Bad Bunny's Star Power Is WWE's Path to Staying Relevant to a New Generation

Philip LindseyContributor IFebruary 20, 2021

WWE.com

Bad Bunny appeared on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest this weekend. In stark contrast, the multi-platinum reggaeton artist also won championship gold on the most recent episode of Monday Night Raw following a string of appearances with WWE since Royal Rumble. It seems like he will continue to be a part of the pro wrestling world, and that's a positive sign for the company.

He is a proud wrestling fan, so this relationship seemed inevitable. The Puerto Rican star and his manager attended WWE live events dating back to WrestleMania 33. He also frequently references wrestlers in his music. His recent hit song "Booker T" is the latest example. Ric Flair, who invited the rapper backstage at Raw 25 in 2018, also made a cameo in the video for "Cambea".

              

Who Is Bad Bunny?

When WWE announced that the Latin trap artist would perform at Royal Rumble, many wrestling fans took to Twitter to ask "who is Bad Bunny?" However, that isn't much of a surprise. The multimedia conglomerate's reach may span across the globe, but its fanbase can be fairly insulated from the rest of pop culture.

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Nevertheless, that doesn't diminish the 26-year-old's notoriety as a top-selling artist. After all, the video for "Booker T" has had a staggering 68 million views on YouTube. WWE's content on its channel rarely exceeds a million. It's no coincidence that the clip of Bad Bunny pinning Akira Tozawa to win the 24/7 Championship was the most recent one to hit 1.1 million views.

This year, the 24/7 champion has already become the top earner on WWE Shop, netting $500,000 in sales. According to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful:

"At one point last week the rapper held all four of the top WWE Shop merchandise selling spots, with his popular t-shirt taking spots No. 1, No. 3 for the women's version, and No. 4 for the youth version. The pullover hoodie was ranked No. 2. At that time, the only other person in the top five was WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Even then, the No. 5 spot did around 65% of the sales of the No. 4 seller, and less than No. 5 of the top seller."

Bad Bunny is an international superstar. He was Spotify's most streamed artist of 2020, racking up 8.3 billion streams by the end of the year. His music attracts 50 million listeners monthly.

Wrestling fans typically don't welcome anyone they consider an outsider. Some vocal viewers rejected Ronda Rousey for this reason, but bringing in a star as renowned as Bad Bunny is advantageous for WWE. He will expand its global audience because he appeals to younger viewers who may feel underrepresented on their programming. Pairing him with Damian Priest is an effective way of appealing to a Latin audience, and it already seems to be paying off for The Archer of Infamy.

                       

The Ever-Elusive Mainstream Audience

It's important to remember that everything wrestling companies do isn't for hardcore fans. That audience will be consistent, but creating segments that only excites a niche crowd will make the product stagnant. If anyone understands that, it's WWE because it has made various attempts to entice mainstream viewers for decades. In fact, that has been the idea behind the search for the next big crossover star from MMA.

Cyndi Lauper was integral to the company's success and the premiere of WrestleMania in the '80s. During that time, the "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" singer helped to make Wendi Richter a household name at the height of Hulkamania. So it's easy to see how a contemporary artist like Bad Bunny could be invaluable to WWE.

If nothing else, his appearances on Raw could encourage other rappers and pop stars to work with the promotion. Older names like Snoop Dogg have done appeared recently, but newer acts like Wale and Bad Bunny are the key to reaching a new generation of fans.

Their involvement won't immediately lift the company's ratings, which have steadily declined for the past five years. But its programs desperately needed some new energy. Raw has lacked the spontaneity that made the Attitude Era, and even the Ruthless Aggression Era, so entertaining.

It will be fun to see what's next with Bad Bunny as a crossover star. His Instagram post of his SNL appearance registered more than 8.8 million views, meantime, his WWE post from early in the month is at 10.5 million views, and he will likely be involved with WWE until at least WrestleMania in April.

Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that Bad Bunny has been training at the Performance Center for a potential match on the Grandest Stage of Them All. The company should ride this wave of momentum as long as possible. It's good for WWE, Damian Priest and the industry as a whole.