WARNING YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Normally, when the WWE want you to feel like an event or match is going to be life changing – or, you know as life changing as interpretive dance performed by half-naked mean in baby oil can be – it’s largely am illusion, or at the very least an exaggeration. This is partially because the business model of professional wrestling is predicated almost entirely on maintaining the money making status quo, while simultaneously making it seems as though the entire enterprise is dedicated to precisely the opposite.
But, regardless of whether or not it will ultimately come to fruition, the build to this Elimination Chamber match has managed to feel like things might actually be changing. It could be the way they’ve booked Orton’s running of the gauntlet – with Daniel Bryan AND Cesaro winning entirely clean decisions against the guy who is at least nominally the best. Or the promos being cut by John Cena regarding the changing of the guard – which scream of a self- awareness, regarding both himself and the product, which has been sorely missing from people in his position for far too long. However, it seems tied more than anything to, oddly enough, actual change.
While there on-screen personas are seen as their real-life personalities sprinkled with a helping of wrestling heel magic, in reality, the Authority has managed to make it so the crowd’s perception of them is what’s been sprinkled with wrestling heel magic. If it were the former, the insane scrutiny done by every idiot with a keyboard every time someone they loved were made to look like anything other than Superman would be a lot more problematic than the fly buzzing around the ass of professional wrestling it currently is. But because of the clear distinctions between, for instance, NXT HHH and Raw HHH that at the very least, HHH is not totally the monster egomaniac that a certain segment of the fandom (and the #InternetWrestlingWriting community) likes to think he is.
This has allowed the pair to establish themselves as agents of change while also being actual agents of change. They, not Randy Orton or John Cena or even Daniel Bryan, are the future faces of the WWE to the people that actually matter: WWE shareholders. And while it’s clear that Vince still has the final say, the input that he receives from the head of development and the person in charge of branding for the company while he and the organization shift into the uncharted waters. They are now content creators whose creative/financial motivations will shift from the short term concerns of monthly PPV buyrates and house show gates to several-years-long television rights contracts and subscriber fees that come in six-month commitment cycles.
While the WWE has long been a TV show, it’s likely with the massive changes coming in the near future that it will actually begin functioning like one. One based on a fake sport where those deemed to be “winning” will be those that are most able to create a brand that resonates across multiple platforms.
Like Netflix, the meat of the WWE Network’s popularity will initially come for nostalgia, convenience and commerce – which is why the main selling points are “original programming” like Legends House and repackaged footage in the guide of anthology shows, being able to watch the WWE on any device and the 9.99 price point. But as they seek to expand the subscriber base, things more along the lines of the JBL and Cole Show (with Renee Young!) will likely take up residence on the Network.
As such, it is likely that those brands that resonate best with will be treated like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are, as parts of the WWE Network experience nearly as essential as the cheap PPVs and old episodes of Raw. This will give those capable of actually entertaining folks in a way that helps bring eyeballs to the “Universe” the opportunity to do so, while allowing those in development the opportunity to do the same with just enough people watching to matter but not enough to make what happens there permanent in any real way.
And all that will start on Sunday. Or, okay, next Monday at 11:05, but you get the idea. So, that’s probably why it feels different. ***WARNING YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY CHILI CHEESE PRETZEL DOG ON THE WAY OUT ***