pinhead about it. I’ve gotten to live my dream since I was 19 years old. It’s my time now to help my children live theirs. It’s not exciting and sexy, but it is the reality.

Howie Long-Short: WWE shares ($33.47 as of the close on 1/22) are price just shy of their all-time high ($33.85). Shawn Michaels was among the company’s biggest names when it went public in ‘99, so I suspected he may have received some equity at the time. I asked Shawn if he still owns any WWE stock?

Shawn: I do. When they went public, we all got some and then there were some other moments over the years that I’ve gotten more. You (finance) guys always say that for the most part, you stay in that stuff for the long-term and it will generate the best results; so that’s what I do. I know that every WrestleMania it always seems to go up and you think, should I sell now; but I’ll probably just do the long-haul. I know me well enough, I’ll take whatever it is that I need to live on and let my wife and kids figure out the rest after I’m pushing up daisies.

Fan Marino: Following his first retirement in 1998, the HBK was the WWF Commissioner. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earned $31.7 million in 2015, the last year his salary was publicly reported. I asked Shawn if the compensation he received as WWF Commissioner was comparable?

Shawn: I don’t think so (laughing), but like Goodell I wasn’t a good one! (more laughing)

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