The NBA’s schedule is ever-changing. Because of the dynamic nature of the league, and factors out of their control, the league will regularly change fixtures and venues based on the same. Often time, this can have an impact on fans, players, arenas, and even other entertainment ventures.
This is exactly what happened to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2009, as they fell victim to the NBA’s ever-changing schedule. In August of 2008, Vince McMahon, the owner of the company, booked the Pepsi Arena in Denver for the May 25th, 2009 edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, their flagship show.
This was done way before the 2008-09 NBA season had even started. So there was no way of knowing how the season would unfold, which teams would do well in the playoffs. So when the Lakers and Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals, Lakers held the home-court advantage, meaning Denver would host Game 3 and 4.
Unfortunately for the WWE, Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in 2009, would fall on May 25th, 2009, the same date they had booked the Pepsi Arena for Monday Night Raw. As reported by Bleacher Report, the WWE had sold 10,000 tickets, but the NBA’s scheduling created a massive problem for them going forward.
Back on Aug. 15, 2008, McMahon (the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment), had secured a spot for the May 25 airing of Monday Night Raw at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
10,000 seats have already been sold for the event, with prices ranging from $20 to $70. A company spokesman said the event expects a sellout.
Coincidentally, the NBA also scheduled Game Four of the Western Conference finals to take place at the Pepsi Center on May 25. Yikes. They are even scheduled to start only a half hour after one another!
Vince McMahon was not happy about the change, and even took shots at the Nuggets, and their owner Stan Kroenke, about how Kroenke allowed them to use the arena before the season because Kroenke did not believe in his team’s potential to reach the Western Conference Finals, and thought that the arena would be free.
“Even though the Denver Nuggets had a strong team this year and were projected to make the playoffs, obviously Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke did not have enough faith in his own team to hold the May 25 date for a potential playoff game.”
This created a massive problem for the NBA and for the WWE. Technically, Vince McMahon and the WWE were right, as they had booked the arena months in advance, and Kroenke had signed off on the decision. But because of the lack of foresight, and the arena being owned by the owner of the team, they would have to move.
The NBA at the time was struggling financially, and the conference finals on both sides promised to be very exciting. Plus, given the fact that the playoffs happened once a year, whereas Raw was a weekly show, it would be harder to reschedule the playoffs, and could possibly create a clash with the Eastern Conference Finals.
From a business perspective, however, this becomes extremely difficult to decide. Raw is one of cable TV’s most-watched programs in history. It airs live every Monday night at 9 p.m. EST, usually to fairly high ratings. WWE has been slumping in profit of late however, yet they still manage to sell-out most shows.
The NBA, though, is preparing for what it anticipates to be one of the best two conference finals in league history. Though it is one of the best commercial sports, it too has been struggling greatly from a financial aspect. Stern needs these playoffs to generate revenue, and this will be one of the few chances he receives.
The NBA Playoffs only occur once a year. Raw is aired on a weekly basis. If the NBA were to reschedule the event, it runs the risk of it interfering (TV schedule-wise) with one of the Cavaliers/Magic games, which is expected to be just as popular as this series. Putting two of the games head-to-head would prove devastating for the ratings, with massive losses being predicted.
Vince McMahon in an interview with SportsCenter even said that Stan Kroenke should be arrested for being a bad businessman, and pointed out the fact that it was a poor decision from his end to book a show for his arena when his team was one of the favorites in the playoffs.
"It's my view that Stan Kroenke should be arrested for impersonating a good businessman. Because he is not a good businessman."
The WWE could have moved the show to the Denver Coliseum, meaning that the tickets would stay valid, and still allow them to run from a large arena in the city that they planned. Instead, Vince McMahon and the WWE decided to run Monday Night Raw from the Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers that night.
"They bumped us right out of the building, hardly an apology. They didn't do anything for us at all, and the media was talking about someone has to write a check. They didn't want to write anything and they wanted to give us a Sunday night. And the name of the show is Monday Night Raw."
Vince and the company claimed they had been kicked out of the arena. But they decided to roll with the punches. Because the Lakers would be in Denver for Game 4, and the Clippers not making the playoffs, the Staples Center would be free, and they could run their show in a big market.
The show at LA had a segment where Vince McMahon brought out an impersonator to play the role of Stan Kroenke and even mocked him through that segment. It was a way for Vince to send a message to Kroenke and the NBA. Unfortunately, that segment is not available online other than WWE's streaming services.
That would have seemingly been the end of the issue, but Vince couldn't resist taking another jab at Kroenke and the Nuggets. In the main event of the show from the Staples Center, RAW presented a 10-man tag team match, with 5 wrestlers on each side, but had another twist.
The side of the good guys (babyfaces) led by John Cena, all wore Los Angeles Lakers jerseys. And the villains (heels) led by Randy Orton wore Denver Nuggets jerseys. In the match, 'Team Lakers' got the win over the Nuggets, serving as another insult from McMahon, directed at Kroenke and the Nuggets.
While Team Lakers got the win on Raw, at the same time in Denver, the Nuggets actually beat the Lakers in Game 4 120-101. But the Lakers would eventually win the series in 6 games, and then win the NBA Championship, defeating Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
This was truly a bizarre time for both sporting organizations. While the WWE was not in the wrong at all, the way they reacted came across as really strange. As for Kroenke and the Nuggets, a momentary lapse from the owner could not take away from what a great season they had.