It’s been two weeks since WWE released the WWE Network. An idea that’s been around for years, WWE’s been wanting to find a way to make money off their extensive video library and the DVD releases just haven’t been cutting it. Originally, the Network was going to be an actual television channel, but cable providers told WWE to go fuck off, turning the entire concept into a running gag amongst the fans. It kept getting delayed over and over to the point that nobody really expected it to ever happen.
Then they changed the concept and made it a Netflix-like streaming channel. After the press conference to announce how it worked, I must have seen a record number of people posting that image macro of Fry yelling, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” I had the same mindset.
The sell is that the WWE Network is $10 a month (you have to agree to six months at a time) of streaming video that you can access via computers, game consoles, phones, tablets, etc. You get every single WWE/WCW/ECW PPV, lots of old shows, replays of more recent shows, original programming and every live PPV in HD. There would always be something playing on the feed, but you can check out pretty much anything on demand. That’s an insane deal. So how has it stacked up?
It went live two weeks ago and experienced the expected rough beginning. For the first day, it was extremely difficult to sign up for the service. While the live streaming worked out fine, it was nearly impossible to get an entire show when watching the on demand material. That appeared to be a fault in their setup, which they’ve since fixed. After the second day, things have mostly run smoothly.
The Xbox 360 app has famously been a disaster. For a week, nobody was able to log in. Now you can log in, but it’s missing the search function as well as a ton of PPVs. You can’t access any of the WCW or ECW PPVs, as well as any Wrestlemania that isn’t 29. Hopefully they fix this soon, especially considering I like to have this on in the background on my TV.
Although they claimed that all their PPV stuff would be uncensored, that’s mostly a lie. Sure, Booker T still accidentally drops the n-bomb back in that 1996 WCW PPV, but lots of nudity and curse words are taken out. For the most part, it’s understandable. A lot of shows were already prepared due to the now-defunct WWE On-Demand service and they were all cleaned up for that. That’s why WWE is totally allowed to play old footage of people calling the company “WWF” now, but a lot of clips blank it out anyway because they were prepared years back when that embargo was in effect. Also, there’s the music issues, especially with ECW. I’ve heard that most of New Jack’s matches have been removed, mainly because he’d spend the ENTIRE match with “Natural Born Killers” playing.
Then there’s the problem with NXT ArRIVAL, the PPV put together for WWE’s developmental promotion. As an early stress test, they did the show live to see how the servers would handle it. With 20 minutes left, things went to hell and there were serious issues. Considering Wrestlemania is coming up in a few weeks with no major live shows ahead of it, it’s iffy on whether or not that show will actually be watchable via the Network on the first go.
Despite all of that, the Network is AWESOME. It is so goddamn awesome and if you ever enjoyed wrestling, get on it. As mentioned, you get hundreds of PPVs at your fingertips and a lot of random shows from the past. They put more stuff up by the day, but right now it’s mostly old Raws from the first year of its existence, Madison Square Garden house shows from the 70’s-to-early-90’s, WCCW shows, ECW Hardcore TV and that Smackdown where Arnold Schwartzenegger showed up to beat up Triple H. They’ve also been putting up the documentary stuff from the DVDs they’ve been releasing, like a biographical look at Steve Austin or a lengthy interview where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels clear the air about their old real-life hatred for each other.
They also have Legends Roundtable, a show where a bunch of old wrestling personalities would sit around and discuss whatever topic for an hour or so. One of the ones listed now is about Mean Gene, Michael Hayes, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Pat Patterson discussing the worst characters in wrestling history. It’s wonderful. For the first time in my life, I’m able to watch the Shockmaster’s tragic debut in great quality and it completes me.
The original programming is fantastic so far. I mean, the Raw and Smackdown pre and post shows I can take or leave. A half hour before and after the shows, you can see a roundtable discussion about what’s going on mixed with backstage interviews. Usually these interviews would only be hidden on WWE’s YouTube page, which is a shame, since a lot of them are really good.
Wrestlemania Rewind is a show where each week they spotlight a different Wrestlemania match. They’d spend about a half hour in documentary style, explaining the lead-up, then they’d show the match itself. So far they’ve only done the main events for Wrestlemania 1 (Hogan and Mr. T vs. Piper and Orndorff) and Wrestlemania 3 (Hogan vs. Andre).
WWE Countdown is basically your average VH1 talking heads show ala I Love the 80’s, only counting down a topic voted on by the fans. So far we’ve had Top 10 Catchphrases and Top 10 Entrances. One of the highlights is Daniel Bryan showing confusion over John Cena’s, “You can’t see me!” catchphrase because, no, he CAN see him. He’s standing right there and wearing bright colors! He is in no way invisible!
One of the shows coming down the pipeline is Legends House, where a bunch of old wrestlers do a Real World deal. It will feature Roddy Piper and Hillbilly Jim LARPing. Lord have mercy.
All the newer footage is in HD, including the live PPVs. They’ve also been using the Network as a way to see NXT, which is something I’ve been meaning to do on a regular basis to begin with. The ArRIVAL show was pretty amazing.
The whole thing is a radical concept and I really hope it works out for WWE. Sure, their insistence of a Batista vs. Orton main event on the biggest show of the year puts a bad taste in my mouth, but at least I can go rewatch this year’s Royal Rumble where the crowd verbally shits all over Batista for ten minutes straight. Their booking has been scattershot, but this strategy should be rewarded.
If you have even the slightest interest in wrestling, join the bandwagon because it’s pretty sweet and the price is a steal. I’m finding a lot of people are using it as an excuse to relive the utterly fascinating and laughably terrible final years of WCW and I really can’t blame them.
Meanwhile, my buddy Bearnt! uploaded a clip from one of the MSG shows. Here’s Roddy Piper delivering the weakest chair shot I have ever seen in my life.