The Worldwide Leader In Sports is jumping into the wrestling ring.
ESPN.com has launched a new vertical dedicated to delivering comprehensive coverage of WWE and the world of professional wrestling, the network announced Thursday.
The portal will serve as a one-stop destination for content including match results, features, wrestler profiles, rankings, international wrestling and videos.
The announcement comes less than a month after WWE Superstar and “Trainwreck” actor John Cena hosted the 2016 ESPYs, earning rave reviews from viewers and athletes alike.
“I was sitting in the audience at the ESPYs and watching John Cena do his thing and he was incredible,” Chad Millman, ESPN Vice President, Editorial Director, Domestic Digital Content, told TheWrap. “Seeing some of the sketches that were done, I turned to my boss and said: ‘We could clip each of these things and throw them on the website right now if we had the site up at that moment.’
“It did speak to the relationship between sports fandom and wrestling fandom — and where the intersection is, which is why we are doing this right now,” he continued. “We see every day how passionate wrestling fans are and how often they are also sports fans. The way that they perceive wrestling and pro wrestlers is not that different to how we perceive other professional sports stars.
“We want to cover it like we do with any other sport such as the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and everything else that we cover — with credibility and authenticity.”
The crossover between WWE and the major mainstream sports is evident when you see how many former college football, NFL and soccer players turn to wrestling, or the high number of MMA fighters who swap the Octagon for the ring. “From a training perspective, there are a lot of similarities,” Millman explained.
“Wrestling is a constant topic of conversation in our story meetings,” he said. “We are often covering it anyway. So to create a vertical out for it just means we’ll be doing more of the same coverage — whether we’re reporting from [WWE flagship event] SummerSlam or covering breaking WWE news.”
The new ESPN.com vertical will not only be covering the WWE, but also pro wrestling around the world such as in Mexico, Japan or India, where it is now massively popular.
A variety of talent from across ESPN will contribute to the coverage, including Brian Campbell, Arash Markazi, Darren Rovell and KC Joyner.
According to ESPN, 65 million Americans aged 12 or older are fans of professional wrestling including 17 million who say they are avid fans.
“We were specially trying to launch the vertical in advance of SummerSlam on Aug. 21. We will have people on the ground there and it will be our big debut. That base was a huge driver of what we were aiming for,” Millman told TheWrap.
The vertical will also be the home of “Cheap Heat,” Peter Rosenberg’s professional wrestling podcast that launched last January, and has grown to average 400,000 downloads per month already.
On Friday, Aug. 19, the show will record in front of a live audience at the Highline Ballroom in New York City ahead of SummerSlam in Brooklyn. Tickets and additional information for the one-night event — “Cheap Heat Live Starring Peter Rosenberg” — can be found here.