2017 was a huge year for the WWE. Not everything was a hit, but the company and the wrestling industry, in general, took huge steps forward in the way they marketed their product and how fans received and accessed wrestling in general.
Much of what took place set the wrestling world in 2017 set up for huge changes in 2018. Companies like ROH and New Japan made noise and companies like Impact and Anthem took huge hits. Talents left and new talents arrived, new digital initiatives and programs begun, and an owner might be looking to venture outside the comfort of his duties as WWE Chairman. 2018 is going to be a year to watch.
Here are the five biggest things that happened in 2017 and how they’ll affect 2018.
5) Growth of Wrestling Promotions Around the World
To say WWE doesn’t have competition now that they didn’t have when 2017 started would be naive. While New Japan and ROH won’t damage what WWE can do within North America, these two promotions are attracting a lot of interest from fans who are willing to spread their love of wrestling to new and different places.
Wrestle Kingdom 12 has proven that there is an audience of regular fans in the WWE Universe that want to know what’s happening and fans have closely followed what’s going on with talents in Ring of Honor. Some talents are choosing to leave WWE for them and others not coming to WWE because they’re happier where they are. 2017 proved that 2018 will be the year to watch these others promotions and see how they do.
4) WWE Makes Record Profits But Cutting Back/Selling
Despite lower attendance and declining ratings, WWE is making more money than ever. They’re recording profits they’ve not see in the past, growing in a number of ways and their business is extremely healthy. Yet, they are cutting back and the owner might be looking to sell.
2017 saw talents released, programs canceled, pyro and other budget cutbacks all in the name of making the shareholders more money. Then Vince went and sold $100 million worth of shares to fund something new like a potential return of the XFL. There was a lot that happened behind the scenes financially in 2017 and it will be important to keep an eye on for 2018.
3) Anthem/Global/Impact Changes Multiple Times
While WWE was making money, one company struggled for most of the year. 2017 was not a good year for Anthem Sports, Global Force Wrestling and Impact Wrestling. The company changed ownership numerous times, it’s been hemorrhaging money, talents have fled in a way that’s never happened before and the company’s ratings and viewership is in the toilet.
They launched the Global Wrestling Network and to date, it hasn’t been successful. They’ve looked to partnerships that haven’t worked and now they’ve conceded that they won’t hold the copyrights to some of the trademarks that made them money. It appears to be they are floating, but barely, and things are not going well. If Impact makes it through 2018, it will be a shocker.
2) WWE Network Changes
2017 was the year of disappearing shows on the WWE Network. From Talking Smack to Bring it to the Table, shows started getting cut in massive numbers and the WWE moved away from live productions that cost money to make. Yet, despite the fact that the Network removed many of these shows, there weren’t a lot of lost subscribers.
WWE will be using the Network as their main source of profit but how the service looks in 2018 might change dramatically. The fact that Facebook Watch has now become an option means the WWE Network is not the only basket WWE plans to put their eggs in.
1) Retirements and Returns
2017 saw the release of a few wrestlers who, at the end of the day, won’t affect the bottom line much. That said, it also saw the departure of The Undertaker, the movement of talents like John Cena to a part-time role and the absence of some big name stars who drew viewers for WWE.
In their place came Kurt Angle, a Goldberg WrestleMania, a reunion of The Shield, a push of the Cruiserweights and tournaments on the WWE Network meant to create new stars from different countries. We also saw WWE try to sign Conor McGregor and get ever-so-closer to getting Ronda Rousey under contract. Will it work? 2018 will be the year to measure those results.
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