Tag Archives: stone cold

A Week With the WWE Network

sg-ntwk_sizzle_today_revIt’s been a long road for World Wrestling Entertainment to launch its own network.  As early as September 2011, the WWE was teasing the network to its fans.  Once the calendar flipped from 2011 to 2012, WWE was ready to announce that its own network would launch by year’s end.  2012 came and went, with nary a word spoken about the network.  Fans were left to wonder if the network would go the way of GTV and vanish from thought.  After all, no one even knew what the WWE was trying to do with its own network.  Was it to be a premium cable channel?  An on-demand network?  What kind of content would fill the network?  Did anyone even really want a channel dedicated to wrestling 24/7?

WWE was quiet until late in 2013 when it came to the subject of its seemingly dead-on-arrival network.  And then, like a perfectly executed heal turn, the network was announced to great fanfare.  The long hiatus was put to good use by WWE as nearly every question that could be asked was answered immediately.  The WWE Network would be an on-demand internet channel in the same style as Netflix or Hulu.  For ten dollars a month, fans would receive access to the network and their ten dollars would go a long way:  access to new series, access to every WWF/WWE/WCW/ECW pay-per view, on-demand episodes of Raw, Smackdown, Nitro, Hardcore TV, etc.  And the kicker, every new WWE pay-per view was included live.  That meant that individuals who subscribed in April would get all of the historical content plus Wrestlemania XXX for just ten bucks.  The catch?  Well, the only catch was the announcement that a subscription was a six month commitment making the entry level price sixty bucks for Network access.  As far as catches go, this is a perfectly reasonable one otherwise fans would be constantly signing up and canceling their subscriptions just for ten dollar pay-per views (for those unaware, a WWE PPV usually runs fifty to sixty dollars, with Wrestlemania sometimes going higher).

The WWE Network has a very simple and easy to use interface, though improved search features would be appreciated.

The WWE Network has a very simple and easy to use interface, though improved search features would be appreciated.

This past Monday, the WWE Network was officially launched.  The Network is available on several platforms including PC, Mac, iPod/iPad, smart phones, PS3/PS4, Xbox 360, Roku, and probably some I’m forgetting.  The only notable exclusions right now are Smart TVs (other than Samsung), Nintendo devices, and Xbox One.  Some Smart TVs will receive support this summer, as well as Xbox One, though no word on the Wii U.  Regardless, most households have at least one of those things and should be able to access the WWE Network provided they have a broadband connection.  The first week is free on laptop and desktop devices, but I was intrigued enough to pay the sixty bucks for the six month commitment.  After one week, how do I feel about my purchase?

Initially, a little wary.  Because of the hype, and because of the free access, the servers were absolutely flooded when the Network launched on the 24th of February.  I didn’t have any problems signing up for it (unlike many folks), but when it came time to watch it quickly became obvious that the Network could not meet the demands of wrestling fans.  I first tried watching Wrestlemania XIV on my PS3.  My PS3 is on a wired connection (unlike my PS4, plus I have a remote for the PS3) so it seemed like the best way to view the network.  The PPV started with no problems and I was having a pretty damn good time with it.  The picture, up-converted since it wasn’t originally aired in HD, was sharp.  Best of all, the old WWF logo wasn’t blurred out, nor were Stone Cold Steve Austin’s one-finger salutes.  I was quite impressed and genuinely surprised at how well the experience was going, until I tried to fast-forward.  That’s when everything went to Hell and the PPV endlessly went into a buffering loop until eventually the PPV quit and I was back at the main menu.  Repeated attempts to re-launch the event stalled, and I eventually gave up.

Night two went even worse.  It started off the same, but when trying to launch an event it would only last a few minutes before crapping out.  I tried the Network on my laptop over Wi-fi, just for the Hell of it, and had the same results.  Night three was more of the same as well, and it wasn’t until Thursday that I finally was able to view an entire PPV event.  By then, the interface had been improved slightly by adding chapters to each event, making navigating to a favorite match a lot easier.  And ever since then, everything has been running smooth as silk.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been practically glued to my couch all weekend basking in wrestling nostalgia.  I’ve watched several events at this point, mostly reliving the glory of the Attitude era, but also pausing for some WCW and ECW events.  I made it a point to check out some of the more controversial items to see how WWE handled them, below:

The brief Owen Hart tribute that appears before Over the Edge '99.

The brief Owen Hart tribute that appears before Over the Edge ’99.

Over the Edge 1999 – this is the event made famous for tragic reasons as Owen Hart fell from the rafters and perished in the ring.  The camera did not catch the accident live, but the original broadcast obviously couldn’t ignore it.  WWF chose to continue with the show, but it has never been aired since or released to home video.  The WWE Network version contains a tribute to Owen at the beginning, and all mention of the accident has been cut from the program.  It’s pretty eerie watching the matches that took place after it, as it’s easy to see the concern and dread on some of the wrestlers faces.

Chris Benoit – Benoit is famous for pretty horrific reasons, and ever since he murdered his wife and son in 2007 he has not been mentioned or shown in video by the WWE.  All events that he took place in are here on the Network, uncut.  I heard there was to be a disclaimer before events containing him, but when I watched Wrestlemania XX and ECW One Night Stand there was none.  I though perhaps they would cut some of the praise aimed at Benoit from the announcers or promos, but no alterations appear to have been made.  Benoit and Eddie Guerrero’s past match celebration at the end of Wrestlemania XX is even still intact.

Other censorship – WWE promised there would be no censorship, but there are edits made to some programs.  Brief nudity, such as was the case at Fully Loaded ’98, has been blurred.  Some licensed music tracks have been removed as well, and oddly, some wrestlers have their entrance music changed.  I watched a match between Chris Jericho and Fake Goldberg which took place at WCW Fall Brawl and Jericho’s music had been replaced with his WWF Y2J theme.

In addition to all of the past PPV events, the WWE Network will have original programming as well. Of the ones announced, the Monday Night War has the most potential.

In addition to all of the past PPV events, the WWE Network will have original programming as well. Of the ones announced, the Monday Night War has the most potential.

Currently, there are no episodes of Nitro on the network and the advertised Monday Night Wars program has not been added yet either.  One surprising inclusion so far has been DVD only programs.  Last night I enjoyed watching Stone Cold Steve Austin:  The Bottom Line on The Most Popular Superstar of All Time, the documentary released on home video in 2011.  Either WWE is pulling out all the stops early, or this is a sign that other wrestler documentaries will be added that were previously only available on DVD/Blu Ray.  Other original programs, such as Legends House, have yet to be added but I don’t know if anyone is really looking forward to that one…

The real test for the WWE Network is coming:  Wrestlemania XXX.  Will the servers be able to handle it?  I’m also curious about their plans for the future, as right now all of the press releases for the Network make it a point to say 12 pay-per view events are included.  Does that mean the pay structure will change by this time next year for pay-per view events?  Questions aside, right now I would call the WWE Network a success.  It’s quite possible that after six months I’ll have had my fill, as I’m not huge into the current product, but maybe I’ll be convinced to keep it.  If you’re a long-time fan though, or someone who’s into the current product, this is for you!

WWE ’13 – The Attitude Era

WWE '13 (2012)

WWE ’13 (2012)

Let it be known, nostalgia sells!  Too many of us overgrown children have disposable income to throw at DVD collections and old toys and publishers are well aware of this.  Just look no further than this year’s entry in the WWE video game catalog:  WWE ’13.  Now, there’s nothing nostalgic about the title but the focus of the game’s single player mode is the now much celebrated Attitude Era of the WWE.  I’ve spoken fondly of it in the past, but that’s definitely my favorite era for the then WWF, even surpassing Hulkamania for me in terms of pure enjoyment.  Vince McMahon’s promotion was arguably never more popular or culturally significant at any other point in time, including today.  It made a lot of sense to revisit it (even if it seems strange to almost ignore the current product by doing so) and without it I’m not certain I would have purchased the game.

This review is going to mostly focus on the Attitude Era mode, but before diving into it I will provide an overview of the rest of the game.  This is the second game since THQ/Yukes dropped the Smackdown vs Raw title and refined the gameplay.  I didn’t play last year’s game, but the differences from the last Smackdown vs Raw and this one are minor.  They brought back the limb targeting system and modified the chain grapple slightly.  The changes are mostly superficial, but not to the detriment of the gameplay.  The havok engine the game makes use of was overhauled to a point as well.  The ring now reacts better to what’s going on, as do objects in the field of play.  Though overall, the visual quality looks to have taken a slight step back.  The audio is kind of all over the place in terms of levels, and the new dynamic camera system is wretched (but thankfully something you can turn off).  The create modes are unchanged.  Some moves have been returned to the game and some have disappeared.  It’s pretty disappointing that the create-a-finisher mode is still as limited as it was when it first debuted several years ago now.  There’s also a create-an-arena that is new but not very exciting.  I haven’t checked out the create-a-scenario but I suspect it hasn’t been improved upon much, if at all.  WWE Universe mode is also back for the third year in a row.  Expect more of the same.

Fans get to relive some of the biggest feuds from the Attitude Era, including Hart vs Michaels.

Fans get to relive some of the biggest feuds from the Attitude Era, including Hart vs Michaels.

The gameplay is solid enough, and it’s probably one of the better grapplers put out by Yukes, but I’m only interested in the Attitude Era.  The Attitude Era mode basically replaces the single player storylines from past games.  It’s divided into multiple parts that put the focus on a different wrestler from the era.  The scenarios are:  DX, Stone Cold, The Brothers of Destruction, The Rock, Mankind, and Wrestlemania XV.  The first scenario starts off in the summer of 1997 and the scenario ends after Wrestlemania XV.  Once complete though, some bonus challenges open up featuring wrestlers such as Edge, The Godfather, and Lita.  I was rather impressed with how many old wrestlers were included in this mode considering some of them are no longer with the company.  Expect to take on the British Bulldog, the Road Warriors, and even Vader as you progress through the scenario.  During each match, the game will also assign special objectives that unlock additional content along the way.  Most of these objectives refer back to the real match and encourage you to recreate it as best as possible.  None stand out to me as being particularly challenging so expect to unlock them all with little trouble.

Since the Attitude Era has, until now really, been something only fans recognize it makes it difficult to get a consensus on when it started and ended.  Some think it started as far back as “Austin 3:16,” while others maintain it was the infamous Montreal Screwjob.  THQ decided to go with the formation of Degeneration X when Shawn Michaels and Triple H turned their backstage “Kliq” into an actual onscreen stable.  The game also constantly references the Monday Night Wars, the ratings battle between WWF’s Raw and WCW’s Nitro, as an ongoing storyline throughout the Attitude Era.  DX ends up being pretty well represented in the game, with the only notable exclusion being Chyna (probably due to her being an adult film actress now).  Even Mike Tyson is present for Wrestlemania XIV, which makes sense given that he was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The roster includes expected stars such as The Rock, as well as some of the era's lesser stars like Ken Shamrock.

The roster includes expected stars such as The Rock, as well as some of the era’s lesser stars like Ken Shamrock.

The characters THQ chose to focus on for the era were logical.  They were certainly the most recognizable  from the era.  A lot of the big matches are covered including Michaels vs Hart at Survivor Series ’97, the inaugural Hell in a Cell match, the more famous Undertaker vs Mankind Hell in a Cell match, and the mode culminates in Austin vs Rock.  The only matches I missed that weren’t included was the Monday night match between Mick Foley and Terry Funk (who’s not included in the game unless you want to pay for him as Chainsaw Charlie) which took place in between the Austin vs Dude Love Pay-Per-View bouts; and the Austin vs Undertaker Buried Alive match at Rock Bottom ’98.  In the case of the second one, Yukes probably didn’t feel like coming up with a Buried Alive match again (they did at least bring back the I Quit match for the Rock vs Mankind feud) or the WWE felt like it wasn’t appropriate for their audience.  That last excuse seems unlikely as the game doesn’t shy away much from the content of the era.  There are some annoying inconsistencies though with the liberties taken by THQ.  For instance, Billy Gun is able to use his Bad Ass gimmick but Road Dogg can’t say the word “ass” as part of his intro.  The raunch is mostly absent though beyond a few utterances of the phrase “suck it.”  Austin’s middle finder is annoyingly censored, and the audio is as well whenever a character says “WWF” (it sounds like a lot of the audio was lifted directly from broadcast tapes excepting Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler’s commentary) which is distracting, but not as distracting as if they were saying WWE instead.

Current stars, like Triple H, are also depicted as their Attitude Era selves.

Current stars, like Triple H, are also depicted as their Attitude Era selves.

The game mode makes frequent references to WCW and its Nitro program but focuses solely on Raw.  It would have been cool to bounce back and forth considering WWE owns all of the WCW stuff at this point, plus a lot of WCW’s wrestlers from that era eventually ended up in WWE.  Perhaps THQ will one day give fans a WWE vs WCW game.  It’s also a little disappointing that the scenario ends before the end of the Attitude Era.  Like the start date, the end is hard to define but most everyone would agree that Wrestlemani XV is not the endpoint.  It’s more logical end would either be the start of the Invasion storyline, the introduction of the nWo into WWE programming, or Wrestlemania XIX where Stone Cold wrestled his final match.  Perhaps THQ is saving that for future downloadable content, a sequel, or maybe it was just too burdensome to pull off.  In order to accurately depict that era wrestlers such as the Dudley Boys, Hardys, and Kurt Angle would have to be included and all are currently with TNA Impact Wrestling.  TNA has in the past allowed its wrestlers to appear on WWE programs, usually limited to Hall of Fame related stuff, so maybe those guys could appear in a WWE game, but maybe at an unattractive price for THQ.

Regardless of the mode’s shortcomings, it was by and large a fun experience for me to take a trip down memory lane with some of my favorite characters from yesterday.  The mode got a lot right, and I appreciated the subtle details such as making all of Foley’s alter-egos their own selectable character, same for making the Hunter Hearst Helmsley character different from Triple H.  There is quite a bit of content in the scenario, though probably not enough to make purchasing the game solely for the Attitude Era mode a wise one.  I think I’ll get enough mileage out of the rest of the game to make it worthwhile, but I still have yet to fully dive into the other modes.  I’m glad to see the WWE and THQ recognizing that there’s a large market for the Attitude Era and hopefully this isn’t the last we see of it.

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