Hacking up brown chunks resembling Debra’s cookies, I spent last weekend wishing the World Wrestling Entertainment Network could cure my self-diagnosed bronchitis. When you’re in bed popping cough drops in between swigs of ginger ale, a few hours of vintage wrasslin’ matches always serves as an entertaining distraction. But with WWE Classics On Demand discontinued, and the DVD player being farther than walking Camino de Santiago, I relied upon my trusty and crusty laptop to scour YouTube for a chokeslam remedy.
Just a couple clicks and bam – an immediate fix for the wrestling junkie.
It’s tough to fathom not being able to watch my favorite hobby whenever I want, even though I grew up in a time when that luxury didn’t exist.
Until Pop-Pop read me the newspaper ad for “Smackdown’s” debut on then-UPN 57, Extreme Championship Wrestling’s weekly one-hour show was my only source for grappling.
“Smackdown” was cool because it not only lasted two hours, but aired on a Thursday night.
So you would scribble down The Rock’s latest catchphrases and then go to school the next day all pumped to recite them with your friends. Of course, this was before “Smackdown” became WWE’s Ashlee Simpson – the younger, less popular and prerecorded sibling to “Monday Night Raw.” Since my family didn’t get cable until Feb. 18, 2000 – don’t judge me – it was the first time I heard of this dark, profane alternative to “Monday Night Football.”
And aside from Scott Steiner Valentine’s cards in the dollar store, I had zero knowledge of WWE’s existence.
The options expanded over the years as I stayed up late for “Metal,” “Excess,” “Velocity” and “Confidential,” woke up to “Livewire” and “Superstars” and begrudgingly packed my schoolbag during “Sunday Night Heat.” These shows consisted of my sports-entertainment diet, and I balanced my life around their airings. With the advent of WWE On Demand and the advancement of the Internet, my appetite for wrestling grew in order to devour this viewing buffet.
However, years of instant ladder matches and on-the-spot Stone Cold promos have subdued my desire to watch wrestling as it airs.
As a college senior, I’ll admit the only reason I catch “Raw” every week is because there’s a TV at my job. If I wasn’t working, I would probably play beer pong at Maxi’s and skim through The Authority’s segments on Hulu during my hangover. As for “Smackdown,” forget it. Sorry JBL, you may fight on Friday nights, but I’d rather fail as a lover.
If sports entertainment’s constant availability has impacted a diehard’s devotion, you have to wonder how future generations will be affected by the arrival of WWE Network.
Starting Feb. 24, the wrasslin’ Netflix will stream content 24/7 in addition to featuring an on-demand library that contains every WWE, World Championship Wrestling and ECW pay-per-view.
The new programs for streaming include “WWE Countdown” – an interactive poll of various topics conducted by fans, “WrestleMania Rewind” – a behind-the-scenes retrospective of “Mania’s” memorable matches and moments, “WWE Legends’ House” – a wrestling spinoff of “The Surreal Life” and weekly airings of “NXT,” “Superstars” and pre-and-post shows for “Raw” and “Smackdown.”
I neglected to mention “The Monday Night War” because I’m tired of revisiting the late ‘90s battle between Raw and Nitro. We fans know Eric Bischoff dyed his hair, we’re glad Mike Tyson needed money and we can name all 43 members of the NWO on Sporcle.
I’m more interested in learning about the war between WWE and every other promotion during the ‘80s. Let’s hear from Greg Gagne or Kevin Von Erich about how their fathers struggled to compete against Vince McMahon. Perhaps a late-night, uncensored sit-down interview with Ole Anderson on the death of the territories.
A cost of $9.99 per month with a six-month commitment … I’ll commit to six years for that show.
The best part of the subscription is that viewers get every WWE PPV, each costing $45 on average, for only $10.
The potential downside of that deal for fans like me who go to the Fox and Hound with their friends to watch the PPVs is that no decision has been made on whether the restaurant chain will continue showing the events for the $5 cover charge.
I guess if something appears too good to be true, I remain suspect until the flaws are revealed.
Luckily, WWE will offer a free one-week trial of the network on WWE.com so any fears may be assuaged when it comes time to fill out the credit card information.
I will always worry about the next generation of fans, though. They’ll grow up in an era of instant access, an immediate scratch to that piledriver itch. Rather than remember “the jabroni-beating, pie-eating, trail-blazing, eye-brow raising” of The Rock from last night, they can simply whip out their iPhones and watch it during class.
Or maybe I’m just jealous WWE Network arrives three months before I graduate.
All those lectures I wasted daydreaming instead of reliving Taz choke out Sabu…It’s enough to make me sick.
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.