ESPN’s recent coverage of WWE may be best described as “strange”. A month ago, SportsCenter began running WWE recap segments. Earlier this month, WWE personality turned SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman broke the news about Seth Rollins’ injured knee. So you’ve got SportsCenter breaking news and recapping events, but when it comes to controversy…well, ESPN hasn’t exactly jumped into that pool in regards to WWE like they regularly do with other major sports.

A week ago on Raw, the show closed with an angle that would immediately generate plenty of negative buzz when Reid Flair, the son of WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair and sister of WWE diva Charlotte, was essentially used as a storyline prop. That normally won’t be a big deal, except…Reid died of an overdose two years ago, and it reeked of bad taste to use his death to forward a storyline.

It started to hit the fan after the show on Tuesday, when Elizabeth Fliehr, ex-wife of Ric and mother of Charlotte, expressed her displeasure.

Charlotte was on SportsCenter on Tuesday night, and…well, the interview seemed like part of a PR tour with whitewashed, bland questions and no mention of the controversial angle. Now, there is the possibility that this interview was pretaped before Raw, which could explain the lack of comments on anything specific that happened before the show. But if so, that’s a massive lost opportunity for ESPN.

Furthermore on Wednesday, Ric Flair himself spoke out against using his son’s death to further the storyline and denied he had ever received advanced notice of what would happen.

And that leads us to this question – what’s the nature of the relationship between ESPN and WWE? In the first month of this relationship we’ve seen one major news story broken, a bunch of recaps, and several “better know a wrestler sports entertainer” interviews. Imagine if ESPN started covering say…Arena Football, and only showed game highlights, interviewed players about themselves, and broke a news story on occasion. That would come off as pretty weird, inauthentic, and half-assed, right?

The pro wrestling sports entertainment industry isn’t exactly all puppies (sorry, Jerry Lawler) and rainbows. There are plenty of negative things that happen, including failed drug tests, disciplinary suspensions, and backstage confrontations. But then again, those happen in every sport – and ESPN covers them inside and out. If a wrestler sports entertainer fails a drug test, will it be a topic on SportsCenter? If there’s a backstage altercation that results in someone getting fired, will that be reported, or will it fall by the wayside?

Coachman claims there will be more coverage past storylines coming.

As of yet, that hasn’t happened. If it does happen, maybe the relationship will be taken a bit more seriously. If it doesn’t and ESPN continues to cover only the positive and essentially act as a mouthpiece for WWE, it’s a real bad look for ESPN. Why does WWE get special treatment that the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc don’t get? That could lead to some ugly backlash towards the Worldwide Leader that they weren’t expecting.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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