WWE Launches First Class ‘Next in Line’

WWE, based in Stamford, has unveiled the first 15 varsity athletes who will be part of the company’s inaugural “Next In Line” class.

The newly formed NIL program (also an acronym for “Name, Image, and Likeness”) is intended to provide a pathway from a college athlete to becoming a star in WWE. The inaugural class includes American athletes from 13 universities, seven NCAA conferences and four sports, as well as athletes from Canada and Nigeria.

“Typically wrestlers who reach the level of WWE have been found in the independent ranks where they’ve worked in high school gyms and competed all over the world, and we had to find them that way,” he said. said Greg Domino, vice president of communications. “What we can do now is build relationships with the varsity athletes, the best with whom we can create real contractual partnerships. We are trying to find the next artists, not just athletes.

WWE’s NIL program follows the historic new NCAA policy that took effect July 1, which allows college athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness.

“The WWE NIL program has the potential to transform our business,” said Paul Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President for Strategy and Global Talent Development. “By partnering with elite athletes at all levels in a wide variety of varsity sports, we will dramatically expand our talent pool and create a system that will prepare NCAA competitors for WWE once their varsity careers are over. . “

NIL program athletes will have access to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, in addition to organizational resources including branding, media training, communications, promotion live events, creative writing and community relations. . Upon completion of the NIL program, certain athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract.

A WWE spokesperson told the Business Journal that these athletes are paid for their participation in the program from the five-figure range, with the ability to go down to six figures depending on a myriad of factors such as social attendance, the achievement of Olympic medals and others. sports and personal achievements.

In September, WWE announced its first NIL deal with heavyweight wrestler Gable Steveson, who won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The deal saw Steveson return to the University of Minnesota for his senior season, where he defends his NCAA National Championship while beginning his training with WWE.

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