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Speaking on the Pro and Bro Wrestling Podcast, former WWE superstar Zeda Zhang explained why WWE’s attempts to expand into China failed. Zhang was a big part of WWE’s attempt to court a Chinese audience as part of their international expansion, which included signing the likes of Tian Bing, Zhao Xia, Yifeng, and Big Boa in 2017. Zhang signed with WWE in January of that year and was debuted on NXT in May and got some exposure. However, Zhang recalled that the attempt to gain a foothold in China failed and she, Bing and others were released in 2018.

On being released from her contract:
“Talking to staff there who, you know, handled the behind the scenes stuff. They always say, ‘At the end of the day it’s a business.’ And if they feel like they can’t use you for something or the timing, the market, stuff that you can’t even control, they have to release you. Because it’s like, more money they have to spend, you know. It comes down to that. Because literally, I see the trend. It makes sense.”
On being brought in early for the China expansion:
“So the reason why they pulled me in so early, six months early, was because the Chinese were coming. And because I’m Chinese, they wanted to push me with them. But they were trying to get into China at the time, it didn’t work so well. So next thing you know, when we first got there, the first first six months were amazing. Like, we had our own camera crew, they filmed us for promos all the time. We were the only people that had our own camera crew that would film us for content to push to China. And then next thing you know — because hey went on tour over there, it didn’t go over so well — our camera crew is gone. We don’t get any attention, no one’s paying attention to us.”

On why WWE couldn’t break into China:
“So it’s really — WWE is trying to get into China because they’re trying to copy [the] NBA and their success over there. But the problem is, they don’t know the culture very well, and there is — like, you’ve got to think about Chinese history with their kung fu and stuff. And when they’re watching wrestling, the style just doesn’t really fit what they like. They feel like, they say ‘It’s too fake.’ You know, they don’t like how it is.
“And when they had their show out there, I guess because it wasn’t TV [taping]s there were a lot of people who were like not trying very hard when they were wrestling. So literally, someone would kick someone and they would be this far away [a long distance]. And so even the fans that where there, they were saying s**t like, ‘Oh, this is so fake, what the f**k?’ You know, they were saying stuff like that. And it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing for the Chinese talent that actually got to go over there. They said they went there, they invited their family and their friends. And then having to sit there and hear their own friends and family and all the Chinese audience talk s**t about it, it was very embarrassing for them to be there.”
On the Chinese talent not performing on the show:
“It’s that and also China is very prideful of their culture and their country. And so they want to show something that has more than just a Chinese face. And at the time, none of the Chinese people wrestled there, because they were new too. They had just started [at the Performance Center]. So no one actually got and wrestled there … basically it didn’t go as well as they had wanted.”
 

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Real reason why WWE failed in China is because the Chinese talent listened to The Rock's "Pie" single for the first time in their lives, and were massively offended by his mock-Mandarin lyrics.
 

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Hollywood has to edit its movies to serve CCP propaganda in order to release there. I hope WWE will not do that, but of course they will.
 

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NBA success because they have the icon and the merchandise that represents the sports like Air Jordan shoes and it also one of popular sports in China.

Well, I'm not say China is not try to make this entertainment as good business since they also have Oriental Wrestling Entertainment which affiliated to AeW, but I think it was WWE fault who try to push their image or idea into China culture, that's not gonna work,WWE will also have same fate if they try to do this with Japan branch.
 

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Well how can they have an audience in China if they have Chinese talents not on TV. I think the Asian talent they should gamble on should be Filipinos because of their high social media presence and they actually speaks English so watching WWE is easier for them. They can start with the 3 Filipino American talents they have on NXT and not market them as Americans. Filipinos don't mind being represented by mixed race people based on the 90% of actors and actresses on their country and who they sent on beauty pageants. As long as a person have a Filipino parent and acknowledges it and represents them instead of their American State.
 

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Zeda nailed it, WWE is going to keep failing in Asia because they don't understand the cultures, if the Chinese are so serious about their martial arts then they should've used more people with a martial arts style, get some indy workers if you have to, it probably also would've helped to actually take some Chinese talent-- the first show in 2016 the took Tian Bing, 2017 they took Big Boa, 2018 nobody, 2019 Xia Li.

Why wouldn't they take the same people every year so they can try and build a fan base? Why did they only take one at a time? Why did they try to sell John Cena as the brand ambassador just because he speaks Mandarin? He's about as far from serious martial arts as you can get.

They blew it in India too by not understanding India, first off the shows were just too expensive for a developing nation, they tried to sell them the network even though most of India doesn't have the internet infrastructure for that, plus their tv deal gave them the ppvs for free a week later, if you're poor you can wait a week to save what's relative to you a decent amount of money, on top of that they gave them heel Jinder as champ when Indians like white meat babyfaces-- they thought heel Jinder sullied their reputation around the world.

And WWE is going to fail in Japan too because they don't realize how fiercely nationalistic the Japanese are, they don't realize that the WWE style is considered vastly inferior to puroresu and they don't know shit about 'fighting spirit'.
 

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NBA got hot in China because a Chinese born player became a megastar in China.

WWEs first mistake would have been hiring North American born wrestlers and attempting to pass them off as Chinese like Zeda Zhang or Mahal in India.

WWE make a lot of money in India and are second most popular "sport" there next to cricket. Japan they have primetime tv deal unless any other pro wrestling promotion and do decent business touring.
 

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Sounds as if MMA in China would be huge.
UFC have tried but limited success. Pretty sure Pride and K1 tried back in day

The Chinese like Kung Fu or real fighting stuff isn't reason. Places UFC got hot ie Brazil, Sweden, UK/Ireland, Canada all have one thing in common and that was big stars emerging from those countries
 

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Zeda Zhang is bang on the money here.

It’s the same reason the expansion into India failed and why NXT Japan is going to fail. WWE doesn’t understand other cultures very well and think tokenism will get it done, when it won’t. This leaves them to be dependent on deals like with Saudi Arabia to do international shows.

The Chinese sentiment that "it’s so fake" seems to be shared by many others around the world, and is something that WWE and even some fans haven’t really grasped; a more no-nonsense product and presentation like the Attitude Era or WCW '96-'97 or NWA '80s would get people’s attention. Instead, there’s this trend to spotty cartoonish wrestling like in GCW and elsewhere, and there are fans that support this stuff and want it in major promotions and are clueless that its not appealing to a mass audience. That, and WWE's reluctance to ever produce a superstar bigger than the business pretty much doom them from ever breaking into China, or India for that matter.

In comparison, NJPW would have an easier time in China, since they try to produce a realistic product, and would have a greater understanding of Chinese culture due to both proximity and history. And they have been slowly building their stars to be big like Hogan, Austin and Rock. They’ve gained success with Bullet Club (as their t-shirts are everywhere) and are trying with Okada, Tanahashi, Naito/L.I.J., and at one time both Nakamura and Omega, with both merch and occasional references to them in pop culture to bring cross-cultural appeal.

Instead of stealing talents from other promotions, WWE should be stealing from both the NJPW and UFC playbooks instead.
 

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"The fighting isn't realistic"
"Not enough Kung-fu, 2/10"

Give me a break. WWE can't crack the market because apparently everyone is into martial arts over there (as if that's not in itself a stereotype) and there's not enough leg sweeps?

1. The product sucks, period. You can't sell a terrible product to a country that's already apathetic to you.
2. It doesn't help that they don't have genuine Chinese to market over there. I know 3rd generation American's love calling themselves Irish, Chinese and Italian American, despite never setting foot in their ancestral country, but somehow WWE expect Chinese people to warm up to (let's face it) mostly another American.
 

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"The fighting isn't realistic"
"Not enough Kung-fu, 2/10"

Give me a break. WWE can't crack the market because apparently everyone is into martial arts over there (as if that's not in itself a stereotype) and there's not enough leg sweeps?

1. The product sucks, period. You can't sell a terrible product to a country that's already apathetic to you.
2. It doesn't help that they don't have genuine Chinese to market over there. I know 3rd generation American's love calling themselves Irish, Chinese and Italian American, despite never setting foot in their ancestral country, but somehow WWE expect Chinese people to warm up to (let's face it) mostly another American.
That's the thing, they didn't take Zeda or Karen Q over there, they took actual Chinese born people like Tian Bing, Big Boa and Xia Li but they didn't push them, they had them in low card matches with jabronis. How is facing Aiden English supposed to get Boa over, or why randomly put Xia with Carmella against Fire and Desire? Every year they took a different Chinese person on tour, how are they supposed to build a fan base?

If they wanted to build a star they should've put those people in important matches, have Xia face a heel Asuka, I bet that would drum up a bunch of support for her even in a losing effort, have Boa and Aleister Black have a kickboxing match, have Tian Bing in a 6 man tag main event with Roman and Cena as his partners and let him get the pin. Do shit like that every year and after a few years you'll have some legit Chinese stars in China; WWE thinks getting one win over a jobber every 4 years will make the Chinese care and it definitely won't.
 
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