Is WWE Fake? Don't Bet on It

For the story of professional wrestling's anonymous whistleblower to make even the slightest bit of sense, it's essential to relay an important piece of information that may come as a shock to the small contingent of 9-year old boys who read The Motley Fool: pro wrestling is fake. Pro wrestling is fake in the same way that soap operas are fake or Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen's Broadway production of Waiting for Godot is fake. The outcome of each World Wrestling Entertainment  (NYSE: WWE  ) match is scripted in advance as a part of an elaborate ballet of interweaving story lines. The fighters grappling with each other may be beefed-up, oiled-up guys in Speedos but, at heart, they're actors.

The scripted aspect to the whole endeavor is the reason the WWE, the world's preeminent professional wrestling organization, categorizes what it does as ‟sports entertainment" rather than simply "sports." Despite the "entertainment" qualifier, it's a virtual inevitability that anything lumped into the broad category of "sports" will attract gambling. The Internet plays host to a surprisingly robust network of betting sites that allow users to wager their real, hard-earned money on the outcome of a steel cage match between The Rock and The Undertaker.

The potential pitfalls here should be immediately obvious. By taking bets on fights for which a select group already knows the outcome, how do betting sites and the WWE stop those with a direct line to the inside from putting money on the wrestler they know is going to win?

They don't

According to Dolphins1925, an anonymous user of the social news site Reddit who has made it his or her mission to expose corruption in the WWE, they don't actually stop it. Instead, information about the outcomes of major matches is being regularly leaked to the outside where a cadre of connected gamblers is getting rich off of the fundamental disconnect between what pro wrestling actually is — a televised play punctuated by choke holds and body slams — and the fiction of suspended disbelief required to transform this bit of theater into the high drama of athletic competition.

Dolphins1925's first appearance on Reddit came in February. In a discussion in Reddit's SquaredCircle community of WWE enthusiasts where users took turns predicting the winners in that week's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view event, Dolphins1925 capped a post with his or her picks four minutes before the event aired with a statement of total confidence. "I will win this guaranteed," wrote Dolphins1925. "I know all the winners."

Dolphins1925's confidence was justified. All 12 of the user's predictions were correct. It didn't stop there. Throughout the year, Dolphins1925 continued posting correct predictions on match after match, always just a few minutes before the events were to air. At one point, Dolphins1925's streak extended to 38 straight fights — after a while changing the label of the posts from predictions to ‟spoilers." The implications were clear: the WWE had sprung a leak.

Outside the steel cage

Dolphins1925 claims to not be an employee of the WWE, rather a fan boasting both a source on the inside and an axe to grind.

‟Since I joined Reddit, my motive has been simple: To draw attention to a very important problem and ongoing issue within the WWE industry, while concurrently abstaining from turning the community into a circus act," Dolphins1925 wrote in a post titled, ‟Statement to the WWE Universe."

The problem, Dolphins1925 charged, is the existence of a mole inside the WWE who is ‟anonymously releasing the outcomes [of matches] to a small, exclusive group of individuals; all of whom are benefiting off it at the expense of the WWE, its fans, and the integrity of their product. This had been ongoing for several months before I began to address it publicly."

By releasing his or her info only a few minutes before the matches start, Dolphins1925's disclosures give very limited advantage to anyone attempting to profit from the info because it supposedly comes well after the real inside traders have put their money down.

Dolphins1925 has refused to responded directly to any press inquiries in a stated effort to keep as much attention as possible focused squarely on the mole. He or she hopes that simply showing that it's possible for someone, who is supposedly outside the organization, to get early information about match outcomes would spur the WWE into action.

Moving the line

According to David Taylor, the creator of professional wrestling gambling analysis blog WWELeaks.org, even a cursory examination of the dramatic odds swings in the hours before most major events shows that Dolphins1925 is probably on to something.

Taylor, who lives in Cardiff, Wales, started WWELeaks.org over the summer with the intention to track how the betting lines changed in the days and hours before a WWE pay-per-view event started. Taylor works by regularly checking the odds offered on 5 Dimes Sportsbook throughout the day. He quickly noticed a trend where there would almost always be a significant change in odds between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. EST on the Sunday evenings before big WWE matches. ‟I surmise that this is when the people with knowledge of match finishes place their bets," Taylor explained. ‟It's also around the time when final decisions are made on who is going to win."

‟An example I can point to is the Daniel Bryan versus Randy Orton match from Night of Champions on Sept. 15," Taylor continued. ‟At the start of the day, Bryan was +350 underdog with Orton a -530 favorite. By 6 p.m. EST, the pair had switched positions and Bryan was -270 favorite. When I made a final check on the odds right before the bell sounded for their match, Bryan was available at odds of -1500 with Orton at +700."

Needless to say, Bryan left the fight scoring what looked like a major upset to anyone who hadn't been closely tracking the betting odds over the course of the day.

Sites that allow betting on the WWE, most of which are based in the U.K., take a number of precautions when it comes to hosting wagers on professional wrestling. Some sites put a cap on the size of bets. Major outlets like William Hill, Sky Bet, and Paddy Power, block customers from the United States — both in an effort to comply with U.S. law and to put a degree of separation between themselves and the U.S.-based organization in charge of scripting the matches.

Burned by insiders

Unfortunately, all it would take to circumvent those geographical restrictions are a quick email to someone in a country where placing those bets is legal or the use of virtual private network software that allows users to easily disguise their country of origin.

A similar incident exploded into controversy earlier this year when a flurry of bets on the projected winner of the Great British Bake Off, a competition reality show for pastry chefs, went overwhelmingly for a long-shot candidate who ultimately emerged victorious. Bookies who hosted bets on that show's outcome claimed they were "burned" by insiders who knew the results of the pre-filmed show ahead of time.

In a statement to the author of this article, the WWE shrugged off concerns about the negative effects Dolphins1925's leaks could have on its brand. ‟WWE believes in First Amendment rights, so anyone has the right to predict outcomes," explained Mathew Altman, the company's director of communications.

Interestingly, Altman also admitted that the company has made no effort to determine the identity of whomever is feeding Dolphins1925 with information.

The logic of ignorance

Not taking an active interest to determine the source of, and thereby discourage, the leaks at first seems a perplexing stance to take, but it actually makes a good bit of sense. Big events can generate well over a million viewers, while the SquaredCircle community has less then 30,000 members and the number of people actively wagering on these events is likely even smaller. Dolphins1925's revelations, which always come almost immediately before the fact, don't have the reach to dissuade many people from watching and likely serve to make it more difficult for people to profit off their inside info.

Even so, there's some belief that the WWE has made some changes as a result of the leaks. In one recent match, Dolphins1925 predicted wrestler John Cena would win in a bout to keep his WWE championship belt; however, the fight ultimately resulted in a draw — a result that ended Dolphins1925's perfect streak. There's been speculation that the result was switched at the last minute to discredit the previously omniscient Reddit user's predictions.

Despite the controversy, there isn't much evidence that either Dolphins1925's leaks nor the ones he or she is railing against have caused significant damage to the core of what's made professional wrestling a multi-billion dollar industry — the fact that it can be a whole lot of fun to watch.

‟Those that want to avoid his spoilers easily can and we deal with those that try to ruin it outside of his spoiler thread," explained Reddit user Pudie, a moderator of the SquaredCircle forum where Dolphins1925 first went public. ‟If anything it's been said there's been last minute changes to matches to make Dolphin less credible, which I feel hurts the product slightly, but [not] enough to change my feelings on the overall product."


Read/Post Comments (23) | Recommend This Article (27)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 10:58 PM, Animeboy413 wrote:

    Yes WWE is Fake

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 10:59 PM, Animeboy413 wrote:

    Wrestling is Fake

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 11:20 PM, gagoto wrote:

    that is why i dont watch wwe, but i am a big fun of ufc

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 1:15 AM, alexharris144 wrote:

    If you're dumb enough to bet on the results of a WWE match, then you deserve to lose your money.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 11:03 AM, Ramses1017 wrote:

    Well everything on TV is fake.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:26 PM, steephan wrote:

    People may know the WWE is fake, but they still bet on it. Same goes for the NFL , NBA , MLB and etc. Players are there to sell tickets and play the game, however the referees are there to make sure that the teams don't/do cover the point spread. You know it's rigged, but you are counting they will be rigging the game in your favor. This is the only way I see sports as a BILLION $$ industry. Not from selling jerseys and tickets, but from sports gambling!

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 4:51 PM, snady wrote:

    I didn't read the whole article. You are telling me that there are people that still think professional wrestling is real.I have known wrestling is fake since Bruno Sammartino was champ. I remember going to see Chief Jay Strongbow at a small auditorium when I was a child. When I asked my mother how they don't get hurt, she told me the truth. Then she said that it didn't mean we couldn't still enjoy it.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 5:39 PM, user5701 wrote:

    I don't believe sports in general to be fake, but yes, the WWE is indeed fake. as a previous poster stated, if you know it's rigged ahead of time and you are still betting without knowing the results ahead of time, you're an idiot. That's like gambling against somebody with a stacked deck.

    Furthermore, if the WWE really wanted to figure out who the mole was, keep the matches tight-lipped, and tell a third of your people each one of the three outcomes (win, lose, draw). Figure out which group was right (from Dolphin1925's prediction), then further divide those correct people into thirds for the next match. Eventually, you figure out who is leaking the info. Not that it matters, because they don't care if people bet or not. If there are no insider trading laws for these betting sites like the SEC has, have at it, right?

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 6:06 PM, ScottPletcher wrote:

    The author should do some research before making this false claim: "The scripted aspect ... is the reason the WWE ... categorizes what it does as 'sports entertainment'". 100% FALSE! McMahon had *always* maintained it was "real" ... until a *sports tax* was passed, then AND ONLY THEN he admitted it was fake, saying because of that he shouldn't have to pay the tax!! Worse, that worked!

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 6:44 PM, Divalicious wrote:

    Wwe on the storylines is indeed fake. but the crap that they do to one another is indeed real. when people say "WWE is fake" are basically pointing their opinions toward everything. the storyline and gimmicks are fake so the whole show they do are fake. that's not true. years back I went to a wwe event and got into the ring. that ring was hard as hell. its basically like they are fighting on a table. the wounds they get are real. they put theirselves through a lot to entertain us, and I respect that.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 6:49 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    @user5701

    That wouldn't work. The creative team (who are in charge of the story lines and deciding who wins/loses/draws), the wrestlers, the referees, and other employees of the WWE need to know what is happening. You can't just give 66% of your employees false information and expect to put on a good show.

    And it would be nearly impossible to pull off anyway. It isn't like these employees don't talk to each other (they would have to as part of their jobs). It would take all 20 minutes for it to get around that some people think that X is going to happen, while other people think Y is going to happen.

    And if we've learned anything about wrestling and spoilers (Bischoff/Mankind in 1999), spoiling the outcome might actually draw more viewers.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 7:00 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    When I saw the link in my Twitter feed and read though it, I had thought at first this was an old Motley Fool April Fool's Day article or something. Definitely sounds April Fool-ish or Onion-like. Apparent not though. Apparently this is something that actually happens. Go figure.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 7:25 PM, Jimer wrote:

    Even though the results are pre determined, the wrestlers have to be in great shape and have to train for weeks if not for years before they can make it to the big time. They also have many injuries in which from time to time has led to the abuse of perscription as well as illegal drug use. This has cost the lives of several wrestlers or early retirement.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 7:50 PM, evilchris23 wrote:

    It is fake in terms of match outcome and story but the danger of injury is real. That is why they have those stupid don't try this at home warnings in the beginning of every dvd.

    And really Dolphin? You want to spend your life proving the wwe doesn't care it leaks match results? Really? The point of wrestling isn't even about the matches anymore. Everyone tunes in to see the ridiculous storylines nowadays and boo john cena.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 8:12 PM, jaytraudt1 wrote:

    Who are these guys kidding??? I used to be a stage hand and we set these events up and watch them PRACTICE THE MOVES!!!!! Get real.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 8:19 PM, calebchiefsfan1 wrote:

    yes wwe is fake if u dont believe me ask mark calaway aka undertaker he will tell it is and there is a video on youtube.com but u got to admit wwe brings in good money but a ok fan base but not as good as NFL,MLB etc. and im 15 yrs old and i know wwe is fake but the injures are real cuz they do risk their lives in each match. look at at eddie guerrero 8 years ago on this day he had a heart attack in the ring and rest in peace eddie we ur wwe family and ur normal family miss u. #ripeddie #vivalarossa #latinoheat

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 9:37 PM, kajeet wrote:

    Yeah, Wrestling's fake, doesn't mean it's not entertaining. I see Wrestling like I see a movie or a television show. Sure it's fake, but that doesn't mean it can't be entertaining despite it being fake.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 10:07 PM, harmonyjoe wrote:

    Pardon me for asking, but what has this to do with investing????????

    This a slow day on the market?

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2013, at 10:36 PM, willy1514 wrote:

    Pro wrestling is a completely honest sport. Everyone knows the outcomes are predetermined, and the WWE has never claimed otherwise. If a MLB, NHL, NFL or NBA game has a predetermined outcome, it's dishonest.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 5:30 AM, JoeBivens wrote:

    This article leaves me speechless. Yet, I can still type.

    I am stunned to learn that bookies take action on the WWE, A truly "WTF" moment for me. Thanks for the laugh, Mr. Sankin.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2013, at 6:51 PM, cmalek wrote:

    @user5701:

    "if you know it's rigged ahead of time and you are still betting without knowing the results ahead of time, you're an idiot. That's like gambling against somebody with a stacked deck."

    The game is rigged in favor of the casinos and yet millions of idiots gamble in the casinos.

  • Report this Comment On December 19, 2013, at 6:28 PM, Brandonfire2003 wrote:

    Wwe is not fake

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2014, at 10:38 AM, NickGod01 wrote:

    WWE is fake and delude us in order to take our money from tickets and other things like that so dont believe it !

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