As most of you know, WWE sold its streaming rights to Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. For more information on that, I’ll refer to Wrestlenomics and the “Death of WWE Network” episode of the Voices of Wrestling Flagship.
We can officially say that WWE considers its Network a disappointment, and we can look for reasons for why a minimum of three million WWE and wrestlings fans decided to not be a continuous supporter of what is an amazing service. WWE sucking right now and having less “linear” eyeballs is one of the reasons, sure, but it is my argument that their failure to tell and show fans about wrestling past is another reason for the death of the Network.
I know it’s ironic that I’m talking about WWE failure to celebrate the past in 2021, but I’m talking about the WWE Network content—not WrestleMania main events. I don’t have to sell hardcore fans on the WWE Network: it’s basically the history of pro wrestling in the United States at your fingertips. There are wrestling territories that don’t have all of the shows uploaded, and there is the issue of some content being edited due to copyrights (watch a New Jack match to see what I mean. “In the Ghetto” will either make you laugh or drive you nuts), but you can still watch this history. Yet, when has this old content been promoted on weekly TV?
Part of creating fans is giving people the sense that they are part of something big, something that has been going on for quite some time and that feels important. I bet that most of the hardcore fans became that way not only due to watching the current product, but watching other wrestling, renting old VHS pay per views, seeing wrestling from another time and country. WWE should have taken advantage of their platform and combined WWE current product alongside the old product that was easily available on the Network for $9.99. But they did nothing of the sort. Their strategy seemed to be to promote the price and the current PPVs, with the occasional main roster documentary.
The WWE Network content is vast and way too much for someone going in for the first time. So how could a current WWE product help promote this back content without it being overwhelming?
Here are some ways. Let me add that all of these could have shown on short commercials or on 15-second clips:
This Week in Pro Wrestling History
I know they don’t use “pro wrestling”, but I can’t get into WWE Speak to come up with something catchier. The idea is simple: show a 10-second clip of a match or important wrestling event of that week and then proceed to tell fans to check out at the WWE Network. An example would be in the first week of July to mention the end of Bash at the Beach 1996, which was Hogan turning to the dark side in WCW.
Playlist of Returning Stars
Be it what it seems like a monthly WWE Legends reunion or one of the old guys coming back to wrestle, how about a playlist of their matches? When Edge was announced for the Rumble, they could have promoted a playlist with Edge matches with John Cena, Undertaker or his famous TLCs. Or with Carlito being back, how about a sample of his WWE United States title run against Cena? When you have a Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels on Raw, they could have done a short “check out their playlist of their greatest matches/moments at the Network” on their entrances.
(Insert wrestlers name) Favorite Matches
This is self-explanatory. Imagine having Daniel Bryan giving you his top 10 matches and explaining why, then promote that during his entrance to his weekly TV match. Imagine Kassius Ohno (in the old NXT days) giving you a list of matches with explanations. Would have been a nice feature to tie in the old with the new.
Talk about the Indies!
You have on the Network on NXT—why the hell they started uploading random EVOLVE, PROGRESS, and wXw without them mentioning anything on TV has always been a “why” thing for me. They could have made the connections between the wrestlers on NXT and their former playing grounds. They even have the compilations made already! There are literally hours of content of indie wrestling they never have mentioned on TV, and a simple mention could have given them extra linear eyeballs.
Time in WWE land is a circle, so how about telling people to check out the past of the feud? Let’s go with Orton and Edge as an example. They had a feud before, so they could have reminded people and told them to check it out on the WWE Network. Show a short clip on where to find it on the Network. Compare it to another feud of the 90s. Make people go down WWE Network rabbit holes.
Just simply having an ECW week and recommending people PPVs or a run of Hardcore TV would have been awesome. Hell, a Nitro week with worthy episodes or a Sunday Night Heat month. Or a theme day: territory day with WCCW or Mid South running a whole day.
I know these ideas might run out of steam after a while, but it’s something they could have done besides saying “Pay us $9.99 and watch a PPV and maybe check out this Rollins documentary.” These ideas would have and could have invited engagement from their audience on social media, the kind of engagement that keeps you hooked. They have so much past wrestling content to have fans hooked for more than a month. They should have said why it’s important to watch the current PPV and then check out an old one.
WWE should have taken their job as the arbiter of pro wrestling in the United States seriously. If they had done a better job of promoting their back content alongside the new one, maybe they could have gained more than 1.8 million subscribers worldwide. Just as it has happened with their current product, they let themselves go stagnant and never tried to take advantage of all of the opportunities they had.
That is probably a WWE story from 2010 until 2021 (and probably beyond): the story of what could have been and of all the cool stuff that could have happened and did not.
Let’s hope that with Peacock, we hardcore fans don’t lose access to all of the content so far.