WWE is creating a new collegiate pipeline to find its next generation of stars.
The wrestling giant (NYSE: WWE) is launching a new NIL program geared toward recruiting and developing college athletes from different backgrounds. The “Next in Line” program will not only feature various partnerships with athletes, but perhaps more importantly, it will provide a clearer path for standouts to make the leap directly to the WWE.
The organization said select athletes may be offered a contract once they’ve competed the program.
“The WWE NIL program has the potential to be transformational to our business,” Paul Levesque, WWE executive vice president of global talent strategy, said in a statement.
The WWE joins other sports and media properties looking to take advantage of the recently loosened NIL rules, which permit college athletes to profit from their fame and celebrity. This development program allows the WWE to begin relationships with athletes earlier than ever, giving them resources to build their brands and acquire media training, as well as access the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
The first class of partnerships under the “Next in Line” program will be announced in the coming weeks.
University of Minnesota star wrestler and Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson signed WWE’s first NIL deal in September. The NIL program aims to build off its partnership with Steveson, an NCAA champion who has since been training with WWE. Steveson isn’t the first college star to take his talents to WWE.
WWE star Leati Joseph Anoa’I, also known as Roman Reigns, played football at Georgia Tech, while Ettore “Big E” Ewen also played defensive line at Iowa. Bianca Blair Crawford, who goes by Bianca Belair in the ring, also ran track and field at Tennessee. Former WWE stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle all played sports at the collegiate level.