What began as a niche contest among a group of hardcore fans and early adopters of the internet has transformed into $7.2 billion industry that grows ever more lucrative with each passing season.
If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you’re among the 60 million or so people in the United States and Canada who have spent countless hours painstakingly researching thousands of players in hopes of drafting a dynasty-caliber championship contender. With business booming, you’re likely investing more than just your time too. The average player will shell out more than $650 every year to craft the perfect roster, according to Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association.
In the fantasy arena, football and baseball are at the top of the heap, but all major sports have a place as well. And soon there could be one more option for cyber GMs to lay the smackdown on their e-opponents.
All Elite Wrestling is contemplating the idea of launching a fantasy professional wrestling game, with winners being determined by the in-ring performances of its grapplers. It’s the brainchild of Tony Kahn, the founder and president of the promotion that has quickly become the chief rival of WWE.
Kahn just so happens to be the son of Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Kahn and serves as the team’s Senior Vice President of Football Technology & Analytics. The younger Kahn also owns a Boston-based sports analytics group that specializes in providing data on NFL, MLB and soccer players to major print and broadcast media outlets. In short, he’s a high-tech guy who weighs a player’s value based on a mountain of data generated on the field.
After years of tracking mainstream sports rosters, the 37-year-old is bringing some serious number-crunching to the squared circle. It’s an idea that has been floating around in Kahn’s head for years, long before AEW was even a blip on the radar.
There have been attempts to do fantasy wrestling in the past, but nothing quite on the scale of what AEW may attempt to do.
Currently, wins and losses are the only stats carrying any real weight in the promotion, which had its television premiere a little over a week ago. However, Kahn eventually plans to begin tracking more elaborate stats that will make a fantasy game possible. He said that the technology already exists to track certain elements of the match, such as kick-outs and reversals. Plans are also in place to record the number of wins a wrestler scores via pinfall.
But all of that will come in time.
“Right now it’s pretty revolutionary for people to just have records,” Kahn said recently. “People are shocked that there are win-loss records and we’re booking with those.”
The more grandiose concepts will continue to marinate in Kahn’s mind, as the company focuses on building upon the impressive premiere of AEW Dynamite last week. About 1.8 million viewers tuned in to the show, making it the most-watched premiere on its cable network in five years.
“I think as we get our show going and build up our following, [fantasy] is something we can definitely look at,” Kahn said. “I don’t want to over-saturate with too many things at once, because right now I’m just trying to sell Dynamite to people.”
Once the promotion establishes itself and finds its footing, it is possible that not just one but a number of different fantasy wrestling games will be brought to market.
“There’s probably multiple different ways you can do it,” said Kahn. “There could even be a fantasy league based on stats and then there could be something that is more like an ‘e-fed’ for people.”
It’s unclear how long it will take before AEW feels comfortable enough to venture into the fantasy arena, as executives are wary of spreading company resources too thin in the early going. However, Kahn believes the pieces are starting to fall into place to move ahead when the time is right.
“Now that we’ve crowned men’s and women’s champions you’ll see more and more new things,” he said.
NEWS & NOTES
The Chris Jericho-led stable in AEW featuring Sammy Guevara, Santana, Ortiz and Jake Hager will be known as The Inner Circle.
Jericho will defend the AEW championship against Darby Allin on next Wednesday’s edition of Dynamite.
AEW Women’s Champion Riho is slated to defend her title against Dr. Britt Baker that same night.
WWE will hold its second talent draft of the year beginning on Friday’s edition of SmackDown. The roster shakeup will then conclude Monday Night RAW.
WWE will hold a press conference Friday afternoon in Las Vegas with Triple H, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, former UFC Champion Cain Velasquez, Rey Mysterio, Braun Strowman, and heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury scheduled to appear. It is expected that Lesnar vs. Velasquez and Strowman vs. Fury will officially be announced. The event will be streamed live on the WWE Network as well as the promotion’s social media channels beginning at 3 p.m. ET.