POST NEWS UPDATE: Ari Emanuel details COVID pandemic's impact on Endeavor, talks his future, first meeting with UFC's Dana White

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If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

** Episode #544 of Freakonomics Radio featured Endeavor and TKO Group Holdings CEO Ari Emanuel. He detailed how tough it was for Endeavor during the COVID-19 pandemic as a company. Emanuel said he’s never had to fire that many people. He went on to share that a plan was put together by his team and they were able to do 70 percent of their revenue in the COVID year. He mentioned that Endeavor President Mark Shapiro is incredible at his job. Circling back to how tough that time was for Endeavor, he said they were counting cash and trying to figure out how to make it last.

It was bad (COVID pandemic’s impact on Endeavor). I’d never had to fire that many people. The team that really kind of organized it, I had one of the greatest Presidents of all time, Mark Shapiro. He’s an incredible executive. Mark Crane, ESPN and Six Flags. He’s very soulful, and then Jason (Lublin), Andrew (Schleimer), our CFOs, they put a plan together and we executed against it. Plus, keeping UFC on. We did about — I might be wrong here but I think about 70 percent of our revenue, in the COVID year. We had our ESPN deal. We then started making deals for writers so we stored all the cash. We didn’t let anything out. We let people go which was horrible or furloughed them… Oh yeah (there was a point when it got really rough for us). There was three months there, I was like… I mean it was bad and we were just counting cash like, ‘How do we make sure the cash can last?’

Emanuel still enjoys the day-to-day of being at work and in the mix of what’s going on. He stated that when he no longer feels that way, he will not be in it and then Mark Shapiro will take over and things will be great for Endeavor.

Now I always — because I’m now 62 and I’m healthy, I think I’m healthy, emotionally and physically. I say to myself, okay, how much longer do you wanna do this? And I look at people, not in envy but like, would that make me happy? And there’s people that aren’t working anymore. I do ask this question a lot, as you get older, right? Hopefully I don’t act like I’m 62. I still get up in the morning, get my ass out of bed at 4:45, 5 o’clock, wanna get into the office by 7:30, 8 o’clock, make the call. I mean, I’m having a meeting, getting on a plane to England then going to Madrid then coming back and then back to New York. Then coming back… then I’m going to Tokyo. Yeah, and I enjoy it. So when I don’t enjoy it, when I won’t show up is when I know I’m not in it and when I’m not in, I will not be in it. I’ll be out and Mark Shapiro will be running the company. It’ll be an incredible company and that will be fine.

As the conversation rolled on, Ari was asked how he likes being the CEO of a publicly traded company and here’s what he had to say:

I mean, everybody said, ‘Oh, you’re not gonna like it’ (being CEO of a publicly traded company). I don’t know. Just working the phones and doing your job and telling your story… Oh yeah (I think the stock should be worth more than it is)… Probably (Emanuel responded to the podcast host saying W.M.E. signing Meghan Markle probably moves Endeavor’s stock more than the WWE acquisition). Well I mean, I think it takes time for people to realize the value. I think one of the things that’s gonna happen, we split off and we’re gonna have a new company, TKO, and then we just sold our IMG Academy… (He was asked why he sold IMG) Well, somebody knocked on our door and said hey, we’re gonna pay you X amount. Yeah (it was for one-and-a-quarter billion), for something that the street gave me zero for. So I think now, the street has got to start — I hope or this is gonna be my pitch to the street I should say: Hey, maybe there’s more value inside this thing you’re not valuing. Once the UFC’s out that you should start paying attention to it and I think they’re gonna have to pay attention to it now because UFC’s not in it. (Once UFC is out, the revenues in the remaining company Endeavor) are very good. I can’t talk about it.

UFC is under the Endeavor umbrella. Ari did a deep dive into how UFC got on his radar. He recalled his first meeting with company President Dana White and former CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and described it as ‘bad’. Despite that meeting not turning out the best, Emanuel remained persistent and continued presenting what could be offered and added to UFC.

White eventually told Emanuel that if he could get him a meeting with Ross Greenburg, former HBO Sports President, he would sell UFC. Ari said he always wanted to own it, but they were doing well before he had ownership. The initial deal for UFC with Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta did not get finalized as they wanted $4 billion but they ultimately ended up getting $4.2 billion.

What happened was we had this whole research department that we thought was important inside the company and people were like, ‘Why’d you do that?’ Well one, it gave us an advantage of getting shows on the air, keeping them on the air, by 15-to-20 percent. So when we were going for renewals of TV shows, our research people would be giving us the data that the networks would be having like, okay, here’s how the show performed… I wanted some insight into what they were thinking so that my arguments about how to keep a show back on — I had ammunition as opposed to, ‘Isn’t it a good show?’… The networks, of course not (they wouldn’t share that data with me), and then I’d always get these things like what’s new out there that’s performing and then one of my researchers said, ‘You know, there’s this show on Spike.’ I’m looking at the numbers and it’s ticking up. I said, ‘What the f*ck is that thing?’ Because I didn’t know. So I started watching it, I loved it. I then called Dana (White) and I think I called Lorenzo (Fertitta). We had a bad meeting. I gave a bad meeting. They think I referenced the WWE and I just gave a bad meeting. (‘Referenced the WWE’) meaning, ‘We represented the WWE. Here’s what we can –’ you know?… Dana reports that I didn’t do well. It’s fine. It’s not the first time. But I just did my normal thing. Just kept on pounding away with phone calls and talking about what we could do and what they’re not thinking about and where they should go and how they should think about their deals. About six (months) to a year later, Dana called me and says, ‘If you can get me a meeting with Ross’ who is the Head of Boxing at HBO. Now at the time, think about it, I had Entourage, I had Sex in the City. I mean I was involved a lot there. I said, ‘What?’ That’s like I have to jump over a pebble. He goes, ‘If you can get me this meeting, I’ll sell it to you.’ I said, ‘Done.’ I called up Ross (Greenburg). I said, ‘I need you to meet with Dana today in an hour.’ He says, ‘Done.’ They meet, I don’t think the meeting went well… And then, they signed with us. At the beginning, they paid Spike and then Spike started paying them. I think it was like 15 million dollars. Yeah, that’s nothing (Emanuel jokingly said) and then I think we got ‘em in the next renegotiation, I think we got ‘em $75 and then we just started. We helped them with their video game deal and just helped them… I always wanted it (ownership), but they were doing well. We realized we wanted half of our business to be representation, half to be ownership. We had this big, kind of off-site thinking about the world and where it was going and what we should be doing and what the representation gives us insight to and what we could do because of how big the company was now and all the different assets we had in our architecture, that if we had ownership, we could extract more value and so, we wanted to be in the sports business. There’s not a lot of sports you can own and Frank and Lorenzo wanted to sell. At the first go-round, we didn’t do it. They wanted a big number. It was $4 billion. They got $4.2. But then the second time it came up, we were ready and then a bunch of other stuff happened that were handicaps but we got through them.

** There’s an interview with Zilla Fatu, son of the late Umaga, on the Mosar3 YouTube channel. Zilla is training at Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling school and stated that he is making his in-ring debut ‘very soon’. He’s waiting on Booker to give him the green light to promote it. Fatu said it’ll be Reality of Wrestling’s biggest show of 2023.

Right now, I’m just waiting on Booker (T) and just waiting for him to let me know the green light, give me the green light to debut. But, I can tell y’all this, I will tell y’all this, okay? I debut very, very, very, very, very soon (he laughed), and I’m ready, I can’t wait, and I’m nervous too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m nervous.

Yes, yes. Most important (step for me) and it’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be very, very big. Especially when Booker gives me the green light to promote it and let everybody know the exact day that I debut.

And I mean this humbly, I mean this humbly, this is gonna be the biggest show all year for Booker T’s school. It’s gonna be the biggest show all year.

** Jimmy Traina welcomed Pat McAfee onto his SI Media podcast. One of the focal points of their conversation was The Pat McAfee Show moving to ESPN. McAfee was asked if there were other offers that made him think twice about locking in with ESPN. He mentioned that there were some places that were not up for the show livestreaming on YouTube, but ESPN was onboard.

Every platform has their own entities and properties that they are trying to build up, right? We are in the streaming era where everybody wants to build attention for whatever they are investing in because obviously the people that are investing in these things want these to succeed so how do we amplify these properties that we are investing in? So every place that we (The Pat McAfee Show) went to was looking for us to hopefully boost all of their properties. Now, some places that we were talking to don’t have many yet. But they’re looking to get heavily into things and it’s like, when is that gonna be? You gotta start judging that out. You gotta start judging out. If we go to some places, will that take away growth opportunity with our YouTube community? That I f*cking love. I love our YouTube community, I love what YouTube is. I like that you can profit off it. It feels like if you genuinely put into it, you’ll get some stuff out of it. Our entire show has just been (a) YouTube show and we have no connection to Google at all. We just get a paycheck from them every single month from Google AdSense. We really talk to nobody over there. So it’s like, I didn’t want to give that up at all. There was some places that didn’t want me to continue on YouTube. ESPN, as soon as I brought everything, they were like, ‘Cool, cool, cool. That’s a you thing. That’ll be part of the deal, we got it’ but, there were some places that weren’t ‘bout it if I’ll say.

** While guest appearing on Busted Open Radio, Ricky Morton shared that when he wrestled EFFY in Game Changer Wrestling, he was initially slated to win but requested to lose. Morton added that EFFY was a good heel at the time and if he beat him there, he wouldn’t have been able to wrestle him again because he already got the win.

This is one thing that I did and this is an example. I first went to Brett Lauderdale’s company, GCW. I was gonna work with EFFY and they had a finish for me to beat EFFY and I told ‘em, I said, ‘I don’t wanna beat EFFY’ and they asked me, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because if I beat him, I can’t wrestle him no more. I already beat him.’ He’s a heel at that time and a good heel, and they go, ‘We never thought about it that way.’ Well I did. I’ve wrestled him 100 times since then, you understand me? Because people paid us.

** As The Undertaker continues to make the media rounds, one of the outlets he spoke to is The Scottish Sun. He heaped praise onto Drew McIntyre and said he thinks the world of him. Undertaker added that he always enjoys talking about the wrestling business with McIntyre and thinks he has not reached his full potential yet.

I think the world of Drew (McIntyre) and I still don’t think he’s reached his full potential. He has a couple of really massive runs left in him. It’s funny because when I show up to an event, there’s that group of guys who want to say they talked to me and it’s just lip service so they can say they were talking about things with The Undertaker. On the other hand, Drew has always sought me out with the most legitimate questions on how to improve. I always enjoy talking to him. He has always been someone that I like discussing the business with and trying to impart some of the things I did and make it work in this day and age. I don’t believe there’s ever been a time that I showed up and Drew didn’t at least ask me if I’ve been watching him and what suggestions I have. There’s a lot of people who get to where Drew is at and they think they have it figured out so they stop growing sometimes. With Drew, he has this drive within him that he knows there’s more there for him and he wants to figure it out and be the very best he can be.

** As Brian Kendrick was answering questions on Sportskeeda’s UnSKripted show, he was asked about connections he’s had/has in WWE to possibly recommend a talent to the company. He said he had that type of relationship with William Regal and brought former NXT U.K. talent Saxon Huxley to Regal’s attention.

So luckily, a mentor of mine is Mr. Regal so there was a point where there was a person that I thought was a can’t miss and I would reach out to him and say it but, if — they can’t miss. I can’t give him too many people that he goes, ‘Eh’ or you’re just pitching him as a favor because then nobody can use that route anymore, you know? So yeah, when the time is right, I will and one that I did was Saxon Huxley. This kid went to Lance Storm’s school then my school then back to Lance Storm’s school then back to my school. He’s from England. He flew out just to meet Regal after he’d been out twice already, so he was really hungry and now he’s out in NOAH so, I’m really happy for him.

** To promote Kenta Kobashi’s Fortune Dream 8 show on June 14th, Kobashi sat down with Proresu-TODAY for an extensive interview. He spoke about his time in the ring with Stan Hansen and how powerful Hansen’s lariats were. He recalled an occasion when Hansen relayed to him through a translator that if he was going to use the lariat as a finisher, Kobashi needed to knock his opponent down off the first shot.

I really got to experience the power of the lariat because of that (watching Stan Hansen). So I was really taught the greatness of the lariat. When I was a young fighter, I used the lariat just to hit the opponent, but Hansen’s lariat was a little different from others because he stepped on each shot and hit it firmly. He would hit even the youngest fighters without mercy. That is why I studied it. Later, when I started using it myself, I wondered how I could surpass Hansen’s lariat. In fact, after I started using the lariat as a finisher, Hansen told me something at Korakuen. Joe Higuchi said, ‘Kobashi, Hansen wants to see you.’

I asked Joe to translate what Hansen said. He said, ‘I understand that you use the lariat. But you have to knock down the opponent with one shot. One shot to knock you down, that’s the real lariat.’ I said, ‘I understand. I will definitely knock him down with one shot. No matter how big the opponent is. No matter who it is.’ Hansen did a lariat on André the Giant at the Denen Colosseum a long time ago, and when he didn’t fall down on the spot, he was thrown out of the ring. I knew I would blow him away with a single blow. One blow to any opponent. One blow is all it takes to blow them away. Even if you can’t get the fall, you have to blow him away with one shot. You have to knock him down with one shot. Sometimes you can’t get the fall even with one shot. Sometimes it is returned. I have had that happen a few times. But I was able to keep my promise to Hansen to knock him down with one blow until the end.

At the 2022 Fortune Dream show, Himeka was in action. She retired from in-ring competition this year. Kobashi feels it was too early for her to step away but wants to see her happy in her post-wrestling life.

I think it was a little too soon (for Himeka to retire). I would have liked to have seen a little more of her. She was good last year and put on a good match, so I still wanted to see her at Fortune Dream. I would like to see her do well in a different world as long as she decides to do so.

** Champagne Singh a.k.a. Raj Singh was interviewed by PWMania. He reflected on being featured on-screen in IMPACT Wrestling alongside his father, Gama Singh, as a part of Desi Hit Squad. Champagne discussed how special that was for him.

It was special on so many fronts (being paired with his father Gama Singh in IMPACT Wrestling) because I dedicated so much of my life to being a wrestler and then had ups and downs behind the scenes on my road to getting here and then being able to share that on-screen with my dad who kind of probably thought wrestling was done. Once I started, he kind of thought wrestling was done and then it worked out to him being back on-screen and then for us to be able to share that moment together, it was like — I actually go back and I watch that quite a bit because not everybody gets to share time with their parents in general but I got to do that on the road, I got to work with him and we were in different cities. I think we were in New York at the time actually for that one and you know, it’s special more so because we get to share those moments together and we got to travel together for the time that we were on the road together so, it’s definitely special and it gave me a little bit more motivation to become ‘Champagne’.

** Joining Aubrey Edwards and Alex Abrahantes on AEW Unrestricted was ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champion Toa Liona. He reflected on becoming champion at the 2022 ROH Final Battle pay-per-view. Liona expressed how much he enjoyed working with Dalton Castle and The Boys (Brandon & Brent Tate).

Being blessed with opportunities of like, all the trials and tribulations I went through, it was like, finally starting to get just a little bit of a taste. Just a little bit of a taste of the spotlight and the chance… To go against someone as Dalton (Castle), who’s well established and also, The Boys, real quick, shout out to The Boys because when we first started working and I first seen them, the crowd just loves them so it’s so easy for me to hate them. I was like, why are y’all cheering these lil dudes? I bust my ass to get here. They’re just like little lackeys to Dalton and that changed my mindset after I kept working with them so, they earned my respect but, yeah, to start off like that, that was my mindset. Man, I’m gonna take advantage of every single opportunity because (I owe) this to myself and there ain’t no better person to go against Dalton in ROH so…

** Going into NJPW Dominion, the company released their written interview with El Phantasmo who is challenging for the NEVER Openweight Title at the event. As Phantasmo was talking about his former stable, BULLET CLUB, he mentioned that he’d like to see a singles match between Gedo and Jado.

Gedo’s a bit of an enigma. I think he’s a leech who latches on to talent. You can’t discredit that Gedo has a great mind for this business — he saw greatness in Okada and in Jay (White), and now, I guess he sees it in Finlay. He obviously sees something, and his track record proves for himself, but… I don’t agree with a lot of what Gedo does, I never have.

I think he’s a little snake. And I think… We never got to see Gedo and Jado one-on-one. That’s what I wanted to see this whole time, what the fans wanted to see this whole time but it never happened. Somehow, we’ve gotta make that happen. Gedo and Jado in a New Japan ring one-on-one, huh? You like that?

** Joining Ryan Satin on the Out of Character podcast was Maxxine Dupri. Looking back at her time as a pro cheerleader, Dupri said it was in the contracts that cheerleaders could not fraternize with the players on the team. She cheered for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

Well while you’re cheerleading, it’s against your contract to fraternize with the players… No (you can’t speak with the players) … It’s interesting. I think the idea of it is to maybe try and keep it anti-drama. I don’t know. It’s an interesting rule, and I don’t know, I can’t speak for currently because I don’t know if that’s still the situation but yeah.

I can’t say any names but there was definitely girls that would sneak around. It was a private group chat like, ‘So and so is having a get-together. Who’s going?’ So there definitely was things going on but, nothing that I was there for so I have no good stories (she laughed). I’m just a big rule follower, like to a fault so…

** Sherwood Park News published a story about a showcase for talents on the Canadian independent scene that was created by Jacques Rougeau. The winner receives a $10,000 prize and a scholarship to the Nightmare Factory in Georgia.

** The following is from Asuka’s YouTube channel:

** Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Kenoh and Manabu Soya are scheduled for Dragongate’s June 2nd show.

** The Undertaker spoke to BirminghamLive.

** Dicebreaker’s video interview with Kip Sabian: 

** Kenoh’s 15th anniversary in pro wrestling is going to be celebrated via an event on June 24th. The match card was revealed for the show:

– Hi69 vs. Taishi Ozawa
– Masa Kitamiya, Muhammad Yone & Super Crazy vs. Daiki Inaba, Stallion Rogers & Kai Fujimura
– Ninja Mack vs. Dante Leon
– Saxon Huxley, Timothy Thatcher & Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Shuhei Taniguchi, Yoshiki Inamura & GAINA
– Yoshinari Ogawa, Chris Ridgeway & Daga vs. Atsushi Kotoge, Seiki Yoshioka & Junta Miyawaki
– Hajime Ohara, Shuji Kondo, Manabu Soya, Kenoh & Matsakatsu Funaki vs. AMAKUSA, Naomichi Marufuji, Alejandro, Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba

** Jake Lee’s next defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship is on June 17th against Takashi Sugiura.

** Straight Talk Wrestling welcomed K.C. Navarro onto the podcast.

** IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Kevin Knight and KUSHIDA are scheduled to be in action at West Coast Pro Wrestling’s July 8th event.

** Darren Paltrowitz interviewed Courtney Rush (Rosemary).

If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.