Bad Bunny is good business
There’s no question about it. Bad Bunny is good business.
The rapper is the most successful musician in the world right now. His last two albums made it to the top of the Billboard 200 music chart, becoming the first Spanish language albums to ever achieve that feat. He is the highest selling artist of 2022 and has been the most streamed artist on Spotify for the last three years running. He is a multi-time Grammy award winner.
He has been in commercials for everything, from Corona to Cheetos. And if you can look credible standing next to both Snoop Dogg and Chester the Cheetah, that’s saying something.
The man is everywhere and doing everything, and that includes being a professional wrestler. Bad Bunny got to cash in on his lifelong love for WWE and sports entertainment in 2021 when he not only got to perform at the Royal Rumble but competed in a tag team match at Wrestlemania 37. He even fit in a reign with the much ridiculed 24/7 Championship in between.
He appeared at the following year’s Royal Rumble, eliminating two wrestlers (choke on THAT, Drew Carey) before appearing at this year’s Wrestlemania 39, touted by WWE itself as being the “MOST SUCCESSFUL WRESTLEMANIA OF ALL TIME.”
Bad Bunny did not wrestle that night but his actions during the event, as well as on the following episode of Monday Night Raw, led to the proud Puerto Rican now being part of a match this Saturday at Backlash, emanating from San Juan, against Damian Priest.
Everything has built up to what should be a pretty special moment. A bona fide global sensation set to shine in front of his fellow countrymen and demonstrate to the world how powerful sports entertainment can be; when it’s used to tell meaningful stories featuring characters the audience has a genuine interest in and connection with.
Oh and the UFC has an event on Saturday too. It’s headlined by a fight between a champion most of the MMA fanbase hates against a former champion who has spent the last 3 years using retirement as a failed negotiating ploy, co-headlined by whoever Conor McGregor’s next stepping stone is going to be on his way to a welterweight title shot.
UFC could never attract a Bad Bunny
UFC absolutely sucks when it comes to making stars and, while WWE isn’t a whole lot better, they do have an ace up their sleeve that the MMA world has yet to properly take advantage of: celebrities.
Sure, UFC has featured all sorts of musicians, actors, athletes, and former heads of state on their broadcasts but, aside from Jake Gyllenhaal’s “inspired” display during UFC 285, the most you ever see of these personalities is them hanging out in the crowd, watching the festivities while making sure the interns running their social media accounts let all of their followers know where they are and how much money they have riding on the action.
By comparison, not only has WWE featured its own fair share of TV game show sidekicks and 80s fast food memes in non-wrestling roles, there have been quite a few famous folks who have laced up their boots and entered the squared circle as well.
Wrestlemania 39 itself featured social influencer/celebrity boxer Logan Paul in a losing effort against Seth FREAKIN’ Rollins (with an assist by potential Jake Paul opponent KSI dressed up like a giant energy drink) and Snoop Dogg himself getting an impromptu win over The Miz after a returning Shane McMahon tore his quad in the middle of the ring, as is tradition.
Quite a few combat sports athletes, mainly boxers, have made appearances for WWE, including Muhammad Ali Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfied, Floyd Mayweather, and Tyson Fury.
There aren’t any stars lining up to appear inside the Octagon, and it’s easy to see why.
I mean, just ask James Toney. Or CM Punk.
Or…Jose Canseco? I’m grasping at straws here.
It takes a lot of work to succeed in either MMA or pro wrestling (or both) but, when it comes to taking advantage of a celebrity’s status, WWE is much better suited for it than UFC considering that:
A) Match outcomes are predetermined, so everything can be planned out to make the celebrity look good in the end. UFC can’t make the same guarantees because nobody can make promises that a fight will play out in a certain way. Just ask James Krause what might happen if they tried to…
B) While the action is physically demanding, all moves are performed in coordination with the wrestlers, so anyone can participate in a way that is relatively safe and predictable. Imagine if, instead of interacting with John Cena, Dr. Ken was locked in a cage with Justin Gaethje.
C) UFC, despite some of their more questionable booking decisions (at least time has worked some of them out), is still a very technical sport meant to be taken seriously by its athletes since not doing so could result in serious injury. WWE, despite its own failings, is a place where a star can have a lot of fun no matter whether they’re just coming in for a clothesline (like Travis Kelce) or a full match.
I mean, have you ever seen the Wrestlemania 38 match between Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville? It was shlock but it was fun. You’re never going to see Colby Covington willingly tap out to a giant mouse trap.
That’s the difference between a UFC event and a WWE one. If fans are tuning in to UFC 288, it’s to see if Gilbert Burns can use his grappling to outwork Belal Muhammad or to see if Aljamain Sterling can defend his UFC Bantamweight Championship for the third time (and what excuse fans will cling to if he does).
If fans are tuning into Backlash, it’s to see what the next development will be in the story between Zayn and Kevin Owens vs. the Bloodline. Or to find out how Cody Rhodes expects to be able to vanquish Brock Lesnar after The Beast viciously attacked The American Nightmare following the latter’s defeat at the hands of Roman Reigns a month ago.
Both companies have the same endgame (getting their consumers to keep consuming) but focus on different ways of getting there. One is focused on skill and competition. The other is focused on narrative and performance.
One can guarantee to make you look like a Superstar while the other can’t even guarantee you’ll get a chance to talk if you lose (not unless you pretend to retire).
So, if you enjoy live events, have a project to promote, and are looking to get involved beyond wrapping a fake belt around someone’s waist or delivering commentary while probably high (I’m aware of the redundancy in saying “Snoop Dogg” and “probably high”), you know who you should be telling your agent to call.
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