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WWE marketing machine rolls
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


Business may be slow for World Wrestling Entertainment but the McMahons still know how to make a buck. Despite a massive decline in TV ratings and attendance figures, WWE posted an impressive US $7.8 million profit for its first quarter of fiscal 2005.

The Stamford, Conn.-based company blew analyst predictions out of the water, thanks to continued cost-cutting measures at Titan Tower and solid results from licensing and merchandising. In particular, the Ric Flair and Chris Benoit DVD sets sold like hotcakes, boosting merchandise revenue alone to $16.3 million US for the quarter.

The Benoit DVD set, which is a must-see for all mat fans, shipped 65,000 units during the May to July time frame, while the Flair collection is already the highest selling wrestling DVD of all time.

WWE expects similarly strong results from upcoming releases, including the awesome Eddie Guerrero documentary, 'Cheating Death, Stealing Life' (which hits shelves on Sept. 28th) and the 'Rise and Fall of ECW' collection.

In a conference call Monday morning, WWE CEO Linda McMahon revealed several new initiatives which will steer the company into the future, including the launch of a Video-On-Demand subscription service, WWE 24/7.

McMahon also announced plans for a 'fantasy wrestling' league and noted negotiations were underway with Spike TV to renew Monday Night Raw when the contract with the network expires next year.

Other upcoming projects include the first theatrical offerings from WWE Films. The Los Angeles-based division will produce back-to-back movies this fall, with a combined budget of US $20 million.

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IN THE HOUSE: The Rock wasn't the only unexpected guest at the Raw taping in Anaheim last Monday. Stone Cold Steve Austin, who walked out on WWE over a contract dispute earlier this year, was backstage at the show to meet with Vince McMahon. Sean Waltman (X-Pac) was also seen backstage, although it's unlikely he'll be offered a WWE contract because of his recent personal problems. Waltman has other worries, most notably an amateur sex tape with ex-fiance Joanie (Chyna) Laurer, which the former WWE diva is trying to shop around to distributors.

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THAT'S GOTTA HURT!: Chavo Guerrero spent Tuesday night in hospital after a Shooting Star Press from Billy Kidman went awry at the Smackdown tapings. At the end of the match, which aired on The Score Thursday night, Kidman missed the mark as he performed the SSP -- a flip from the top rope. His thigh rammed into Guerrero's head as he crashed to the mat, giving Guerrero a concussion. The injury isn't believed to be career-threatening and Guerrero could be cleared to return to action next week.

- - -

HULKAMANIA: WWE will go head-to-head against Marvel Comics in court next month over the rights to the 'Hulk Hogan' name. WWE took out a 20-year license on the name in 1985, after Marvel insisted it infringed on the copyright of 'The Incredible Hulk'. WWE is anxious to hold onto the rights into 2005 and beyond so it can market Hogan's matches as part of the WWE's 24/7 Video on Demand service.

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NO FORGIVENESS: Two matches have been announced so far for next month's Unforgiven pay-per-view. Randy Orton will defend the world title against Triple H, while La Resistance will put the tag straps on the line against Rhyno and Tajiri. Unforgiven can be seen on pay-per-view, at Famous Players theatres, Cineplex Odeon Sunridge Spectrum and at Bottoms Up Sports Pub on 17th Ave SW.


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