World Wrestling Entertainment is wooing China and it seems to be working.
WWE, America’s popular wrestling entertainment company, is making moves on China after signing on its first Chinese pro-wrestler, Wang Bin, in June. The 22-year-old commenced training at the “performance center” in Orlando, Florida shortly after.
Wang, a native of Anhui province in China, stands at six-feet three-inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. His live debut match took place in Shanghai last week. Wang told CNN:
“I’m having my debut WWE match in my motherland. I’m so excited and very happy. My family and friends will come to the arena and watch me compete.”
Wang isn’t the only up and coming Chinese star to be recruited by WWE. Last week WWE announced that they had signed seven more Chinese nationals to developmental contracts. Among the talent joining Wang in Orlando for training next year are Zhao Xia, Big Boa, Wang Xiaolong, Gu Guangming, Yifeng, Gao Lei and Cheng Yuxiang.
WWE has stepped up their game in the past six months with plans to grow their currently small, but loyal following. In April, WWE hired Jay Li, their first vice president and general manager for China.
Li told CNN that he describes WWE as similar to a Kung Fu Novel to Chinese people. The reference is quite effective “and they get it immediately.” It’s basically “scripted entertainment that’s full of action.”
Recruiting Chinese talent is essential. Li said:
“I think it’s super important. Signing a Chinese superstar generates additional interest for the casual fans who’ve just heard about us. Now they all of a sudden have a reason to log on and check it out.”
Efforts to integrate Chinese culture and language don’t go unnoticed. In June, WWE’s superstar wrestler, John Cena, gave a flawless three-minute speech in Mandarin. During the press conference in Shanghai, Cena announced a distribution deal with Chinese streaming service PPTV that will include shows with Mandarin commentary and Chinese subtitles.
George Barrios, WWE’s chief financial and strategy officer, said:
“Our strategy is fairly consistent. We come into the market. We’re really consistent to building the brand. We bring the video in. We localize it in the language.”
Of course, the relationship is a two-way street. Barrios added:
“We believe that to be a WWE superstar, you have to be able to transcend your own culture. You have to speak to everyone.”
Wang, the rising star that WWE hopes will reel in a billion new Chinese fans for them, is taking English classes on top of his intensive physical training. He said:
“My trainers and I cannot directly communicate in words. We express ourselves in body language.”
The pro-wrestler knows a lot is riding on his shoulders, but he is optimistic. Wang admitted:
“I definitely feel the pressure. We have so many fans in China. But gradually, through my training, my opportunities, and my progress that comes from that, I’ll take this pressure and turn it into power.”