Continuing the trend of famous nonwrestling personalities
appearing on pay-per-view events, World Championship Wrestling has signed on two
basketball stars and a country-music performer to appear on two of its summer PPV shows.
After battling each other under the boards in a classic
National Basketball Association Finals series last week, won by the Chicago Bulls in six
games, flamboyant Bulls player Dennis Rodman and Utah Jazz superstar Karl Malone will
tangle inside the wrestling ring July 12 as part of a WCW event.
Meanwhile, WCW will air a 30-minute concert by
country-music legend Travis Tritt as part of its Aug. 8 Road Wild PPV event..
With the last-minute cancellation of the June 6 Evander
Holyfield-Henry Akinwande fight, operators are hopeful that a fresh injection of
celebrities will continue to boost the buy-rate and revenue performance of the
already-successful wrestling events.
Rodman and Malone will wrestle against each other in a
tag-team match also featuring "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page,
said Jay Hassman, director of PPV for WCW.
"We were able to create the good-guy/bad-guy scenario,
with Malone and [Page] viewed as the working-class good guys, to create what is the
ultimate heavyweight wrestling championship," Hassman said. "It should bring a
new level of buys to the wrestling genre."
Operators and the wrestling outfits have increased
buy-rates and revenues significantly over the past year by getting athletes from other
sports to participate in PPV shows. Mike Tyson's appearance on TitanSports
Inc.'s March 28 Wrestlemania XIV event pulled in more than 700,000 buys, and
that event still stands as the most successful PPV program of the year.
While the WCW event, which will retail at $29.95, marks
Malone's first PPV appearance, Rodman has been down the pro-wrestling road before.
Rodman appeared at last year's Bash at the Beach weeks after the Bulls beat
the Jazz, also in six games. His appearance helped that show to draw more than 500,000
Rodman has not spoken publicly about the WCW event, but
Malone two weeks ago told the Associated Press sheepishly, "The good guy always wins
on pay-per-view ... don't you know that?"
Operators are hopeful that the combination of Rodman and
Malone will equal Wrestlemania'sperformance.Having lost an
potential 350,000 to 600,000 buys because of the cancellation of the Holyfield-Akinwande
fight (Akinwande tested positive for the hepatitis B virus), operators are frantically
looking for a major PPV event to help pad lean 1998 revenues.
"The timing is certainly right, so hopefully, [Rodman
and Malone] will trigger a pretty good response on this event," said Joe Boyle, vice
president of corporate communications for Viewer's Choice. "Tyson provided a
major boost to the WWF [World Wrestling Federation] and Wrestlemania, and wrestling
has performed very well so far this year, so this should be good for the business."
But one top 10 MSO PPV executive, who wished to remain
anonymous, said that while the event will likely perform very well, it's no
substitute for a quality heavyweight fight.
"Even if the event repeats what Wrestlemania did,
it still would fall short, revenuewise, of what Holyfield-Akinwande would have generated,
because we charge much more for a boxing match than for wrestling," the executive
said. "But beggars can't be choosy; I'll take it."
Hassman said WCW will promote the match "very
heavily" on its WCWMonday Nitro series on Turner Network Television.
Further, WCW will spend in excess of $500,000 on national-media advertising for the event,
Meanwhile, Tritt will perform a 30-minute concert during
WCW's Aug. 8 PPV event. While full details of the event are still sketchy, Hassman
said WCW will keep its retail rate at $29.95.
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