The WWE is a very healthy business. We actually know this because, unlike any other major North American sports league or organization, the pro wrestling body of record is a public company.
Let's take a look at the eye-popping numbers.
• Revenues grew by more than 20 percent last year to an all-time record of $658 million.
• With its "Raw" and "SmackDown Live" franchises, combined with its developmental NXT, the company put on 273 live events in the U.S. alone, where 1.6 million people paid an average of $53.22 to get into the arena.
Putting those numbers into greater perspective, the WWE -- considered to be a touring business -- sold more tickets in 2015 than Fleetwood Mac, Maroon 5, Def Leppard and Ariana Grande, according to entertainment business tracking firm Pollstar.
• Two-thirds of the company's revenue comes from media, which was worth $231.1 million last year, including more than $130 million in TV rights deals that will grow to $235 million by 2018.
• Raw counts as the longest-running weekly episodic program in prime-time TV history, on the air since 1993. "We have more of a female audience than people think," said WWE chief strategy and financial officer George Barrios. "As much as 40 percent of our fans are women, which is lower than the U.S. population at 52 percent, but if you think of sheer numbers, we have more women watching our shows than Oxygen and Lifetime."
• The WWE Network has 1.5 million subscribers paying $9.99 a month to get live fight content as well as archival footage and scripted and reality shows. To put that into context, the only direct-to-consumer content businesses that surpass that are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Major League Baseball. It's the WWE's second-biggest business, but is its fastest growing.
• Net revenues from the WWE Network rose from $69.5 million to $138.8 million from 2014 to 2015, and because pay-per-view events are included in the network subscription, pay-per-view, a $82.5 million business in 2013, dropped to $20.6 million in 2015.
• WWE is the No. 1 most-subscribed-to YouTube channel in the "sports" category, with more than 12 million fans taking in more than 10 billion video views in the past year. "In 2010, Vince [McMahon] sat down our executive team and challenged us every day to be a little bit more digital, a little by more direct to consumer and a little bit more global," Barrios said. "Five years ago, our business was 5 percent digital. It's now 33 percent. Our international business is up 40 percent and now makes up 26 percent of our sales."
• Vince McMahon made $3.3 million in total compensation last year, which is peanuts compared to the 39.2 million shares of stock he owns, which was worth $800 million when the market opened Wednesday. Paul "Triple H" Levesque, his son-in-law, made $3.1 million in 2015. Levesque's wife, Stephanie McMahon, even though she is the chief brand officer, is not listed as being compensated as an executive, although she does own 1.9 million shares (as of April), which are worth $38.6 million today. According to the WWE, the average main-roster performer earns $500,000, with top performers earning in the seven figures annually.
• In 2015, the WWE made $49 million off licensing and another $49 million of in-venue and online merchandise sales. Only "Star Wars" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" merchandise beat out WWE in the action figure sales category. WWE, not the athletes themselves, has the rights to file to get a trademark for names used in the ring to be able to license that to merchandise producers.
• John Cena is the most-followed North American athlete on Facebook. His Facebook fan page has 42.2 million likes, which is a million more than what LeBron James (23 million), Maria Sharapova (15.5 million) and Tom Brady (3.7 million) have combined.
• The organization created The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), who has grown into Hollywood's biggest action hero.
• Talent development has turned into a massive operation with the WWE Performance Center, where 80 percent of the current roster of athletes have been involved in some way. The company is starting to showcase more raw talent like Bin Wang of China and is using the development center to help build a character with great moves and good oratory skills. One step up is NXT, which is an ideal training ground for the wrestlers to get practical experience in front of more intimate crowds as well as allow the WWE to gauge the response of those crowds.
Now let's take a look at the challenges:
• The only numbers that are not public are what the WWE pays its talent. It does not break out the dollar figures either on salary or revenue split with larger stars, and Barrios said the company has no plan to do so. There's no wrestlers' union, but with Vince McMahon in ultimate control of the plot lines, it's hard to believe wrestlers could rise in power enough to even create one.
• McMahon's longevity is the biggest material risk to the business, and the company even advises shareholders of this fact. Sure, his kids Shane and Stephanie have learned the business and have even become characters like their father. Triple H is firmly entrenched in growing the organization's talent pool. But McMahon has more singular power than any head of any sports organization on the planet. He owns nearly 50 percent of Class B voting stock, but he's getting up in years, turning 71 at the end of the month.
• McMahon's power understood, the WWE is under more outside pressure than any other major sports organization in that there are investors, who aren't necessarily fans, who want to see the numbers grow. Shares rose to their all-time highs after the WWE Network was launched in February 2014. But two months later -- skeptical about forsaking the traditional pay-per-view model for a monthly subscription service -- shares had dropped by 63.5 percent. Today, shares are hovering around a two-year high. So why does McMahon, worth more than $1 billion, subject himself to the woes of Wall Street? "Vince appreciates the rigor of what it means to be a public company," Barrios said.
• The WWE boasts huge international growth numbers, especially in India. The question is, can those regions be monetized?
• The risk associated with athletes is injury, like Seth Rollins recently having to give up his title after a knee injury forced him out of action, but unlike, say, the UFC, the WWE can control the narrative. That makes it easier to make transitions on bad injuries or even a fighter leaving the sport.
The WWE is a robust business that has become one of the more interesting companies in the world. We don't get to see behind the curtain when it comes to plot lines, but being able to see the financials more than any organization in North American sports gives us a fascinating peek at how a juggernaut in today's world has to shift its business and cater to the whims of society.