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ESPN.com launches new WWE vertical

A look at the WWE Vertical that debuts today.
ESPN.com now features a new WWE vertical page that debuts today.

Today, ESPN.com launched a new vertical dedicated to delivering comprehensive coverage of WWE and the world of professional wrestling.

Front Row spoke with ESPN Vice President, Editorial Director, Domestic Digital Content, Chad Millman, to discuss the significance of the launch and ESPN’s commitment to serving a passionate fan base.

Chad Millman (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Chad Millman
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

What was behind the decision for ESPN.com to launch a WWE vertical?
We’ve spent a lot of time the past several months thinking about how fans interact with sports, from what device they’re using to what tracks on social to what matters for a global audience. The way those factors intersect each other helped drive our thinking behind launching the gambling and eSports verticals over the past 24 months and pro wrestling fits in that circle, too. It is a subject that engages a really passionate audience, and we see a pop every time we cover it, from big events to news about wrestlers to in-depth stories examining controversies. Pro wrestling fans are sports fans.

Most people consider professional wrestling to be entertainment and not a sport. How does entertainment coverage fit into ESPN.com’s portfolio?
There is a clear distinction between the results of a WWE event and the sports that we cover. But from a personality perspective, many fans view wrestlers on the same plane as the most popular athletes, in those respects they do tie them together. And the worlds are already inextricably linked, from the athletes and coaches who appear ringside at events to John Cena hosting the ESPYs.

Wrestling is in their blood: WWE vertical contributors
ESPNLA.com columnist Arash Markazi, one of the contributors to ESPN.com's new WWE vertical, was among those fans cheering at Wrestlemania IX many, many years ago. (Photo courtesy of Arash Markazi's Instagram)
ESPN.com senior writer Arash Markazi, one of the contributors to ESPN.com’s new WWE vertical, was among those fans cheering at Wrestlemania IX many, many years ago.
(Photo courtesy of Arash Markazi’s Instagram)

Some of the contributors to the WWE vertical are pulling double duty and have expertise in other sports, but have a passion for professional wrestling. ESPN.com’s familiar voices gave Front Row insight into their favorite WWE memories, as well as their favorite wrestler of all-time:

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Brian Campbell, ESPN.com WWE/MMA/boxing reporter
Favorite WWE memory
: If anyone who grew up in the 1980s mentions anything other than Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant in the main event of WrestleMania III, they are lying. This was the blueprint on how you promote and build a pro wrestling match to make it truly matter to those far beyond the walls of pro wrestling. To this day, there’s a short list of “real” sporting events that have been able to truly rival the anticipation of this scripted one in particular.

Favorite wrestler of all-time: Hulk Hogan’s villainous alter ego, Hollywood Hogan, helped rejuvenate the business of pro wrestling (while creating a second chapter to his storied career). It was also responsible for kick-starting my dormant fandom upon his heel turn in 1996, and the creation of the NWO. For everyone who grew up with Hogan’s “ultimate good guy” message, his turn to the dark side came at a point in time where our own anti-authoritative tendencies as teenagers were kicking in. It was the perfect marriage.

KC Joyner, ESPN Insider, aka “The Football Scientist”
Favorite WWE memory
: It would have to be attending WrestleMania III. Quick story: I went there with two of my buddies and my girlfriend, who is now my wife of nearly 30 years. She had a camera and took pictures of what was happening in the ring (or at least what we could see from being halfway across the stadium from the ring).

The pictures turned out well in every single match except the Hulk Hogan-Andre The Giant match. When that battle raged, the stadium shook so much that the pictures were all blurred and looked like they were taken from a moving vehicle.

As an eight-year-old kid, this was pretty much the greatest thing in the world at the time.
– ESPN’s Darren Rovell on his favorite WWE/WWF memory, Hulk Hogan body-slamming Andre The Giant

Favorite wrestler of all-time: Hands down, it would be Ric Flair. Two reasons for this. First is that he was the hardest-working man in the business. Second is my Grandpa Joyner liked to root for the heels to make my brother and I mad. Flair was his favorite heel, so after my Grandpa passed away, I quickly found out how much fun it was to root for the heels.

Arash Markazi, ESPN.com senior writer
Favorite WWE memory
: I’ll never forget my dad driving me from Los Angeles to Las Vegas so I could go to WrestleMania IX. I always wanted to go to WrestleMania and my dad, perhaps feeling sorry for me having to endure the chicken pox one month earlier, drove about five hours so I could go to the show at Caesars Palace. I ran towards the ring after Hulk Hogan beat Yokozuna for the title and got on camera. It was the highlight of my young life. The drive back home took about six hours with traffic but I remember not even noticing as I told my dad about the show over and over again. Here’s a picture of that moment [Editor’s Note: Also see above].
Favorite wrestler of all-time: The Iron Sheik. I guess it would be easy to say it was Hulk Hogan, whom I loved as a kid. But as I grew older, I couldn’t get enough of the Iron Sheik and his “shoot interviews” online. Not a day goes by where I don’t call up my brother or a friend and imitate the Iron Sheik talking about WrestleMania 3 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.

Darren Rovell, ESPN sports business reporter
Favorite WWE memory
: Favorite WWE, then WWF, memory was Hulk Hogan body-slamming Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III in 1987. As an eight-year-old kid, this was pretty much the greatest thing in the world at the time. I used to wake up every Saturday morning at 6 a.m. and slam my wrestlers against each other. The battle scars on Hulk, Nicolai Volkov, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Hillbilly Jim manifested itself as the original paint peeled off.
Favorite wrestler of all-time: I had a bunch of favorite wrestlers. The Hulk was the natural one, but I also loved Ricky Steamboat for his short stint and Koko B Ware. As I got older, the Bushwackers emerged.

Peter Rosenberg, host of “Cheap Heat,” ESPN’s WWE podcast
Favorite WWE memory
: I have so many favorite WWE memories, but the thing that resonates with me the most is that feeling I would have when “Saturday Night’s Main Event” was on in place of “Saturday Night Live” [both on NBC] in the late ’80s. First, I would see it in the TV listings in the paper and then when the intro came on NBC I would instantly get the chills.