20 days ago, from when this article was written, a long-awaited dream for World Wrestling Entertainment became a reality with the advent of the WWE Network. It promised to be a vehicle for WWE programming like pay-per-views, NXT, replays of Raw and Smackdown, and original programming that includes a look back on the big Wrestlemania matches as well as a reality show where geriatric wrestling legends live under one roof.
Oh, and did I mention that you get access to EVERY SINGLE PAY PER VIEW EVER MADE by WWE, WCW, and ECW?
Oh, and did I also mention that you get all of that, plus the ability to play said content on just about any modern device (sorry Nintendo products) for $9.99 a month?
But anybody that has followed the launch of the WWE Network with even a passing interest has come to learn that the first few days were plagued with more issues than Lindsay Lohan. The VOD library wasn’t working, devices had glitches, and even the inaugural NXT Arrival was plagued with issues about two-thirds of the way in for a large chunk of their subscribers (more on that in a bit).
However, the tone and tenor surrounding the WWE Network of late has been more positive, as it seems that (most of) the major issues have cleared up. So, with Wrestlemania 30 approaching, is the coast clear for you to plunk down $120 a year on the WWE Network if you haven’t made the plunge already. In the words of D-Generation X, let’s “break it down”.
Video-on-Demand Library: A
In my humble opinion, this is the lifeblood of the whole Network, and perhaps one that WWE underestimated judging by the issues in the first few days. Want to relive every King of the Ring from the first to the last? Sure. Want to go back and watch every WCW PPV in 1998? Done. Fan of a particular wrestler? No need to slog through shows, just search him up! Missed NXT? Watch a replay of it tomorrow. Once the initial issues were cleared up, video plays back immaculately. Only reason it’s not an A+ is the lack of historical Raws and other programming (like Monday Night War) that are available at the moment. Small gripe, though.
Overall, whether you want to relive your childhood or fill in some blanks on eras or shows you may have missed, the VOD library pretty much offers something for everybody. Strangely enough, the first shows I watched were from the utterly abysmal mid-90s era for WWF. Why? Because it’s good for a laugh and it fills in blanks from an era where I quit wrestling.
Live Programming: B+
Nothing really wrong with the programming itself, but if we’re going to get Wrestlemania 30 and other future PPVs live on the Network, they really need to fix the buffering issues I get when I just want to watch NXT. NXT Arrival died about two-thirds of the way in for me and many others and even the most recent NXT episode had a case of the fuzzies and the occasional deja vu buffering where the video skips back five seconds or so. Not a good sign when 98% of your subscriber base will be tuning in to Wrestlemania 30. Hopefully it’s something that can be remedied between now and then.
A further note on programming, one brand that is going to get a large boost from it is NXT. There is a noticeable faction of the audience that either wants the WWE product to be wrestling oriented or even something that is a throwback to a territory-style type of wrestling. Now, NXT has been on Hulu Plus, but I personally never subscribed to it. My first exposure to NXT was Arrival, and I was hooked immediately. The fact they are on Thursday nights in the same timeslot as TNA Impact (for its only hour anyway) should have people in TNA worried, as NXT is a very solid wrestling product that offers characters that can be a little on the silly side (Adam Page, Tyler Breeze) to those that are relatable (Sami Zayn, Paige). It’s a good variety that does offer the alternative some of us have sought, like myself.
It’s pretty impressive for something that was built out of scratch. But as anyone that has spent time with newly rolled-out software or games, there’s bugs galore in the first couple days. WWE Network was no exception, but credit them for working out the major kinks. There are still some PPVs in the VOD area that don’t have the ability to skip ahead matches, but I assume this is just an oversight given the bounty of video they have to comb through. The layout of the software, I’ve come to find, varies a little depending on what platform you’re using. For example, PPVs are sorted by company>year on Roku, while PS3 has them sorted by company>PPV title>year. I probably like Roku’s the best, but I still cannot get video to work on my Roku 3, and I have not been able to find a fix or a clear reason why. Apparently I’m not the only one having issues, so we’ll see. I’d be more critical, but I have no issues getting it to work on my Windows 7 PC, Windows 8 laptop, phone, or my PS3.
I’m giving that grade a bit of a positive curve because my overall enjoyment of the WWE Network has been very, very good. Potential still remains for the Network to turn that minus into a plus, but if you’re worried about whether you want to take the Pepsi Plunge (not CM Punk’s pre-WWE finisher, of course), as long as you have a way to put it up on your flat screen without issue (may want to avoid Roku for now) and you can accept a couple new software speedbumps along the way, you shouldn’t have any reservations.
Why yes, Booker T,I can dig it. Sucka.