wrestling girds loins for Asia, by Simon Canning
- 20th March 2008
The World Wrestling Entertainment
company, purveyor of brands such as RAW, Smackdown,
Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, has opened its
operations in Australia, setting up a beachhead
for the assault on the on the burgeoning Asian
publicly listed company, 70 per cent owned by
the McMahon family and its patriarch, wrestler
Vince McMahon, boasted 2007 revenue of $US485million
($525 million) and has pinned its future on international
Sully, a former executive with toymaker Hasbro
in Europe, has set up the Sydney office to leverage
WWE events, broadcasts on Foxtel and licensing
agreements in the region.
said the future growth of the business could no
longer be conducted from the company's US headquarters.
were very successful through the 1980s and into
the 1990s running an international business from
Stamford, Connecticut," Mr Sully said.
2002 we established our UK office because as our
business has grown we have not been able to manage
local requirements from Stamford. So our first
beachhead towards driving international revenue
was the UK beachhead with a full global remit
are a one-brand business, but that brand proliferates
across many different areas. So we go from TV,
then a subset of TV being pay per view, which
is really something that Vince McMahon started.
Then there is the live events, and you should
view those live events as the heart and soul of
our business, so you can't divorce live events
from our TV program."
Sully said WWE decided to set up operations in
Australia in part because of its strong affiliation
shows are among the highest rating on Fox 8, while
the regular pay-per-view events have become a
mainstay of the Main Event channel.
WWE will not be creating a localised version of
the show, with audiences interested in the American
superstars, not a second-rate local wrestling
product. The first marketing initiative for the
new operation is the promotion of Wrestlemania
XXIV, which broadcasts on Main Event on March
year the live event was bought by nearly 1.2 million
households globally, making it the highest earning
Wrestlemania in the event's history.
held the only three events outside the US or Europe,
and this year the number of international events
will rise from 26 to 75-80. Mr Sully is charged
with marketing Smackdown, this year's live tour
of seven Australian cities.
in Australia also has secured its first local
sponsorship agreement with Visa Entertainment,
offering cardholders first choice of tickets.
(originally WWF until the company lost its own
wrestling match with the World Wildlife Fund)
emerged out of regional wrestling wars in the
US in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
the guidance of third-generation wrestler McMahon,
WWE expanded into a travelling circus running
52 weeks a year across the US. In the 1990s McMahon
entered into a no-holds-barred fight against Ted
Turner's World Championship Wrestling. WCW was
finally pinned by WWE in 2001 when AOL Time Warner
sold the business to the McMahons for $US7 million.
While some observers are critical of the levels
of violence that run through the wrestling shows,
Mr Sully said there was a strong moral thread
of right and wrong that underpinned the tightly
he admitted WWE had largely abandoned any pretence
that the action was real, despite the undeniable
athleticism of the wrestlers.
are the longest running soap opera in history,"
only are we a sports brand, we are an entertainment
brand, and it is that peculiar hybrid that has
sustained us over the course of time. That is
why we are a perennial."
the weekend the entertainment roots of WWE were
underlined when McMahon was given his own star
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right next to Kermit