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What makes WWE the ultimate capitalist wet dream?

The title of this piece might sound ironic considering the “amazing week” WWE just had! But irrespective of the possible repercussions of the ongoing trafficking lawsuit (and, God, I hope there are some!) I believe that in the end it will very likely be business as usual in WWE. Because, as the title says, this company is the ultimate capitalist wet dream.



The aim of all private companies in a capitalistic economy is to eat enough market share to become a virtual monopoly. Only by becoming such a monopoly can a company keep producing profit irrespective of the quality of the of their product. This has been evident in the case of WWE—even the most ardent fan would agree that Raw and Smackdown in the late 2010s were a slog to sit through. Despite the quality of the product hitting rock bottom (no pun intended) WWE managed to churn out profit year after year only because of the dominant market share and practical monopoly they had in the industry.


The brand recognition and market share WWE has in pro wrestling is similar to what Google has among search engines, whereby a whole industry is defined by a single company. Pro wrestling and WWE are synonymous in most places around the world, with a few rare exceptions like Japan and Mexico where the homegrown promotions and the local style of wrestling have maintained a hold on the popular consciousness, preventing WWE from getting a foothold in those few smaller markets. But in India where I live, for example, WWE has been the only pro-wrestling company with a consistent and long-running TV broadcasting deal for many years, making it the only accessible pro-wrestling show. Personally, I was not even aware of the existence of other pro-wrestling companies until my late teens.



The amazing brand value and visibility that WWE has, has made it a product unto itself. That is: WWE makes money because it is WWE. Imagine a scenario where people watch movies not for artistic or entertainment values, but simply because it was produced by Netflix!


This has created a scenario where most, both within the industry and outside it, evaluate success in a pro-wrestling career only through association with WWE. Although this appears to be changing some with the advent of AEW, the belief that success outside WWE is unworthy of recognition still persists, (often even among the wrestlers themselves). Performing under WWE has become the end goal for most kids dreaming of becoming pro wrestlers, which only makes it easier for WWE to exploit its workers.


WWE signs talents as “independent contractors,” yet they are still required to perform exclusively under the WWE banner like an employee would, while at the same time not being afforded any protection under labour laws. Since independent contractors are not afforded the same privileges and protections as employees, such as the right to join or form a regular union, WWE doesn’t really even need to put in the effort to union bust. There is hope though, as this worker misclassification is beginning to get attention from federal regulators in the US: (check out Cory Doctorow's essay on worker misclassification.)



To help squeeze every penny out of its wrestlers, WWE does everything in its power to make sure they don’t use their clout outside the WWE banner to earn money in any way. They do this by aggressively putting intellectual property protections on everything related to the performers, from their name, to catchphrases, to anything that could feasibly make money.


Being the industry leader, WWE never really feels the need to take any risk with the content they produce. They follow a set template where the presentation of the show, from the look of the wrestlers (usually big and muscular,) to the match structure (control segments with headlocks or chinlocks,) to the filler storylines and even the basic characters of the wrestlers (stupid babyfaces and cowardly heels) remains static over time. Heck! Even the most successful wrestlers from outside the WWE system, if they make the switch over to WWE, they need to be trained to adapt to that “WWE house style”.


This modular and monolithic presentation has made it easy for WWE to treat everyone except the very few at the top of the card as replaceable cogs in their machine. There are countless examples of exciting wrestlers either failing, or having to tone down what made them exciting in the first place to be successful in WWE. The sameness throughout the product has made it easy for WWE to churn out content without having the pressure to innovate.


On top of this, WWE has what every company longs for to sustain its success and thereby profit: a loyal customer base. Years and years of being a monopoly enabled WWE to have enormous cultural impact. That cultural impact, and the nostalgia most fans have for WWE from their formative years, generally keeps their fans loyal to the company. Surfing through any WWE-related content in social media will show the extreme loyalty many of their fans have for WWE.



The combination of monopoly through market share dominance, brand value and recognition, minimal workers’ rights, needlessness of innovation, and loyalty of customers makes WWE the ultimate capitalist wet dream. While there are clouds on the horizon such as federal investigation into their long history of covering up sexual abuse and harassment, regulators considering tightened enforcement of worker misclassification, and the strongest competitor to their dominance in over 20 years, (in the North American and UK markets, at least,) all of that may still turn out to be insufficient to topple the capitalist monolith that is the WWE.

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