WWE Launches NIL Program 'Next in Line' to Help Recruit College Athletes

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

Minnesota's Gable Steveson celebrates after defeating Michigan's Mason Parris during their 285-pound match in the finals of the NCAA wrestling championships Saturday, March 20, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

WWE announced the launch of a new name, image and likeness (NIL) program for college athletes on Thursday called "Next In Line."

Next In Line is a pathway for collegiate athletes to WWE, which capitalizes on the new NCAA NIL rules that allow athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

WWE Executive Vice President, Global Talent Strategy and Development Paul "Triple H" Levesque said the following regarding the new program:

"The WWE NIL program has the potential to be transformational to our business. By creating partnerships with elite athletes at all levels across a wide variety of college sports, we will dramatically expand our pool of talent and create a system that readies NCAA competitors for WWE once their collegiate careers come to a close."

In the press release, WWE noted that all partner athletes through Next In Line will have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where they will be able to participate in "brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations."

At the end of the program, some of the partner athletes deemed to have what it takes to become a WWE Superstar will be offered WWE contracts.

This isn't WWE's first foray into NIL, as the company announced in September that it reached an NIL agreement with University of Minnesota wrestler Gable Steveson, who won a gold medal at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Steveson's contract allows him to complete his final year of collegiate wrestling at Minnesota while simultaneously preparing to become a WWE Superstar. Once his college career is over, Steveson will make the full-time transition to WWE.

WWE recently switched focus with its developmental brand known as NXT. While NXT had become known for its reliance on veteran independent wrestlers, it is now a breeding ground for younger, less-experienced athletes making the transition to pro wrestling.

It has already produced some budding stars such as former football player Bron Breakker, and with an NIL pathway system in place, WWE stands to bring in some elite-level athletes moving forward.

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