Cast your mind back to Super Bowl LI. The New England Patriots are trailing the Atlanta Falcons by 25 points. An unassailable lead for the Falcons, or so it seemed. If you follow football, then you’ll know that Tom Brady and co beat the odds and the history books to run out 34-28 winners and win the Super Bowl.
What has this got to with wrestling? Well, nothing as such. But this Super Bowl was a massive live betting event. And, as CBS News reported after the game, one Vegas sportsbooks got “destroyed” by bettors throwing money at the Patriots making a comeback.
Live betting is popular, of course, as it allows bettors to react to the ebb and flow of a game. But would it be possible for sportsbooks to pair up the in-play markets for wrestling events? It’s not an easy question to answer.
Scripted outcome shouldn’t be an issue
The first thing to look at is the obvious elephant in the room – the scripted nature of pro wrestling. You wouldn’t really call this an insurmountable problem, given that betting on most high-profile matches is now possible online. For instance, given 30 seconds on the internet right now, you could easily pull up odds for Kenny Omega vs Jon Moxley, or the WWE Royal Rumble matches in January.
Predetermined outcomes don’t bother sportsbooks. They will be careful of the events that they select, and it’s usually just PPV matches or high-profile television matches like the aforementioned Omega vs Moxley title bout.
Indeed, we would argue that it’s not the scripting of wrestling matches, but the suddenness of how it can come to an end that puts bookmakers off going live and in-play with wrestling betting. In tennis or football, for example, there is always a chance to pause after a scoring play; you can sense a comeback or an inevitable victory. But sportsbooks manage to pull it off with sports similar to pro wrestling.
Wrestling can compare with MMA and boxing
The best comparison to make would be with boxing or MMA, both of which have live betting markets from sportsbooks. With the latter, for instance, experts can talk you through how to pick underdogs on a live UFC card as the event unfolds, and we all know that an MMA fight can end in the blink of an eye. Any fighter can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, so there are comparisons to be made with wrestling.
So, if bookmakers can do it for UFC and boxing, why not wrestling? A few reasons. For one, there are arguably too many variables. Consider what would happen in Moxley vs Omega if another wrestler suddenly appears at ringside? Most likely, the live betting would be suspended. Bookmakers offer uncertainty to their clients, but they crave certainty when deciding on odds, and a run-in for a screwy finish would not sit well with the actuary team at the sportsbook.
Another area to think about is the demand. Pro wrestling is popular, but it’s not as if it has Super Bowl levels of interest when it comes to betting. Creating live betting markets is not easy, and it takes manpower to conduct a live betting event. Indeed, sportsbooks will often have someone in the stadium or arena so they can instantly know when to suspend the markets and get those crucial few seconds head start on the television viewers. Would live betting on wrestling have enough bettors to justify the outlay for sportsbooks? It’s debatable.
To be fair, the limited amount of wrestling betting available is fine as it is. Could you imagine how annoyed you would be if you suddenly lost your bet due to some contrived DQ finish from the AEW or WWE creative teams? You’d feel cheated. Having a handful of betting markets on big events should be more than enough for wrestling fans. And, they can always bet live on the Super Bowl.