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July 1, 2006

WWE's Big Apple Takedown

World Wrestling Entertainment has launched a new transmedia product--of sorts. The new WWE Books novel, Big Apple Take Down, is a fantasy book in no way related to the fictional world of the wrestling company--it's a fiction based on a fictional work but which is acknowledged as fiction even within the wrestling world.

The premise of the book is that the federal government is trying to take down a dangerous drug operation and enlists the help of WWE wrestlers to infiltrate the drug ring. WWE writers may be trying to create a new line of books, with the premise that wrestlers would make perfect undercover agents because they travel from town to town constantly for wrestling cards and could plan their wrestling schedule around the government's agenda, with no one ever suspecting a thing.

In this case, an elite group of WWE wrestlers, led by Vince McMahon, are given the mission. According to the WWE's own story about the book in its Smackdown Magazine, Big Apple Take Down is "the first book that takes the Superstars out of their usual element and places them in an entirely new genre" (60).

The book is actually the second novel released by the WWE, the first being Michael Chiappetta's novel Journey Into Darkness. That novel, however, was actually worked into the fictional universe of the WWE, being the "unauthorized biography" of a wrestling character Kane. In short, Kane is the brother of The Undertaker, was burned in a fire at birth and spent his life believing he was disfigured, staying in hiding and wearing a full body suit. Obviously, this is not a realistic background, but the book treated Kane's story as if it were a legitimate sports biography. Kane went on to star in the film See No Evil, WWE Films' first, and he was billed not at Glen Jacobs (who portrays Kane) but as "Kane."

Big Apple Take Down, as with Journey Into Darkness, were released as paperbacks and were not heavily hyped on WWE programming or the Web site, so the WWE obviously doesn't value this on the same level as it does projects more closely integrated as "transmedia," such as the Web site, the Mobile Alerts system, WWE 24/7, Web casts, DVD releases and the company's myriad other projects.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if fans react well to this fictional story that is even fantastical within the fictional universe of the WWE. The company hasn't made the project a top priority in promotion or execution, so it appears to be a pretty low-risk investment ancillary product. But, if it turns a profit for them, it might lead the WWE to consider more of these in the future, perhaps under the same general premise.

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