Ah yes, the wonderful world of gambling. Casinos, lottery, online slots, sports betting… They are all enticing outlets for potentially huge cashouts. I remember being super excited to finally enter a casino for the first time when I turned 19 (21 for our friends across the border, of course). The bright lights and hundreds of games to choose from had me giddy to take a look around and test my luck. However, much to my disappointment, I found out that casinos are nothing but a trap of smoke and mirrors.
My gambling urges were clearly not going to be satisfied in the casino, so I decided to try my hand at sports betting instead — an area in which I felt knowledge could be used to my advantage. I love throwing bets (not a high roller by any stretch of the term, literally $5, maybe $10 CAD at best on a confident day) on some of my favorite sports, whether it be basketball, MMA, and only during the Super Bowl… good ol’ American football.
And so, it was quite the news to me when I saw that WWE was in talks with several gambling commissions to legalize accepted bets on the outcomes of their product. I immediately thought to myself… What in the world? Do they really think this is a smart plan?
At first glance, it looks like the money-maker of the century. Any smart wrestling fan out there would be led to believe they have all the “locks” on high-profile WWE match outcomes. Roman Reigns to win outright… cash that prop all day long! At a favorite line of over or close to -1000 odds. No real profit to be made there at all when it comes to a general bet like that.
When it comes to betting on sports, much of the passion comes from the anticipation to watch your gut feelings on projections either playing out or coming to bite you in the behind. The usual points of research come from player stats, history, and other data to help make decisions easier. For example, when I bet on basketball, I always look at what the players are averaging on the season, what they average against the team they’re facing that night and statistical matchups against opponents. Of course in basketball, you can have the most unexpected things happen. That said player has an off night and completely goes against the grain. Or they get injured early on or get into foul trouble, potentially killing your bets. Nonetheless, I’d like to think nine times out of ten… you’re in good hands with sports betting research and supportive data.
But then, when it comes to betting on WWE… it’s just way too risky to justify betting on even the biggest bookie favorite, ala Roman Reigns.
The WWE can be the land of unpredictability. I don’t even know a logical system to implement on what lines would be available to bet on, I certainly wouldn’t bet on outright winners or losers. Sure, you have your considerable favorites who are expected to win with ease, or potentially there is a mismatch with someone more than certain to take the pin. But then with the unpredictability of the product comes the roadblocks of DQ finishes, run-ins, count-outs, and other out-of-the-blue outcomes. Fans love to think they know everything about the WWE’s decision-making, but then WWE can come out of the gates with a complete curveball. This sense of unpredictability can usually work when it comes to their fans, but if this extends towards their backstage employees and talent.
Does this idea really scream a morale boost in any way at all? What talent wants to hear that creative has something in store for you six months from now, yet they can’t tell you a single thing until showtime? How do you get producers and agents to muster up a stellar wrestling match or marquee event if they don’t know anything in advance?
I think ‘dirt sheets’ have the potential of being dangerous in this situation as well. I remember around Royal Rumble weekend, rumors of Jay White and Matt Cardona being surprise entrants were all over Twitter… it even had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see the WWE debut of Switchblade. Lo and behold, these were nothing but rumors and I was left disappointed. People look at dirt sheets all the time and are led to believe what they say is true. And if WWE betting was a legal thing, you’d have some folks willing to throw actual money on wild things they hear in the dirt sheets (if these kinds of props are even available). But hold on, if you go on to think about it… why else would these random wrestlers’ names be included in a pool of potential surprise entrants? They’d have to be confirmed entrants or else you’re just willingly throwing money away at props that had no chance of hitting in the first place! It also takes away from that surprise element so many fans tune in to catch when watching WWE programming (not just Rumble surprises). Betting will either spoil everything way in advance or act as a way to throw curveballs at the fans (which I don’t think would even be legal for most gambling commissions).
On the other hand, what if dirt sheets catch on to something the WWE has up its sleeves and it leaks out to the public? Now, I know the WWE claims it will keep winners and losers on the inside for months in advance and talent will only be informed of certain things even hours prior to the scheduled matchup. Regardless, you never know what information will spill out of careful grounds. If that happens, what comes next? Does the WWE manipulate the betting lines and completely change plans? In the process, does this put the WWE’s integrity with their gambling commission partners in jeopardy?
Aside from betting outright winners and losers, there is the opportunity to bet on potential lines such as total match time, finishing moves performed, near falls, interference/run-ins, etc. I feel these lines make the most sense to bet on if WWE betting was in fact legal across many sportsbooks.
As good as these props may sound, it still isn’t enough to convince me that legalized WWE betting is a smart direction to go in. There is very little room for success and an insane amount of room for error. From potentially rubbing talent the wrong way because they cannot inform them of exact booking plans until the last minute, or misdirecting bookers, agents, and other backstage personnel for the sake of trying to ensure betting integrity; the WWE could have this entire plan blow up in their face in more ways than one.
I think I’ll stick to betting on NBA players knocking down their three-pointers over Brock Lesnar hitting say, three F5s or a dozen suplexes in a match. The concept does sound fun and innovative when you analyze it at first glance, but in all honesty, I’d like the WWE to remain as is without the hindrance of dark clouds raining over due to a potentially hazy betting system.