Disney made news this week, announcing a new acquisition to their already stacked slate of Princess Movies. The new film’s storyline seems like a recycled version of every classic fairytale, except this one contains a little bit of a twist. The story goes a little something like this: a beautiful princess sits atop the throne, ruling a nation of devoted followers. Just when it seems like nothing could go wrong, out of nowhere she is knocked off her throne to the despair of millions. In the movie we follow her journey back to the top to defeat the evil villain who stole the crown from her in the first place. The princess is strong, brave and never gives up… AND HER NAME IS JOHN CENA. All jokes aside, yesterday, ESPN, a Disney-owned company, made it official that they will now begin covering the WWE on ESPN.com. This controversial addition causes some to question the journalism of ESPN and the true motives behind Disney’s ownership of the company. Is the world’s largest entertainment company looking to marginalize the world of sports to just another source of income?
The comparison between the WWE and Disney Princess Movies draws many more parallels than you might think. Wrestling entertainment is constantly evolving to an even more commercialized version of itself. They continue to create storylines that boost profits very similar to the style of Disney. John Cena is the mirror image of every Disney movie protagonist; stunningly beautiful, morally wholesome, and extremely likeable. Both companies create characters like this to become fan favorites, someone to root for. Usually this character comes out on top, hooray! But occasionally, they’ll face adversity usually taking the form of the dastardly villain… Randy Orton, boo! Of course no show is complete without intricate side conflicts taking place between supporting stars.
Both the WWE and Disney have a sure-fire marketing blueprint for their respective audiences being elementary school girls and slightly less educated middle-aged men. For years real sports and WWE peacefully coexisted in their own separate sections of the world, but now they collide in a move that shows the declining amount of integrity and respect ESPN still holds for the traditional sports fan. The world doesn’t need another sport consisting of roided-up men doing something pointless. We are more than okay leaving baseball alone in that category.
The WWE is a mediocre reality TV show with pretty incredible viewership and merchandise sales. It brings in around three million viewers on average each week on USA Network. Those numbers are pretty much identical to Sunday Night Baseball’s numbers, and with a possible ESPN TV deal in the future, expect those numbers to go up. Also, the WWE video game franchise has done something that neither the NBA or MLB games have been able to do, by selling over 60 million copies in 2000. Clearly, financially, this is a smart move, but their overall product will suffer greatly in performance because of this.
The fact of the matter is that the fighting that goes on in the WWE is not real. Period, end of sentence. The lines are scripted, the conflicts are fake, and the fighting is staged. Sure, to some the WWE might be first class entertainment, but the notion that a credible sports carrier would cover a TV show about fake wrestling is ridiculous.
In the past few years we have all stood witness to a revolution taking place in the world of sports. Disney looked every sports fan straight in the eyes and said, “Change is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The sports world has witnessed the rise of ESports and the eventual airing of video game tournaments on an array of ESPN networks. Although the industry that is sports media was created on economically central values, the change we have witnessed recently signals that money is no longer the central value, it’s the only value.