One week ago, the WWE Network launched and became the next big thing in live programming and video on demand. The WWE gave fans a one week trial of the Network to try it out and see if they wanted to spend $9.99 a month for every PPV ever produced by the WWE, ECW and WCW. What makes the WWE Network a deal is that it will show every single monthly WWE pay-per-view on the network at no extra cost so you essentially save hundreds of dollars every month if you purchase after single show the WWE puts on.
With one week in the books and all the people who want the network putting their money down for a six-month subscription, it makes sense for us here at iDigitalTimes to finally review the service. I had the service from day one and set up my six-month subscription. The first couple of days was upsetting as the service did not work well and frankly ... stunk. The major selling point of the WWE Network was the pay-per-view video on demand library that it had and that didn't work for the first 36 hours of the WWE Network. Using my PlayStation 3, it seemed that those watching the network on their computer were getting a little better service than those with gaming consoles or even those with a Roku.
Eventually the bugs were worked out for the most part (Xbox 360 users are still having trouble logging into the whole thing) and fans have been gushing about the service and the programming that has been on the Network, including a Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown pre and post game show. After a week, I think everyone has seen enough of the WWE Network, many a little too much, and have detailed thoughts about the Netflix-like service. I am no different and this article will explore everything about the WWE Network and will even feature the thoughts of a pro wrestling fan who also received the service on day one. Let's get started:
Ordering The Network
This will be the shortest part of the review by far. If you tried to order the WWE Network last Monday at 9 a.m. when it launched, it did not work for obvious reasons. After the initial surge of traffic (I waited until 6:30 p.m. to purchase) it became a lot easier to order. The ordering process itself is easy as they ask for your particulars and of course your credit card information. You can set up recurring payments of $9.99 a month or purchase a six or one-year subscription. Overall, very simple ordering system and nothing more to say about that.
This is where things could eventually be improved. The interface has some resemblance to Netflix and Hulu's interface ... the only problem is that the WWE Network interface is hard to navigate through. When you open the Network, you have a big picture of what is playing currently on the 24/7 stream of programming, followed by the upcoming show on the lower left hand corner. From there, you have current pay-per-views that happened in the last few months that you could watch on demand. But in reality, those PPVs shouldn't be there because you could go looking for those shows under the "Shows" tab at the top. Not to mention, a lot of the people who have the service do not want to see newer shows, they want to see older ones.
Once you leave the home screen, you can click the aforementioned "Shows" tab where you could watch every single show from WWE, ECW and WCW on demand. In addition to those PPVs, you can watch other shows such ECW's old weekly television series, old school WWE cards and even re-watch WWE programming such as Raw, Smackdown and their minor league show NXT. The problem with this that once you start watching these shows and you can't finish watching them, it will not start the show from where you left off, you will have to start all over again. So if you're halfway through an old WCW Fall Brawl PPV and you have to turn it off, you will have to start the show over again or at least fast forward to the part you were at before.
The best feature on the interface has to be the search function. Here you can type in any name of a wrestler or performer and it will give you content that feature that particular person. My first search was of famed manager Jim Cornette and it gave me several pay-per-views that featured him, including several In Your House Pay-Per-Views. This shortens the time that you will have go through the interface and get lost trying to find a WWE Survivor Series show from the 90's. You just punch in what or who you want to see and the search option will take you there.
Even with the confusing interface, the amount of content that the WWE Network has is amazing. One morning I woke up to watch a Monday Night Raw with Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair with an old ICOPRO commercial playing during commercial breaks (if you don't know what ICOPRO is, look it up). In the week I've owned the WWE Network, I've watched everything from old Monday Night Raws, old WCW pay-per-views and WrestleMania 25 from years ago. Everything you would want to see as a wrestling fan is at your disposal with the WWE Network.
The network even has original programming such as WWE Countdown and WWE Legends House, which is set to premiere soon. While the WWE library is huge, they did realize that the network needed new shows and they planned it well. The best example of this is the shows before and after Raw and Smackdown. What better way to further storylines than have shows that explore the shows and what just happened in a panel-type show. In the works also for the network is a daily SportsCenter-like show on the comings and goings in the WWE.
Reaction to the WWE Network has been mixed within the last week. Some enjoy the service while others can not even watch the service let alone log in. Here is what a longtime wrestling fan thinks about the service.
Matt Knight, WJRZ 100.1 Morning Show Host (New Jersey)
Keep in mind, I watch majority of it on my PS3 and on the TV.
Things I like: EVERYTHING. Well, not EVERYTHING...I'd like to see how often they add to the original programming. It's only been a week so if it's once a week, I won't mind that. Easy interface, quality of video is top notch.
Things I dislike: The scrolling to find events (especially the PPV menu). You have to keep hitting the... D-Pad and it's only one line. If they made it more of an ability to show like 12 different events on one screen and not just a single line to keep scrolling, that would be better. Also, it doesn't remember where you were watching like a Netflix would. If you stop the program, you have to start it over every time.
The Final Bell
Overall, the WWE Network is an ambitious undertaking by the WWE, who has invested almost $40 million into the network. The end result of the years of anticipation and stops and starts is one of the deepest networks in history during their launch with programs that fans want to see. Older fans especially will enjoy reliving some of the bigger moments in pro wrestling history and not the current product, which is hit or miss at best. The WWE Network will only improve once the company realizes the full potential of the network and that means more live specials and original programming.
Overall, this service is worth the 10 dollar price tag for just the pay-per-view library alone. Throw in the monthly pay-per-views and the programming they have and this service pays for itself. I have been a major critic of the WWE for the last few months but this is one move that they have definitely hit a long triple ... not quite a home run yet.
Final Grade: A-