WWE Network – Review

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This week is wrestling week at TheGameJar. Which means we’ve asked all our writers to share memories of wrestling games past and present. Today, instead of a game, Sean looks at an app which is making a lot of noise and gaining a lot of subscribers.

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The WWE Network app certainly has made a big impact since finally releasing in the UK. It’s also something that a lot of people have asked me about since subscribing. Is it worth it? What’s on it? Is it just all the new rubbish? Well we thought we’d answer that for you. If you watch WWE at all then you cannot escape the rhetoric of constant promotion and advertising on its programming. There are a lot of good things about it, but the one that’s made the most headlines is the lack of quality in the current product (see the 2015 Royal Rumble match). I can’t argue that, but there’s a great deal that’s excellent.

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[Current WWE NXT Champion Kevin Owens, who is making the Powerbomb a feared move again.]

Firstly there’s WWE NXT, which had been on Sky Sports before now. It’s a developmental brand for WWE that has transcended its status to become a bit of a cult hit. One hour focused on new and great wrestling talent, without the storyline flack that the two big shows seem to be filled with. The divas get a proper wrestling outing too, showcasing the talent the WWE has in its wings for the future, and talent that will be very familiar for those who follow the independent promotions where a lot of these wrestlers cut their teeth.

In fact it’s the lack of the two big shows on the network that’s the most disappointing. There isn’t the big back catalogue of Raw and Smackdown that there could be. For all of the 1000 odd shows that there are of Raw, there’s not even a tenth of it on there. Same goes for Smackdown. There’s no Sunday Night The list can go on There are probably reasons for this and some things are slowly being brought out, like WCW Monday Nitro. But there isn’t even a hint at almost a decade’s worth of television, which is very disappointing. Although there’s lots of classic WWE like Tuesday Night Titans, Prime Time Wrestling and Saturday Night’s Main Event.

The thing is, you’d need to be quite the wrestling boffin to want and know of these things. What WWE Network does really well is its Pay-Per-View content, it’s highlighting of classic and brilliant wrestling and its in depth look at some of the greatest stars we’ve had. WWE has produced some excellent, if not incredibly biased, looks at the careers of many wrestlers, factions and promotions.

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[Great shows like Legends of Wrestling show that smoking cigars is very cool.]

Everything from former stars like The Hardy brothers to recent Triple H documentaries, all with interviews from many people. Stand out ones include a look at Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Paul Heyman, both creative geniuses and arguably the greatest managers in the history of the genre. There’s some great specials from the vaults like the Legends of Wrestling roundtable chats which seem to be filled with lots of smoking… Seriously, everyone smokes in WWE apparently. There’s the excellent looks at now defunct promotions like ECW, WCW and AWA although again with a WWE bias. In fact one of the standout things, although stretched out over a full season it can get a bit repetitive, is the documentary of the Monday Night War. The television ratings battle between WWE (WWF at the time) and WCW which ushered in a golden age of wrestling and the Attitude era that we all remember so fondly.

The hardcore wrestling fans might be a bit disappointed at the occasional editing due to licensing purposes like music and the very fine cuts of events that we all love. But credit to WWE, it hasn’t been shy in putting tricky content out there. One former wrestler in particular is included in programming which is good as before terrible events, he was an excellent wrestler and is part of sports entertainment history. There are many disclaimers before most of the content that isn’t PG programming or programming they created themselves.

Technically the app on every console works very well. I’ve tested it on Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360. In fact the worst iteration of the app I’ve tested is the iPad version which also doubles as the generic WWE app for news. Although I’ve never had a problem finding content, everything is laid out in an easy to find manner, the quality of the streaming is excellent and very rarely drops and the PlayStation versions of the app include nice little chapter points to fast forward easily to specific matches. Why the Xbox version doesn’t have these I have no idea, because it really should.

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[Still my personal favourite Wrestling/Alan Partridge crossover.]

What this app does do is allow us to relieve what we loved as young people in the big and special nights. We can go back and watch Mick Foley being thrown off the cell. We can revisit the real Icon vs. Icon matches like Rock vs. Hogan and Ric Flair vs. Harley Race. We can look at those matches we never see nowadays like the hardcore matches, the first One Night Stand events and most of the ECW back catalogue and the original Hardyz vs. Edge and Christian ladder match. We can all relive our WrestleMania moments again and, thanks to the great value, you can watch all the new ones too without having to pay Sky £15 every time for just one show.

Whilst this can be for the purist, it’s great if you have young family members who are fans but can’t afford a Sky subscription or Pay-Per-View costs. It’s parental controls stop most things you don’t want them to see and you can relieve your best memories. Faces you’ve likely forgotten and ones that have never left you. Yes, there is a lot of content that is missing but arguably, a lot that’s missing isn’t worth being put on or is coming. Except for the huge gap in Raw and Smackdown replays, WWE Network hits the right button for fans of wrestling and those guys who remember what things used to be like.

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