The Rocky Debut of the WWE Network

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Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
PWBTS.com

This past week saw the somewhat rocky debut of the WWE Network, and the set-up show for the Road to Wrestlemania.

The major problems with the WWE Network break down as follows:

Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s (the company WWE is working with to handle the Network) had an inability in the first few days to handle the load of signups. Many people attempted to sign up and were unable to do so because of bandwidth and other issues.

MLBAM stated that the Network demand for sign-ups “exceeded anything we have seen in 14 years of doing e-commerce.” If that had been the only problem, and it had only been a problem at the beginning, that would have been a GOOD problem in some ways; because it would have shown a major demand for the service (which it did).

But it wasn’t just on the opening day. Even for those who were able to sign-up and submit their information without issues, there have been continuing problems with bugs in the Video On Demand function, one of the major selling points for the Network. Various problems are STILL being reported by those using Roku and Xbox devices, and the Google Chrome.

WWE responded Friday regarding what seems to be one of the more pervasive issues:
“Thank you for signing up for WWE Network. We are working aggressively to address the login issue for Xbox users and expect to have it resolved by this Monday, March 3, if not sooner. You will be notified via email as soon as this issue is fixed. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, please enjoy watching WWE Network on WWE.com, tablets, mobile phones or other connected devices.”

OK. Most new products and services have technical issues. Just ask Barack Obama.

But then came the first live event on WWE Network, the NXT ArRIVAL special. In a moment that should give subscribers depending on it to watch Wrestlemania 30 pause …there were problems.

The major issue seemed to be an outage at about two minutes before to the beginning of the Tyler Breeze vs. Xavier Woods match. Apparently when viewers tried to reload, they were taken to the show’s opening match, then the feed would cut out altogether.

“During tonight’s live NXT ArRIVAL special, we unfortunately experienced technical difficulties, which are to be expected when launching a new digital network. We will work aggressively to solve these glitches and deliver quality service. The complete event will be available on-demand overnight.”

While it is true that these are problems to be expected when launching a new digital network, there’s only so many times fans will accept apologies.

If there are similar problems with Wrestlemania 30,which will be magnified times a hundred thousand times, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down, and quickly.

There are also those who were unclear about the terms of the “free trial”… that really isn’t. To get the free trial, credit card information had to be submitted, and credit cards charged. Subscribers have to specifically opt out if they want out, even those that have been already charged.

I’m no lawyer, but I’m curious as to whether a company that offered a free trial that didn’t actually function for part or all of the “free trial” week can reasonably charge a customer as having used the free trial. If we have lawyers reading this column, I’d be curious to hear an opinion.

I’m also no tech wizard. But given how easily hackers have hacked into retail systems (see Target) as well as there having been similar issues with various debit and credit cards, I wonder how easily people can get into the Network to watch Wrestlemania 30 for free; or even access subsrcriber information.

Next, last week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter had speculated that Comcast might stop offering standard PPVs, based on a comment made to the Observer by a Comcast call center representative. This, fortunately, seems not be the case.

An ad for Wrestlemania 30 appears on the Mostlivesports.com Comcast subsite shows Wrestlemania 30 still advertised.

I also was personally sent the following by a Comcast representative:

“Hi Bob. I’m sorry for our delay in responding to your posts. I had to reach out to our content folks to make sure I had the correct answer. While http://WWE.com has launched their own online network and subscription (more info here: http://www.wwe.com/wwenetwork…), Comcast will continue to have WWE PPV events available to our customers.

~Melissa”

So, being both a cable company and an internet provider, they’re having it both ways. They get customers giving them money for PPVs and happy customers (well, maybe) who want to use the WWE Network, or both. This is smart. Unlike DISH Network, they are choosing to keep customers happy for now.

There’s no way in hell I’d take the chance in trying to watch Wrestlemania 30 via the WWE Network. Wrestlemania 31 might be a very different thing altogether. But now? No way.

Then, there’s the continuing issue of WWE’s dissatisfied fans.

Barring some storyline swerve, fans are being told they’ll get Randy Orton-Batista as a main event for Wrestlemania 30, and told that they’ll like it. They may get it, but they won’t like it, and they’ve been making their feelings very known by crapping all over Batista and Orton every chance they get. It’s OK to have crowds crapping on a wrestler is OK for Orton as a heel, but not so much for Batista. Read below for a solution to this problem.

We’re getting Brock Lesnar-Undertaker. Prety much what we expected, and a match everyone’s OK with.

We’re getting John Cena-Bray Wyatt, a storyline which has been set up in a reasonably good manner. But we’re getting that match, rather than The Shield-Wyatt Family classic we saw, and a match we will see again one last time tonight. That match was a Wrestlemania 30 caliber match, and belonged there.

It tells you something when Ronda Rousey, a wrestling fan, tweets the following, it proves the point.

 

There aren’t many matches or RAW or Smackdown that gets that reaction from anyone these days. But we aren’t getting that match.

Moving on, we’re getting the beginnings of a story that leads to Daniel Bryan-HHH, but a lot of fans have little or no trust that HHH will put over Bryan.

Could we get Danielson put into the main event, too? I have my doubts (but read a suggested way to do it below).

But if you’d like a perfectly plausible scenario from new PWBTS columnist Doug Maynard on how WWE could do this (you can read his columns on PWBTS.com and at the Tossing Salt website), here’s his scenario:

“As for the WWE World Title Match and main event, it needs to have Daniel Bryan in it. That’s obvious to everyone.

So how do we get Daniel Bryan from a match with HHH to the main event? Pretty simple actually. We look back and take a page from Wrestlemania X and Bret Hart. Have HHH accept Bryan’s challenge. And that match is locked in.

But here comes Vince McMahon and in a move that’s ‘best for business’, he adds a stipulation to the match. Daniel Bryan versus HHH will open Wrestlemania XXX. And if Bryan wins, he gets inserted into the WWE Championship match at the end of the night, turning it into a triple-threat match.

And if Bryan loses, he had to go walk Stephanie’s dog or something of that nature. Who cares what the stipulation really is because this is simple, makes sense and gives Daniel Bryan two great matches to showcase his skills and be able to be where he needs to be at the end of the night with that great ‘Wrestlemania moment’ in the main event.”

Will what Doug suggested happen? It’s perfectly logical, could be done easily and plausibly, and makes sense, so probably not.

But since Doug wrote that, the story about Punk returning tonight came up.

Tonight, of course, is Monday Night RAW in Chicago. As of the moment I type this: no CM Punk.

The Observer and others websites have reported that fans online are encouraging the #HijackRAW hashtag on Twitter for RAWs between now and Wrestlemania 30 tapings, including tonight. There is also a Twitter account specifically set up to encourage fans to take over tonight’s RAW. It’s been said that WWE is “aware and planning accordingly”.
There was a story on Wrestling Observer Radio on Saturday that CM Punk will return in Chicago. Hopefully, this is true, and WWE breaks out Punk and fools us all. If not we’ll have three hours of pissed off Chicago fans with signs and/or chants all night, or people sitting on their hands in retaliation, which might be worse.

So…from the Pro Wrestling Only forum, here’s a way to tie up the CM Punk mess, the Daniel Bryan mess, and HHH all up in one neat bow.

…”If they indeed have Punk back in the fold, then you do HHH vs. Bryan [tonight] with the stipulation that a win puts Bryan in the WM main. Punk returns and helps Bryan win, ala Austin/Foley/Rock, Bryan goes on to the WM main, Punk takes on HHH at WM.”

It’s clear that WWE doesn’t seem outwardly thrilled with the response to recent booking. God only knows what they think privately. If the whole thing with Punk was orchestrated all along (and I have little more knowledge that nyone else about that), it’s brilliant.

But it’s clear WWE doesn’t like criticism. Well, Vince McMahon can’t have it both ways, looking for an internet-savvy “WWE Universe”, pushing them to use his WWE App and buy his WWE Network, then not give fans what they want, and tell them they’ll take what he gives and like it; and not expect them to express themselves online or at shows.

So last week was again not the best week for Vince McMahon. We’ll see what tonight brings.  Until next time….

— Bob Magee

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