Sunday, March 2, 2014

WWE Network

 The WWE has been talking about starting their own network for nearly a decade now, and, as of this past Monday, they've finally done it. I signed up immediately, and my free week ends tomorrow.....Is it worth keeping the $9.99 a month (With mandatory six-month commitment) service...?

 Considering the fact that you get every monthly pay-per-view event thrown in as a part of the package, of course it's worth keeping. I used to be a HUGE wrestling fan, but sometime around the beginning of the advent of John Cena, and the kiddyfying (Yeah, I just made that up, but it feels so right!) of the WWE, I dropped off, and I'm only recently starting to get back into the product, thanks to guys like Daniel Bryan, The Shield, and The Wyatts, all of whom are delivering matches that are just plain exciting to watch. I used to buy EVERY pay-per-view event...ECW, WWE, WCW....but I stopped getting them about 10 years ago, and I haven't bought one since I met my Wife, had kids, bought a house, etc. The value for the money laid out has just not been good enough. However...there have been a few occasions, notably when an old favorite like The Rock or Mick Foley is appearing on a PPV, that I have been severely tempted to buy in. I've even had my Wife's blessing, since she knows how much I love Mick Foley. But cooler (Cheaper) heads have always prevailed. Shelling out between $50 and $75 to see the one or two matches that interest me is insane. Now, if there's one good match on a PPV, it won't cost me anything extra to watch it. So that alone is enough to recommend subscribing to the WWE Network. Hell, getting Wrestlemania next month is enough to justify the whole six-month commitment.

 Beyond that first six months...? I'm not sure. It would depend on how much original and behind-the-scenes programming WWE puts up. They have an insane library of PPV's available right off the bat. Every WCW, WWE, and ECW PPV is waiting to be streamed. They have a small amount of "Old School wrestling cards available from the 1980's, a search feature that I've barely begun to explore that seems to feature a huge quantity of matches and segments, old ECW and WCCW TV episodes, some truly great behind-the-scenes programming, such as a two-hour Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels sit-down, moderated by the amazing Jim Ross, "The Legends of Wrestling", a round-table discussion moderated by "Mean" Gene Okerlund, featuring a who's who of classic talent, and "Wrestlemania Rewind", which peels back the curtain on Wrestlemanias past. "Legends House", a comedic spin on The Real World and Big Brother, starring old Wrestlers amd wrestling personalities living together, debuts next month, and looks hilarious.

 It's the "Wrestlemania Rewind" that gave me my first taste of potential problems with the network. (Make no mistake, this first week has been plagued with technical problems, most of which the WWE has been quick to address, if not outright fix. My first disappointment was the fact that the network does not support viewing on the Nintendo Wii. Then came the nightmare of signing up for the free week, which was a mess on that first day. Then the awful mess of getting the WWE app on my Kindle Fire. Then the PPV library wouldn't stream.
Then nothing worked. Then you couldn't pause, look ahead or back....annoying stuff, but considering it's barely been a week, and I'm sitting here watching Wrestlemania III with no problems whatsoever, they've come a long way in that short week. The real test will be seeing if they can handle potentially millions of viewers streaming Wrestlemania all at once on April 6th. If they screw that up, subscribers are going to be PISSED.) That first potential problem is the tendency towards revisionist history. Watching Wrestlemania Rewind, I noticed that the sound had been tweaked to remove Hulk Hogan's "Eye of The Tiger" theme, and replacing it with "Real American", which hadn't even been recorded at that point. The entrance music is a big part of my insane nostalgia, and if they're going to edit/tinker with the entrance music of Hogan, JYD, Ricky Steamboat, and all of the others who used licensed music that the WWE is too cheap to pay for, that'll take a lot of the glow off of the nostalgia angle. As much as it pains me to admit it, my favorite iteration of The Undertaker is his biker-era, and losing the (Cringe!) Limp Bizkit "Rollin" theme song would absolutely suck.
To their credit, however, they're left in the matches of Chris Benoit, who had previously been scrubbed from the records of the WWE. (Benoit tragically murdered his Wife and Son, and took his own life.) What Benoit did was terrible, but I don't think that everything that he accomplished in life should be wiped out  by his final actions.

 I'm sitting here watching, nearly 30 years later, the first three matches of Wrestlemania III, which I have never seen before. (I accompanied my best friend Bryan and his Sister Jennifer to Madison Square Garden to watch it on closed-circuit television, and a surprise snowstorm shut down the subways, which forced us to take a cab from The Bronx to MSG...we missed the first two matches entirely, and the first part of the third, something that has bothered me TO THIS DAY, as crazy as that must seem.) Today, I'm finally scratching that nearly three decades old itch...and isn't that worth $9.99 a month?

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