When I was growing up, wrestling was easy to follow. In the 90s, we were served a healthy, but dense diet of a 2-hour Monday Night Raw. I say dense, because only the top stars of the day were televised. From Hulk Hogan to Randy Savage all the way down to the Red Rooster and Virgil, they were all famous. Fans of the late 80s-early 90s era of WWF still remember every name on that card, because it was limited. Even prior to that, we were given the occasional Saturday Night’s Main event and Superstars. There were also four pay-per-views. These are still the major pay-per-views: Summerslam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, and WrestleMania. Into the Raw era, we were given some additional content in the form of “In Your House” pay-per-views. The King of the Ring tournament also became a staple.
The rise of WCW proved there was a demand to be met for more and more content, which Eric bischoff was happy to oblige. We can thank the competitive nature of the Monday Night War for the current status quo of weekly wrestling programming. Because Ted Turner was so eager to air WCW television to combat WWF, we were also given Thursday night Thunder. The McMahon retaliation to this would be known as Smackdown, which has changed nights and networks several times since its inception. On and off again, we would see a third hour added and taken away from the flagship Monday Night programs, depending on their success.
Once we hit the ceiling of a PPV every month and 4-5 hours of television content every week, fans were full. We were stuffed. Even after the Monday Night war had ended and couldn’t flip back and forth between networks, the 2000s still had enough weekly content to keep us well satiated. Raw, Smackdown, and a monthly pay-per-view. It was plenty. Don’t get me wrong; I love wrestling. The more the better. I love video games and drinking, too. But sometimes, life gets in the way of binging on the things we love.
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Some might say that Sunday Night Heat and Velocity were already stretching the limits of what we were able to sustain as fans, but those were never really considered to be essential viewing. Once again, they were extensions of the Raw and Smackdown brands during that first brand split. Though, some would argue that Heat gave us some interesting dream matches, like Mr. Perfect vs. Rob Van Dam.
But there is a big difference between then and now, and the current amount of weekly programming both on television and the WWE Network can be overwhelming.This is mainly because we don’t know where the week ends or begins. I’ll start with Monday. Raw is now cemented at 3 hours. Due to the brand split, Smackdown has become a necessary addition to our weekly schedule, where before it had been more of an extension of the collaborative WWE roster. Now, Smackdown is just as entertaining (and many would say more so) than Raw. So, we’re already at a 5 hour commitment.
This is where the WWE Network comes in. This year were were given exactly what we wished for. The Cruiserweight Classic was such a success and so popular with fans, we were given the Cruiserweight division on Raw, and now, 205 Live on the WWE Network. I loved this idea, and so far, I’m still engaged. This show immediately follows Smackdown, creating a third hour on Tuesday night. THEN, we have Talking Smack, an additional half hour tacked on. Talking Smack has been revolutionary for the Smackdown brand, and has been a helpful tool for building some great characters; namely, The Miz and Alexa Bliss. Yet another hugely influential and fun show. So, our Tuesday nights are now 3.5 hours, bringing us to 6.5 hours.
We’re only at Wednesday, and we’re bushed. But if you want to keep up with all the exciting young talent and global indie darlings that the WWE has acquired, we’re going to have to watch NXT. Some say that after so many of NXT’s best and brightest were called up to the main roster, that it’s been a bit watered down. But the NXT talent pool is still teeming with life in the form of Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Eric Young, Asuka, and so many others who are vying for a top spot on what was supposed to be the WWE farm system. To me, this is some of the most entertaining content of the week. Luckily, it’s kept to an hour, and our count for necessary WWE viewing is at 7.5 hours.
Okay, let’s take a break. Damn, it’s already Thursday? Where did the week go? Where am I? There are no Hulkamaniacs here! I’ve never been here before!
We can take some time to reflect, but if it’s the weekend before one of the major events, we’re going to be treated to an NXT TakeOver. These are some of the best shows of the year, so we certainly can’t miss those!
And finally, we have our big Pay-per-view. Now, depending on the event, it could be anywhere from 3-5 hours. And because of the brand split, we’re getting a PPV every two weeks. One show for both brands per month. Every two weeks, we’re up to 10+ hours, but if we have a TakeOver and major PPV like Wrestlemania, we’re going to be closer to 16-18 hours. Being a wrestling fan is now a part-time job.
And yet, I’m not complaining. It’s a sensory overload, but I love every minute of it. Hell, I’m sitting here watching a recent episode of Unfiltered with Renee Young. It’s a weird addiction, and if you’re insane like me and watch additional content on the WWE Network, you’re looking at a huge weekly commitment to the point where you question your life choices and lose touch with reality. But I won’t stop watching. It’s some enabling behavior on the part of WWE to keep feeding the geeky beast. How much is too much of a good thing? What kind of precedent does it set to buy into every little sub-roster and division that WWE produces? While it’s fun, we could all overdose on wrestling. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be trying out that new WWE UK that’s out on the streets. Anyway...now to watch yet another documentary about ECW. Just a little more won’t kill me...after all, $9.99 is pretty cheap for such a sweet high.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, "So Now I'm the Asshole" on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke