If you are a mainstream sports fan, you probably spend a decent amount of time tuning into one of the ESPN sports networks. If you have been watching one of ESPN’s channels of late, you have probably noticed an increased WWE presence on the channels in recent weeks. During WrestleMania week especially, ESPN really ramped up their coverage of WWE news.
The recent coverage that ESPN has given WWE hasn’t come without criticism. Professional wrestling has always struggled to receive legitimate press from the mainstream sports stations, and one writer at Sports Journalism has apparently had enough of ESPN airing WWE-centric material on their airwaves.
“Viewers, readers and users already have enough trouble discerning what’s real news and what is promotional content, especially with ESPN, the master of blending the two into a self-aggrandizing stew. Giving WWE more than an occasional nod would be extremely risky, since the process would confer legitimacy on something that is clearly a show. What would come next, breakdowns of the previous night’s prime-time lineup? Coverage of the results of a movie’s sports storyline?”
The writer, Michael Bradley, believes that covering a product that is meant for entertainment would be the same as ESPN covering a television sitcom or drama. However, ESPN’s coverage of WWE in recent weeks does make sense in the sports journalism world. ESPN’s recent WWE involvement really began when they covered Brock Lesnar’s decision to re-sign with WWE during a live interview with Lesnar on the network. According to a report from Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, ESPN likely believed that Lesnar was re-signing with UFC when they agreed to the interview. Michelle Beadle, an ESPN personality who is a big-time WWE fan, seemed legitimately shocked when Lesnar announced he was staying with WWE.
Given Lesnar’s involvement in the past with UFC, a company that ESPN covers extensively on shows such as SportsCenter, it made sense for the network to cover Lesnar’s decision. In the same vein, ESPN covered Ronda Rousey’s involvement with WWE following WrestleMania 31. Considering Rousey is one of the biggest names at the moment in UFC, it’s hard to argue against ESPN giving her involvement with WWE air-time. Rousey is a big time name in mainstream sports.
Besides Beadle, ESPN’s Bill Simmons is a long-time WWE fan that has written about the product for years on ESPN.com. Simmons’ ESPN-affiliated Grantland.com features weekly wrestling columns and a wrestling podcast (Cheap Heat), as well. ESPN also, of course, employs former WWE talent Jonathan Coachman and Todd Grisham.
It should be noted that not all of the on-air talent at ESPN is on board with WWE coverage. ESPN’s Colin Cowherd has been very critical of WWE on his The Herd With Colin Cowherd show during recent weeks.
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