Jonathan Coachman Discusses ESPN Covering WWE, Vince McMahon, More

Jonathan Coachman recently spoke with SI.com, here are the highlights…

On getting ESPN to cover WWE: “The biggest challenge before [was that] we never had the right people in charge, but right now, we’ve got tremendous leadership with [Senior Vice President, SportsCenter and news] Rob King and [Vice President, SportsCenter] Mike McQuade on the SportsCenter side. We’re starting to understand that the ‘E’ in ESPN stands for entertainment. For the longest time, we got caught up in thinking, ‘It’s got to be in this box, or it doesn’t belong on ESPN.’ I pitched this latest project in July, but the new leadership really took over about fifteen months ago. Before that, any time I would pitch going to SummerSlam or WrestleMania was always met with, ‘We don’t do that.’ That was without even looking at the numbers, or the amount of fans, or the venue. It was just a cold no. So it was infuriating when I knew, as a talent and a person who loves to produce content, this was going to work. We met in July and came together for SummerSlam, and that was a big success, and then the green light was given for our Tuesday night ‘Off the Top Rope’ sometime in September, and we started our first one at the end of October. We’re going on four months now, and the numbers have been really, really good, and we’re hoping to expand what we do as the year goes along.”

On the wrestlers reacting to appearing on ESPN: “I just went to one of the house shows in Hartford on December 27, and I took my whole team that works on this project at ESPN with me. We were backstage talking to a bunch of the guys, and that was John Cena’s return that weekend. To a man, [all the wrestlers] were saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.’ Tommy Dreamer was on the week before going through a table as part of the highlight package, and he said that hearing his name on SportsCenter was something he’d been dreaming about since he was a kid. They don’t see this as only wrestling–they see this as being on SportsCenter, and that’s exactly what we want.”

On making Vince McMahon sweat if he interviewed him: “If you were worth $700 million, your legacy is cemented, and you still have size 22-inch arms, would anything make you sweat? I doubt it, but I’ll certainly try. Vince is an absolute freak of nature. There are certain people on this earth who were made to do certain things, and nothing he does surprises me. Vince is one of the biggest stars of all time, so it made sense for him to come back, especially with all of the injuries. It didn’t surprise me, and it only would have surprised me if we never would have seen him again.”

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