Should ESPN's 'SportsCenter' Be Covering Wrestlemania 32?
The Worldwide Leader will be in Dallas, Texas, this weekend, except you won't be seeing any Cowboys featured on Walt Disney Co (NYSE: DIS)'s ESPN.
Instead, Superstars and Divas from World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: WWE) will be in the spotlight. "SportsCenter" will be live from AT&T Stadium at WrestleMania 32, featuring live cut-ins and analysis of the action on "The Grandest Stage of Them All."
ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman, a former WWE broadcaster, will cover the event. "Coachman will front taped segments from Arlington next Saturday and Sunday, as well as some live SportsCenter hits," Sports Illustrated said. "He will also likely appear live on SportsCenter following the conclusion of WrestleMania 32."
WWE likes to consider itself "sports entertainment" and has battled perceptions of being "fake" for decades. ESPN certainly likes to dabble on the entertainment side of things, but should it be devoting live airtime to professional wrestling?
In a Twitter poll, 66 percent said ESPN shouldn't cover the event as WWE isn't a "real sport."
Coincidentally, WWE announced Maria Menounos will host its annual Hall of Fame red carpet ceremony the night before Wrestlemania. This will be the third year in a row for the E! News anchor and life-long wrestling fan.
Why is ESPN featuring WWE so prominently? Sports Illustrated took a look into that this week.
"We are seeing a really strong and clear correlation between wrestling and those followers, and that helps make the argument all the more clear that this is something our fans care about," said Glenn Jacobs, senior coordinating producer of ESPN's New & Next Group (a 25-30-person group that focuses on new content plays for the company). "So why should we not try to serve them? Data takes it out of the theoretical and into reality."
One star that's helping break down that perception of being fake? Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar's first run in WWE occurred from 2001-2004; He returned to the company on a semi-regular basis in 2012. After leaving WWE in 2004 and trying out for the Minnesota Vikings, Lesnar joined the mixed martial arts world. He won the UFC heavyweight champion in just this third fight; He competed five more times before a diverticulitis health issue forced him to retire.
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