The so called biggest party of the summer is upon us. The second of the big four PPV’s, bridging the period between Wrestlemania and Survivor Series, is here and with it comes Brock Lesnar. The rumours about John Cena defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Brock Lesnar that I talked about back in July were true. The Beast Incarnate looks to pick up his first WWE Championship title in a decade and the only man standing his way is the Hulk Hogan of our era, John Cena. Lesnar Vs. Cena is but one match on the card, albeit possibly the most intriguing match. Other matches will see Dean Ambrose finally get his hands on Seth Rollins in a lumberjack match, Randy Orton will battle Roman Reigns and Brie Bella attempts to take Stephanie McMahon down a peg or two.
Before that though, let’s discuss the WWE Network. A lot of critics and fans have denounced the WWE Network as a failure simply because it didn’t bring in as many subscribers as Triple H and the McMahon family had hoped. Maybe they did overestimate the immediate appeal but I have no doubt that, over time, the WWE Network will prove to be a success. While the WWE may have given up a sizable amount of money by moving away from the pay-per-view system, the network is a much more contemporary and innovative model for delivering their product. The days of sitting down in front of a television and either pre-paying or purchasing a show from box office are bygone. Streaming and on-demand are now the premiere ways of watching and catching-up with your favourite shows and sports. Almost every television network and channel in the western world now offers some form of on-demand content.
The WWE Network may seem unproductive at the moment but it places the WWE a step ahead of other sports such as MMA and boxing which haven’t quite moved towards this modern concept of show distribution. And that’s not to say that MMA or boxing are lagging behind. They’re doing what works for them at the moment and at the moment MMA is probably still more popular than wrestling. But I think within the next decade we could definitely see MMA and boxing move in a similar direction and by that time WWE will have profitable and flourishing delivery system for their shows already in place.
It is just this modern culture of immediate gratification that says we should have seen notable results from the network by now. People forget that netflix didn’t become what it is today overnight either. It started by offering a good service and titles people wanted to see. Then it started offering something that people wanted but couldn’t easily find. Breaking Bad was one of the big shows that really promoted Netflix so much so that by the final season of Breaking Bad the episodes were going up on to the British site faster than they were going up on the American page because it was in hot demand. Once Netflix had established that fanbase, then they began creating their own shows such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It was a step by step process and it’ll be the same for the WWE Network.
Given the WWE’s existing fan base it is understandable that they thought they could perhaps skip a few steps but their fans aren’t sheep. They aren’t going to fork over $9.99 on blind faith. WWE has to offer quality. Part of that is getting their own shows in order and producing consistently great episodes of RAW, Smackdown, Main Event and NXT. However, it would also behove the WWE to invest in a show that wrestling fans can’t easily get. Had New Japan Pro Wrestling not recently partnered with Jeff Jarrett’s upcoming Global Force Wrestling promotion I would have suggested that NJPW could have been their Breaking Bad. NJPW shows are available on stream but the WWE Network could offer them better exposure, better advertising and better quality streams all across America. Maybe there’s still an opportunity to do something with Pro Wrestling Noah or Consejo Mundail de Lucha Libre. Either way, working with other promotions in the same way that the WWE worked with ECW in the late 90’s could benefit the WWE Network by attracting unconventional viewers who might then be hooked on to WWE content. Then WWE could begin developing original shows such as Legends House and Tough Enough.
Maybe that’s just not possible. Netflix and the WWE Network are different so the same format might not work for both. Regardless of how WWE want to handle the network the one thing that will continue to be paramount is the wrestling. Great wrestling with provocative storylines will continue to engage fans and so far the build up to WWE Summerslam has been hit or miss. The Brock Lesnar Vs. John Cena storyline was at it’s strongest when the competitors weren’t on the show, oddly enough. The aftermath of the pay per view will be more of a reason to watch than the match itself.
Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon has been second most heavily promoted match on the card, with Randy Orton and Roman Reigns hot on their heels. Orton will be Reigns first real test as a singles star, whereas Bella vs. McMahon is mostly just a grudge match. The build up for the latter feud has been a little over the top and cheesy at times but it’s mostly been saved by Stephanie McMahon’s presence, such as her adopting the Yes chant to rub Bella’s face in Bryan’s alleged affair with his therapist. If anyone had been told in 2000 that 14 years later Stephanie McMahon would be as entertaining as Vince McMahon they would have called shenanigans. But it’s true.
Ask fans and they’ll tell you that they’re looking forward to Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt. Both promise to be classics for the modern era. Heck, even AJ Lee vs. Paige, Rusev vs. Jack Swagger and The Miz Vs. Dolph Ziggler have the potential to be great matches. A full prediction post will go up on my tumblr account later tonight. If you’ve been following along, I’m 22 for 31. Can I maintain my above average track record or will SummerSlam have some surprises in store? The only way to know for sure is to tune into SummerSlam tonight.