With its long-term future producing football and basketball cards in jeopardy, Panini has made a big move into another sport — or sports entertainment.
The Panini Group and WWE announced a multi-year agreement Tuesday that will make Panini the exclusive trading card and collective sticker partner of the world’s largest professional wrestling organization. The deal will begin in the first quarter of 2022 and include multiple trading card products during the first year.
Panini America, which will be responsible for developing WWE trading cards, replaces Topps as the official trading card of WWE.
The company currently holds the licensing rights to produce NFL and NBA cards, but those deals expire in 2025 and Fanatics has signed exclusive deals to produce NFL, NBA and MLB trading cards beginning in 2026, leaving both Panini and Topps looking for alternative deals and products to produce.
Panini is the second trading card company to delve into professional wrestling in the last few months. Upper Deck announced in July an exclusive deal with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the upstart company that is emerging as a rival of WWE.
Panini’s first WWE release — 2022 WWE Prizm — will coincide with WrestleMania, WWE’s biggest annual event. WrestleMania is scheduled for April 2-3 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. According to Panini, WWE trading card products will be available at mass retailers, including Walmart and Target, as well as hobby stores nationwide and online.
“We have always been intrigued by WWE as a license partner and their fans’ incredible passion,” Panini America CEO Mark Warsop said. “Our entire team is looking forward to adding WWE, a truly iconic license, to our roster of exclusive partners. We have big plans for our WWE portfolio and the new heights we can help WWE trading cards and stickers reach in the collectibles arena.”
“Panini has a 60-year history in sports and entertainment collectibles and is a leader in the trading card space throughout the U.S., as well as in Latin America, Europe and Asia,” said Scott Zanghellini, WWE Senior Vice President, Revenue Strategy & Development. “We believe that this partnership perfectly aligns our mutual interests in providing fans with exclusive collectibles and, ultimately, growing this category globally.”