The New York Post broke an interesting story this morning: NBC Universal's pitch to keep WWE programming on its cable networks may include a physical WWE Hall of Fame in Orlando at Universal Studios Florida. WWE and NBCU are in the middle of the exclusive phase of negotiations, which ends February 1st and then opens up to other potential bidders.
For WWE's part, they issued this statement: “WWE is the hottest property on cable and a proven ratings juggernaut. However, we are in an exclusive negotiating window until the end of next week.”
For several years now, WWE has been collecting a lot of unique wrestling memorabilia, presumably for display in a physical WWE Hall of Fame building or at the very least, adding variety to the exhibits at their Fan Axxess events. The most high-profile of these purchases saw Triple H bidding on the robe and boots of his trainer, Killer Kowalski, at an estate auction after he passed away. WWE also has a warehouse full of, well, stuff. Any props, signs, cages, ladders, old merchandise and so on you can think of are all stored there. They have more than enough for an amazing Hall of Fame building.
Orlando would make sense as the site of a physical WWE Hall of Fame for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's a tourist city, which is huge for this type of project. In addition, Orlando is the home of the WWE Performance Center and WWE Executive Vice President of Special Events John Saboor, who used to run the Central Florida Sports Commission that brought WrestleMania 24 to Orlando.
With the Performance Center in the city, wrestlers who are brought in as guest speakers/instructors at the facility could also appear at a Hall of Fame while they're in town. That's not even accounting for the large number of older wrestlers living in Florida.
That this could be bundled into a TV deal is interesting for a number of reasons, especially if you look at what happened when WWE left the USA Network in 2000. WWE was trying to leave USA for TNN (now Spike) and MTV, but USA claimed to have matched the financial terms of the deal and thus won the bidding.
A judge ruled that USA didn't match the deal because then-TNN agreed to never preempt Raw while USA wouldn't make that promise (Raw was moved 3 weeks out of the year for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the U.S. Open), and Viacom was offering a number of other provisions like book deals.
Theoretically, if USA Network offers a physical Hall of Fame location to WWE, that's something that other bidders may not be able to match. In the end, it shouldn't matter because WWE is best off using outside bids as leverage to get USA to match the financial terms, so they can stay put on the top cable network in America. It could, though.
TNA could also be impacted (pun not intended) by such a deal. Obviously, they'd be in danger if Spike got the WWE rights, since TNA's own deal is also up this year. A physical Hall of Fame being at Universal Studios could also cause them problems because they sometimes tape the weekly Impact show on one of Universal's soundstages in Orlando.
TNA is in a precarious spot right now because they've been locked out of Universal for a long stretch of time. Last year, they didn't renew their lease on the soundstage (Soundstage 21, former home of Nickelodeon's Guts) used as the "Impact Zone" because they decided to take Impact on the road. This proved too expensive for the crowds they were drawing, so they moved back to Universal in the smaller Soundstage 19 (former home of Family Double Dare). It wasn't a long-term deal, though, and they're back in arenas for the time being.
It needs to be stressed that the road tapings are substantially more expensive. TNA is already having difficulty getting back into Universal. If WWE opened an exhibit at the park, it would be devastating for TNA.
What would you like to see at a physical WWE Hall of Fame building? Let us know in the comments.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader and a contracted columnist since 2011. His article about WWE's 1984 expansion from regional powerhouse to national juggernaut is featured in the newly released issue #102 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available worldwide online and in print in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @davidbix and check out his wrestling podcasts at LLTPod.com.
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