“I couldn’t be prouder to invest in the product and be entertained by the stories of these star wrestlers”
The Los Angeles Lakers have been synonymous with excellence for the last six decades.
Owners of pro basketball’s only true dynasty, the franchise have been relevant since 1949. Over that 74-year timeframe, the Lakers (and Minneapolis, where the team was located until 1959) reached the NBA Finals a staggering 32 times, winning the title on 17 different occasions. Naturally, the team has amassed quite a global fanbase, but the purple-and-gold are always revered in Los Angeles.
Jeanie Buss, who is president of the Lakers, always sees her team as the babyfaces. Yet she understands why those from Sacramento or Phoenix or San Antonio or–gasp–Boston may alternatively view the Lakers as the villains.
“Kobe Bryant talked a lot about that,” said Buss. “He thrived on the boos. He appreciated the fans’ passion, whether it was cheers in LA or boos somewhere else. But to me, the Lakers are always the good guys.”
Babyfaces and heels are a part of Buss’ world. Along with David McLane, she is co-founder and co-owner of WOW-Women Of Wrestling, which possesses massive growth potential now that it is in national syndication with Paramount Global Content Distribution.
“It’s important to see women’s sports that can be self-sustaining,” said Buss, who has a resume full of executive leadership in women’s pro sports, particularly in startups with tennis, roller hockey, volleyball, and indoor soccer. “It shouldn’t be just one start-up league that folds after five years and you never hear from them again. It’s heartbreaking to spend time and energy on something that doesn’t make it.
“Wrestling is part of our consciousness. And I’ve been a wrestling fan for a long time, since there was the crossover to pop culture with Cyndi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano in the 1980s. Wrestling has a global reach, and I wanted to invest my own personal funds into something that was sustainable and could develop an audience. Wrestling has always been able to do that.”
WOW’s second season premieres nationwide this weekend. The roster features wrestlers that include Santana Garrett, Adriana Gambino, The Beast, Kandi Krush, and current world champion Penelope Pink. New characters, like punk rocker Rebel Haze and cheerleader Pep Riley, will be introduced this season.
The show is still developing its identity. It is family-friendly, so it cannot capture the charm or allure of the GLOW show from Netflix that was designed for more mature audiences. Even though both are all-women’s shows, it is also entirely different from the STARDOM promotion in Japan, which is heavily based on in-ring action. Many of the WOW characters are reminiscent of what Vince McMahon attempted in WWE during the mid-90’s with characters like “Portuguese Man of War” Aldo Montoya, Kwang, Avatar, and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese before the Eric Bischoff-led WCW dictated a whole new approach that saw a stark change from characters to personalities.
Yet, as the show finds its voice, it is doing so while taking pride in highlighting the women in the ring.
“These women deserve a platform,” said Buss. “I couldn’t be prouder to invest in the product and be entertained by the stories of these star wrestlers.”
When she was 12 years old, Buss watched the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. King, a 29-year-old woman, defeated Riggs, a 55-year-old man, in straight sets, and Buss can still vividly recall the inspiration of watching a female athlete perform at the highest level. In a much different setting, that is the feeling she is seeking to convey in WOW.
“We just celebrated the fifty-year anniversary of that tennis match,” said Buss. “I can still remember being in awe of this strong woman who was laying it all on the line. That empowered me.
“That can happen here, too, with our female wrestlers in WOW. Being a part of this empowering group of women has been one of the biggest privileges of my career.”