The Mental Ward: Getting Networked…..


I first discovered pro wrestling in the mid-1980s. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes doing battle with “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton inside a steel cage is one of my earliest wrestling memories. However, when I saw “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Sting go 60 minutes at the first Clash of the Champions, I was hooked for life. THAT was storytelling. THAT was drama. THAT was pro wrestling. In my youth Hulkamania ran wild. In my high school and college years, The Attitude Era redefined the industry. In my adult years, things just haven’t been the same. A spark is missing. The sport I loved has morphed into something almost unrecognizable at times. Yet, I still watch. I cling to hope that pro wrestling will one day again return to past glory. Webster defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Ladies and gentlemen, come on in. We’re all friends here. Welcome back to, “The Mental Ward.”

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to cancel my WWE Network membership. I did so effective 5/1. I was talking with the other members of Team PWA about this decision, and I was asked why I did this. So, it got me to thinking, and I feel I can make a strong argument as to why I did in fact cancel my membership. Now, the pros for keeping my membership are easy. It’s affordable, you get to watch all the PPVs for no extra charge, you get to watch NXT, you can watch it from any device, plus there are podcasts, original specials, and a lot of older content that can only be viewed on the network. Let me say this, had the WWE Network been around 10-15 years ago, I would have paid more. Today we live in different times. I had to make an executive decision. In research for this article, I looked up numbers for the network. We were told back in January that it had surpassed one million subscriptions. The new quarterlies have not been released yet, but I would assume, and this is just me, but after the Royal Rumble debacle and that awful Fast Lane PPV, that the number is going to drop. I do believe that many probably came back for WrestleMania, but as in my case, unsubscribed shortly thereafter.

I was recently reading on a website called a listing of the facts for why someone should keep their membership. Now I have to tell you, I’m not sure if they are owned by the WWE, or if they are just complete homers for Vince because it was as if a 12 year old was writing this article. One of the reasons listed was……. because you would miss the “Fastlane” PPV. Really, guy? Another reason they suggested we keep our membership is because it was way too early to react following the lackluster Royal Rumble PPV. Okay look, we all realize Vince doesn’t give a second thought to what we all think. I am, after all, really not the demographic they are looking for. I do, however, continue to watch hoping that something will change. I don’t think that seeing a better finish at the Rumble is too much to ask for. Think about this, for the first time, Vince brought out the Rock on a PPV and he didn’t get over like he usually does. Not even the biggest action hero of our day was enough to make folks forget about the new golden boy Roman Reigns going over instead of Daniel Bryan. See, Vince can sweeten the pile of horse crap he’s feeding you with lots of chocolate, but in the end, it’s still crap. The fans finally woke up and got #CancelWWENetwork trending on Twitter. Follow that up with another crap PPV that followed, and ZERO momentum heading into Mania, combined with the same stale characters that seem to always get pushed, wrestling fans everywhere have had enough.

As I’ve stated in past “Mental Ward” columns, getting the PPVs each month is not enough for the folks at Titan Towers to keep my business. As I’ve also mentioned recently, there are far too many PPVs as it is. Someone cleverly coined he term, “Sunday Night Raw”, referring to a lackluster PPV that comes off more as an episode of Raw than it does as an important monthly PPV where bitter rivalries are settled and new feuds emerge. Now that PPVs are included on the network at no additional monthly cost, the WWE, at least in their minds, have no reason to give us a better product. Another reason the article I read suggested that we keep our membership is because if enough people do in fact cancel, Vince and WWE may be forced do some massive layoffs. One can hope if this happens, they begin with the “Creative Team”. Also other guys like Kane and Big Show have to account for some huge salaries. It’s time to cast aside the older, boring characters that the WWE has on their roster, but instead of that, they give them pushes and the opportunity to make more money. Shoot me now.

There have been some wrestlers on the WWE payroll that have actually chastised the “WWE Universe” for “not getting over.” Hey, here’s a thought guys, how about you give me a reason to care about you. Your product is dull and out dated. Your talent has all of their mic time scripted, thus not giving them the freedom to be themselves. You create story lines that are childish and unoriginal. You insult our intelligence by serving us a polished turd and calling it a ribeye. No, there’s nothing to keep me paying $9.99 a month. Not even the old Raw/Nitro content because, hey guess what….It’s not all on there! Yet, the WWE will contend that it is. As a wrestling purist whose love for the sport goes back nearly 30 years, my heart hurts that the WWE is the only big game in town. It kills me to know that if I ever want to enjoy anything WCW related, I have to listen to how awful the product was, and how Vince McMahon “won” by purchasing his competition. When in reality, it was that very purchase of WCW that started the ball rolling toward what we have now……complacency. It makes me sick to know that I have no other outlet to enjoy professional wrestling on a prime time stage. There’s always Global Force Wrestling that is in the beginning stages of its existence, but only time will tell.

For now, all we have is the WWE and its network, but until at least August, I am jumping ship. Give me a reason to come back and I will, because it is very affordable. I think that fact alone speaks volumes when a lifelong fan, like me, would ever cancel their membership. With the arrival of other stand alone services like HBO Now, and the continued growth of established entities like Netflix, Amazon Fire TV, and Hulu, there’s already competition for the WWE in the world of on demand video content. If they’re smart, they’re going to start listening to what their fan base is saying. Really though, I’m sure we will see Vince credited with being the driving force in the movement in the way people watch television, on his own network at least.

I’m sitting right here with $9.99 burning a hole in my pocket! I’m begging you WWE; give me a reason to spend it on your network. I’m not holding my breath though.

As always, you can reach me on Twitter @jonward51.

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