Stephanie McMahon On What Causes Changes To WrestleMania Plans

Stephanie McMahon

Stephanie McMahon spoke at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, and she revealed some details about just how much the WWE Universe impacts the company’s strategy.

McMahon, WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, described how audience feedback can force the company to adjust its plans. She said that plans for WrestleMania are set a year in advance, and then they can be changed based on how the WWE Universe reacts to the storylines.

“Our audience tells us what they love, what they don’t like and worse, what they don’t care about. And you have to be listening, and in WWE, yes, we do, we pivot on the fly,” McMahon said.

“It’s an advantage that we’re live. We do set our storylines out a year in advance, WrestleMania being our Super Bowl and then we program backwards, but things happen. The audience might not be invested in a character that we think they will be invested in for whatever reason. There could be an injury that happens because we really are an incredible athletic event as well. Anything can happen, so that ability to pivot and twist is really important.”

So if the audience doesn’t respond to a wrestler the way WWE had predicted, it could lead to a halted push. On the flipside, it’s possible for a lower-tier WWE Superstar to be given a chance if the audience clamors for it loud enough.

McMahon pointed to NXT as a clear example of how the audience affects programming. The NXT Universe is the most passionate fan base in all of WWE, so their reactions help determine which superstars are ready for a call-up to the main roster.

“And when you think about NXT, for example, our audience is actually determining who makes it to the next level, who goes to that main roster,” McMahon said. “And they know it, they know that they are a part of that person’s success, so they are that much more invested in it. And again, I just think that engagement is really important.”