'It was a no-brainer': Inside WWE's partnership with Tyson Fury

WWE wrestler Braun Strowman (L) and heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury will wrestle on Oct. 31 at WWE's "Crown Jewel." (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WWE wrestler Braun Strowman (L) and heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury will wrestle on Oct. 31 at WWE's "Crown Jewel." (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Less than four weeks after entering the world of professional wrestling, Tyson Fury will be one of the headliners of WWE’s “Crown Jewel” event in Saudi Arabia.

Fury, the lineal world heavyweight boxing champion, first appeared on WWE programming on the Oct. 4 episode of “SmackDown.” Fury’s presence alone wouldn’t have been anything to write home about, seeing how WWE rolled out the blue carpet for athletes and stars as it celebrated its long-awaited debut on Fox television, but once he leaped over the barricade, the Gypsy King became part of the show.

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A week later, Fury cemented his feud with Braun Strowman, capped off an episode of “Raw,” and was part of a Las Vegas press conference announcing two high-profile matches for the Oct. 31 show.

If you think that’s a quick turnaround, you’re not wrong. It is.

“I was at home, minding my own business, recovering from [the Otto Wallin fight] a few weeks ago, and I got a call from one of my guys and they asked if I would be interested in fighting in WWE,” Fury told Yahoo Sports. “Of course, as soon as he said that I jumped at the chance. He asked if I would be OK coming off of the injury and I said, ‘Yeah, no problem.’ I got told about it on a Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. and I was on the plane the next day at 6 a.m.”

Although there has been a somewhat frenzied build to Fury’s match at Crown Jewel, the 6-foot-9 Englishman has long been a target of Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE’s executive vice president for talent, live events and creative.

“As Tyson was making his comeback and coming up, he was really making waves and I said this is something interesting and we should keep our eye on this,” Levesque told Yahoo Sports. “We had an opportunity come up where we thought maybe we could do something with him. The timing was just right, not only was he interested, but he said right now would be a great time to do something and it kind of happened very quickly from there.”

Since semi-retiring from in-ring competition, Levesque has become arguably the second-most influential creative force in the company, behind only his father-in-law, WWE chairman Vince McMahon. His biggest contribution has been the development of NXT, WWE’s third brand, and its performance center in Orlando, Florida.

Since semi-retiring from in-ring competition, Paul Levesque has become arguably the second-most influential creative force in WWE. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Since semi-retiring from in-ring competition, Paul Levesque has become arguably the second-most influential creative force in WWE. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Levesque “scours” the globe looking for elite athletes who may have a future in pro wrestling. For many, the physical aspect of the job isn’t what trips them up at first, it’s the ability to engage fans and promote matches and rivalries with the microphone.

While Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez — the two other crossover combat sports stars who are headlining Crown Jewel — have Paul Heyman and Rey Mysterio to serve as their mouthpieces, Fury is the rare newcomer who has exceptional microphone skills.

“When recruiting straight athletes to become WWE superstars, the first thing I look for is charisma,” Levesque said. “The athleticism, we can teach. When you find an elite-level athlete, like a Tyson Fury, that brings that level of charisma naturally [it’s great]. The truth is, in all of this, Tyson Fury is custom-made for all of this. He is the ultimate entertainer and showman. For WWE, it was a no-brainer for us when he said he had interest in it. We said, ‘Let’s go.’”

It’s a sentiment Fury agrees with — and relishes in.

“You know me, I’m a natural talker,” Fury said. “If there were world championships for talking, I’d definitely be the lineal champion at that, that’s for sure. I feel like I was almost made for this entertainment factor. I feel like this is going to be my coming-out party for the biggest entertainment show that is ever going to happen with Tyson Fury. I feel like there’s more effort and more production that goes into this fight than what goes into when I fought all of my other fights combined.”

With the window seized and Fury on board, WWE was faced with finding an opponent for the massive boxer.

The last time WWE had a boxing star take part in a match was when Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Big Show 11 years ago at “WrestleMania XXIV.” Mayweather’s size worked in his favor in selling a match against Big Show, who was billed as a 7-foot-tall, 500-pound behemoth.

In Fury’s case, his size somewhat limited the possibilities for WWE.

“When you’re the size of Tyson Fury and also happen to be the heavyweight champion of the world, you have to find the right person to even be able to stand in the ring with him,” Levesque said. “In Braun Strowman we have it, we have a formidable opponent. We have a match that people are going to look at it and say, ‘If they’re just standing there punching each other, it’s an easy Tyson Fury day, but if Braun Strowman gets a hold of him, what is he going to do?’ Those are the things you want to get going in people’s minds, you want to stoke that fire of imagination, the what-if.”

Two weeks out, Levesque describes Fury as a “fish in water” in regard to his budding WWE career. Despite Fury’s natural ability, there is still a level of comfort that the champion is being afforded during the build to this match.

Fury also needs to make sure he continues to recover from two massive cuts he suffered during the Wallin fight that required him to get 47 stitches.

“Obviously, with somebody in a position like this, Tyson has to be comfortable in what he can and is willing to do,” Levesque said. “He needs to be comfortable physically and with the things that are being said.

“We’re a very nimble and flexible company. When we decide we have someone like Tyson Fury on the line and he is ready to go, great, let’s go. There’s no time like the present. He had this window and it builds incredible hype for his rematch down the line with Deontay Wilder.”

Tyson Fury is still recovering from two massive cuts suffered in his fight with Otto Wallin. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Tyson Fury is still recovering from two massive cuts suffered in his fight with Otto Wallin. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

It remains to be seen exactly what fans will get from Fury and Strowman at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, but it’s possible that Fury, a self-described life-long WWE fan, takes very quickly to the ring. One doesn’t have to look far back to see an example of a combat sports star becoming enamored with WWE.

Ronda Rousey, who Levesque signed in 2018, skyrocketed to stardom in her first — and currently only — year in WWE. Despite stepping away last April, Rousey is expected back with the company in the future.

“I said it with Ronda, there was this whole different level of focus and this laser-like intensity that I had rarely ever seen before,” Levesque said. “There’s an emotional IQ component that comes in as well. How are people going to react to what you do when you do it? He has that in spades. This is the level of how Ronda picked it up, how Floyd picked it up. I’ve only seen that with a few people in my life.”

All signs point to this being a one-time event for Fury, and after Crown Jewel, his sights will be set on promoting the rematch with Wilder.

As quickly as the Fury-WWE partnership came together, it will all be over — for now

“It’s all been an enjoyable venture,” Fury said. “It’s been a real eye-opener to see how hard it really is. I’m going to enjoy myself, because there’s no time in life for regrets and I’m really happy I decided to do this.”

WWE Crown Jewel airs on Oct. 31 at 1 p.m ET, live on the WWE Network.

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