Break It Down: The WWE Network & Its Effect On The Indies

Greetings fellow wrestling fans. My name is Brett Deutchman and this is Break It Down with The Deutch (pronounced Doich). I’ll be throwing in my 2 cents as to what I think about the current and past happenings in the wacky world of professional wrestling.

So WWE formally announced the launch of the WWE Network. The presentation included the announcement of the network itself, accompanied by special appearances from Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena, as well as highlights of what to expect from the network.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the special appearances was Stone Cold’s take on the network. While everyone else mostly read off a teleprompter, Austin spoke straight off the dome which reflects the no-nonsense personality he has. Stone Cold is my favorite wrestler and the way he can speak his mind without having to hesitate is something I admire.

Now onto business: So, the network is accessible on virtually any platform you can think of; be it a television, gaming console, PC or mobile device. The content includes every WWF/E, WCW, ECW event and more completely uncensored and uncut.

So, as Stephanie McMahon said, “whether you’re a fan of the ‘Say Your Prayers and Eat Your Vitamins and Hulk Hogan era’ or the ‘We Got Two Words for You Attitude Era,'” there is something for everyone on this network. In addition to past content, every pay-per-view event going forward will be available to view on the network.

Arguably the most intriguing aspect about the network is its price. In a culture where people are trying to spend as less as possible, finding the right price to satisfy both the consumer and the organization’s needs is crucial. The price for the WWE Network is $9.99 a month. Which means you get almost everything WWE has ever produced and will continue to produce for $9.99 a month. Quite a bargain, don’t you think?

So what does this mean? You don’t have to scour YouTube or Dailymotion anymore to find old wrestling matches, promos or vignettes because they will all be conveniently available on one network. The catch is you have to pay for it. But the price isn’t so unreasonable considering the amount of content at your disposal.

This also means no more overpriced pay-per-views. As WWE stated, normally a person would pay $55 per WWE PPV, with the exception of Wrestlemania costing $70.

In addition, this also puts a dent in the DVD market because to my knowledge, anything released on DVD by WWE is also available on the network. Once it launches in late February, there will no longer be a need to purchase physical DVDs because that content will be continuously available on the network for a much more affordable price.

So how will this affect the independent promotions; companies like Dragon Gate USA, Extreme Rising, House of Hardcore etc who thrive on the DVD and iPPV markets for success?

Dragon Gate USA recently sent out an email shortly before its EVOLVE shows this past weekend discussing the effect of the network. It states that independent promotions are the mom and pop shops while WWE is Walmart. And that comparison could not be more accurate.

Independent promotions have always prided themselves on being alternatives to wrestling on television. However their goal is is to ultimately also get TV deals so more fans will recognize them and develop a loyalty to their brand. But also as history has shown, the grass is not always greener on television. Once a wrestling promotion airs on TV, they must appeal to all audiences, not just their core fanbase if they are to maintain their presence on television. If not, they are destined to go out of business altogether or remain a small independent company. I can imagine that wrestling companies would rather go under instead of having that feeling of being that wrestling company who couldn’t make it.

With that in mind, small independent promotions are in no position for a TV deal to compete with WWE. And furthermore they are not able to counter a game-changer like the WWE Network. So their revenue, as it has always been, depends on not only ticket sales but also DVD and iPPV purchases. Independent promotions do not have major sponsorships and partnerships like WWE has, which provide for steady incomes, so the fans truly do determine the fate of the indies.

If the WWE Network becomes successful, the fans’ contributions to independent wrestling will be more important than ever. There will be that mindset of “Why pay $20 for a DVD when I can watch WWE PPVs for less?” And that is when the fans need to ask themselves which type of product they want to watch and whether or not they are willing to contribute to that product.

The network is a big step forward in the wrestling business and its potential for WWE cannot be doubted. But although WWE keeps pro wrestling relevant in the mainstream, the indies are the ones who maintain the community spirit of sports-entertainment. It is necessary for them to exist to satisfy those fans who may not be interested in WWE’s product. Like Bruno Sammartino said, “It’s not healthy to have one organization.”

The indies rely on fan support; and with that support, the spirit of professional wrestling will continue to thrive even during the potential “Network Era.”

Until then, see ya next time on Break it Down with The Deutch! Post your comments and feedback below.

  • David Garcia

    If what JR said during his appearance on Jim Cornette’s podcast comes to fruition, which is that HHH has planned to use the Network to create a territory system, similar to what JR did with OVW, but on a much grander scale, then I think the indies face a conundrum.

    On one hand, they can forge ahead. With WWE creating a much broader developmental/territory system, that creates jobs/opportunity, which in turn can potentially draw more talent into wrestling. Back in the day, guys broke into wrestling because the opportunity existed to make a good living in many different places, but with WWE’s monopoly, more potential wrestlers saw a very small pond and chose to ditch their athletic career to sell insurance. If more athletes see that they can make money in wrestling then more guys come in and now the indies have a broader pool of talent.

    The flip-side is that the talent will always be looking to advance and with WWE creating more jobs, more guys will be jumping. The one avenue potentially open to them is to try and become one of WWE’s territories. So maybe they give up some of the ownership, while retaining some of the control, in exchange for being a part of WWE’s system, with better exposure and access to more talent, and conceivably more money.

    Again this is all based around the idea that JR knows what HHH wants to do and that HHH is able to do it. If so, then the WWE network might just be the final piece in monopoly. That’s not to say the monopoly will last, but even in it’s infancy, it could very well kill the existing indies of today.