Rob Ford did not show up to WWE RAW Monday. But Hulk Hogan did. Credit: Getty Images
WWE has had a monopoly on the world of professional wrestling since March of 2001, when World Championship Wrestling (WCW) went under. Comcast has had a monopoly on cable TV and wireless internet service bundles since Feb. 13 of this year, the day it bought Time Warner cable for a cool $45 billion.
Undoubtedly, Comcast's victory was a tad more scary for the average U.S. citizen - though the thought of a world without Vince McMahon prominently involved on a daily basis is, of course, decidedly nightmarish.
McMahon's final great battle may very well wind up being against big cable, and Monday his company set forth on a brave voyage - by launching its own streaming network without the help of cable. WWE is not the first global company to try this initiative (Glenn Beck's The Blaze/GBTV began online streaming only a couple years back), but it is without question risky. WWE is offering daily content (think NFLNetwork), its vast video library and all of its Pay-Per-Views (one per month) for $9.99 per month. For reference, an individual wrestling Pay-Per-View typically runs around $60. In other words, for a wrestling fan, it's a steal.
The network, which is partnered with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, launched on Monday at 9 a.m. and fans immediately began complaining on social media about glitches and the network cutting out. On Twitter:
xoSARASMiLES: I should have waited to pay for the @WWENetwork until all these ridiculous glitches were fixed. Horrible.
osmosis05: finally managed to get on the #WWENetwork it looks awesome...but its wayyy too many glitches #failure
Slopedog64: #WWENetwork needs to fix its glitches before people completely give up and never spend a dime. The loading issues simply to sign up are nuts
phenomlegend87: Ohhh man here it goes glitches @WWENetwork it's freezing
Of course, in a country that has had recent technical glitches with more important online endeavors, this should be expected on Day 1 of such a large (pardon the pun) undertaking. And WWE is giving its customers a free, one-week trial run with the network, so if the problems persist the idea is that they can just give up without giving up their money. WWE sent out this release Monday: “Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), WWE’s technology partner, was overwhelmed and their systems have been unable to process most orders since 9 am due to demand for WWE Network. MLBAM has been working aggressively to resolve this issue.”
Comcast hasn't directly bashed WWE for going over its head with the launching of their own network yet - though Comcast owns NBC Universal (WWE's current TV partner) and WWE's regular TV contract is up soon (ya think the WWE network was and will be brought up in negotiations?). Meanwhile, Dish Network was not as discreet with its bitterness towards McMahon and Co. and did not allow Dish Network viewers to buy the last PPV that wasn't also available on WWE Network. According to Rajah.com:
"WWE has chosen to launch a 24/7 online network, without its TV partners, that includes all of its pay-per-view events. As WWE enters the increasingly fragmented media world by themselves, DISH will continue to consider the value of WWE pay-per-view on an event by event basis.
"DISH continues to provide a variety of WWE programming, including WWE Raw on USA, WWE Smackdown on Syfy, WWE Main Event on Ion and WWE Total Divas on E!. At this time, WWE pay-per-view events are not available on DISH."
WWE heavily promoted the new network on its flagship TV show, RAW, Monday night, going so far as to bring back Hulk Hogan (aka the Babe Ruth of wrestling) for the first time in nearly eight years.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor and columnist Matt Burke on Twitter@BurkeMetroBOS