The game changed Monday morning with the launch of the WWE Network, a 24/7 streaming service that houses the majority of the history of professional wrestling.
Although the technology to pull off such a venture is nothing new, a 24/7 network with live programming combined with thousands of hours of archived footage for only $9.99 per month is.
Before I dive into an early review, I must say that I’ve only watched one program from start to finish on the WWE Network so far and that was the first episode of WrestleMania Rewind.
Besides that, I’ve bounced around quite a bit from Backlash 2000 to Royal Rumble 1992 checking the different functionalities of the network and familiarizing myself with it.
Also, I’ve only experienced the network via my laptop computer and iPhone. I have not tried to watch it via my Xbox 360 as of yet.
Here’s what I feel are some pros and cons of the WWE Network a couple of days after it has launched.
The wealth of content
There’s so much of it. In fact, there’s almost too much to handle right off the bat. It would take a long time to be able to enjoy everything the WWE Network has to currently offer, but it’s still nice to have so many options.
Not only are there dozens of pay-per-views from WWE, World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, there are some old episodes of WWE Raw, ECW television shows, an episode of World Class Championship Wrestling and old house show footage. Not to mention the original programming that is being periodically rolled out during the launch period.
It is truly an embarrassment of riches for a professional wrestling fan.
The streaming quality
When you actually load up an event from the past, the quality of the stream is fantastic. Events that occurred prior to the advent of high definition cameras look incredible on the network. Everything from the 1980s to the “Attitude Era” to now looks great.
The search function
The WWE Network has a search function in the top right corner that is great. You can search a specific event, year or wrestler to narrow down what you want to see.
You can use keywords to help your search as well. For example, if you want to see Jeff Hardy win his first WWE Championship, you can find that by using the key words “Jeff Hardy Armageddon” and the first two options that pop up are the winning moment of the match followed by the match in its entirety.
The overall layout
The network itself looks great. Cycling through all of the pay-per-view options is made more fun when you get a look at all of the posters that went with the event.
The interface is relatively clean and easy to follow, especially if you are familiar with Netflix and Hulu. Everything is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t require a whole lot of learning. I expect there to be upgrades to it over time to make it even easier to use, but for right now it is very good right now.
I personally didn’t have any issues with this because I did not attempt to sign in at 9 a.m. Monday. Following the gaming industry like I do, I sort of foresaw these types of issues because they tend to happen on launch day of big gaming releases such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. By the time I signed up around 2 p.m., there weren’t any issues getting in.
With that said, it was still a problem for a lot of people. I heard stories of people waiting for almost an hour just to sign up for the network. WWE could have easily circumvented this issue by allowing people to sign up before 9 a.m. Monday. That way, you don’t have a rush of people trying to log on and watch the content all at the same time.
To WWE’s credit, it acknowledged the issues and eventually resolved it.
Long buffering times
Once people were finally signed up for the network, they were met with long buffering times for the on-demand content.
While the live content worked just fine for the most part, the on-demand videos took too long to actually begin for some people. Because of the buffering issue, people experienced problems skipping ahead to specific matches they wanted to see on a given event.
Again, I personally didn’t have too many issues with this on my laptop or my iPhone. Some of the on-demand content took a little longer to load up than I’d like it to have, but it wasn’t a serious issue for me.
Can’t pick up where you left off
On Netflix, when you start something and decided to stop watching, it picks up right where you left off if/when you decided to start watching the program again.
The WWE Network does not have that functionality just yet. If you’re two-thirds of the way through an event and decide to stop watching it, when you reboot the event, you have to start from the beginning and fast-forward your way through, which can be an adventure in itself with the buffering issues.
Hopefully, WWE can resolve this sooner rather than later. Being able to pick up where you left off is a great convenience for people who may not be able to watch a three-hour pay-per-view in one sitting.
Some obvious editing
WWE touted that the on-demand content would be shown in its entirety and would not be edited. That was mostly true, as the old WWF logo is not edited off the screen like it has been in prior DVD releases.
The language that was used in prior shows remains as well. The one obvious change to a lot of on-demand programs is the music.
To be fair, this is understandable from WWE’s side of things because there is some music, especially from ECW, that the company does not own and can no longer use. But the way it went about editing around it is sometimes laughable.
This is not a final verdict by any means because it’s been a little more than 48 hours since its launch as of this writing, but the WWE Network is worth the price and is worth some of the trouble.
There is so much at fans’ fingertips it is staggering and even overwhelming. As of right now, the WWE Network receives a passing grade from me.