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May 17, 2023

WWE Legend Billy Graham Dead At 79

WWE Hall of Famer "Superstar" Billy Graham has died ... TMZ Sports has confirmed.

Billy's family tells us he died Wednesday after being taken off life support. We're told Billy's wife and daughter were by his side when he passed. As we reported, Billy's wife Valerie announced Monday he had been in the ICU for three weeks as a result of various health issues. She said doctors wanted to take Billy off life support Monday night, but she initially refused.

Known for his prowess as a wrestler and a bodybuilder, Billy rose to fame back in the day wrestling for the American Wrestling Association and later the World Wrestling Federation.

Billy mentored big-time wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner, Ric Flair and Jesse Ventura ... and in 2004 the WWE inducted Billy into its Hall of Fame.

Billy's recent health issues took a toll on his body ... his family says he lost 45 pounds while suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes, hearing loss, and a significant infection in his ears and skull. We're also told his kidneys were failing.

Tributes are now pouring in from across the wrestling world ... with Ric tweeting, "THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR INFLUENCE On My Career!"

Billy was 79.

May 16, 2023

Merged UFC And WWE Will Reportedly Be Called TKO Group Holdings

The New Whale has been knocked out and a new, permanent name has been chosen for the soon-to-be-merged WWE and UFC hybrid company.

CNBC is reporting that what was temporarily known as New Whale Inc. will now be known going forward as TKO Group Holdings, with the TKO acronym meaning "technical knockout," paying homage to both UFC and WWE's shared combat sports lineages. While the two companies have an agreement to merge under this new name, WWE is still to be run by Vince McMahon out of its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, while UFC is still being run by Dana White out of its headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The new company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange as TKO. The merger between the two companies will make TKO Group Holdings worth an estimated $20 billion.

Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel secured Chairman Vince McMahon to oversee WWE during negotiations with a new revision made to WWE's term sheet which says McMahon must remain in charge of the company until he either retires or is physically unable. McMahon was also granted five of the eleven seats on the WWE Board of Directors, as well as veto power. In exchange for the request to make McMahon executive chairman, WWE shareholders get a higher percentage of voting power under the new terms. Despite McMahon's newly cemented authority, Endeavor has been adamant that WWE Chief Content Officer Paul "Triple H" Levesque will continue to oversee the creative direction of the company.

May 8, 2023

WWE Delivers Record-Breaking Backlash In Puerto Rico

WWE today announced that WWE Backlash®, which emanated from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico, became WWE’s highest-grossing and most-viewed Backlash in company history.

Viewership of Backlash saw a 28 percent increase versus the record set in 2022. The event, which featured Bad Bunny, the most-streamed music artist in the world, marked the largest gate ever for any WWE event held in Puerto Rico and the largest gate in the history of Backlash.

More than 34,800 fans descended on San Juan, Puerto Rico, for back-to-back sellout nights of SmackDown (16,896 attendees) and Backlash (17,944 attendees). It also marked the most social Backlash of all-time, led by over 40 million views of the San Juan Street Fight featuring Bad Bunny vs. Damien Priest. The hashtag #WWEBacklash, accompanied by a custom Bad Bunny emoji, trended No. 1 across the entire evening of sports.

In addition, Backlash broke merchandise and sponsorship records. As the first-ever WWE event under the expanded partnership with Fanatics overseeing the on-site event retail experience, top-selling items included the WWE Backlash and LWO Puerto Rico t-shirts. Sponsorship revenue surpassed any Backlash event in history, breaking last year’s record with a 98 percent year-on-year increase through partnerships with Netflix’s FUBAR, Mike’s Harder Lemonade and Xfinity.

May 4, 2023

Lawsuit Brought Against Vince McMahon Has Been Dropped

WWE shareholders dropped a lawsuit recently, according to Bloomberg.

Shareholders leading the consolidated lawsuit agreed to drop it Wednesday, saying their claims became moot when McMahon agreed in late March to repay $17.4 million the company wracked up investigating him. Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster granted the motion the same day.

The payment appears to cover only the cost of the probe, not the nearly $20 million McMahon allegedly paid his accusers since 2007. Counsel for the WWE investors indicated they plan to seek a “mootness fee” as a reward for their role in forcing McMahon’s hand.

A different group of shareholders is already seeking a mootness fee after dropping a related case when McMahon walked back some bylaw changes he’d pushed through as part of his corporate coup in early January. McMahon had left the board in mid-2022.

April 26, 2023

Vince McMahon, WWE Sued by Ex-Writer Over ‘Racist’ Scene Scripts

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., Vince McMahon, and other executives allegedly discriminated and retaliated against a Black female writer for objecting to “offensively racist and stereotypical jargon” used in the scripts of Black wrestlers including Bianca Belair and Apollo Crews, according to a new lawsuit.

Britney Abrahams’ multiple complaints were ignored, and she was pretextually terminated for taking home a WrestleMania-branded chair, according to the complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Monday.

The lawsuit includes Stephanie McMahon, Chris Lubrando (SVP, Creative Writing Operations at WWE), WWE creative team members Chris Dunn, Ryan Callahan, Jen Pepperman, and former team member Mike Heller.

Abrahams began writing for WWE SmackDown! and WWE Monday Night RAW in 2020, according to the complaint. She complained of racial and gender stereotypes in scripts, including ones instructing Belair to say “Uh-Uh! Don’t make me take off my earrings and beat your ass! " and Crews to speak with a “stereotypical and exaggerated Nigerian accent,” but was rebuffed, she said.

WWE didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

‘Harmful Stereotypes’

She was allegedly subject to a number of racist pitches after complaining. On a Slack thread that McMahon and his daughter Stephanie McMahon were included on, other writers suggested a Black male wrestler should dress in drag. Only when a White writer noted that doing so could “perpetuate harmful stereotypes that would offend viewers” was the pitch scrapped, she said.

On another occasion, a writer allegedly proposed that a Muslim’s wrestler’s secret in a script be that he was “behind the 9/11 attacks.”

Abrahams and other writers complained about the comments, to which Vice President Christine Lubrano allegedly responded, “Wacky things are said in the writer’s room all the time!” and “I know but look at the waves we’re making in the company. 4 years ago, no woman worked on the writer’s team!”

Abrahams continued to opposed racist, sexist pitches, she said, and was fired in retaliation in April 2022. WWE fired her for taking with her a WrestleMania 38 branded chair, but the practice was allegedly a common practice that White male writers weren’t punished for.

She is seeking reinstatement, damages, declaratory judgment, and an injunction restraining defendants from engaging in such unlawful conduct.

Cochran Firm represents Abrahams.

The case is Abrahams v. World Wrestling Ent., Inc., E.D.N.Y., No. 23-cv-03109, complaint filed 4/24/23.

source: Bloomberg Law

April 24, 2023

Triple H introduces the World Heavyweight Championship

In a stunning announcement on Monday Night Raw, Triple H revealed the addition of the World Heavyweight Championship to the WWE title picture.

Expressing the need for two top champions, Triple H announced that the new World Heavyweight Champion will be crowned at Night of Champions in Saudi Arabia. Roman Reigns will remain the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion and bring that title to his respective brand following the WWE Draft.

April 21, 2023

WWE Clash At The Castle Generated Over $27 Million For Wales Economy

WWE Clash at the Castle in 2022 brought in £21.8 million ($27,118,328) to the economy in Wales, according to BBC.

The stadium event took place at Principality Stadium in Cardiff on September 3 and had an attendance of 62,296. A report on the impact of the big event revealed 75% of fans traveled to Wales from outside the country, the majority from England.

A reported 57% of non-locals said the event made them want to explore Wales further.

Welsh Rugby Union Interim CEO Nigel Walker said: "[Cardiff] stepped up to the challenge. Clash at the Castle had a global audience of millions, and with all eyes on Principality Stadium, we showcased what a magnificent venue we have here in Cardiff."

Wales’ economy minister Vaughan Gething added: "In addition to the direct economic impact the event delivered here in Wales, it provided us with a huge boost to our profile internationally. This included opportunities to showcase Wales’ vibrant language and culture through bespoke content creation shared globally on WWE’s social media channels."

April 18, 2023

New WWE-Twitch Agreement To Allow WWE Talent To Stream With 'Almost No Restrictions'

WWE disappointed both talent and fans in the fall of 2020 when Vince McMahon issued an edict that talent had to seize operations on third party platforms such as Cameo and Twitch. There was reportedly widespread frustration among the roster, and select talent even met with McMahon in an attempt to change his mind. Additionally, Zelina Vega was released as a result of continuing to stream on Twitch following the ban.

Over two years later, it appears the Twitch ban has been lifted. Fightful Select reported on Tuesday that "WWE and Twitch have reached an agreement to allow WWE wrestlers back on Twitch with almost no restrictions." The small caveat is that they must get clearance first before streaming with people from other companies.

Those that spoke to Fightful were "very happy" about the deal and also revealed that the revenue will be split three ways, with Twitch and talent earning "the vast majority." This has been in the works since April 2022 when WWE informed those in a talent meeting that the ban on third party platforms was changing, although things on the Twitch end took longer than expected.

There have been plenty of conversations in the last few years regarding WWE and third party platforms seeing as though WWE talent are classified as independent contractors. In addition to Vega's controversial firing, Mandy Rose was reportedly terminated this past December for the content she was posting on her FanTime page. The attention that the news received ultimately led to Rose earning $1 million on the platform within a month following her departure.

April 17, 2023

WWE Breaks Record For Non-WrestleMania Stadium Ticket Sales With SummerSlam 2023

Tickets for this year's WWE SummerSlam went on sale this past Friday, and the numbers aren't just looking promising — they're looking historic. On Twitter, Sports Business Journal reported that WWE has already sold more than 32,000 tickets for the event. That figure breaks the company's record for day-one sales on any non-WrestleMania stadium show.

Detroit's Ford Field was announced as the home of this year's SummerSlam in February, alongside a new logo for the event to go with the location, with the press release for the announcement noting Detroit's special place in WWE history. WWE previously held WrestleMania 23 at Ford Field in 2007, but more significantly, Detroit was home to WrestleMania III — although that show took place in the larger Pontiac Silverdome.

WWE's rapid sale of tickets for their premiere summertime event is no surprise, as tickets for 2021's SummerSlam sold at a similarly speedy pace. The pace of their current sales measure well against perceivable advantages that the sale of 2021's tickets had, such as being their first full capacity stadium show in over a year and the then-rumored blockbuster main event of John Cena vs. Roman Reigns. No significant matches or plans are currently known for this year's SummerSlam, but there are reports that a dream match between Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus is planned for the show. WWE CEO Nick Khan noted in the lead-up to WrestleMania 39 that the company had WrestleMania plans in place months in advance, as well as plans for the months after, further suggesting the SummerSlam card is already well under construction.

April 16, 2023

Nick Khan Comments On Vince McMahon’s Current Creative Role In WWE

Nick Khan says that Triple H remains WWE‘s sole Chief Content Officer despite Vince McMahon‘s recent involvement.

WWE President Nick Khan recently sat down with LightShed Live to discuss a wide variety of subjects. When asked about Vince McMahon’s current creative role in WWE based on what happened on the RAW following WrestleMania 39, Khan confirmed that Triple H is still the sole Chief Content Officer of WWE. However, he’ll also continue to communicate with Mr. McMahon.

“On Monday [April 3], when this deal was officially announced, Vince sent out a company-wide email to our thousand or so employees, including myself, and in the email, he laid out the structure of the NewCo,” Nick Khan said. “Specifically, he articulated that Paul Levesque remains the sole Chief Creative Officer. Sole. How does that work? Does that mean that technically because I’m in charge of the business side of the business that I don’t seek input from other people?

“I wouldn’t seek input from Vince McMahon; who created this entire empire? That would be a mistake on my behalf. Paul and Vince, a family relationship, a relationship that spans back to the mid-90s. Paul is in charge of creative. If he wants input from Vince or Vince has ideas that he and Paul are going to communicate, that’s always going to be the case. We’re lucky to have Vince.

“We’re lucky to have Paul in control of creative. We’re lucky that the setup that Vince created that the company could continue to exist; even when Vince stepped out for that five-month period, the company kept flowing. We think the best organizations are set up that way, and that’s the way Vince set up WWE.” [H/T: Fightful]

April 11, 2023

WWE Receives Emmy Nomination For Ric Flair Documentary

WWE has received an Emmy nomination.

Wooooo! Becoming Ric Flair, a Peacock documentary, has been nominated in the Outstanding Long Documentary category. The winners will be announced that Lincoln Center in New York City on May 22

The documentary highlights the life and legacy of two-time WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair and includes interviews from a range of WWE stars and legends, including Flair himself

April 7, 2023

Analysis Shows WWE's Fan-Driven Business Metrics Improved Under Paul Levesque

However you feel about the state of WWE programming and the specifics of how shows have or haven't differed when spearheaded by Paul "Triple H" Levesque as compared to Vince McMahon, there absolutely have been differences. Levesque brought back various wrestlers who had been cut by the previous regime, and under his guidance, the last-minute changes that were constant under McMahon had subsided. Past that, it becomes a matter of personal preference and business metrics. On Thursday, Wrestlenomics offered the latter, comparing TV ratings and live attendance for Levesque's eight months running creative to how McMahon's WWE was doing a year earlier. And the answers are favorable to Levesque.

On the TV side, "WWE Raw" averaged 1.80 million viewers each week under Levesque, up 4% from McMahon a year prior, which is doubly impressive considering USA's reach among cable customers has dropped. "WWE SmackDown," meanwhile, saw a bigger increase, going up 6%, from an average of 2.14 million viewers under McMahon to 2.28 million viewers under Levesque. Since "SmackDown" is on FOX, a free broadcast network, the caveat about its potential viewership does not apply, though.

As for ticket sales, that data is from WrestleTix, which is able to count tickets distributed, but without being able to distinguish between paid admissions and comps. With that out of the way, for every month of the Levesque era, "Raw" averaged a higher number of tickets out than the McMahon regime did a year prior, and "SmackDown" did the same for all but one month, even with the latter including the initial surge in interest when WWE resumed touring after COVID-19 precautions eased. Across the full eight-month periods being compared, "SmackDown" averaged 8,555 tickets distributed for Levesque vs. 7,532 for McMahon, a 14% increase, while "Raw" averaged 8,463 tickets distributed for Levesque vs. McMahon's 6,787, a 25% increase. And though the McMahon period had a 2% lead on Levesque's for domestic house shows, that gain was carried by August through November 2021, the early months of post-pandemic touring.

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