WWE comes to China, and fans love it

August 29, 2010 | Posted by Chris

WWE stars Eva and Alicia Fox in the ring in Shanghai, China. It seems pro wrestling is in a position to catch on in the Chinese sports market, which has embraced the NBA but shrugged off the NFL and MLB.

This past week at the Shanghai Expo an event took place that may be a harbinger for things to come in the Chinese sports market: WWE rocked the house in its first live event in China.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

Throngs of kids from across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau traveled into Shanghai — with all the wrestling merchandise they could carry in tow — for a chance to watch some of wrestling’s biggest name battle it out.

"There’s a whole bunch of fans" in China, said a 22-year old from Beijing who called himself Johnny "Cash" Zhao. He sported an orange T-shirt from the Chinese WWE fan website, 19977.com. Members on the site from Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and other cities had even organized buses to travel to the Expo event.

The live show featured a large cast of well-known WWE stars, including Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, and John Cena. Fans, too, played their part: in stark contrast with the quiet and polite stereotypical Chinese audience, fans at the event were a raucous crowd, yelling out the competing chants of their favorite wrestler and standing on their chairs -- and they even brought with them their own signs, too. The Journal continues:

Like their counterparts in the U.S., the Chinese fans knew when to begin chanting “You suck!” in unison at the villains like Sheamus, or former MTV reality television star Michael “The Miz” Mizanin, who stalked the ring. They also knew exactly the right shirtless pose to strike in deference to ringside heroes like Randy Orton, another performer who was on the Shanghai Expo bill.

As always, the bigger stars — Sheamus vs. Orton, or Mysterio battling longtime villain Chris Jericho — came later, and elicited the biggest response. Competing chants of “6-1-9!” for Mysterio’s signature move (named after the area code of his hometown, San Diego) echoed against the Christ Jericho “Y-2-J!” chant, adapted from the early decade’s initial fears of technological meltdown.

It's reported that the WWE looks to China as a long-term market that holds great potential -- even if, for the time being, India and Australia are its largest markets in Asia. One executive based in Shanghai, which is also WWE's China headquarters, said that this week's live event was an acid test to see how the Chinese people would respond. Given the result, the folks at global headquarters in Stamford, CT, are no doubt strategizing their next foray into live Chinese events.

Right now the WWE is broadcast on television to audiences in 10 Chinese provinces and is reported to have a potential audience of 90 million households. It's also reported in the China Economic Review that the WWE has grown at 350% each year in China, but does not specify over what period of time. Now that the professional wrestling formula has been proven to work in China, the question now is: when will pro wrestling take off in China?

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