The WWE Network’s Launch Issues

Two weeks after the launch of the WWE Network, some troubling issues have emerged. Will they be fixed before WrestleMania 30?

UPDATE 3/14/14The WWE reached out and provided us with information addressing a number of the issues raised in this article. You can read all about it at this link!

Now that you’ve signed up for the WWE Network, I’ll bet you couldn’t wait to watch some classic “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock matches from Monday Night RAW on your Xbox 360! Or relive WrestleMania 3 with Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, or “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, right? Well I’d also bet you were mad when you couldn’t actually get into the WWE Network app on Xbox 360 for a week.

So it’s now been two weeks since WWE has launched the WWE Network, and where do things stand? Has it lived up to the hype? Have we gotten everything as advertised? Let’s take a look at where we are with it…

Some might say the biggest issue to date has been the lack of support, or technical issues, with using the app on the Xbox 360 console. For the first week, most users weren’t able to log into the app and would receive a message that their account info was “unrecognized.” After about a week, the log-in issue was resolved, but along came a new problem: very little content. To this day the app on Xbox 360 still only has a small percentage of content to choose from compared to the PC or other versions. There are no WCW or ECW pay-per-views up to select from, and the WWE PPV selection is extremely limited. Users have contacted WWE Network Support to complain about the lack of videos, and are given a basic “We’ll notify Technical Support” message, but are not given an update about when all of this will be uploaded.

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One of these things is not like the others.

Unedited and Uncensored? Some wrestler themes and pay-per-view songs have been removed due to licensing deals, and that’s understandable. We can still enjoy WWE matches with The Dudley Boyz without their Powerman 5000 theme or not having AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” as the theme song to SummerSlam ’98. Music licensing deals are a timed thing and the WWE not wanting to pay thousands of dollars to have a song that doesn’t play an important part in the show is excusable.

Watching some of the ECW pay-per-views, you might notice that these have been censored. Sometimes a crowd can get rowdy and loud, especially at ECW Arena shows where some of the chants were fairly “unique” to wrestling shows. For cases like that, I can see adding a disclaimer beforehand stating that the show had some adult language. But to cut out some chants because of the language is wrong. That was a part of ECW’s charm and the crowd chants added to the show.

And what about matches being removed? Well, Chris Benoit matches are still there, but what happened to most of New Jack’s matches on ECW ppv’s? They’re gone! Except for some run-ins he did, the only match with New Jack you’ll find on a show is his match against Mustafa from Living Dangerously ’99. If you’re unfamiliar with New Jack, even though he was a decent wrestler, he didn’t really start to get over until he had more hardcore, brawling matches in ECW. As time went on, his offense in matches evolved into cutting opponents with knives or forks, and taking insane dives off of balconies and scaffolds. He even suffered brain damage and lost sight in his right eye due to a bad dive. Again, adding a disclaimer to the beginning of the show that what you’re about to watch has a degree of violence in it is fine, but to omit matches is erasing history. Now if they were to add the Mass Transit Incident and were to cut out the New Jack/Mass Transit match, I could see an argument for both sides of the matter.

The point here is don’t advertise everything as being “unedited” and then completely remove matches. Although, I am not opposed to removing the Owen Hart aspects to the Over The Edge ’99 pay-per-view. I believe that is a different instance entirely and deserves respect. The Wrestling Observer’s Figure Four Online has a list of some of the more specific cuts.

A lot of these shows were transferred from analog tape a while ago. What the company did was make edits during that transfer to digital, and so they are using those digital transfers in many cases for the WWE Network. It’s a money-saving decision. Why retransfer footage that had already been digitally transferred just because of an edit here or there? But again, if you have the original footage, don’t give us edits and claim everything is “unedited and uncensored.” I’m sure a case can be made for false advertising.

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Yo, where am I at?

Week-long Free Trial? Sorry, We Meant 5 Days! If you wanted to try out the service before you decided on whether to sign up for a 6-month subscription or not, the WWE gave fans a free week-long trial. All you had to do was sign up with your credit card, and they would put a temporary hold of $9.99 on it for the duration of the trial. Then if you decided to cancel, you could call, cancel, and the hold would be taken off. Well for many fans, that’s not what happened. According to users who spoke with customer service reps when they called to cancel their trials, you needed to call before Sunday, March 2nd to cancel (the service started Monday, February 24th). Okay, that would have been 6 days, a day short of a week. But that’s not all. Even those who called before Sunday that were given cancellations still ended up being charged and the subscriptions were not canceled. I can even attest to this because I was one of the unlucky ones.

After the issues with my Xbox 360, I decided to cancel until they worked out all of the bugs and everything was available on the Xbox app. I called on Saturday, March 1st to cancel, then was charged $9.99 on Monday. So I called back on Tuesday, March 4th, to complain and make sure I got a refund, and was told it would be taken care of. Fast forward to Saturday, March 8th when I receive an email from their customer support telling me: Your request for a refund in connection with your WWE subscription has been denied in accordance with the terms of your purchase. I called them back that night, and they explained to me their “week-long free trial” concept, and despite calling on Saturday the 1st to cancel, the notice wasn’t forwarded until the 2nd, which was after the trial period was over. Hence, no refund. It’s shameful the company had to mislead fans with trickery in the wording to get $9.99 out of so many of us.

[Related Article: The WWE Network – Our 22 Must-Watch PPVs]

Where Are All The Episodes Of Monday Night RAW? If you go to the RAW Replay section, you’ll see the episodes only go back to December 23, 2012. So where are all of the old episodes we were supposed to get? Right now, there are a few older RAWs up, but you’ll have to use the search function to look them up. As of right now, the only older RAWs available are episodes: 1, 3, 4, 10, 12, 13, and 14. These seem to be coming up every few days, so it looks like we’ll have to wait until the entire run is up. As for when the WCW Monday Nitro episodes will be uploaded, your guess is as good as mine.

Price Increase Coming? There have been unconfirmed reports that some fans have received surveys from WWE that asked users if they would still subscribe to the WWE Network if the price were $11.99 per month. This can mean almost anything, though. Since the company has not released numbers on the amount of subscribers, it could mean that the WWE lowballed their price initially but received more sign-ups than expected and are thinking they may be able to raise their price while keeping the majority of those fans. Or it could mean that there were fewer subscribers than initially thought and the company needs to make money back from what they had originally projected. Of course this is all speculation and we don’t know exactly the reasons for polling people on a price increase. In a WWE Network presentation before the launch, George Barrios, Chief Strategy & Financial Officer of WWE, stated that according to projections, they would need 1,000,000 subscribers just to break even. This is not only because of the expenses of running the Network, but also due to losses of monies from pay-per-views since they will now be included in the subscriptions.

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If you didn’t see NXT ArRival, which was the first live wrestling event aired on WWE Network, it went off with very few hitches. A feed cut here and a buffering there is okay and almost expected when watching something live online. But the real test to the service is going to be WrestleMania XXX. I think it is safe to assume that will be the most logged-into show in the WWE Network’s short history. If feeds get constantly cut, or the quality of the video drops incredibly low, or if the whole Network crashes from the amount of viewers, that could be the death knell for the whole thing. It would be a shame if it failed because despite its issues and flaws right now, the WWE Network could end up being a great source of entertainment for us, and a great business tool for the company. So let’s cross our fingers that these problems start to get straightened out soon and that WM30 comes off (at least) near perfect!

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