Details on Harvard Business School’s New WWE Inclusive Curriculum

Jun 27, 2019 - by James Walsh

A new report has details on Harvard Business School’s upcoming case study on WWE that begins this fall. Wrestling Inc has details on the case study, which will be part of the Business Of Entertainment, Media, And Sports class curriculum as taught by Professor Anita Elberse.

* The case study takes place in January 2018 and explores the history of WWE and who the company considers their main competitors in the face of whether the company should sign Ronda Rousey, and how any such deal should be structured. The study examines the history of the company starting with Vince and Linda McMahon acquiring Vincent J. McMahon’s Capitol Wrestling Corporation in 1982 and his breaking up the territory system, as well as the rise of WrestleMania in the 1980s, the Monday Night Wars and the PG era of the 2000s.

* The case lists NJPW as WWE’s main competition as of the date of the study, also mentioning ROH and independent promotions as smaller levels of competition. It features Stephanie McMahon saying that WWE doesn’t consider other wrestling companies as competition in any greater capacity than other entertainment companies, saying, “[W]e are all competing for what every media property competes for: a share of people’s time.”

* The study goes on to describe the various areas of business that WWE operates in, including live events, media, consumer products, and WWE Studios. It notes that WWE made over $150 million from live events in 2017, while the media elements (TV, WWE Network, home entertainment, social and digital media) brought in $500 million during the same year. That includes $35 million in advertising revenue. Consumer products brought in $110 million, almost half of which was from licensing for video games, toys and the like.

* The case looks at the WWE Performance Center and NXT as talent development areas, quoting Triple H as saying it is his responsibility to decide which talent moves up to the main roster: “It is ultimately up to me. But, look, fan reaction is really what drives our business. Our biggest stars are the ones that get the biggest reaction, positively or negatively.” The study notes that there are 100 members of the developmental roster, with only about 40 featured in NXT. NXT performers typically earn salaries “in the low six figures” according to the study, with the possibility of making up to $250,000 including merchandise and sponsorship sales.

* The case study talks about performer contracts and downside guarantees, which guarantee a minimum salary that range from high six figures to low seven figures. The study notes that talent “wrestler could add to the minimum payment by participating in WWE events, by selling merchandise, by taking part in brand partnerships, and by engaging in media or other activities.” As of 2017, John Cena had the highest downside guarantee. WWE talent are required to assign their existing IP to WWE for the duration of their contracts, and “all property created for the wrestler during his or her time with WWE belonged to WWE in perpetuity.” Talent must get permission from WWE before doing outside appearances, film or TV roles, with the company typically charging a management fee deducted from the payment talent receives.

* As for Rousey, the study says Triple H was interested in her since she was fighting for Strikeforce before the UFC and met her when she attended SummerSlam in 2014. Bringing her on board with the company became a possibility after she lost her second fight in the UFC.

* Vince McMahon was apparently not sold on the idea of bringing her in, noting, “I don’t know if I would have gone after her with the same zeal as my daughter [Stephanie McMahon] and son-in-law [Triple H] are pursuing.”

* Triple H says in the study that in terms of a contract for Rousey, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up having to promise a downside guarantee that is comparable to the one John Cena has – and he is our highest-paid wrestler. The question is whether we should be prepared to go that high. And if they push for a guarantee that is significantly better than anyone else has ever had, male or female, I wonder whether we should even entertain such an idea.”

The study expects students to consider the opportunity WWE has in signing Rousey and weighing the specifics of what a performance contract for her would entail. Of course, Rousey did ultimately sign with WWE, debuting at the 2018 Royal Rumble. She is on hiatus since her loss in the main event of WrestleMania 35.

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