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Thursday, October 15, 2015

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The ESPN/WWE Connection, 2015 Edition

By Johnthan Speed (@speedonthebeat)

By now, you've probably heard a bit about ESPN's weekly WWE Top Plays segment, hosted by former WWE personality Jonathan Coachman. In its inaugural airing, we were treated to highlights from Roman Reigns, the Cena/Ziggler match, and The New Day dissing Derrick Rose. Plus, it gives me a reason to drop this GIF:


Will this move mark a return, of sorts, to the kayfabe-laced days of ESPN? I mean, will we see more wrestling on ESPN? ESPN originally stood for Entertainment and Sports Network, and professional wrestling is "sports entertainment." ESPN and WWE--and wrestling in general--are looking for new ways to engage their audience in an era where "cutting the cord" is becoming an increasingly enticing choice. What better way than to combine SportsCenter highlight reels with WWE theatrics? Additionally, the fact that Coach kept character when discussing the highlights made it that much more special, that much more meta in some ways. 

So, could it lead to wrestling shows on ESPN? Eh, maybe. Baby steps. But, it's a sign of the times. The lines between "kayfabe" and "shoot" are blurring more and more. Also, the lines between "legitimate sports news show" and "sometimes gimmicky sports news show" are blurring for ESPN. Seriously, remember when Will Ferrell appeared as Ron Burgundy? But, this pairing makes sense and marks the first time in a while that WWE is appearing on a weekly basis that isn't owned by Comcast. 

Now, I'm no financial analyst. But that's a big move.


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