Career Development Connects Student with an Alum in Wrestling Entertainment
Senior Abbie Smith was writing an article for the Daily Beacon about the College of Communication and Information’s Center for Career Development’s drop-in hours and realized that she had some questions about her own career development. As an English major and Journalism and Electronic Media minor, Smith has a keen interest in a creative writing career—but she also has her eye on working in a niche area: entertainment wrestling.
It seemed like a slim chance that there would be much information on how to get into that specific field, but as Smith was interviewing the Center’s director, Devan Lane, they began talking about Smith’s aspirations.
“I told Devan that I was very interested in the world of professional wrestling and she showed me Connect UT and said, ‘Let’s search and see what happens.’ and Shane Emerson (’06), head of Global Programming & Partnerships at All Elite Wrestling came up,” Smith said.
Both Smith and Lane were excited to see Emerson, an alumnus of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, pop up in the UT Alumni Foundation’s new endeavor to connect current students with alumni who can provide networking and mentorship opportunities. Smith immediately reached out through Connect UT and soon enough the two were talking on the phone about what it would take for the aspiring writer to get into the wrestling industry.
For his part, Emerson was thrilled Smith reached out to him and was impressed with her dedication to both school and work. He said when he was a student 15 years ago, there weren’t many students talking about being behind the camera and working in production. Almost everyone else in his classes wanted to be in front of the camera, but he knew that wasn’t his calling.
Emerson first started learning the ins-and-outs of production after finishing an internship with a post-production company in Knoxville. He was talking with his parents about his future, and they asked if he had enjoyed the internship—he told them he had loved it. They encouraged him to seek out a summer internship, which he did at Deaton Flanigen Productions and Picture Vision Pictures in Nashville. He garnered experience working shows such as CMA Fest, the Grammy’s, and the Billboards, and the company offered him a job as a production assistant after he graduated.
While he gained a lot of knowledge and experience there, Emerson jumped at the chance to work at Anthem Sports and Entertainment when the Toronto-based company decided to open shop in Nashville. It provided the perfect chance for Emerson to enter into sports entertainment.
After Anthem asked Emerson to move to Toronto, he declined to stay in his homestate and he began working for Ramsey Solutions to scale up their overall production for television and distribution opportunities. Then, he started hearing about the new wrestling entertainment company in town: All Elite Wrestling. They needed someone with experience in international programming, and that was exactly his area of expertise. He started as a contractor with AEW, but once he landed a deal for them with Warner Brothers Discovery in India, they gave him a full-time position.
“It’s been fantastic ever since. AEW’s homebase is in Jacksonville, but we have a small office in Nashville where we do post-production and have animators, designers, video editors, audio engineers, and myself. It’s just been really great,” he said.
Looking back, Emerson said if he’d had a mentor or more guidance and knowledge around the various jobs in the sports entertainment industry, he believes his path would have been a bit more direct. Which is one of the main reasons he signed up for Connect UT when he learned about the program.
“It was tough for a while because I didn’t have a true mentor or guidance coming out of school, so I figure if I can help someone learn about the path that I took, that would be great, because I didn’t have a true roadmap. I didn’t have a whole lot of guidance directly, but I found it eventually. So when the UT Connect opportunity came up, I wanted to do it,” Emerson said. “For me, there was no one that sat me aside and said, this is roughly how it’s supposed to go or what you need to do to get to that place. So if I can give back and give graduating students some of my experience and what to do or what not to do, I’m happy to share those experiences and help wherever I can.”
Smith said Emerson provided a lot of information and context around the industry and that she definitely has a better grasp around what type of experience she should get in order to eventually land her dream job: writing scripts for wrestling shows.
“All of wrestling is scripted. Who fights who, and who wins, is predetermined; the character stories, back stories, the relationships between everyone, it is all written. It’s a soap opera with wrestling, it makes for good tv, and it’s super fun,” she said. “There’s also documentaries and stuff that they make all the time and I’m kind of obsessed with that, and even being in production would be a huge thing for me.”
After speaking with Emerson, Smith said she now has a clearer idea of what she should do to beef up her resume, such as completing an internship at a larger television station. He also told her to give him a call back once she does get some experience and he could connect her with AEW’s creative director. Overall, she’s really glad that gathering information for an article ended with an opportunity to learn more about the industry she wants to enter.
“It’s nice to have the option to chat with Shane. It was great, it was really cool and unexpected,” she said. “I think if a student does not know what to do, going to Career Development is a good idea because it gives you an opportunity to practice interviewing for a job, or checking your resume to make sure it looks good enough for you to be hired. It’s a resource people don’t know about as much, but I think it’s really helpful and people should take advantage of it. And you might go on Connect UT and find someone.”