In my eyes. The “hate” for John Cena is over

I won’t be sporting the latest in ‘Fruity Pebbles’ merchandise from John Cena but I can honestly say that after tonight, he’s earned my admiration. I’m sure he’s relieved. Even though what he did for Sami Zayn was pretty awesome, that’s not why I’m turning in my ‘Cena Hater’ card. 

   

Cena has been eating crap from the WWE Universe for the better part of about five to six years now and tonight was no different. I’m actually glad somebody came up with a new chant to ridicule him because “let’s go Cena, Cena sucks” was played out two years ago. I watched as he took it all in stride, just as he does every other night, but what struck me tonight and engineered this sudden change of heart is the fact that no matter what, John Cena never flinches. I enjoyed him subtly manipulate the Montreal crowd to the point where the cheers drowned out the jeers. Sure, he was pandering like conservative at an NRA rally, but what else is he to do? Break character and “turn heel” (by the way, if you think that, you’re lost beyond all reason and there is no help for you). No, because you don’t become the top guy and stay the top guy for more than a decade by basing your reactions upon the whims of wrestling fans who are more fickle than a bipolar convention. Besides, in my opinion, him telling the fans what he thinks of them in response to their constant ragging would be the easy way out. The irony would be that those same haters would still give Cena the treatment because their little brains probably wouldn’t be able to process NOT hating him for whatever reason.  
As far as being the top guy goes, sure you can hate him for the way that the WWE stuffed him repeatedly down our collective gullets, but take a step back for a second and ask yourself is that really his fault? Sure, he was positioned as the face of the company and has always played a major role in WWE programming, but isn’t that the kind of dependability you want from your top guy? Save for his injuries, he doesn’t take days off, he still works house shows, and despite his reputed “five moves of death” (plus the new springboard cutter), you can tell that he never phones in his performances. Other wrestlers such as The Rock, Kevin Nash, Warrior, Bret Hart has their “five moves of death” as well. But again, most importantly, he’s still here. He’s outlasted the C.M. Punks and Kurt Angles of the world, and will certainly outlast Daniel Bryan (I hate disclaimers, but I will say if you think I’m throwing shade at either of those guys, you should have a seat next to the “turn Cena heel” guys). 
Who would have believed that the fresh faced Cena, during a backstage segment with The Undertaker after his first match against Angle would still be going strong all these years later? He’s been successful during every transitional phase the WWE has been through throughout his tenure with the company. From Ruthless Aggression to the WWE Universe era, he hasn’t missed a beat. Dear internet promoters and bookers, I ask, would you crown an undependable, oft-injured, locker room cancer YOUR world champion fifteen times? I’ll wait… 
The one thing i will also say is that for the most part within the last few years, anything that touches Cena’s direction is an death sentance to a long road down the ladder. Look at Bray Wyatt last year, Nexus in 2010, Ryback in 2013, and Rusev now. 

Continue to hate John Cena and boo him until your little hearts are content and your voice starts to crack, but don’t ever question his passion, love for the business or his loyalty to the WWE. To do that would only signify that the hatred has consumed and blinded you and you’re incapable of being objective. Will I ever cheer John Cena at a live event? Nope. Buy an armband? Nurp? Chide his haters and tell them they’re wrong? Not a chance. But I won’t continue to be so blind as to just hate him on principle for everything he does. That’s a step in the right direction. I’m sure John Cena will sleep better at night knowing that yours truly is no longer one of his biggest haters. 

WWE Network Review

Six months ago, WWE took an unparalleled venture into television history; a 24-hour “over-the-top” streaming service, featuring both live and on-demand programming. Hyped for nearly 2 years, expectations were understandably high, given WWE’s access to a vast number of historical tape libraries, as well as their move to bring every live Pay Per View event to their live streaming service. Analysts and fans alike were abuzz at the possibilities of the network, and its potential in the marketplace. Needless to say, it was an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, as the Network launched 6 months ago.

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Personally, I couldn’t wait to get myself subscribed to WWE’s service. I am a lifetime wrestling fan, clocking in over 20 years of blood, sweat and bodyslams. Access to the vast video-on-demand library, alone, was enough incentive for me to subscribe, and at $9.99/month, it really was a no-brainer. More than anything, though, I really wanted to be part of this historical moment in professional wrestling from the ground level. As much of wrestling fan as I am, I’m also a tech geek, so the thought of a streaming service really peaked my curiosity. What would happen on launch day when hundreds of thousands of wrestling fans tried to subscribe to the service at once? Could the servers handle the load? And what about the live stream of WrestleMania 30? Theoretically an unlimited number of people could potentially subscribe, and attempt to watch the live stream. Could the servers handle that? What original content would we have access to? What other hidden gems will be made available to us?

Of course, almost all of my questions were answered the day of the launch, February 24, 2014. And here are my experiences, thus far.

LAUNCH DAY:

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I didn’t sleep well the night before launch day (and, I would imagine, I wasn’t the only one). I was legitimately excited, like a child anticipating Christmas morning. I woke up early and begin checking WWE’s sign-up page, which was scheduled for a 9:00am launch. At 8:10am, almost an hour early, it went live. I might have been one of the first 100 people to have signed up for the Network, as I completed their sign-up process at lightning speed. And, the very next thing I knew, I was live.

I spent the next 45 minutes browsing through the VOD library, amazed to see every ECW, WCW, and WWE PPV, including some I thought would surely be omitted (WWF Over the Edge 1999 namely, but was also surprised to see any event heavily featuring Chris Benoit). After test-driving a handful of videos, all “WWF” mentions, and logos, appeared to be intact, as well, which was a huge relief. I had avoided buying many WWE PPV re-releases as I found Attitude Era footage was unwatchable between the 10-12+ blurs on screen, and any audible WWF mention censored. Much to my relief, everything appeared intact.

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It was then, though, that I ran into trouble. As more and more people attempted to sign up, the Network became unwatchable. On Demand features either wouldn’t load, or would appear with an error message stating “Media Error: The video is unavailable”, and the live stream simply wouldn’t load at all. My heart sank, as I began to feel that WWE had not adequately prepared for what was surely an incredible surge of traffic, and video consumption, on their servers. The remainder of launch day basically became a wash, as I experienced trouble for the lions-share of the day getting anything to load. Colour me disappointed, to say the least.

LAUNCH WEEK:

As the week progressed, my video vows eventually subsided. I was cautiously optimistic that WWE would have their server woes under control by WrestleMania, and if necessary, heavily invest in additional server capacity to service what was likely a stronger initial subscription rate than anticipated.

It was here that I really began to appreciate the vastness of WWE’s newborn Network. Want to watch WrestleMania 8 today? No problem. It’s there. Want to see what WCW countered with the same time of year? No problem. It’s there, too. And what about that crazy up-start, ECW? What were they doing? It’s there. I could literally sink an entire day just browsing through the Network, seeing what was available. Do you know the feeling when you’re browsing through Netflix, for what seems like an hour, because there are so many things you could be watching, but you can’t decide on just one? Well, that’s what this is like. Upon launch, there was more content available than most people will watch in their entire lifetime.

I only experienced a small few hiccups those initial few weeks, as well. Occasionally my picture would slightly pixelate, or on a rarer occasion, skip back a few seconds and replay something over again as it attempted to buffer. Those issues happened so few, and far between, that they almost don’t merit a mention in this column. And, to be clear, I was consuming content at an incredible rate. Often, the live stream was left running for hours at a time, with no noticeable impact on video quality. My internet bandwidth consumption (limited to 275 gigs per month by my internet service provider) did take a substantial hit, however. My approximation is that an hour of HD content on the WWE Network uses about 2 gigs of bandwidth from your allotment. So, my advice is, if it is reasonable to upgrade your internet package to an unlimited usage option, do so. Between Netflix, Hulu, and WWE Network, you’ll be consuming more bandwidth than you realize.

WRESTLEMANIA 30:

The big day. I was nervous. This was WWE’s chance to make, or break, the Network. If WrestleMania experienced even a momentary blip during it’s live stream on the Network, my fear was that the Network would universally be panned, and disappear as quickly as it appeared. There was a lot of curiosity from my friends, as well.

I began my live stream at the beginning of the pre-show, about 2 hours before WrestleMania was scheduled to start. The stream loaded, without issue, and began streaming in HD. As people slowly began to arrive, it played in the background as we ate pizza. About a half an hour before the show began, someone said “Hey, when are you going to switch it over to the WWE Network? You’ll want to get on early”. I explained that we had been watching the Network the entire time, and everyone was in awe. Comments on how smoothly the stream had been working, and the video quality were abound. Everyone, myself included, were impressed with what we had seen to that point.

And then the show began. AND IT WORKED! Colour me a skeptic, but I really believed that at some point during the show, something bad would happen. I had nightmares of Undertaker’s entrance beginning and then the stream crashing. Nothing of the sort happened. Other than a momentary blip as The Rock made his entrance (and we’re literally talking a one-second freeze frame that might have been an internet issue, as opposed to a WWE Network issue) the stream worked flawlessly all night long. Such an amazing experience, and as such, created a number of WWE Network subscribers in my social circle.

THE SOFTWARE:

Time to backtrack a little. We haven’t talked about the software, or how it’s installed, yet. I have an XBox 360, iPhone 5s, Roku player, and laptop in my house Each device views the Network just sightly differently, although the overall experience is basically the same.

The most trouble I encountered was with the XBox 360; not so much in the installation of the software, but rather the content that was made available on launch day. Most PPV content was missing until about a month after the Network launched, so the experience on the Xbox wasn’t nearly as good. Of course, now, everything is available, and the experiences are all roughly the same.

I still find myself with the most trouble using the XBox version of the software. Perhaps its just my inexperience with the system in general, but it doesn’t feel very user-friendly, nor am I able to search as easily.

THE ORIGINAL CONTENT:

There is a LOT of original content featured on the WWE Network; so much so that I’m sure I’m going to miss something here.

Legends House: Probably the most anticipated series upon the announcement of the WWE Network. Legends House was not made available upon launch, but was aired, weekly, starting about 3 months ago, and concluding about 2 weeks ago. All episodes are available, including a Legends House reunion episode filmed recently, on demand. Upon first viewing, I wasn’t sure that Legends House was going to stack up to my expectations. I had high expectations for the first episode of Legends House, but felt let down at the end. But as the series progressed, it very quickly became must-see TV each week, and I was sad to see it conclude. It is difficult to summarize the series in a short snippet, however you really should go out of your way to see it. Absolutely top-notch television, and with all original content is available in the on demand section of the WWE Network.

WrestleMania Rewind: Another original I was hesitant to get behind. With access to on demand content, including every WrestleMania ever, did we need another repeat of a particular WrestleMania match that we could just go out of our way and find ourselves in the library on content? The answer is yes, we did. And the reason is the historical perspectives given during the lead-up to the airing of the match. Presented as a mini-documentary, a number of WWE Superstars, Legends, and celebrities give their historical perspective on a given match (or sometimes two) from WrestleMania. The first episode featured a great historical piece on WrestleMania 1, and there have been several must-see episodes since. Another top-notch program, that is a weekly view in my household.

Countdown: As voted by the WWE.com viewers, a number of topics are counted down each week. Topics such as Greatest Trash Talker, Greatest Manager, Top RAW Moments, and more. Although difficult to take the actual rankings seriously (as rankings tend to lean heavily towards WWE superstars as opposed to wrestlers who made their names in other companies), this is still a fun weekly watch.

WWE NXT: From Full Sail University, NXT has become a hidden gem of good-to-great wrestling, and storytelling, weekly (and it’s also got a pretty bad ass opening music video, as of this writing). Considering the number of call-ups from NXT to WWE in the past 12-to-18 months, it’s not a well guarded secret that there’s a lot of talent being well-developed within the WWE system. Names such as Sami Zayn, Cory Graves, Adrian Nevelle are current NXT stars, but Bray Wyatt, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Paige, Big E, Rusev and more have all come through the system in the past year. Each week, we get a glimpse into the future of WWE, and the future looks pretty darn good.

Original Specials: There are some great pieces included in this section, including a wonderful 4-part series on the Ultimate Warrior (which features a documentary being filmed during WrestleMania weekend), and a special following Daniel Bryan during WrestleMania weekend, as well. WWE should really be proud of the content they have created for this particular section, and I wish it would get a little bit more love than it gets. In the past, WWE has created some memorable documentary pieces and, while not always as detailed, these pieces are an excellent addition to that library.

Beyond the Ring: This section is used to air WWE documentary pieces, which have included The Attitude Era, nWo: The Revolution, Mick Foley, Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin and most recently CM Punk. If you haven’t already watched these documentaries, they’re all excellent, and add an incredible value to the Network. Individually, these DVDs often sell for $20-$40, and are now available as part of your Network subscription. Match compilations that often accompany these DVDs are missing, nearly all matches are found on demand anyways.

WWE Classics on Demand content: If you weren’t a WWE Classics on Demand subscriber, in the past, you missed out on some really great original content there, as well (although not nearly at the rate we’re treated to on the WWE Network). Series’ such as Legends of the Roundtable and WWE Old School are shown, in their entirety. The Roundtable discussions are of my favourite WWE programming ever, and are excellent companion pieces to the topics they discuss.

Monday Night WAR: Although only having the opportunity to catch the “sneak-peak” first episode aired after last Monday’s Monday Night RAW, this series will be the golden child of the WWE Network. Again, colour my a skeptic, but I wasn’t sure I needed another rehash of the war between RAW and Nitro (and largely WWE and WCW). I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I’ve got multiple t-shirts. WWE went and proved me wrong, yet again, however, and produced an absolutely captivating first episode, encapsulating the history between Vince McMahon and Ted Turner and their companies, the WWF and WCW. I won’t give anything further away, but this is my most anticipated future piece of WWE Network programming, as the series begins its official airing in mid-to-late August.

Overall Experiences:

As detailed, with very few exceptions, WWE Network has far surpassed my lofty expectations on every front. After the flawless WrestleMania 30 stream, my remaining WWE Pay Per View event experiences on the Network have been excellent. Occasionally I have experienced pixilation or a momentary freeze in my stream, but they have not detracted from the overall experience of the Network on the whole. Technical issues are always going to be a possibility, but with each passing day I feel WWE is getting stronger in their understanding of how to properly manage the technical demands of the Network, and when we look back at this column 6 months from now, will be a thing of the past. Technical issues truly happen so infrequently that they’re not even really a concern, but for the sake of clarity in the column, I felt like I should bring them up.

Every day I find something new to watch on the WWE Network, and have done so for the past 180 days, and will continue to do so each and every day that passes. At $9.99, the Network has become a steal in its value. The price cannot be beat for the content that is made available.

Leaving virtually no stone unturned, there is a plethora of historical content made available. Monday Night RAW episodes are being uploaded, 5 per week, every week. The entire 1993, 1994, 1995 and most of 1996 catalogs are already available, and growing weekly. “Best of RAW” and “Best of Smackdown” episodes are also uploaded weekly, almost exclusively in years where weekly content isn’t already being uploaded. Recently every WCW Clash of the Champions was uploaded, and 15 episodes of WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event made their way to the Network last week as well. ECW Hardcore TV and WCCW episodes are also available. The scary thought is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Once those libraries are available in their entirety, we still have WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder libraries to be uploaded, ECW on TNN episodes, as well as any amount of B-programming including WCW Saturday Night, WWF Sunday Night Heat, Shotgun Saturday Night, WCW Worldwide, and more. That doesn’t even include the additional tape libraries that WWE has purchased, including AWA, Stampede Wrestling, or the soon-to-be-acquired Memphis Wrestling library. Scary amounts of content to be consumed.

I love the WWE Network. It is everything I hoped it would be, and more. As this column approaches 3000 words, it’s difficult to put into even that many words how much value I feel I get for my money in subscribing. WWE has created something really, really special that they should be proud of. In two weeks, they will be announcing their second subscriber count. At launch, they said they hoped to have 1,000,000 subscribers by the end of 2014, and a break-even of 2,000,000 subscribers by the entire of 2015. I think these are very realistic numbers to hit, if not an under projection of their potential. They need to get this under the nose of every wrestling fan, past, and present. This is where marketing is key. It is great to advertise on WWE television each week, but to capture those older wrestling fans who have left the current product, marketing has a challenge. There is a TON of value for older wrestling fans, and they’re missing out by not subscribing. It is here that I feel WWE has its greatest opportunity for success.

To close, if you haven’t already subscribed to WWE Network, I hope I have given you enough reason to at least give it a try. Often WWE promotes a free week-long trial of the service, and you’re really doing yourself a disservice if you don’t give it a look even then. You will fall in love, instantly, and never look back. The WWE Network really is way over the top.

5 Reasons why wrestling fans should get the WWE Network

Once again WWE has surprised the WWE Universe. Last week at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, Vince McMahon along with other notable WWE superstars and personalities officially announced the launch of the WWE Network.

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The specific details of the Network have been rumored for months, but with the irresistible force (the inclusion of all 12 WWE pay-per-views – including WrestleMania) meeting the immovable object (the “No way, Seriously??” price point), shit just got real. The 24/7 Network + Video on Demand service is the first of its kind.

After listening to the highly entertaining and informative press conference, it is clear that the WWE Network is a monumental step on how wrestling fans will consume content.

Here are five reasons why the WWE Network is a must have for any wrestling fan around the world:

#1: 24/7 LIVE FEED

A 24/7 network that is strictly wrestling. It’s a wrestling fan’s dream come true. You’ll feel the same adrenaline-pumping emotion when you watched Hulk Hogan body Slam Andre the Giant for the first time in front of 93,000 screaming fans.

No more NCIS before RAW or Sharknado (it’s not the worst movie in the world) before SmackDown. The WWE Network will have wrestling related content streaming all day every day, not to mention pre-shows, post-shows, behind the scenes action and interviews from superstars at RAW and SmackDown every week. Never before has there been so much content available to the WWE Universe.

#2: ORIGINAL SERIES ON THE NETWORK

Not a fan of Total Divas? Have no fear; there is no doubt that the WWE Network will have at least one exclusive series tailored just for you. Here is a brief run-down of each series announced at the press conference:

Legends House: A spin-off of MTV’s Real World – 8 former WWE superstars and personalities such as Roddy Piper, Mean Gene Okerlund and Pat Patterson will be living under one roof.  Of course, a camera crew is there to catch all of the hilarious, emotional and heart-stopping moments that these Legends endure in their everyday lives.

WrestleMania Rewind: With WrestleMania Rewind, the WWE Universe will get never-before-seen interviews and reactions from past and present superstars that have performed at the “Showcase of the Immortals”. Superstars such as Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton talk about their all-time favorite WrestleMania moments, Shawn Michaels talks about “the perfect match” he had with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 and Andre the Giant has a sit-down interview after his match with Big John Studd at WrestleMania 1. These are just some of the things that will be showcased on this series.

WWE Countdown: WWE Countdown is a one hour long series that will feature the top…well, whatever you can think of really. The very best matches, factions, catchphrases, villains, entrances, finishing moves, couples, managers, tag teams, divas and moments are just some of the categories highlighted at the press conference.

Monday Night War: Ah, of course, the Monday Night War. Everything you want and need to know about the battle between WWE and WCW will be featured in this series. Get exclusive reactions from superstars such as The Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels as they witnessed the fight right in front of their eyes. Did they honestly think they were going to go out of business? Find out by tuning in!

NXT: What better way to scout future talent and get behind a new favorite superstar than by watching WWE’s extremely popular developmental program NXT? Finally, wrestling fans will have an easily accessible, hassle-free way to watch the young superstars of tomorrow showcase their talents and try to make a name for themselves as they climb the ladder for a spot on the main roster.

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#3: LIBARIES OF WWE, WCW, ECW AND MORE

Get ready for more 80′s, 90′s & 2000′s wrestling action than you can handle. The WWE Network will have over 100,000 hours (4,166 days) of WWE, WCW and ECW footage, including every WWE, WCW & ECW PPV in history – as well as every single episode of RAW, SmackDown that has ever aired.

It would take you 11 years to watch all the footage the WWE Network has to offer – and that’s just what will be available at launch.

The WWE Universe will also have access to replays of RAW, SmackDown, Main Event, Superstars and NXT each and every week with just the simple click of a button.

#2: ALL 12 MONTHLY PPVS INCLUDED

One of the main reasons why the WWE has sold me into subscribing to the WWE Network is their dedication and vision when it comes to showcasing past and present PPVs. With the WWE Network, not only are you going to get all 12 monthly PPVs, but you will have the chance to relive every single WWE, WCW and ECW PPV in history.

In the mood to watch some old Mania’s before WrestleMania 30 airs? Just type “WrestleMania” in the search box and you will see a list of all 29 events. The same goes for any other PPV your heart desires.  That’s right, no more typing in “watch Royal Rumble 2002 for free” into the Google search engine.

Oh, what’s that? I haven’t convinced you into buying the WWE Network yet? The next category might change your mind.

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#1: THE PRICE

This one is the proverbial Stone Cold Stunner that seals the deal and wins you your first WWE Championship in front of 90,000 screaming fans – with your 22 year old fitness-model girlfriend eagerly waiting for you backstage.

For just $9.99 per month, this is what you’re getting if you subscribe to the WWE Network:

  • A 24/7 live stream of WWE programming
  • Over 100,000 hours of archives and exclusive footage
  • New series such as Legends House, WrestleMania Rewind, WWE Countdown and the Monday Night War(s)
  • All 12 monthly PPV’s
  • Every single WWE, WCW and ECW PPV in history.
  • Every episode of RAW and SmackDown in WWE history

It is astonishing how cheap the WWE Network is going to cost considering all of the content that will be displayed on a 24/7 basis.  Instead of paying over $600 a month for PPVs every year, you’re paying just $9.99, and that’s one hell of a bargain if you ask me. The WWE could have charged $20-$25 a month and Twitter still would have blown up. Come on, this is a no brainer for wrestling fans.

At launch, the WWE Network will be available on virtually any platform, including WWE.com, iOS, Android & Kindle devices (via the WWE App), Playstation 3 & 4, XBOX 360. Support for XBOX One and Smart TVs is coming this summer. All you have to do is sign up at WWE.com, follow the simple instructions and you’re all set. It really couldn’t be easier.

As John Cena announced out at the press conference, the WWE Network will officially launch on February 24, 2013 at 11:05pm directly after Monday Night RAW has concluded. The WWE has struck gold with this idea and the network will truly be a one of a kind experience and will change the entire landscape of the professional wrestling industry

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Also to note out, According to a report from F4Wonline.com, WWE sent out a memo stating that  footage of Benoit will be allowed to air on its new network, but with a caveat.  There will reportedly be an advisory played before every piece of video he  appears on.

For the FAQ, click on the link here http://www.wwe.com/help

follow me on twitter @julianexcalibur