Monday marks a historic night for the WWE and sports entertainment. At 9 a.m., the WWE Network will launch, giving fans access to hundreds of pay-per views, old episodes of WWE, WCW, NXT and others, as well as the full Elimination Chamber PPV from the night before.
The Raw show later that night is supposed to be just as big a deal. Hulk Hogan and Undertaker are set to make triumphant returns, and there are rumors of other former WWE superstars being present, including Steve Austin and Jimmy Hart. It’s a monumental moment for WWE, and the network is going to be a great thing for the company and its fans.
The network’s biggest appeal is going to be the PPVs. At $9.99 a month, fans will get everything, including live PPVs. Wrestlemania XXX will be the first PPV available on the network, and it’s normal price is $59.95 (all other PPVs are $44.95). With a six-month commitment, fans will not only pay the same price they would for one Wrestlemania, but they would get five more PPVs as well. So, basically in a year, people will spend a shade under $120, when a year’s worth of PPVs costs $555.
Now, I’m not trying to sound like a salesman, but it’s worth noting the PPVs aren’t all the fans will get. They will get to watch the most recent episodes of Raw and Smackdown as well as old episodes of WCW’s Nitro and ECW along with all the old PPVs.
One of the other big appeals to the network, at least for people like me, is the ability to watch NXT with ease. NXT is WWE’s developmental program for wrestlers. Guys like Andre Rusev, Curtis Axel, Shield and Big E all came up through NXT while others like Bray Wyatt (formerly in the WWE as Husky Harris) went back to work on a new character before coming back to the WWE.
Easy access to NXT will give people the opportunity to watch the WWE’s minor leagues. It’s like getting MLB’s TV deal, and getting your club’s triple-AAA or double-AA games thrown in so you can watch that top prospect pitch. There are some NXT guys like Sami Zayn and Corey Graves worth checking out, and this will give people that opportunity.
Getting NXT on the network isn’t just going to benefit the fans. It’s going to benefit the next group of superstars who will get more exposure. There have been a few instances where I wasn’t sure who a few guys were when they debuted because I didn’t follow NXT as closely. Those examples are Shield (my one friend freaked out when he saw Dean Ambrose) as well as Rusev and Xavier Woods. With a chance to watch NXT, more people will lose their minds because they saw guys like Zayn or Graves getting the big jump to WWE.
There aren’t many situations where it’s a win-win for both the company and the seller. This move gives the fans more WWE than they ever could have dreamed, and it allows WWE to be a pioneer once again in sports entertainment. The network is a big deal, and it’s going to change professional wrestling in a big way.
Hogan Returns Monday
To go along with the launch of the WWE network, Hulk Hogan is returning. Hogan is making his first appearance on Raw since Dec. 2007. It was originally reported last week that Hogan would be returning along with Undertaker on Raw.
“I definitely want to stay here in the WWE,” Hogan told The Associated Press on Friday. “I just can’t see myself ever being anywhere else. This is home. It always has been home. In the twilight of my career, what a great way to be part of the final hurrah for Hulk Hogan and all the Hulkamaniacs.”
Hogan is expected to be a part of Wrestlemania. Though it’s doubtful he will wrestle in an actual match, it’s believed he will get physical and “Hulk up” for the fans.
“Right now, it’s not in the plans,” Hogan said. “But like they say in the WWE, never say never.”
Elimination Chamber’s big match
This past Monday’s Raw was the go-home show heading into Elimination Chamber. The most talked about match is going to be the chamber match itself. Randy Orton will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Cesaro and Christian. All six participated in separate matches with each other heading into Sunday.
Bryan vs Christian: Bryan and Christian kicked off Raw after everyone came out trading words about who was going to win Sunday. Bryan beat Christian before being assaulted after the match by Kane. Bryan’s shoulder was heavily taped later on in the show, and his shoulder injury could be a factor on Sunday.
Cena vs Cesaro: This was the match of the night, and one of the best matches of 2014 so far. Cesaro threw everything at Cena but couldn’t come away with a win. It was impressive for Cesaro, who is getting a major push by WWE Creative it seems.
Orton vs Sheamus: This was a pretty solid match by both guys, but nothing special. It was the fifth match of Orton’s gauntlet in which he had to face his other five competitors (his only win came over Christian). It was also the only match of the night that didn’t finish as Shield came out and attacked Sheamus. Then the other four chamber participants came out to brawl before Shield’s opponents at EC, the Wyatt Family, came out to round off the 12-man brawl, ending the show.
Elimination Chamber Predictions
WWE World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber: John Cena vs Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus vs Cesaro vs Christian vs Orton (c): Going with how WWE has been building its fueds, Orton is looking like the clear winner for this match. But if WWE decides to throw a curveball, it’s possible Bryan wins the match, setting up a triple threat at Mania with the Royal Rumble winner, Batista. But if I were a betting man, it’s going to be Orton.
The Shield vs The Wyatt Family: This six-man tag match is going to be the best match of the night, book it. They both worked a great program leading up to the Chamber, and both feature six exciting wrestlers in the ring. The Wyatt’s are full of power, but Bray Wyatt shows more speed and in-ring psyche whereas the Shield has a high-flyer in Seth Rollins, a tactician in Ambrose and the muscle in Roman Reigns. Reigns will once again put on a show, proving he’s the strong link in the Shield, but the Wyatt Family will come away with a huge win that will set forth the dissention in the Shield.
Batista vs Alberto Del Rio: Batista has been bullying Del Rio throughout this feud. But it’s not like Del Rio hasn’t been asking for it when he issued challenges to Batista before the animal returned. Batista is in the main event at Mania and will show why he’s a headliner. Batista with the win.
Intercontinental Championship: Jack Swagger vs Big E (c): This is Big E’s first big title defense, and it comes against Swagger. Swagger earned the match when he beat Kofi Kingston on Raw. Big E has been getting a major push and there is no way he drops the strap at the Chamber. Big E will win retain.
Darren Young vs Titus O’Neil: Nothing like a good ole rivalry. The former tag partners went by Prime Time Players before O’neil turned on Young last month after they lost a quick tag match. O’Neil is getting a push it seems, and could be next in line for either the Intercontinental Championship or United States Championship. O’Neil closes the door on Young in this one.
WWE Tag Team Championship: The Usos vs New Age Outlaws (c): This is a tough one to pick. WWE could either give Usos the belts now and have them defend them at Mania against the Outlaws, or they could have Outlaws pass the torch on to the Usos at Mania, which would make giving the Outlaws one more title run more sense. Either way, the Usos will be champs soon and no one has a problem with that. For now, I think Outlaws take this match.
Kickoff Match: Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs Ryback and Curtis Axel: The Rhodes brothers have yet to show any signs of a split, which has been expected with the two wanting to face each other at Mania in reality. I think the split starts this Sunday when they lose to Rybaxel.
Power Rankings - The best performers of the past week - Feb. 17
1 John Cena (1) - Beat Cesaro in one of the best matches of 2014.
2 Randy Orton (4) - Looked strong heading into his title defense at the Chamber.
3 Batista (2) - Continued his bullying of Del Rio, who is battered up for their match.
4 Cesaro (UR) - Gave Cena all he had in a loss, but his time is coming soon.
5 Sheamus (5) - Could have beaten Orton had there not been interference.
6 The Usos (7) - Jey beat Billy Gunn, and Jimmy out-witted Road Dogg on commentary.
7 Bray Wyatt (3) - Led another convincing win, beating Los Matadores and Sin Cara.
8 Big E (UR) - Won a handicap match heading into his title defense at the Chamber.
9 Jack Swagger (UR) - Beat Kofi in a No. 1 contender’s match; faces Big E.
10 Daniel Bryan (6) - Heads into the Chamber a battered mess.