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Can sneakers really experience a comeback thanks to WWE?

The wrestling federation seems to be the last chance

Can sneakers really experience a comeback thanks to WWE? The wrestling federation seems to be the last chance

It's been just over a year since Seth Rollins delivered a superkick to The Miz in the Raw ring while wearing a pair of Red Big Boots from MSCHF. Certainly not a boot suitable for performing combat moves that always require a good dose of agility, but even the wrestling ring couldn't resist the allure of the strange, cartoonish red boot. The dramatic impact of the Red Big Boots certainly matched the heated atmosphere during WWE main events, but perhaps only a few during that mid-February night speculated that sneakers were finding a fertile ground in the most famous wrestling federation ever to regain the appeal they enjoyed until a few years ago. As evidence of this attempt, the fortieth edition of Wrestlemania that just concluded was a true showcase of sneakers. A thorough investigation by Complex highlighted which models were worn by the wrestlers competing at the year's most important event: from custom designs perfectly matched to the wrestlers' uniforms (like the Air Force 1s with glittery Swoosh worn by Jimmy Uso) to models that could end up on any store shelf. Even Seth Rollins sported a pair of Nike Air Fear Of God 1 in the Sail colorway, a sneaker designed by Jerry Lorenzo in 2019 and aging quite poorly. It's interesting to note that all the sneakers worn during the recent edition of Wrestlemania were Nike-branded: also on the list are the Total White Jordan 1 Low worn by the other Uso brother, Damien Priest's Jordan 13, Finn Bálor's Jordan 1 High, and finally, Kofi Kingston's Jordan 1 Mid, expertly paired with a gold latex brief.

The most famous sneakers worn throughout WWE history

@nicekicks Seth Freakin’ Rollins did THAT! #MSCHF #sneakers #bigredboots original sound -

Tracing the first sightings of sneakers in WWE history is not difficult. Over the past 35 years or so, there have been many, but above all, varied: custom, limited edition, general release, OG models, and much more. The dialogue between sneakers and the ring was initiated by the duo known as the Killer Bees at Wrestlemania 3 in 1987. The wrestlers wore a pair of Nike Dunk Goldenrod. At that time, professional wrestlers often fought barefoot, and there weren't many options for combat footwear. However, the Nike Goldenrod matched perfectly with their yellow and black striped outfits - but especially with their stage names. Mention should also be made of the Reebok Instapump worn for a long time by John Cena, a sneaker certainly different from the Jordans showcased en masse during the 40th edition of Wrestlemania. Jordans, in fact, have a much lower midsole compared to the Instapump, which remains a sneaker that doesn't seem well-suited for movements in the ring: think about the footwear worn during combat sports like boxing and MMA. Athletes prefer a low, thinner, softer midsole compared to the average, but above all, flat and not raised at the back. All these features serve to allow optimal foot control, especially when pivoting during lateral movements. However, as much as WWE athletes are aesthetically faithful to the wrestler stereotype, the dramatic aspect that sports entertainment must provide is more important than the comfort experienced by athletes during performances.

How the sneaker market can revive through WWE rosters

@kevin_rollins12 Entrada de The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) en Wrestlemania XL #wrestlemania #wrestlemaniaxl #wrestlemania40 #wwe #wwefan #entrace #wweentrance #thenewday #xavierwoods #kofikingston sonido original - KevinRollins12

WWE is the epitome of sports entertainment, and to maintain its status, it is normal for them to constantly seek new eye-catching strategies that can captivate audience attention even for "off-the-ring" reasons. In this case, it is sneakers leveraging the disproportionate appeal enjoyed by WWE, aiming to give greater visibility to their products - the federation's magnetic attraction is destined to expand further considering that starting from January 2025, Raw will be streamed on Netflix. In short, televised wrestling is experiencing a particularly happy period thanks to the introduction of new superstars and new formats and could greatly benefit from a new broadcasting channel, which could also boost sales of Swoosh-branded sneakers increasingly seen in the ring. Therefore, while the moment for the largest wrestling federation is considered rosy, the same cannot be said for the sneaker market.

The Business of Fashion reported that "the concept of hype had become a significant business starting from the 2010s, as major players began releasing limited-edition sneakers to generate excitement around their brand. They mentioned that prices had soared, particularly during the pandemic, and that the market had reached its peak by the end of 2022. The continuous flow of collaborations and uninspiring releases had even worn out the most dedicated collectors. Subsequently, Nike and adidas abruptly increased their production. Over the past two years, Nike has introduced numerous Jordan 1s and Dunks, while New Balance followed suit with the 550 model. BoF noted that adidas had flooded the market with popular models like the Samba and Gazelle, which helped compensate for the fallout from its relationship with Ye. They also highlighted recent significant sales increases for Asics' Gel-1130 and New Balance's 9060 sneakers on StockX - 1,176% and 744%, respectively. They added that today's most fashionable sneakers are being produced by brands like On and Salomon, as well as by lesser-known players such as Mizuno, Merrell, and Norda". Nike, despite losing much of its appeal, doesn't seem to want to change its release strategy: it has no plans to reduce the number of colorways released, confident that these can still resonate with an audience that can be greatly expanded - considering, indeed, the expansion strategies of WWE that are promising.