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September 16, 2015

WWE: Earth's Most Successful Traveling Theater

If you ask a roomful of Broadway fans what the most successful touring show in the world is, you will probably hear a chorus of The Phantom of the Opera or Cats. Truly, both of these shows have made a mint over the years, particularly on tour: The official website for Phantom claims a worldwide gross in excess of $6 billion. While this is a staggering figure, built up over 29 years of constant performances around the world, there is one road show that consistently beats it, landing a cool half billion in annual sales: World Wrestling Entertainment (better known as WWE), the biggest name in professional wrestling.

"Wait a minute," you might say. "Professional wrestling is not theater." Oh, but it is: Unlike its freestyle and Greco-Roman cousins, pro wrestling traffics in whimsical costumes, sets, characters, and story lines — it is much closer to the stage than the Olympic podium. This is particularly true since the death of "kayfabe" (the practice of refusing to acknowledge that the wrestlers are playing roles and their matches are predetermined). The vast majority of wrestling fans are in on the secret: This is scripted theater. The major difference is that while a Broadway tour may stop at 2,000- to 3,500-seat houses (at most), the WWE regularly plays in front of sold-out arenas of 5,000 to 15,000. It is long past time we give WWE its due at the most vital theatrical enterprise of our time....More?

source: theatermania.com

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