Now that the instantaneous reactions regarding the WWE Network announcement have passed, six weeks of waiting for the launch of the product leads to plenty of time for armchair quarterbacking, and planning. One of the most thrilling aspects of the announcement on Wednesday was the sheer volume of content initially provided for the $9.99 per month price point. For somebody like me, this can be a blessing and a curse. After watching the press event and conversing with friends and fellow PTB Nation staff members, a familiar sensation of excitement crossed with anxiety fell over me: where in the world would I begin? Starting in the 1990s, there has been a lot of research on the paradox of choice, the phenomenon that, when faced with so many options, people can start to shut down. It’s an odd place to be (cheap pop) when dealing with the simplistic hobby of professional wrestling, but I found my thoughts racing from 1994 WCW PPVs, early World Class episodes, infamous WWE matches from my dark period or the thrill of being able to start chronologically, a la Justin and Scott’s Vintage Vaults. In addition, how can I manage this shiny new toy without spiraling into a hyper-focus of wrestling, ignoring other aspects of my life, similar to those immersed in the artificial realms of MMOGs? And, as I discussed with Andrew Riche the other night, do we lose one of the best parts of wrestling, the social response to our shared experiences?
From the WWE’s perspective, the internal dialogue has to center on how to get traditional fans to not only make the initial purchase, but to continue their subscriptions. While the PPV library is vast, they will need to maintain consistent programming updates to keep their customers’ excitement level going. I was an initial subscriber to Ring of Honor’s Ringside Membership, which included unlimited streaming of television episodes and selected DVDs, merchandise discounts and early access to ticket sales. Although originally a good value, the company stopped adding older events to the library, lessening its worth to me as a viewer. The WWE’s historical content and ability to create more original offerings clearly overwhelms those of its smaller competitors. During the network’s announcement, there was no mention of other companies that the WWE owns footage for besides the “Big Three”, including Mid-South and World Class Championship Wrestling. My assumption is that this was intentional, allowing the flexibility of a future rollout to hang onto subscribers, especially the older fans such as myself.
Originally, I questioned the thought process behind the potential hemorrhaging of the television, PPV and DVD buying audiences, wondering how this network might affect future television contracts. However, the genius of this model is keeping everything in-house, and then new partnerships may grow. I’m already contemplating how I will setup my new account. Will I hook my laptop to the television via USB while I wait for a potential rollout of the teased smart TV application, or will I jump right in and purchase a Google ChromeCast or Roku box? Surely cross-promotional opportunities exist regarding various hardware platforms. And, sure, traditional PPV buys will take a dramatic hit, but weren’t they already in a freefall anyhow? Though it will never outwardly be stated by the company, or even most wrestling reporters, I’m certain that the thought behind the $9.99 price point is that it may be low enough to lure in those thousands of “fans” who watch illegal streams.
For now, the wait and the plans are all we have, but in a mere month and a half, those with a little extra scratch will have a myriad of wrestling goodness at their fingertips. My advice for everybody involved: in between planning your viewing options and scheduling screening parties with friends, don’t forget to arrange some time for your spouse and kids. You may not be seeing them for a while…
Top Stories of the Week
- The Animal is Back – Early in 2014, WWE revealed that Batista had agreed to make a full-time return to the company starting with the January 20 Monday Night Raw. While it was initially thought that the big man would be in for a sporadic run through WrestleMania XXX, it looks like this return will be a bit more intensive. Word is that Batista will be working a full schedule, including PPV, TV and house shows, and will remain with the company until he has to take time off to promote his new movie Guardians of the Galaxy, which hits theaters on August 1st. It now certainly seems that the Animal will remain with the company through SummerSlam, with the understanding that his appearances will taper as the movie promotion kicks into high gear, but ramp back up in their aftermath. For a company starved for star power, Batista’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. When we last saw him, he was wheelchair bound and publicly quit the company on the May 24, 2010 episode of Raw. Many fans were sad at the time, as Batista was in the midst of a stellar heel run and feud with John Cena. Nearly four years later, he makes his return, but we will have to assume it will be in his more familiar face role when you consider the warm welcome he is likely to receive as well as the lack of top star power in the company. On Monday’s Raw, it was announced that Batista will compete in the Royal Rumble, which takes place on January 26th in Pittsburgh. It will be his first WWE PPV appearance since 2010’s Over the Limit. Rumors are also swirling that he may win the titular match and head to WrestleMania as the number one contender for the WWE World title.
- Close Call – It was a busy week for head injuries in the world of wrestling. First, at the Ring of Honor show in Nashville over the weekend, AJ Styles made his return to the company and battled Roderick Strong in a highly anticipated matchup. Towards the end of the bout, Styles set Strong up for his patented Styles Clash, however Strong incorrectly tucked his head at the last moment, leading to an ugly scene. Thanks to a miracle, Strong was not seriously injured, but the move was a grotesque reminder of how dangerous the business can be and how things can change on any given night.
- Not As Lucky – Unfortunately, another wrestling star was not as lucky this past week, as Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion in a match with Ryback that was filmed on Monday night for this week’s episode of Superstars. Reports from the arena claim that Ziggler was injured due to a sloppy clothesline from Ryback. This development is a huge blow to the careers of both men. This is Ziggler’s second diagnosed concussion in less than a year. He suffered the first on the May 7, 2013 SmackDown, an injury that derailed his World Heavyweight Title run and kept him frustratingly sidelined for more than a month. As it has been well written about in recent years, the more concussions you suffer, the harder the recovery and prevention can become. For a wrestler with as much promise as Ziggler, it will be very sad if he is forced into an early retirement or a career plagued with head trauma after this most recent blow. As for Ryback, he already had a poor reputation when it came to ring safety and has seen his push severely stunted since the fall. You have to assume this latest faux pas won’t do him any favors and it is starting to feel like he is on borrowed time with WWE.
- Styles Cash – AJ Styles is also in the news taking place outside of the ring, as the wrestling world continues to wonder where he will settle down. After leaving TNA, where he was a top-level star since the company’s inception in the summer of 2002, Styles has been working for various Indy promotions, including a turn with Ring of Honor this past weekend. Initially, it seemed as if the contract issue was part of an on-screen storyline, where Styles was in the middle of an ongoing angle with TNA head honcho Dixie Carter. However, when the date came and the two sides could not agree on money, Styles walked. It also seems as if the resignation of Jeff Jarrett from TNA played a role, as Styles took that as a sure sign of severe turbulence within the company. I honestly think it is the best move for both sides. Styles is a great performer, but if TNA is having money issues, at this point they are best served to look at other, cheaper, options to develop into stars. If they haven’t become a top-level promotion with Styles at this point, he is unlikely to ever lead them there. Conversely, if Styles isn’t happy with the pay, he has earned the right to work elsewhere. He has nothing left to prove in the Impact Zone and owes the company nothing at this point. I am not sure he will ever end up in WWE, but with his name value, he can make a great living on the Indy circuit and in ROH, where is highly revered, and make his own schedule from here on out.
Partial credit to WrestleChat.net, WrestleZone.com and Thehistoryofwwe.com