Former WWE cruiserweight Jimmy Wang Yang recently wrapped up his fourth stint with the company. The 20-year vet received a producer tryout toward the back end of 2021, but WWE ultimately decided not to bring him on full-time.
His last night on the job was the Fri., Dec. 3 episode of SmackDown in San Antonio, Texas. That was the night that Roman Reigns defeated Sami Zayn to retain the Universal Championship, thanks to an assist from Brock Lesnar.
As WWE gets ready to return to the Lone Star State to host their biggest show of the year, Jimmy Yang is also preparing for a trip to Dallas for WrestleMania weekend, but he’ll be attending WrestleCon instead of being backstage at AT&T Stadium.
So, what went wrong?
Jimmy Yang has now spoken publicly for the first time since he left the company, and he told me on the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast that he heard the same reasoning as a lot of people recently — budget cuts. After three prior stints with the company as a performer, this isn’t anything that Yang hasn’t heard before. The only difference this time around, is that he actually believes it.
“My time there for this last run, six weeks, seven weeks, the WWE live event business was not good. I’ve been a business owner for the last decade, so I understand business. They have to spend a lot of money to produce Raw and SmackDown. A lot, you know, a lot of money. But it doesn’t equal out. They rent Madison Square Garden and only 3,000 to 4,000 people show up. The live event business was not making money for WWE.”
“WWE makes a lot of money, but they also have a lot of bills and a lot of expenses. It’s not just with me, you know, not just signing me to be a producer. They’re really budgeting their budget. Everybody knows about the talent they released on the main the roster. And then they cut ends with NXT. They’re moving their office and they’re cutting office staff. They are really budgeting their budget. That’s why I didn’t take it too hard. I’ve been a business owner. I was looking and saying yeah, how in the world? I don’t even know how they produce all this stuff because, 3,000 to 4,000 people in attendance in a 20,000 arena, they’re not making money. There’s no way.”
As it turns out, WWE did turn a profit on live events during Jimmy’s latest tenure with the company, but just barely. I’m not financial expert by any means, so I enlisted the help of people much smarter than me to break down WWE’s 4Q earnings report.
With the help of Brandon Thurston, a wrestling economics guru, we were able to decipher that WWE made $1.4 million dollars off live events in Q4 of 2021. That includes premium live events, Raw, SmackDown, and house shows. It was during this time that Jimmy Yang was working as a producer, and when you look at that three month window compared to what WWE was doing the quarter prior to Jimmy’s arrival, his story starts to add up.
WWE held 48 events during the Q4 last year and spent $18.7 million to make that $1.4 million. When you look where business was just after SummerSlam, when live shows first fired back up following the ThunderDome Era, business was booming. WWE made $9.1 million in operating income off live events, according to their own Q3 report.
I checked in with the ticket sales analyst Twitter account WrestleTix, and their data shows house show attendance averaged below 5,000 fans per event in the October, November, and December. And it’s really hard to gauge how many of those tickets were comped.
This is not an indictment against WWE what-so-ever, as a number of factors likely played into the low attendance figures. Most notably another serious spike in COVID-19 cases brought on by the omicron variant. I went through the trouble of breaking this all down to show you why Jimmy Yang believes he truly was a budget cut.
That said, WWE really made their money last year off advertising, TV deals, and other media related revenue sources. When it came to the live events division, the books apparently weren’t balanced enough to hang on to Jimmy. Which is really unfortunate timing for Yang. He said he really enjoyed his time there, especially getting to work with the younger talent.
“A lot of those guys were watching me when they were getting into wrestling. Mansoor was there and he came up and gave me a big hug and said, ‘Oh, I love Jimmy Wang Yang!’”
There were also a bevy of guys still on the roster that were on the road with Jimmy back in his heyday.
“Once I got back, it just felt like I didn’t take a break for the last eight or nine years. Jimmy’s back in WWE and that’s what a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re back… again (laughs). It’s like every few years you’re back.’ And it was great seeing Bobby (Lashley) and MVP. Bobby, I was his first WWE road match ever. Dolph Ziggler, Kofi, Sheamus. I’m the one that basically got Sheamus his job. I picked him out of the extras in Milan, Italy and had a dark match with him and recommended him to get hired. And now he’s doing his thing. Bobby Roode… Jeff Hardy, me and him go way back. It was great. It just felt like I was back.”
Yang left the door open for a return to producing with either WWE or any other company that will have him. He just has one condition these days - that his daughter comes with him. Jazzy Yang is currently touring the country with her father (who is also her trainer), trying to make a name for herself in pro wrestling. They’ll both be at WrestleCon in Dallas, TX March 31st-April 2nd.
Please watch my full interview with Jimmy Wang Yang in the video above, or check out more of the Q&A below:
Bleav in Pro Wrestling: We’ve all heard the stories of how crazy it can be backstage in WWE, especially on taping day. What was your experience like as a producer?
Jimmy Yang: Being a WWE producer is not a bad job. If you can handle the pressure and the intensity of working with WWE. This last run was my fourth time. So, I’m kind of used to the WWE system. It wasn’t hard for me. Wrestling TV days, always long days. That’s how the wrestling business is. It’s always crazy. It’s a lot of pressure and of lot of stuff that goes on that day, but that’s what I love about WWE. I like the pressure, the intensity, the craziness, everything, and those moments that you’re on that headset and there’s so much going on. That’s the first time I really got nervous since I was wrestling. It was so intense. You’ve got Vince in your ear. You got Kevin Dunn in your other ear. You got a million things going on, but I actually enjoyed it. I wish it would’ve lasted longer, but things didn’t work out… at this time.
There was this narrative that I quit because it was too hard or something like that. Wrestling (producing) is not hard. Running a party bus company during a pandemic, that’s kind of hard. Can’t do anything. During the pandemic, when my party bus business crashed, I went and worked at AK Steel in Middletown, Ohio. A steel mill that has lava everywhere. I had to hit my clock at 5:15am every morning to go to this insane steel mill and basically break by back for 10 hours and come home. I can barely walk. That’s hard work.
BPW: Getting to be around so many new talents for the first time, was there anyone who really impressed you?
Jimmy Yang: Ten years ago, I was at WWE in Dayton and I saw Big E and I told him, ‘Big E dude, you’re my favorite wrestler right now. Like, really, you’re my favorite.’ Coming back ten years later, 11 years later, I told him, ‘Bro, you’re still my favorite wrestler.’ And some things that I saw with him when he was the Champion really, really impressed me… He impressed me so much, like going with his gut feelings about situations. Big E is a real champion. But there were so many other guys that were great. The Street Profits, Chad Gable and Otis, Los Lotharios, Finn (Balor), and somebody that really impressed me, because I just saw him on TV a lot and I never really worked with him, is Seth ‘Freaking’ Rollins. That dude impressed me so much. Even on spontaneous things and character, wrestling, everything.
BPW: Following up on Big E, what impressed you the most about him?
Jimmy Yang: What impressed me most about Big E was what he did behind the curtain, backstage and how he treated people. The respect that he has. That’s what makes him, in my opinion, a real champion. It’s not the stuff that you saw, like everybody else sees, all the NASCAR, the boxing and everything like that. When you sit down with this dude and see how he treats the catering worker or the janitor… everybody. He has true character and has great instincts and has a great heart. I think he’ll go down as a real champion in history.
BPW: You were front and center the night Seth Rollins was tackled by the fan in New York. What was it like backstage as that was going down?
Jimmy Yang: Yeah, it was crazy… I was the next match. I was producing for the next match. We were watching Seth’s match and all that stuff, and I’m about to be up on the headset. So, I’m sitting there, and Billy Kidman is Brisco’s spot in the gorilla position. So, basically, he sees it all. He sees everything. He has all the monitors and sees everything. And all I heard was, ‘Seth got attacked!’ And I see Billy take off. Just wrestler instinct. Like, okay, let’s go. We all got each other’s back. And I heard Seth got attacked and pew Billy goes. Pew! I go. And we just go in there to make sure Seth’s okay. My mind set running out there… luckily Billy and Adam Pearce got there before me, because I would’ve spider-monkeyed that dude.
Then then were bringing him a straight shot to me and things go in your mind so fast in that situation. I had the idea to just go straight up in the middle on that dude, but now you think cameras and all that stuff. I know probably the internet would have loved me if I knocked that dude out. It was kind of a clean shot, with his hands behind his back.
And that went through my mind. That quick second. It was like, do I drop this dude?
BPW: What’s it like for you as a dad, getting to work with and tag with Jazzy out on the road?
Jimmy Yang: It’s really awesome. Just having the matches with Jazz. That’s my baby girl. It’s also not just being there with her, but what the amazing part is that she’s so damn good. Like that’s, holy, I’m sitting there on the outside or wherever and I start becoming a fan and watching.
The red lights on, okay, it’s go time. And you know, she’s not missing a beat and she’s hanging in there with anybody that we’ve been in her ring with.
We’re at the gym every day and studying tape. I’m making her read her wrestling history. She’s going to be pretty special in this business, in my opinion. I believe that. She is gonna be special. She is special now and she’s gonna be unbelievable in the future.
There’s so much more that Jimmy and I talked about in our 40+ minute conversation. Make sure to check out the full video above.