Thanks to my children, I am a big fan of professional wrestling once again. I loved the WWF as a kid, but as I grew up, I grew out of my fondness of the squared circle. Now, I’m back…and I’m loving every minute of it.
For about two years now my daughter and son have been watching WWE. They had heard me talk about Roddy Piper and my favorites from the 1980s. They knew about John Cena from the Fruity Pebbles box and perhaps a few other current wrestlers, but basically they went into their initial wrestling experience as a couple of clean slates. It started out small. They would watch part of an episode of RAW or SmackDown maybe every other week. Then it began to take on a life of its own. We quickly went from a house of novice onlookers to a pack of rabid fans. What started as Sky Low Low morphed into Andre the Giant. Now we watch RAW and SmackDown every week. We subscribe to the WWE Network. Santa even brought WWE belts and shirts to the house this Christmas. We are wrestling nuts. It’s really a lot of fun.
Watching wrestling with my kids is particularly enjoyable because it’s become a family event. It’s our thing. We talk about it a lot. We treat the WWE like any other sport. We discuss upcoming bouts and we look forward to the big events. We have our favorite wrestlers and personalities. I’m enjoying watching today’s superstars through their eyes.
My one concern about my children getting immersed in wrestling was the appropriateness of the WWE. I wondered if today’s brand of the sport was as family friendly as it used to be. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that today’s product may be more geared toward families than ever before.
Statistics show my inclination is probably right.
WWE content has been PG since 2008. More parents are watching WWE broadcasts with their children than any other sports league with the exception of the NFL. That gap is closing even more with the huge hit in viewership the NFL has taken of late. Every week, WWE programming reaches more than a half million children. More kids are watching the WWE over MLB, NBA and NHL action. At live events, 60% of the attendees bring at least one child.
The move to PG content in 2008 opened the door for the WWE to have more conversations with big time advertisers. Today, WWE broadcasts are sponsored by well known products and brands like Snickers, KFC, and Cricket Wireless. Gaming partners of the WWE include Rocket League, EA Sports, Square Enix (Final Fantasy), and 2K. WWE Studios has even partnered with Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Animation to release animated films featuring WWE Superstars. The movies include Scooby-Doo, Surf’s Up 2, and The Jetsons. Families are loving these partnerships. The numbers don’t lie.
All that said, I am more of a gut feeling guy than a Sabermetrics man. The stats point to the WWE being a family affair, but does the company pass the eye test? The only way to know for sure is to take in a live WWE event. So, that’s what we did.
My kids and I headed to a WWE: Live Road to WrestleMania event in the great state of Delaware. Their first live wrestling event may as well be in The First State. I don’t know how they got through their day at school, knowing they were going to see wrestling in person for the first time. They were fired up for days before. I must have heard questions like “Is it today?” and “Where are we sitting?” dozens of times leading up to the big night. I was hopeful the event would live up to their very high expectations.
As we picked up our tickets at Will Call, my son decked out in his Steve Austin shirt and my daughter in her Sasha Banks one, they were very curious to see exactly where we would be sitting. I (wearing a Braun Strowman shirt) told them the tickets read ‘ringside’, so the seats must be pretty good. Not knowing the layout of this particular arena I wasn’t sure how good they were until we walked in.
When we made it inside we realized we were in the front row. My son was silent for the first time ever. My daughter jumped up and down as if she was delivering multiple piledrivers to an unlucky opponent. They were beside themselves.
We had plenty of time to kill before the show began so we headed over to the souvenir stand. There, I happily plunked down some big bucks to get my daughter a new shirt featuring multiple superstars along with a Happy Rusev Day shirt for me. My son went for the Money In The Bank briefcase for his prize. How could I say no? They were so happy and thrilled to be at their first live WWE event. The quality merchandise just enhanced that feeling even more.
We then patiently waited for things to get started. We took some pictures in the first row with the real professional ring right in back of us. The WWE ran some promo videos on the jumbo screen and Byron Saxton, who would later serve as the ring announcer for the night, pumped up the crowd with some fun games and announcements. At one point, Saxton chose a family to move down to the first row. It just so happened to be a father with his three kids that we spoke to earlier in the lobby. They wound up sitting next to us in the first row for the whole event. It was great to have a nice family share the night with us from an incredible vantage point.
Then it began. Seemingly without warning, even tough there were many countdowns, the WWE was in our face. Jinder Mahal accompanied by one of the Singh brothers was in the ring. Baron Corbin entered next. Then U.S. Champion Bobby Roode made his glorious entrance to the ring. It was a Triple Threat match for the belt. Right off the bat. My daughter was screaming and jumping. My son again looked like Alex P. Keaton when he got stage fright during a televised quiz show. He was just staring at the ring. He couldn’t believe his favorite wrestlers were right there.
While the wrestlers went at it, Saxton sat right in front of us. The official bell was right there too. Even Roode’s title belt was within arm’s reach of us. We weren’t near the action…we were in the action.