The upcoming merger between World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Endeavor-owned UFC has stirred strong reactions among hardcore wrestling fans. Set to create a sports entertainment powerhouse valued at over $21 billion; the deal has pushed WWE shares to their highest in nearly four years.
However, fans are more concerned with the merger's impact on the ring and whether it justifies their time and money. The merger will test fans' collective power against these corporate giants as consumers wield significant economic and political influence.
The potential return to a pay-per-view model for WWE's flagship event, WrestleMania, is among fans' concerns. Last month, it streamed exclusively on NBCUniversal's Peacock, generating the service's highest weekend usage, outpaced only by the Super Bowl.
The WWE's exclusive streaming deal with Peacock, including WrestleMania streaming rights, expires in 2026.
Fan Concerns: Pricing and Pay-Per-View
In a late March interview, WWE CEO Nick Khan emphasized the company's commitment to not pricing out fans.
Longtime fan Jerry D'Erasmo understands the possible shift of WrestleMania back to pay-per-view but believes it could alienate large segments of the fan base. Many fans have preferred recap podcasts over paying $60 or $70 for a pay-per-view event.
The new executive regime's storytelling and match management approach will also influence fans' spending. Matt Courcelle, host of The WWE Podcast, believes fans' most significant concern is creative control. WWE fans are curious about the role of Vince McMahon, who has led WWE since 1982, in creative decisions.
Despite past allegations of sexual misconduct, McMahon will serve as executive chairman of the new combined company, along with Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel. Though no longer CEO, fans expect McMahon to remain a permanent fixture.
After the merger, fans sought assurance that McMahon would not be deeply involved in WWE's storytelling. Furthermore, a recent lawsuit against WWE by a former writer alleges retaliation for challenging racist pitches, naming McMahon, his daughter Stephanie McMahon, and other company employees as defendants.
Despite these concerns, fans continue to be drawn to the drama. While some hardcore fans remain undecided, they will likely stick around and see how the new WWE-UFC merger unfolds. As commentator and podcaster Jimmy Baxter said, "I love watching a crazy old man burn his empire to the ground solely because he can."