As is evident by my rather convoluted title, there was much that happened this past Monday on Raw. It all began on Monday for WWE. At 9:00 a.m. the WWE Network officially launched. Coincidentally, I woke up at about 9:30 a.m. because of my roommate, and was reminded about the Network’s early launch. Not surprisingly, Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the main partner with WWE for the WWE Network, was not prepared for the high volume of traffic, and I was unable to access the Network until the early evening; trust me, I tried constantly throughout class, work study, and more class. Thankfully, as I write this column, the WWE Network is finally working completely, barring some minor glitches, and it is a complete fulfillment of hype.
For those of you who are unsure about what the WWE Network is, it is the ultimate WWE experience. For $9.99 a month, subscribers are given access to all 12 (normally $45) pay-per-views, original WWE programming including ESPN-style pre- and post-shows, access to every WWE, WCW, and ECW pay-per-view ever produced, and a gradually increasing backlog of episodes of Raw, Smackdown, and ECW dating back to the first Raw on January 11, 1993.
The value of the WWE Network is unparalleled, and the only doubts that any fan had was whether the Network would work well. I am pleased to report that the responsiveness of the WWE Network is better than any service I’ve ever used, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, or even YouTube. A live stream of scheduled content is always playing on the front page, so fans can watch in unison, as a host of other on-demand content is available for anyone to view at any time. Watching content on the WWE Network is literally as easy as clicking on the program and watching. There is no buffer time (the quality of the video will adjust to your Internet connection instead), no advertisements during on-demand programming, and the video quality is high definition, except for programming that predates “HD.”
The only way to see what the WWE Network is all about is to try it. And whether you’re a WWE skeptic vaguely interested or a fan from eras ago, the opportunity to have a one-week trial and the modest $9.99 a month price (with a six-month commitment) should not cause any hesitation for those even remotely interested, as the service is worth every penny and beyond. Of course, the WWE Network would not exist if it were not for the present – the present that was once in the past, our current state, and the present that will be in the future. With the present (and future) in mind, this past Thursday featured the first live event of NXT – WWE’s developmental brand – “NXT ArRival.” I write this column on Thursday night, so I speak to you from the future about the past and have not seen the event yet, but having followed NXT for over four months, I can say that this event will be nothing short of fantastic and is a great opportunity for fans to be exposed to the rising stars of the WWE. Of course, rising stars eventually will be the stars, and that is where the events of Monday Night Raw enter.
Less than one minute into the show, the legendary “Real American” blared throughout the speaker systems, and Hulk Hogan appeared to thunderous applause. Seeing Hogan in WWE after his turbulent past few years, having personal problems and a brief stint in TNA, was great, as he began in WWE and belongs in WWE. His general message was to promote the WWE Network and to announce that he would be the host of WrestleMania 30. Hogan’s appearance was nothing noteworthy content-wise, but it was a historic moment in the timeline of WWE.
Unfortunately, Hogan’s return was the beginning of the end of the enthusiasm of the crowd in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who collectively ruined the excitement of Raw. The Green Bay crowd’s lack of enthusiasm was a motif throughout the night and made for a deflated show overall, one that was actually well-written. The events of tonight’s Raw were not many, as there were only two key moments (two returns), but the show was good and the crowd brought it to a level of mediocrity.
Now, as a reader, you might be wondering what the crowd has to do with the quality of the show. Without delivering a long diatribe, a professional wrestling show can be made or broken by the crowd. The professional wrestlers are live performers who are engulfed in an industry unlike any other. A crowd drives character development, popularity, and perception of storylines. When a crowd is dead, blatantly disrespecting the show by chanting other wrestlers’ names when not appropriate, it is difficult for a professional wrestler to feed off the crowd’s energy and transfer that into his or her performance. Of course, the argument to what I’ve stated is that fans are allowed to voice their opinion; this is true. However, a professional wrestling fan should respect the product and realize the power that they have as a collective voice and not abuse it.
Rant aside, and it will continue, the feud between Bray Wyatt and John Cena began tonight, as Cena declared outright that “the future of the company has to run through [him].” To that, Wyatt came out and challenged Cena, Wyatt and his family, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, attacking Cena. Following the confrontation, Cena was stretchered out having tweaked his hamstring during the brawl.
Despite the crowd’s awful enthusiasm, or lack thereof, the response to Batista was stronger than it has ever been, propelling the current match between him and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton at WrestleMania 30 for the title. Chanting “Boo-tista,” the Green Bay crowd has been the culmination of the fans’ rejection of Batista since his return, disliking the fact that his victory in the 2014 Royal Rumble took away a spot from Daniel Bryan. Batista’s response to this overwhelmingly negative reception allowed him to begin to show attitude in addressing the crowd: “If they cheer me, I’ll cheer them back. If they boo me, I will boo them right back.”
The interaction between Batista and the crowd was a talking point for Orton, who cost Batista a victory against Alberto del Rio when Orton distracted him. For the first time, Batista seemed somewhat important. His announcement that he will address the crowd on SmackDown made him more important, as Batista will be able to act in a “heel-ish” way (i.e. as a villain) to garner more interest, and heightens the possibility of Daniel Bryan being somehow included in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match, despite the strong possibility that he will be facing Triple H at WrestleMania.
The final point of importance on Raw was when Brock Lesnar came out to the ring with his manager Paul Heyman to address the fact that Lesnar was not even included in WrestleMania, Heyman speaking ill against The Authority. Heyman stated on behalf of Lesnar that he wanted to “make history” and that The Authority gave him an open contract to face whomever he wanted, but he only wanted the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Suddenly, the unmistakable gong played and filled the arena, the lights turning off. When they turned back on, smoke began to fill the ramp, blue lights eerily setting the atmosphere of the entrance, and The Undertaker appeared. After his lengthy signature entrance, The Undertaker entered the ring and came face-to-face with Lesnar.
Telling The Undertaker to “sign the damn contract,” Lesnar shoved a pen in The Undertaker’s chest. The Undertaker glared at Lesnar in disbelief, taking the pen and stabbing it into his hand briefly before grabbing Lesnar by the throat, lifting him up, and delivering a chokeslam through the table set up for the contract signing. With that, The Undertaker left his message without a word, confirming Brock Lesnar versus The Undertaker with The Undertaker’s 21-0 WrestleMania streak at stake.
There is no better time than now to give professional wrestling a chance. The WWE Network is offering a one-week free trial and with the WWE Network, for $9.99 a month, you would receive WrestleMania 30 for $10.00 that month. The historical content on the WWE Network is in-depth and would allow for any new fan to relive over 40 years of WWE history with the click of a button or tap of a finger.
For your weekly dose of professional wrestling, check out The Stute Smackdown every week, only on The Stute. As always, if there are any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Order the WWE Network!