12th Apr2015

WWE Network – Is it worth your 9.99?

by Chris Cummings

WWE-Network

So, we’re over a year on from the launch of the WWE Network. It launched in the United Kingdom (and some other places that didn’t get it when it initially hit the market) in January (2015) at the price of £9.99. The price-point annoyed plenty of UK consumers who are paying more than the US customers due to the exchange rate, and WWE not making an effort to offer the UK market an in-line price of around £6.50. It still got plenty of customers though and is one of the reasons that the sign-ups for WWE Network grew at a decent rate in 2015.

Now available in many countries, and expected to launch in those yet to receive it, the WWE Network has received plenty of press since its inception, with much of that being related to its disappointing subscriber numbers, or its very-good amount of content. Yeah, however you slice it, as a wrestling fan, or a WWE fan, the Network is a diamond of a service, and well worth the price. You get every PPV event of the year, reason enough to sign up in the first place, and you get a ton of content from the past, including all the WWF/E, WCW and ECW PPV’s, episodes of RAW, Smackdown, NXT, Nitro, ECW Hardcore TV, and content such as seasons of Tough Enough, Hall of Fame ceremonies, Saturday Night’s Main Event programs. Yeah, there’s a lot there. I will admit to wishing that the entire library of RAW, Smackdown and Nitro was available all at once, allowing context to the PPV’s, but I understand WWE’s reason to add these episodes bit by bit. New episodes are added 30 days after they air live on television, so if you want up-to-date television shows here, look elsewhere. This doesn’t bother me personally, as I use Sky to watch the weekly shows. Still, many customers didn’t realize there was such a delay, and have found it to be a disappointment upon discovery.

Another positive element of the Network is the Exclusive Original Content that is to be found. It is growing, and more content is in the works, but it shows a lot of potential going forward. There’s programs such as Monday Night War, which was an episodic look at WCW vs. WWF in the 90’s. There is Countdown, a top ten program that counts down various lists, from “Best Tag Teams” to “Most Exciting Returns”, to “Biggest Botches”. It’s a fun show, and one of my personal favourites on the Network. There have also been three, so far, live podcast-style interviews. Two hosted by Steve Austin, in which he talked, no holds barred, with Vince McMahon and Triple H, and one hosted by Chris Jericho, who spoke with John Cena. These were all insightful and entertaining shows that shone light on how much potential the network really has. Chat shows, podcasts, interviews, looks back on wrestling history. So much is possible. The Austin podcasts were excellent, and I hope to see “Stone Cold” do more of them going forward, he is much more interesting to watch than Y2J.

The streaming side of WWE Network acts as a television channel of sorts, and is very flawed, in my view. I don’t use it, unless I’m watching a PPV or a Live NXT Supershow, but we’ll get to NXT later. The streaming schedule repeats, most of the time, the same show, over and over, throughout the day. This isn’t what a television channel does, and WWE need to give the streaming side of the product more variety, and not Extreme Rules 2010 repeated four times in one day. It’s a shame that they don’t put more effort into that, but the “On-demand” section is what you are buying here, along with the PPV’s of course.

The monthly WWE PPV’s have worked very well. I’ve watched two WrestleMania events on the WWE Network now. Live. And they worked fine, no skipping or freezing occurring for me, though some have complained of slight loading issues. The quality wanes from time to time, but mostly it is good.

NXT. The development brand in WWE which had grown into a cult-like hit among wrestling fans after something different. If you haven’t heard about NXT, google it and check it out. I’d say that the weekly NXT show, and their once-every-three-months PPV-style shows, are worth the price of the Network in many ways. It feels like you’re witnessing something really special as you watch NXT right now, and with the roster of incredible talent on offer, it’s hard not to get sucked in. A roster of international and indie stars such as Kevin (Steen) Owens, Finn (Prince Devitt) Balor, Hideo (KENTA) Itami, Sami (El Generico) Zayn, Enzo Amore, Tyler Breeze, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and many more, it’s a wrestling fan’s dream come true. NXT has lit a fire beneath the bums of wrestling fans, and also beneath the womens wrestling scene. NXT women wrestlers are stealing the show and showing why female talent should be taken very seriously as in-ring competitors in 2015. Everywhere you look, NXT is doing its damndest to impress, and impress it does. It’s brilliant.

So, you’re here to find out if the WWE Network is worth a tenner from your wallet each month. Well, I think it depends on who you are. If you want to watch WWE’s modern PPV events, then yeah, immediately, it’s damn well worth it. If you want to look back on some old WWF or WCW content, then I think it’s worth trying it for a month. There is no contract anymore, you can cancel after a month if you don’t like it, so it is very accessible in that regard. I’d say that if you are considering the WWE Network at all, then it’s already worth it. There is so much content already on there, and more being added weekly. Exclusive stuff not available anywhere else, documentaries that are out on DVD, and all the other stuff I’ve mentioned. I’ve had the product since it was released, and I have it on in the background sometimes, or I watch and get glued to the TV as I watch events from the past that I love, or new shows that take me by surprise. At its current cost, and with the amount of stuff to look through, I think it is well worth it, if you are going to take advantage of having such a product at our disposal. Still, I can’t help but worry that the low subscriber numbers of the Network will eventually lead to it being retired. That would be a real loss to wrestling fans.

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