The WWE Network launched yesterday morning at 9. Essentially for $60 you get unlimited access to the WWE TV archives, along with every pay-per-view and a bunch of original WWE programming. But is it worth the price?
In the words of Daniel Bryan, “YES! YES! YES!” I was in as soon as it was announced. If you were planning on ordering Wrestlemania 30 and you have a console or computer you can stream to your TV, it’s a no brainer. And you have for six months, so SummerSlam will also be included. What? You’re still not convinced, fine, how about I watch as much of WWE Network as I can and review it in progress.
I’ll be streaming WWE Network through my PS3, but will also check it out on my iPad and iPhone for comparison. On the console the home page will let you jump into the “live” feed of the networks channel, or using tabs at the top you can browse individual shows, check the upcoming schedule or do a manual search. The search function has a lot to be desired and I will get into that later. It’s about the same with an iOS app, but you can actually see a lot more icons when browsing.
Well, Monday Night RAW is wrapping up … let’s get this party started!
11:07 PM – RAW Backstage Pass
Josh Matthews holds the panel from inside the arena, which is actually pretty cool. Booker T, Ric Flair and Alex Riley (What?) are on the inaugural panel, but I’d imagine that the panelists will change from week to week. Then again, what else is Alex Riley doing? Matthews is teasing interviews and reaction with the Superstars.
I don’t know what to make of this show at all. Matthews throws it to the ring, where Lesnar is being attended to by paramedics, and the pen is still stuck in his hand.
I’m trying to figure out if this show is meant to stick to kayfabe or not. They just checked in with a WWE doctor on the status of John Cena, who may have hurt his knee during an attack from the Wyatt Family. Cena was favoring the leg at the end of the segment, but was it real or just a storyline? I’m so confused. The show wrapped up at 11:30, which makes a lot of sense, at least to me.
There is also a preshow for RAW and they will be doing shows for Smackdown, too. They show a lot of potential, especially if the fans get a chance to see the dark matches that are put on after the show. Although, I guess that wouldn’t make them dark matches anymore.
Vince delivers his welcome to the WWE Network, again. Oh, yea I forget that everyone can try this for a week. SO SIGN UP NOW! (I swear, I’m not a shill, really. WWE has not given me one cent.)
11:35 PM – Wrestlemania Rewind
In the press release from WWE, they say this show will provide fans with a comprehensive look back at the most groundbreaking matches and dramatic moments in Wrestlemania history. (And yes, I took that pretty much word for word from WWE.) Tonight’s preview chronicles the Wrestlemania 1 Main Event, this is your typical WWE documentary (which is very good, don’t get me wrong). I’m guessing a new show will be released weekly and archived. And I’m right if I would have actually read the rest of the press release. Wrestlemania Rewind will air new episodes Tuesdays at 9PM.
UH-OH! My first tech problem of the night. I backed out of Wrestlemania Rewind to check the upcoming schedule. Yes, there is a schedule of programming that air lives. Although, I think it will also be available afterward, too. When I tried to rejoin the show in progress, it locked up my PS3. Good thing, I have an iPad. The PS3 is back up and running, so back to the big screen.
Wrestlemania Rewind ends and we have a break in the action. A promo runs for Wrestlemania 25 that will air on Sunday at 8, but you can also watch it on demand whenever you want. I guess they have a lot of holes to fill in the line-up, because why show something that can be watched whenever it is convenient.
12:30 AM – WWE Countdown
So, random superstars are introducing the shows during the preview. Santino tells me that WWE Countdown is next. This show is supposed to let the viewers rank all sorts of things in the WWE Universe; tonight’s episode, Best Catchphrases. I’m in! SPOILER ALERT! How is “SUCK IT!” not even in the top five?!? Anyway, new episodes of Countdown will air Tuesday’s at 10PM, but I don’t know how the WWE universe is fitting into this yet. There must be poll question on WWE.com, but quite frankly I can’t be bothered to check.
Eh, Top 10 shows are such a fall back for new programming. An old episode of ECW is up next, but I can catch that on demand. In all honesty, I didn’t really think this through and didn’t prepare for a TV marathon. I’m hungry and going to McDonald’s, but I can catch ECW Hardcore TV from the start when I get back.
1:34 AM – ECW Hardcore TV
Did I watch Sabu take on the Tazzmaniac on my iPhone while I was waiting for my food at McDonald’s? Maybe. Am I proud out it? You’re darn right I am. The future is now people! Seriously, though, as long as you have a good connection you can watch the WWE Network anywhere.
Although, I another technical problem when I got home. I had to join the ECW show in progress, even though it gives you the option to start from the beginning. Every time I tried that, the show wouldn’t load. GRRRR.
It looks like the “live” WWE Network feed is going to repeat programming for the west coast. Makes sense. It’s 11:06 on the west coast so, now they get the RAW wrap up. That means I get into the meat and potatoes of this thing, the video archives. Right now, it seems to be limited. The Monday Night Archives only goes back to 2012. They also have the Mike Tyson appearance in 1998 and six episodes from the first season in 1993. That’s disappointing, since I was hoping to watch a Monday Night RAW that I was at where Edge celebrated his title win with Lita in such a way that it was censored on TV. Let’s just say it involved a bed, some clothes coming off and a wardrobe malfunction.
Before I start watching whatever I like, let’s talk about the search function, or lack thereof. You can search almost anything wrestling related, but there is now way to narrow it down. I wanted to watch the Mankind/Undertaker Hell in a Cell match from the 1998 King of the Ring. Searching Hell in a Cell gave me every match from the Hell in the Cell pay-per-views and the app on PS3 only gave me limited results. I used the iPad and got more results, and eventually found what I was looking for. Interestingly, it took me to the King of the Ring PPV and actually started at the match, so I didn’t need to fast forward through it.
We’ve had some hiccups wading through the WWE Network library. There was some choppy video watching old episodes of ECW, and these were from when it was still NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling. Fellow SLAM! Wrestling contributor helped me find the Royal Rumble in which Taka Michinoku nearly breaks his face. It was the Rumble from 2000, which I never saw for some reason. I do get a kick out of seeing the older wrestlers.
And the wrestling marathon as come to a screeching halt as nothing I select to watch will play. Maybe this is a sign the 10 straight hours of wrestling (I started with RAW) is enough. These tech hiccups are expected the first few days, but WWE better get its act together and fast with this thing.
As for the original programming, the pre and post shows have potential. I’m not completely sold on Countdown, as it just seems like a time filler. The Wrestlemania Rewind will be a good series though, especially if you don’t know a lot of wrestling history. The other shows debut later this week. There are two shows that tie into NXT.
First is This is NXT which is a one hour special that will feature behind the scenes moments and in ring action from WWE’s performance center. WWE is saying fans will get a chance to get up close and personal with the next generation of Superstars. (If I sound like a press release, it’s because I’m taking straight from the one I was sent.)
The other is NXT ArRival which will feature the top NXT performers as well as WWE Superstars and Legends. There will also be a pre-shoe for NXT ArRival . WHAT! They are really pushing NXT on this thing.
Then there is Beyond the Ring which is being touted as an all-access pass to the fast paced action of WWE’s home video library. What does that even mean?!? It looks like this show will feature matches and biographies of wrestlers in WCW, AWA, ECW and WWE.
And rounding out the programming is WWE Legends’ House which is best described as The Real World meets the WWE Hall of Fame meets Big Brother. If this show isn’t a guaranteed train wreck I don’t know what is.
The WWE Network shows a lot a promise and it’s not much risk for the even the average fan. Even if you only buy Wrestlemania and SummerSlam, you will still save $60 by ordering the Network. You will also get the entire broadcast of the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony the night before Wrestlemania. Even though there is still a lot of content that hasn’t been posted, there is still a ton of stuff. Every PPV from WWE, ECW and WCW are available. There are three seasons plus of RAW and Smackdown, including milestone episodes, like the very firsts. If I’m ever bored, I can now watch Main Event, since I never bothered to find out in the ION network is actually on my cable system.
After seven hours with WWE Network, the final verdict is that it will be worth the money for the pay-per-views alone, along as the technical issues get ironed out. With more content on the horizon, it should keep even the most diehard wrestling fan satisfied. It’s been fun, but it’s time for bed.