A Look At The WWE Network
If you’re like me and still keep tabs on professional wrestling every chance you get, you’ve probably heard a similar question from a friend at some point: isn’t the WWE kind of outdated? My first reaction when I hear this kind of question is to launch into a rant about the continued brilliance of the world’s greatest blend of drama and sport. But when I manage to restrain myself, I realize there is at least some validity to the question.
Indeed, the WWE doesn’t seem to cultivate the same mass following and regular television time that it did in the 1990s, when even people who weren’t hardcore fans could probably tell you who won The Rock’s latest fight or what’s going on with the Undertaker’s storyline. Even when I watch an event today, I have to admit it all feels a little ’90s (or at least early 2000s). But that doesn’t mean WWE doesn’t still have an enormous following (yeah, it does) or that it is in any way stuck in the past. Actually, if you’ve been paying attention, the sport has been making pretty determined strides into the present via a few new innovations.
The best of these innovations is undoubtedly the start of the WWE Network streaming service. I first started hearing whispers about WWE Network a couple months ago, after it was evidently announced at CES 2014 (which is basically a giant tech convention where companies announce cool products for the coming year), and I have to say my first thought was that it was probably an over-expensive television package. I imagined the daytime portion consisting of a dramatic “WWE NETWORK” programming ad replaying for hours and nights of dull analysis with occasional ring action.
When a few more details started to trickle out, however, I realized—or really hoped, at the time—I might be wrong. A Verizon Wireless press release from late February provided a nice rundown of the different services and benefits that WWE Network was bringing to fans, with emphasis on the content available for streaming. Basically, the network runs 24/7 and is available for both iOS and Android devices. What’s particularly cool about it, though, is its blend of past and present material.
Instead of taking up downtime between matches with ads and unnecessary analysis (as I’d predicted), WWE Network instead comes jam-packed with over 1,500 hours of old wrestling footage on demand, in addition to modern pay-per-view events and content. Yeah—that means you can dive right back into the golden age of WWE. Also, it’s only $9.99/month, which isn’t chump change, but for a true fan it’s pretty much worth every penny.
I’ve had quite a bit of time to mess with WWE Network by now, and the on-demand content is definitely the best thing about it. But another feature I’ve found I enjoy more than I expected is the network’s inclusion of star podcasts. The whole “WWE is in the past” thing actually has applied to some of the biggest names in the sport for awhile now as they sort of faded, to some extent, from the public eye. I’ve been following some of these guys on Twitter for a while now just to stay connected. Actually, some of them have pretty great Twitter accounts, with The Miz and Zeb Colter ranking among the best in my boat (though WhatCulture has a rundown of the best WWE Twitter account you might want to take a look at). At any rate, the WWE Network podcasts have become another way to stay up-to-date on the latest with big names in the sport, and it’s kind of a cool alternative to options like Twitter.
At the end of the day, the network is sort of what we’ve been waiting for as wrestling fans. I’ve personally been driven crazy by all the attention given to the E! channel‘s WWE Divas show, as it seems like sort of a cheap way to transform a pro wrestling spinoff into modern entertainment. But now the actual wrestling has an answer to the divas, and it couldn’t be more satisfying. I was pretty skeptical for a while, but I’d recommend the network to any fellow fan.