Editor's Note: This article was actually completed and released on Fightful Select three months ago. Considering the new batch of WWE programming, I thought it would be a good holiday release
WWE Network has an abundance of programming and a 24 hour stream that nobody implements, but they're looking to grow and expand. A 14.99 tier seems an inevitability, and although some who forget the days of $49.99 monthly pay-per-views will cry foul, and others will immediately shell over the additional five bucks, shooting WWE's profit margins on up.
Others will straddle the fence. WWE would probably end up adding WWN, ICW and the other promotions it has loose affiliations with, but what other original programming can they provide to convince consumers to make the jump? Let's take a look.
It really depends on who you cater this show to. You can go after smarter fans and discuss industry news and possibly flourish and have buzz like Talking Smack did, or target the kayfabe audience and have it gain zero buzz, no attention, die out in a few months and probably be a money loser. Akin to SportsNation, this can be a hot topic show covering the world of wrestling news with talking heads. It doesn't even have to be daily, as Thursday is looking like WWE's end of week starting next year. Even if you just tackle WWE topics, the panel can do it in a way that echoes the viewer who is likely to check it out, as opposed to providing more of the same content they're already getting.
Pros vs. Joes/ WWE Gladiators
I'm a sucker for early Spike TV. Slamball, Robot Wars, all that shit. It was good fun. Throw Pros vs. Joes and even the American Gladiators reruns in there. Normal (or seemingly normal) people competing against athletes and stars we've seen on TV for years? Sign me up. There are so many stars with athletic backgrounds that could make use of this -- or just give guys you have signed something to do. The Pros vs. Joes formula isn't being used anywhere right now.
UFC Countdown and HBO 24/7 series' are used to hype up big fights and full event lineups. Sometimes we see a look at WWE Superstars preparing for their big matches, but often times it drops months after the match in the form of WWE 24/7. With the honest nature of some of these shows, it can give a look and change the perception of a wrestler. Maybe Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn prepare in a more intense manner than their physique suggests. Maybe Brock Lesnar doesn't, and isn't taking his WWE appearances seriously. Tell that story and make your matches mean more.
This may come as a surprise when WWE has the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Chris Jericho at their disposal, plus the Bruce Prichard spinoff podcast. However, Lilian Garcia has developed into one of the best interviewers in wrestling media. If there's any doubt, take a listen to her discussion with Paige, where she opened up about many of the struggles she went through in her career. Check out her talk with Zelina Vega, who lost her father during 9/11. Lilian Garcia is a warm, friendly voice that many of the wrestlers that join her feel comfortable opening up to. As much as I'd like to put over my own interview skills, I often don't have a relationship, must less a friendship with the subjects I talk to. Garcia has that will nearly all of her guests, and if not, the respect of being in the same business carries a lot of weight and translates well.
BRING IT BACK!
WWE Breaking Ground made me believe Baron Corbin was going to be a huge star. The psuedo shoot-work nature of it really helped to get over personalities that were in NXT, and it became one of my favorite shows on TV period. This is what a modern day Tough Enough should be. The contests and voting aspects are out the window, and you instead have young, hungry stars that you learn more about and become invested in. This show was one of WWE's great masterpieces, and it's a shame we've never seen a follow up. Triple H told me recently he'd be open to this coming back in a new format, which is what their PC Youtube is.
WWE Are You Serious?
WWE making fun of their own mistakes is fun. Them making fun of WCW's mistakes on Youtube was plenty fun, too. That's pretty much what WWE Are You Serious? was, with Road Dogg and Josh Mathews serving as the sarcastic hosts. Mathews is in Impact Wrestling and Road Dogg is running Smackdown right now, but there are a couple of guys in Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows who ooze humor and charisma and seem like they'd jump at the opportunity to bury some stuff softly.
(Editor's Note: this column was completed approximately two months before the announcement they'd be handling the botchamania offshoot)
I can't believe this was never expanded full-time on the WWE Network. This was a joy to check out on their Youtube channel. Even at a slim 15 minutes per episode, this would be must-watch programming, as it was years ago. WWE owns so much that they're not ridding themselves of for whatever reason, the original program barely scratched the surface. Retro wrestling content has never been hotter than right now, and the company should capitalize.
What We Don't Need Back
Normally, I'd have included Talking Smack, as that was one of the network's all-time great shows. With Renee Young on Raw and Daniel Bryan back in the ring, what would Talking Smack be? Pete Rosenberg and JBL? No, thanks. They worked on Bring it to the Table because the theme of that show was a little more negative and served WWE's self fulfilling purpose. Talking Smack was off-the-cuff and generally light hearted. Renee Young and Daniel Bryan do that better than anyone.
I got conned into watching these nothing happening shows for a long time under the guise of covering wrestling. This was truly some of the most pointless wrestling programming I ever didn't enjoy, and taking a 3 hour broadcast and turning it into a four hour one was a miserable idea. This isn't NFL Gameday, playboys.