The WWE is making an attempt to lure Super Bowl viewers away from the game’s halftime show for an interlude featuring its wrestling stars in an online show dubbed “Halftime Heat.”
WWE first offered a “Halftime Heat” counterprograming in 1999 with a match between The Rock and Mankind, then followed up in 2000 with a show that included a bikini contest and an interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was recovering from a neck injury. The new incarnation is being promoted with a commercial that shows a photo of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and asks, “Why watch this?” – and then switches to WWE athletes including Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream in feats of athletic combat.
This year’s Super Bowl halftime show has been marred with controversy, with several major performers including Rihanna and Jay-Z turning down the gig in protest of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. A petition drive on Change.org seeking Maroon 5 to quit the show has gained nearly 50,000 signatures, and the NFL canceled the annual press conference held by the halftime show acts, issuing a statement that “the artists will let the music do their talking.”
WWE will stream its “Halftime Heat” live to the WWE Network and other WWE digital platforms. This poke at the NFL is the latest from Vince McMahon, founder and chairman of Stamford-headquartered WWE, who announced last year that he was preparing to challenge the NFL’s dominance with a 2020 launch of a new version of his one-time XFL professional football league.