The new COO of WWE, Michael Selick, revealed in a February 26 Financial Week interview with Darla Mercado that the company is exploring the possibility of establishing separate WWE promotions running full-time in separate international markets. If everything went ahead it would go so far as to include separate TV tapings and storylines for each region, turning WWE from an overseas novelty into a local promotion.
According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, things are still in the preliminary stages but Vince McMahon has discussed it in detail with Stephanie, John Laurinaitis and others in the inner circle. The territories mentioned include a ‘Pacific’ region covering Japan, South Korea, China and Australia, a ‘Hispanic’ territory for Puerto Rico, Mexico and South America, and a European territory, with perhaps a Russian one at a later date. Meanwhile, in the USA, there would be two touring brands, most likely Raw and ECW, with Smackdown becoming the Hispanic brand as it is already well established in the market. Big pay increases would be given to senior agents and creative team members to move themselves and their families overseas, with potential performance bonuses depending on how well business goes. It would start off with a TV executive producer with experience of the region working closely with one agent and one writer who would be running the territory. There would also be a crew of wrestlers, who would also be expected to move their families overseas. Paul Heyman’s name has actually been mentioned in connection to the Pacific region.
Shane McMahon, along with Selick, is working on a business plan for the venture, which remains in its formative stages. Potential drawbacks include the cost of producing WWE calibre shows, around $500,000 per week, and how TV stations in areas like Mexico would respond to the price. There is also the danger of international markets already beginning to get overexposed. Recent Japanese tours have not performed particularly well, there were concerns over the number of Australian tours, while advances for the next batch of Mexican dates have been well below expectations. Also, though WWE can get away with charging high prices for their shows at the moment as it is a novelty, doing so repeatedly would not help when taking on promotions like CMLL or AAA.
If it did come to pass then a lot of new wrestlers would of course be hired, as there would be a minimum of five brands. They are looking at promoting each market using both established WWE stars and top babyfaces based on ethnic backgrounds. Carlito, Mistico and Mysterio would be assigned to the Hispanic brand as top stars, they would look for a top Asian and Australian babyface, and guys like Regal, Finlay, Harry Smith and Paul Burchill could be assigned major roles in Europe. They would also likely raid the local markets in Japan and Mexico, whilst bringing back more of the ’80s and ’90s stars to make up the numbers. The only sure thing about the creative team members is that neither Stephanie McMahon nor Brian Gerwitz would work internationally. Gerwitz would likely become the chief writer of the USA brands, while Stephanie would hire more TV writers with Hollywood experience. Word is that the interntaionaly territories would be handled by Shane, with Vince concentrating on domestic business, though many have suggested that Vince’s personality means he would want to be involved everywhere anyway.
Credit: Wrestling Observer newsletter (click here for subscription information)