Hello again and welcome to your Friday News Update. I'm your humble correspondent, Bobbin Threadbare. I won't say that the launch of the WWE Network hasn't had more hiccups than Dean Martin at an open bar, but it has made most wrestling fans with access to it find themselves watching everything from roundtables to promos for Buddy Rose. While the "on demand" portion of the digital channel is still struggling with early performance issues and there is a lack of exclusive content at the moment, it's pretty damned impressive overall. The push to make this a separate entity from regular cable and PPV distributors makes a lot of sense to this writer, as it allows WWE to promote itself consistently while trying to add value to the shows they already get airtime for. Very little risk with quite a bit of potential reward. This weekend's update begins with last night's NXT pseudo-PPV, "Arrival."
As most readers of TJR are no doubt aware by now, the WWE hadn't really put forth any "live" programming on its 24/7 feed since the post-show following Monday's Raw. NXT's show last night, therefore, was a fairly large measuring stick as to how things are going and what to expect. On the technical side of things, anyone who tuned in for the show live (I watched a replay) encountered some issues with the feed. WWE itself issued an advisory afterwards, essentially saying "these things happen" and committing to doing their level best to resolve it going forward. While anyone watching Arrival was doing so for free (the Network is currently gratis for all on a one-week trial), the brass have to be at least slightly concerned as to working out these issues before things get serious and credit cards get charged. I personally have watched the Network both on my laptop and my Kindle Fire and it's been relatively painless. That said, nobody will be happy watching WrestleMania and having their Daniel Bryan/HHH match interrupted with that damned loading circle.
As to the event itself, it (mostly) delivered. Plenty of name recognition showed up, including Too Cool attempting to go all New Age Outlaws on reigning tag team champions The Ascension. The show opened with Sami Zayn once more facing Cesaro, a match that has been very good to amazing every time they've had it, and you could definitely feel the emotion at the end when Cesaro broke character for a minute or two to hug his opponent and give him some words of encouragement. NXT Divas champion Paige retained against main roster callup Emma in a match that was far better than most of what I've seen on the "big" shows of late, and it closed out with a new champion crowned as Adrian Neville topped Bo Dallas in a ladder match that held up pretty well overall.
Other than a twinge of regret for poor Bo (still unsure about his gimmick and being cannon fodder for a big night that needed a scapegoat), it was a solid show overall. Here's hoping a big part of this Network will be promoting the stars of tomorrow. No excuses remain for failing to get someone into the public eye, as there's plenty of programming time available. I was favorably impressed with many of the current roster stalwarts doing their best to inject some excitement into this group. And Regal on commentary! Solid show.
Here's a great take on WWE Network difficulties throughout history:
Moving onto the rest of the rumor mill, much has been made lately of WWE fans taking over the broadcast with calls for everything from CM Punk to Mr. Kennedy. (Okay, only Mr. Kennedy is calling for Mr. Kennedy, but you catch my drift.) This fervor has reached the proverbial fever pitch, as a fan from the Chicago area, site of this Monday's Raw, has set up a @ChicagoRAWcrowd Twitter account. The intent is to reach out to other fans attending the show and therefore organize chants and express general dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the WWE.
Reports had already surfaced that WWE was worried about this Raw, but there's been no shortage of CM Punk plastered all over Network programming thus far and there have been ample opportunities since his departure for the fans to chant. How WWE responds to this is yet to be seen (my personal suggestion would be for Batista to spontaneously combust, but that might get messy), but smart money would expect a very Daniel Bryan-heavy show. I am 100% behind fans expressing their displeasure over the current product if they so choose, but would advise anyone not to ruin other people's experiences just to make a point. Chanting in itself is great, and I think it cues up the good performers and gives them something to feed from. It should be a very electric atmosphere in three days' time. (Rajah)
FNU smells a new T-shirt possibility. Speaking of Batista, it's been a tough road for the Guardian of the Galaxy star since his triumphant (?) return to the WWE. Brought in as a huge name and merchandising component for WrestleMania XXX, he stepped his large loafer into some rather deep detritus as frustration over the booking of Bryan and the disappearance of Punk have taken their toll on his ability to connect with the audience. Having attempted to deal with it, current direction has apparently turned in the direction of making Batista a heel. That's probably an effective technique, since everyone was booing the hell out of him anyway. Smackdown spoilers indicate he's even angrier now than when he discovered he averages about three sentences of dialogue per movie appearance.
As always, you know things got serious when the battle went to Twitter. Batista went after the WWE Galaxy with some pointed barbs, including "Amazing how people can turn their failures as human beings into hatred of people making the most of life." Be a star, David! Batista followed up that bon mot with another: "I don't mind the boos. Just a shame people can't separate rumors and gossip from the shows. Kinda takes the fun out of it." FNU doesn't even know where to begin with the epically massive amount of fail here, but let's just say professional wrestling has ALWAYS wanted the rumors and gossip to be part of the show. As to not minding the boos because he's making the most of life, that apparently includes responding to jabs on Twitter. Put that energy into a good match. Please? (INC)
Is it just FNU, or has Jim Ross become even more omnipresent since his unheralded departure from the WWE? JR has been maniacal about putting out opinions on a daily basis concerning wrestling, and buttressed that with the establishment of his own excellent podcast and landing of a correspondent title for Fox Sports. He's also selling barbecue sauce, doing an off-Broadway show, and selling monorails to small towns. If you're wondering whether the WWE Hall of Famer would like to call a match next month, the answer is an unabashed yes. On a recent podcast, Ross said:
"If I was being greedy, I'd love to call anything the Undertaker does at WrestleMania until he's no longer doing it. But without sounding overly pessimistic, I just don't see that happening. I hope I'm wrong. I'm ready to go do it." (Torch)
This is unquestionably a fantastic idea. It's odd that the WWE cut ties with one of their best-known callers before their Network launch, as his varied abilities make him a perfect fit for so much of what it looks like they'll be doing. So let's get JR back for any remaining match in The Streak. It's the ideal way to add to the "big-match" feel of those encounters and gives us all a chance to get back to this:
With Sting having been rumored to already have signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment, the latest reports indicate that may have been a false alarm. Sting has been contracted as Ric Flair's replacement for Revolution Pro Wrestling events in the United Kingdom on March 14th and 15th. Flair's newly signed WWE deal precludes him from taking part in any outside bookings that conflict with his WWE schedule, and he therefore dropped out of the event only to be replaced by the Stinger.
With the announcement of Hulk Hogan being the "host" of the show and confirmation that The Undertaker will indeed be wrestling Brock Lesnar at the big dance, the card is already loaded with "surprise" talent and Sting might be gilding the lily at this point. It seems close to a certainty that this deal will happen at some point in the future, likely corresponding with whenever he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, but this year looks more like a longshot at this point. (Rajah)
Putting Flair and Sting in the same sentence, though, gave FNU a reminder of their amazing rivalry through the decades. It's second in importance to only one other famous rivalry:
Lastly, we here at Friday Update certainly wish Jake Roberts the best as he deals with the surgery on a cancerous leg tumor. He's definitely dealt with his share of adversity and appears to have turned the corner in a positive direction, and that's good for everyone. News came out yesterday that Diamond Dallas Page, who has had quite a lot to do with Roberts's amazing turnaround, would be "introducing" Jake into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania weekend. It's further good press for DDP and his DDP Yoga business, but more importantly it's recognizing the ability of anyone to try to wrest their life back from addiction. It's an inspirational story and I can't wait to see it. (INC)
That clears the news desk for your wrestling weekend, ladies and gentlemen. As always, I'd like to thank you for taking time to read the dirt of the day. Feel free to chime into the conversation roiling in the depths below or send fake fortune cookies and general merriment to me on Twitter @DharmanRockwell or via email at email@example.com. Have a great week and I'll see you Tuesday!