by Brian Lipton

ContendersWhen longtime entrepreneur Jonathan Snyder walked into TankFarm, a small men’s boutique in Seal Beach, California two years ago, he didn’t expect his life to change. But he noticed a pair of underwear he liked called Contenders; soon, he bought the name, hired TankFarm co-owners Mike and John Anderson to be partners and designers, and began the brand’s reinvention.

Now, after completing a successful licensing deal last year with MGM for a line of boxer briefs based on imagery and styles from the hit Rocky series of films (including its recent sequel Creed), Contenders has partnered with the WWE to create a co-branded exclusive collection of WWE-inspired boxer briefs. They will officially debut at the Collective in Las Vegas (February 21-23).

“We’re honored to be making the first deal of this kind with WWE, one of the largest and most respected sports and entertainment brands in the world,” says Snyder. “Our brand’s ethos of strength and determination perfectly matches that of the WWE; it was a natural fit and we’re looking forward to sharing this collection with potential retail partners.”

Appearing at trade shows is very important to the brand, which is based in Las Vegas, especially as it tries to expand its distribution from e-commerce and smaller stores to larger retailers. “Someday, maybe we’ll have a whole display at Macy’s,” says Snyder. “I think there’s a niche in the market for underwear that falls between boring and high-fashion.”

The WWE Contenders Collection, which includes both adult (up to XXL) and youth-sized boxer briefs, will feature imagery associated with past and present WWE stars, including John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Randy Savage and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Pairs come in WWE exclusive packaging imprinted with the WWE Championship title, and each package will contain a limited edition collector’s card. (Pricing has yet to be finalized, although most current Contenders briefs sell for $15-$20 a pair.) “One of the things that’s great about this deal is that WWE actually owns the rights to all its characters,” says Snyder.

No mere novelty brand, all Contenders’ products feature its celebrated RideControl technology, Jacquarded waistband, stamped tags, adjustment control, and ultra-comfortable fabrics blended from polyester and spandex. There’s also a small line of T-shirts, and the company is expanding into hoodies, bags, and other athleisure staples.

In addition, Snyder is serious about the brand’s philanthropic component, Everyday Contenders, in which $1 from the sale of boxer briefs go towards supporting a particular cause, family or person in order help them in their fight to overcome odds or challenges they are facing.  The next “Everyday Contender” has not been chosen, and Snyder says the company is definitely open to submissions.

The company also hopes to partner with other sports organizations, although nothing specific is in the works. “The World Cup is back in 2018; maybe it’s the perfect time to get involved with soccer,” says Snyder.