WWE signs 15 college athletes to NIL deals, eyes developmental pipeline

WWE has signed 15 college athletes, including some with substantial social media followings, to name, image and likeness contracts, the pro-wrestling promotion said Wednesday.

WWE hopes to use the NCAA's new NIL rules as a way to form a pipeline for its developmental system. The promotion said each deal "provides a clear pathway from collegiate athletics to WWE." The athletes in the program, which is called "Next in Line," come from four sports: wrestling, football, basketball and track and field.

In addition to financial compensation, the signees will get special access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, which has resources in "brand building, media training, communications, live-event promotion, creative writing and community relations." In exchange, the athletes will endorse WWE on social media and elsewhere.

"Upon completion of the NIL program, select athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract," the news release said.

Among the signees are the Cavinder twins, Haley and Hanna, who play on the Fresno State women's basketball team. Combined, they have nearly 700,000 Instagram followers, and their joint TikTok account has almost 4 million. AJ Ferrari, an Oklahoma State wrestler and NCAA national champion nicknamed "Mr. Fast Twitch," was also signed. He has nearly 70,000 Instagram followers.

The others signed: Ohio State track and field athlete Carlos Aviles, Duke women's basketball player Lexi Gordon, Wake Forest women's track and field athlete Aleeya Hutchins, Portland State football player John Krahn, LSU football player Glen Logan, Alabama track and field athlete Isaac Odugbesan, Michigan wrestler Mason Parris, Kentucky women's track and field athlete Masai Russell, Elon football player Jon Seaton, Northwestern football player Joe Spivak, Arkansas football player Dalton Wagner and Alabama women's track and field athlete Riley White.