Thursday, February 26, 2015

WWE Network--The First Year

Let's go back to one year ago.  The Winter Olympics had just ended, winter weather here in the northeast was beginning to wane, and WWE Network was born. In the weeks leading up to the launch, all wrestling fans were discussing just exactly how WWE Network would impact their wrestling viewing.  Even here on the blog I brought up the ways that it could possibly impact collecting. The first day was rough, with servers crashing due to volume of sign-ups. I, myself, even lashed out at a friend when he accessed the page and I didn't! Even after one was finally able to become a subscriber, various problems kept the always complaining Internet wrestling fans well stocked with ammunition.  On my end it was the inability to watch any on demand programming without the shows coming to a crashing halt.

After the first few weeks the initial kinks were fixed and focus shifted to WrestleMania paranoia.  How would the biggest show of the year fare as the first such undertaking on the Network? Would the servers be able to handle the high number watching? What would WWE do in case of a mishap? Rumors even circulated that some fans would purchase the event via traditional pay-per-view "just in case."  Needless to say, WrestleMania XXX on WWE Network went down without any widely-reported problems.

One year later and WWE Network has proven to be well.worth the ever-pushed $9.99 per month.  No matter what you look for in wrestling, you'll find something worthwhile.  Even the most jaded fan, still holding onto their grainy, Clash of the Champions videos taped off of TBS should find solace in the Network.  They can see those specials, and tons of other shows, in unheard of quality.

Even with all of the pluses, there are still areas that could use some major improvement.  There is still an untapped, albeit small, market that wants nothing but old territorial shows and matches. We've seen a recent trend towards these shows, but if the Network started regularly airing some of these shows in order (some may be a tad incomplete due to condition), they may very well latch onto some new consumers.

Another area that needs addressed is the live feed.  With everything available at any time on demand, is there really a need for a 24/7 live feed?  Why not just "switch it on" when actual live content is being presented?  Is it an ego thing?  Was it such a dream of the company to have a nonstop network that they keep it up for vanity?  At the very least, I would put more thought into the programming than what goes into it now. Sure, WWE will throw past WrestleMania events up at WrestleMania season and that sort of thing, but that isn't enough. Triple H recently referenced the first Clash of the Champions event.  Why not air that?  If events in the current product can be accentuated by things out of the past, program them for the Network and have a programming note during Raw that you can "relive" this reference or that moment.  It's not that difficult.

Most everything that has been added has stayed (I hope that the treasures in the Black History Month section don't disappear in March) and some things have even been improved upon.  Many WCW shows were "fixed" once WWE fully had the rights to certain themes.  It would be nice if they would go back and do the same for some WWF shows with the same issue.

My last, but least worrisome gripe is with the search function.  As it stands it is incomplete, difficult to navigate, and generally worthless.  Most of the time I watch full shows anyway, but with the addition of more and more episodes of various shows, it would be nice to know who pops up.  Along the same lines, a "Newly Added" menu wouldn't be a bad idea either.  I can only see so many "Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan welcome the WWE Universe to more Prime Time Wrestling" descriptions before I forget if I've seen the episode or not.

So far, WWE Network has been doing a whole heckuva lot right.  It's great for throwing on as background noise or settling in and enjoying an entire event.  This is how we will know wrestling for the foreseeable future.  I wouldn't toss those DVDs just yet, but hopefully WWE Network keeps all of this content available to us for a long, long time. Originally, this entry was to end with a question as to why us early adopters have not been rewarded for our loyalty. After all, newbies have had a ton of "#FreeFreeFree" deals. Just before press time, WWE began to send out gifts via e-mail to us "lifers." Icing on the cake for those of us who have been pleased with the product.

On a note unrelated to the Network, this week also marked a sad anniversary in professional wrestling.  February 22, 2015 was forty years to the day of the tragic plane crash that killed Bobby Shane and injured Buddy Colt, Austin Idol, and Gary Hart.  By and large, Shane's contributions to the wrestling world are unknown to fans my age and younger.  Some of us have sought out to learn more about him, and I dedicated an entry of this blog to him late last year.  Hopefully, the original "King of Wrestling" will never be truly forgotten.

Bobby Shane * August 25, 1945-February 22, 1975

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