By Chuck Carroll
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson exited the wrestling ring to become a global box office king, and John Cena is attempting to follow suit. Now World Wrestling Entertainment is going all-in on Hollywood. The company is hoping to keep its next breakout star in house and will make significant investments to grow its production arm, WWE Studios.
The company will expand production of reality television, scripted content, as well as animated projects and digital content, according to Deadline. The move comes on the heels of the successes of the reality shows Total Divas and spinoff Total Bellas. Mike Johnson of PWInsider also recently reported WWE is actively shopping a reality show following the lives of Mike “The Miz” Mizanin and his wife and fellow WWE superstar Maryse.
Since its inception in 2002, WWE Studios has only been minimally profitable and recently has proven to be a drain on the company’s finances. The division posted a loss of $3.9 million for the first three quarters of this year. However, revenue has increased to $9 million during the same period, which is a $1.3 million jump from 2016.
Like Johnson, WWE Studios is hoping to strike it big on the small screen as well as the box office. The new initiative places increased emphasis on creating television and online content, but production of feature films will continue. The company is currently shooting the latest installment of The Marine franchise. Mizanin has taken over the leading role after Cena starred in the first film.
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WWE talents are expected to continue starring in many of the studio’s projects moving forward.
“We look forward to identifying key partners to work alongside us while creating opportunities to use our on-screen WWE talent in new and exciting ways,” WWE Studios president Michael Luisi told Deadline.
WWE patriarch and chairman Vince McMahon says the studio is open for business.
“Given the size of our fanbase and their appetite for WWE programming well beyond our core in-ring shows, this is the ideal time to further establish the WWE brand with new genres across platforms,” McMahon said.
WWE Studios is currently partnering with Johnson’s Seven Buck Production to produce Fighting with My Family, in what could be its biggest soiree at the box office to date. The film is based on the life of current performer Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis, who recently returned to the ring following a year-long absence due to injury and multiple wellness-policy suspensions. The studio tapped into star power for the film, with Johnson playing himself and Vince Vaughn also having a significant role. The movie is schedule to be released next year.
Here and There
David Otunga’s status with WWE remains unclear now that his wife, singer Jennifer Hudson, has voluntarily dropped an order of protection against him. Hudson has granted temporary custody of their eight-year-old son to Otunga while she films The Voice UK in London, according to TMZ. She originally told police she became fearful after the actor/wrestler allegedly acted in an aggressive and threatening manner toward her. Otunga, who had been featured as a panelist on pay-per-view kickoff shows, has been absent from broadcasts since the allegations first surfaced. WWE did not respond to an inquiry about his future with the company.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.