Note from John Canton: Heather Hickey was one of the seven writers picked to write for TJR in our 2013 Writer Search held this month. This is the column that earned her a spot on the site. Enjoy.
Flipping through channels on a Saturday morning at the age of 12, I was compelled to stop at the sight of “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff administering a piledriver to Hulk Hogan. According to Gorilla Monsoon, this was a Shocking Betrayal, a moment many wrestling fans would never forget. I remember, because it was the moment that I got hooked.
When I saw John Canton’s tweet about the TJR Wrestling Writer Search, the first topic that came to mind was not Top Ten Shocking Betrayals, but rather a headline from earlier in the week. WWE CFO George Barrios revealed in an interview that they hope to move Pay-Per-Views to the WWE Network. While I shouldn’t get too fired up about a possibilty that hinges on a possibility, my posterior needs to inform somebody that this is a bad idea!
Yes, there are already specialty channels dedicated to a variety of sports, so it is a somewhat proven mode of content delivery. But not for sports entertainment. I feel that the segmented nature of WWE programming (matches, promos, and “comedy” bits) is already being widely and wildly consumed in byte-sized chunks on the cheap or for free online. People won’t be as motivated to pay extra on a monthly basis to watch a mix of a) the exact things they can find elsewhere, and b) low-calibre filler, the likes of which we have “enjoyed” with the advent of 3-hour RAW programs.
Do I want to see a bunch of legends cutting promos on each other within the confines of a house filled with hidden cameras (where “WHAT?” is not an ode to Stone Cold but an indication of deafness)? Not really, especially since it holds the threat of Mae Young re-defining the term “Gobbledy Gooker” with the Iron Sheik in a hot tub.
It is my very biased opinion that sports entertainment fans are genetically predisposed to rabid dedication, but also to extreme thriftiness and cunning. I will not shell out for the Couch Potato Super Deluxe Cable Package just so that I can pay an even larger sum for the WWE Network, just so that I can spend 19 hours a day feeling ripped off, instead of only 2.5 hours every Monday night. I already rely on the likes of TJRWrestling and WithLeather to tell me which segments I need to watch, because it is only when I am truly motivated that I watch things live. And I watch Pay-Per-Views (PPV’s).
As for the specific notion of moving PPV’s to the WWE Network, consider my gears ground. I have been watching wrestling for 26 years, and I still get goosebumps when I see that long-winded legal warning come on-screen before each pay-per-view. That means it’s about to begin! Everybody get your nachos, sit down and shut up! Often I am alone when this is happening, because I am a grown-ass woman in the suburbs, whose peers wouldn’t dare let their children watch WWE (I don’t either, but my kids sure make cute signs to decorate the house for Wrestlemania each year), but I STILL yell “LET’S DO THIS!” even when I'm alone and a pay-per-view is starting.
Pay-per-views are an event. They are special. For some PPV's, the build-up on weekly shows is better than others, and yes, sometimes it feels like there are too many. But in general, they are the crests of the waves if one was to chart WWE storylines over the course of a year. Whether you are excitedly punching in your cable code at home (yeah yeah, alone - you try being the Secretary of the School Council with a Rated R Superstar shirt on!) or going early to the movie theatre to get your favourite seat, you are making a concerted effort because it is special.
When something is built up to be special, I want to see it live. I am not willing to sit around, avoiding social media, and snarking that I’ll just see it all later. This is something I am willing to pay for on a case-by-case basis, with or without a cable provider.
If PPV’s are only on the WWE Network, what does that do to my motivation to follow the matches and stories every week? The WWE Network is not nearly as accessible as the current methods of watching PPV’s, especially in an era when people have enough options to forego cable altogether. George Barrios stated that they have no intention of ditching their current distribution on network television. Moving pay-per-views to the WWE Network will restrict a lot of viewers from taking a ride on those “crests of the waves” and may opt out of following the weekly programs.
I’m all for evolution (but not Evolution, by golly they were a random crew) but Vince McMahon needs to swallow his pride and throw in the towel, Arnold Skaaland-style, on the WWE Network.
Get leaner, get better, and I promise you I will buy the next CM Punk shirt, because I so enjoyed his Shocking Betrayal of The Rock on RAW 1000.
Starting next week, Heather Hickey's columns will regularly appear on TJRWrestling.com on Thursdays. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org comment on the column below.