Is the WWE Network Worth the $9.99 a Month?
A lot of pro wrestling fans have been turned off at times by the current WWE product airing on television and have renounced their desire to keep up with the WWE Network as a way of sticking it to Vince McMahon/the WWE for offering up what they feel is an inferior modern day product to them as consumers. But let’s not worry about the defectors and instead look at why fans of pro wrestling who may be on the fence should think about purchasing the WWE Network for $9.99 a month.
The Backlog of Wrestling TV
Short of videotaping every single episode of wrestling on your ancient VCR in the 1990s, presuming you were not only alive in that era but also a fan as early as 1990 or 1991, you literally would have had no way of re-watching those old episodes. Outside of possibly trading tapes with other fans over the internet, you were usually SOL if you wanted to re-watch say The Rock/Mankind birthday segment or see the very first episode of Monday Nitro in 1995 that you never were able to see.
The WWE Network allows that opportunity to go back and run through Monday Night Raw, Smackdown, Monday Nitro, and even (very altered) Hardcore TV episodes from ECW. The sheer amount of footage just for the television episodes is beyond worth the 9.99 especially if you wanted to watch the WCW Cruiserweights in their prime or see the growth of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or Degeneration X in the WWF. The additions of such brands as Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Mid-South Wrestling, and the AWA are luxury bonuses to that.
The Backlog of Wrestling PPVs
It goes without saying but the backlog of the PPVs are just as fascinating especially for the core events such as Summerslam or the Royal Rumble where you can watch past classic battles such as Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith at Wembley Stadium or see Shawn Michaels eliminate Diesel with Sweet Chin Music which led up to their IYH match. One of my favorite things is re-watching events that I have long since forgotten but have vivid memories of renting from my local Video Mania store usually in part due to the designs on the VHS covers. The events tie hand in hand with the television episodes and it’s a lot of fun seeing the builds for feuds and how the companies were running certain story lines and title chases at the time with 20/20 hindsight capability.
Stone Cold’s Podcast, Legends with JBL, and Table For 3
These are in my opinion near must sees. While Austin’s podcast can be found here online, it’s a lot of fun seeing Austin literally face to face on camera with the people he is interviewing. John Bradshaw Layfield’s stuff has been incredibly fascinating and poignant covering a lot of deeper stuff that most fans simply have no idea about while offering up a bit of a more journalistic bent opposite Austin’s laid back shoot the shit style. Finally, the Table For 3 is just a lot of fun with three wrestlers (or divas) seated together just relaxing and having conversations covering all types of subjects while offering viewers a glimpse into how they may interact on the road.
WWE Breaking Ground
Amazing despite being only 10 episodes. It marries the background effort of the crew at NXT and reality television while allowing for near unfiltered access to a side of personalities that we would never see otherwise. In a lot of ways, this show helped humanize everybody related to NXT while offering up one of the more fascinating behind the scenes shows I’ve ever seen outside of real documentaries such as Hoop Dreams. One of my favorite aspects of this was the hindsight of seeing the Takeover events and various episodes and seeing afterwards the behind the scenes aspect. It’s similar to sports shows like HBO’s Hard Knocks but presented in a wrestling spotlight and a very unique spotlight at that by showcasing the coaching and the daily lives of the NXT wrestlers.
Peter Kostka does a great job recapping the NXT events and the shows are one of the best things going in the WWE if not professional wrestling, period. It’s a lot like watching a fledgling promotion find its feet, start to branch out to bigger venues, and then suddenly explode in popularity all the while knowing the who’s who of professional wrestling are breaking in down there and working their way up to fight for a spot on the main WWE roster.
To call it a minor league or development league would almost be doing the brand, the wrestlers, and the staff a disservice considering how hard they work and the rise in quality that the show has fostered. You look at other companies like Ring of Honor and NXT has managed to combine that underground, niche celebratory attitude with the WWE “style” of larger than life characters and big presentation. It’s a testament that each live Takeover event seems to build and grow upon the last with the next feeling more special.