RAW Emotions: The WWE/Denver Nuggets Controversy

Jon AlbaCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

NEW YORK - MARCH 11:  WWE Chairman Vince McMahon attends a press conference to promote Wrestlemania XX at Planet Hollywood March 11, 2004 in New York City.  (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

On Sunday, May 17, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Houston Rockets in Game Seven of the Western Conference semifinals.

Because the Denver Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks last week, it was announced Los Angeles would face Denver, with the Lakers having home-court advantage. Games One and Two were quickly scheduled to be at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with Games Three and Four going over to Denver.

One problem: Vince McMahon never gave his buddy David Stern a call.

Back on Aug. 15, 2008, McMahon (the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment), had secured a spot for the May 25 airing of Monday Night Raw at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

10,000 seats have already been sold for the event, with prices ranging from $20 to $70. A company spokesman said the event expects a sellout.

Coincidentally, the NBA also scheduled Game Four of the Western Conference finals to take place at the Pepsi Center on May 25. Yikes. They are even scheduled to start only a half hour after one another!

WWE feels it is completely entitled to the arena. And why should it not be?

This, as mentioned before, was scheduled several months ago, with massive advertising beginning at that moment. The NBA, on the contrary, had the dates pre-determined, but could not state where the games would be held due to them obviously being unaware which teams would be playing at what respective seeds.

Perhaps the best quote comes from McMahon himself.

After being asked about the messy situation, he addressed it by stating, “Even though the Denver Nuggets had a strong team this year and were projected to make the playoffs, obviously Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke did not have enough faith in his own team to hold the May 25 date for a potential playoff game.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the ever-so egotistical Vincent Kennedy McMahon has made a valid point.

How could Kroenke have even remotely had the thought of letting this day be booked? His team was one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals right out of the gate, and especially with the acquisition of Chauncy Billups, one would believe they would be favored even more.

Somehow though, Kroenke must not have thought it through, and from a moral aspect should take the blame. Also, give credit to Vince for COMPLETELY throwing Kroenke under the bus!

From a business perspective, however, this becomes extremely difficult to decide. Raw is one of cable TV’s most-watched programs in history. It airs live every Monday night at 9 p.m. EST, usually to fairly high ratings. WWE has been slumping in profit of late however, yet they still manage to sell-out most shows.

The NBA, though, is preparing for what it anticipates to be one of the best two conference finals in league history. Though it is one of the best commercial sports, it too has been struggling greatly from a financial aspect. Stern needs these playoffs to generate revenue, and this will be one of the few chances he receives.

The NBA Playoffs only occur once a year. Raw is aired on a weekly basis. If the NBA were to reschedule the event, it runs the risk of it interfering (TV schedule-wise) with one of the Cavaliers/Magic games, which is expected to be just as popular as this series. Putting two of the games head-to-head would prove devastating for the ratings, with massive losses being predicted.

If the WWE were to reschedule/cancel its respective event, it brings up an interesting situation. The nearby Denver Coliseum currently has nothing scheduled for May 25, and can seat just above 10,000 people. While the company would be losing a significant amount of money, they can simply take the 10,000 they have already sold and work with that.

Put it this way, it would be A LOT more efficient than cancelling the event, losing out on millions of dollars of ticket sales and television revenue. This of course is just a thought, and it has not been seriously considered (to the public’s knowledge at least) whatsoever. As mentioned before, though, this is a weekly show, and viewers can simply tune in the following week.

The thing that is uneasy about this situation is that while they are entitled to, WWE and Vince McMahon are trying to play puppy dog. Finders-Keepers so to speak. Yet back on June 25, 2007, the company faced a much more difficult issue.

On this day, a three-hour sold-out special of Raw had been scheduled in Corpus Christi, Texas. The episode was supposed to be a memorial service for the death of Vince McMahon’s character, Mr. McMahon. However, due to conditions brought on by the real-life death of WWE talent, Chris Benoit, the episode was immediately canceled.

Instead, a visibly shaken McMahon addressed the empty arena, and a tribute show was aired instead. The company lost out on millions of dollars off of ticket sales and television syndication (it was later found out Benoit had murdered his family and committed suicide, resulting in the episode being pulled from other markets), but still had a source of income.

There is the fact. WWE has canceled shows in the past. The company can truthfully afford to do it again. A three-hour show would have propelled them to new levels market wise, but they were forced to scrap it, resulting in more of a loss than canceling a regular show would cause.

Obviously, the circumstances are different, and it would not be canned for such a gruesome reason. WWE runs a “24/7″ service, in which they continuously air programming for a small fee. Despite losing out on that live money, they easily can make up for portions of it through this. Plus, they only air Raw on the USA Network.

The NBA has large deals with ABC/ESPN and the Turner Family of Networks, thus being more substantial. If they were forced to postpone Game Four, it would bring upon the need to have it interfere with one of the Orlando/Cleveland games.

Ultimately, it will come down to image. The NBA has a gigantic global market, with basketball having become of the biggest grossing sports in the world.

While WWE is extremely popular world-wide, it is nowhere near the level of that of the NBA. Also, the only blemish on the NBA is the Tim Donaghy Scandal. World Wrestling Entertainment has been linked to various performance-enhancing drug issues, as well as the underlying generalization that wrestling is in fact scripted.

Despite what Vince says, he knows this. That is why the company is ready to scrap the event.

David Stern? He says the league will investigate the dilemma. There will not even be a need too.

Besides WWE, there’s always next week.

One can find more about this at http://sportsfullcircle.com/2009/05/raw-emotions-the-wwedenver-nuggets-controversy/


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.