World Wrestling Entertainment launched its over-the-top streaming service in February 2014. Overnight, wrestling fans had every WWE, WCW, and EWC pay-per-view, some exclusive original programming, and access to every future “Sunday Night Live Special” for $10/month. After reaching the one million subscriber mark earlier this year, WWE looks to attract new customers with a free month of WWE Network this May. With over 2,600 hours of wrestling-related content, it’s easy to be paralyzed by choice. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best, most fun, and most informative things to watch with your free month of WWE Network.
Instinct might tell you to begin your journey through the WWE Network with an early Wrestlemania – old stars, legendary matches, childhood nostalgia. Unfortunately, though, the early Wrestlemanias can be a bit of a slog. In many cases, these early years feature more than 10 matches, all given fewer than 8 minutes, leading to a formulaic Hulk Hogan main event. Not bad, certainly, but not the highest value for your limited access to every WWE pay-per-view ever produced. For my money, Wrestlemania 24 is the one to watch. Wade Keller, editor and publisher of the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter gave ratings of four-stars or better to an astounding four different matches at Wrestlmania 24. He gave Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels a “perfect” match rating of five-stars. Every hour of the show features a highlight reel match; showcasing tremendous story-telling, psychology, and athleticism. The celebrity appeal of WM24 might also tickle you. Kim Kardashian guest hosts the show, Snoop Dogg throws a clothesline, and Floyd Mayweather actually fights the Big Show (years before his domestic violence arrest). Additionally, WM24 represents a superior achievement in set design and production. WWE turned the Citrus Bowl from a concrete mess into a marvelous arena for pro wrestling. The stage, the ring cover, the fireworks, and the overhead shots of the stadium are all sights to behold.
If you’ve seen many Wrestlemanias, and want to give an off-brand pay per view a shot, you can’t go wrong with WWE Extreme Rules 2012. This show features a strong undercard with Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the World Title in a 2-out-of-3 falls match and Chris Jericho challenging CM Punk in a Chicago Street Fight for the WWE Championship. But the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena main event will take your breath away. The match marks Brock Lesnar’s in-ring return following his reign as UFC Heavyweight Champion. Lesnar and Cena produce a remarkably intense, well-worked match unlike any other in WWE’s modern era. The Chicago crowd fuels this show with a relentless energy, and the two biggest stars in the business give them something to remember. All the pay-per-views are easy to find at “Shows” — “Pay-Per-Views”
The WWE Network’s greatest original contribution, far and away, is the NXT Live Special. The WWE Developmental system, NXT, runs a heartily enjoyable, 50-60 minute weekly show on Wednesday nights and quarterly (or so) two-hour live specials. NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, airing Wednesday, May 20 at 8:00pm EST, will be the 6th NXT live special since the Network’s launch. The previous five represent some of the best in-ring and creative efforts WWE has promoted in the past two years. Unstoppable’s undercard features Finn Balor, in my view the top developmental talent in WWE, taking on Hideo Itami and Tyler Breeze in a triple threat number one contender’s match. The main event features two wrestlers – Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens – destined for stardom. If you can’t catch the special live, you can find NXT under “Shows” — “In Ring” — “WWE NXT.”
WWE Legends of Wrestling was a relatively unsuccessful foray into on-demand, but a gold mine for fans of the hectic, unpredictable, sometimes dangerous history of professional wrestling. These digestible, 60-90 minute shows feature round-table discussions with a host and recognizable panels. With a limited timeframe, I would point you to Legends of Wrestling: Managers, the November 2009 episode. Joey Styles, Michael P.S. Hayes, Jim Ross, J.J. Dillon, and Jimmy Garvin walk us through the history, the importance, and the evolution of the wrestling managers. Here you’ll see some amazing promotional work from some of the best wrestling characters of all time including Captain Lou Albano and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. Find every episode in the Legends of Wrestling series under “Shows” — “Vault” — “Legends of Wrestling”
Part of the WWE Network’s appeal is its access to a rich vault of footage from promotions that WWE outlasted. While many wrestling fans anxiously wait for the classic American Wrestling Association (AWA) and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling footage to drop, a hefty amount of World Class Championship Wrestling posted to the WWE Network almost immediately. For an introduction into the old-school days of blood feuds, high quality in-ring work, and fans ready to riot against villains, look no further than WCCW 54 from December 28, 1982. This single-match show between Ric Flair and Kerry Von Erich for the NWA World Heavyweight Title turned the wrestling world upside-down. The match ignited the fiercest rivalry of the 1980s and made World Class the hottest promotion in the business. An abbreviated library of World Class Championship Wrestling episodes can be found under “Shows” — “Vault” — “WCCW”
Of course, WWE and the WWE Network wouldn’t be what they are without Chairman of the Board, Vince McMahon. Fans have spent the better part of two decades trying to discern between the iconic Mr. McMahon character and the actual man himself. We get a welcome glimpse at the real life Vincent Kennedy McMahon on the Network Special Steve Austin Podcast – Vince McMahon interview. The 75 minute one-on-one interview between these two behemoths blends stories and reflections from the past with current angles and hot topics. McMahon rarely offers himself for exclusive interviews, particularly of this length. And with McMahon nearing age 70, we likely have very few opportunities left to hear the stories and opinions that Steve Austin draws from him. While you can download and listen to the interview in its entirety from PodcastOne, seeing Vince and Stone Cold react to each other and re-live stories from their golden days is a treat. You can find this special and other live podcast interviews at “Original” — “Original Specials” — “December 1, 2014”
Don’t let the 2,600 hours of library content and 24/7 streaming schedule intimidate you! You can’t possibly watch everything on the Network, but with these selections, you can make the most of your free month.