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Jan 27

Royal Rumble 2015

Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 by Paul in Wrestling

Oh, alright, then.  I’m going to watch this show, so why not set out a few thoughts as I do that, and open a comments thread for anyone who wants to chip in?

I’m watching this on Monday night on Apple TV – which, by the way, doesn’t have a WWE Network app in the UK, whatever the WWE website may claim, so I’m Airplaying it from an iPad, which is terribly convenient.

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Jan 24

Chikara 15.1: “A New Start”

Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2015 by Paul in Wrestling

So, then.  As trailed last month, we’re going to take a crack at covering the 2015 Chikara season.  We won’t be doing every show – probably just the main ones to check in on how they’re doing, and I might do them as reviews rather than previews, given that I suspect relatively few readers of this blog are actually watching.   Obviously we’re moving here into territory which far fewer people will be familiar with here, but quite aside from being a far more entertaining use of my time, I do think Chikara makes an interesting contrast with the dominant product.

This is also going to be a very long post, since there’s a lot to set up here – not just the show, but the promotion as a whole and many of the characters.  And I haven’t had as much time as I’d have liked to cut down the first draft, but hey, the show’s on Sunday.

Let’s start with a primer on how things work in Chikara.

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Dec 14

WWE TLC

Posted on Sunday, December 14, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

If the WWE Network does indeed launch in the UK at the start of January as suggested – and reportedly that’s the date that was already agreed with Sky when the contract was renewed a few months back – then in theory this should mark the end of PPV in the UK.    Well, as long as you have decent broadband and aren’t deterred by the whole idea of internet streaming – which admittedly still leaves a significant chunk of the audience.  And oddly, TLC isn’t a PPV in the UK – it’s airing on Sky Sports.  So really, UK PPV as we know it ended in November.  Still, you get the point.

This seems to make TLC a suitable place to draw a line under these columns, since, point one, we’re now talking about network specials rather than PPVs, and point two, the current quality of WWE television is so mind-numbing that the build to these shows is more of a chore to sit through than a pleasure to write about.  I’m thinking I might do some Chikara coverage in 2015 instead – much less viewed, but vastly more interesting to write about.

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Nov 22

Survivor Series 2014

Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

Survivor Series 2014 is an unusual pay-per-view, because to all intents and purposes it isn’t one.  You can order it on PPV if you really want to, but it’s being offered as the centrepiece of a free try-out month for the WWE Network, which the WWE is still bound and determined to get you to subscribe for, being pretty much committed to the idea by this point.  So it’s a freebie – no doubt explaining the ludicrously flimsy undercard.

That’s except for viewers in the UK, where the Network was announced as launching at the start of the month, only to be delayed without explanation at the last moment.  The story is apparently that they still haven’t managed to sort things out with BSkyB; the most recent contract did allow for the Network launching, but not until the originally scheduled date at the start of next year.  The WWE could have launched a UK version without the Sky-exclusive programming, but…

So here we are, with the UK being the only country in the world asked to pay full price for a free show.  Will anyone in the UK actually be watching this show legitimately?  It seems almost unimaginable.

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Oct 26

Hell in a Cell 2014

Posted on Sunday, October 26, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

The WWE are due to announce subscriber figures for the WWE Network again at the end of this month, so you might have thought that this show would have some sort of priority for them.  By all appearances from the card, it doesn’t – to the extent they have a direction going for the main event, it seems to be looking past this show to the next one.

The latest tactic to try and boost Network subscriber numbers is to roll it out internationally.  Intriguingly, it has yet to be made available in the UK (leaving aside the obvious methods that can be used to avoid regional limitations – and a potential nightmare scenario for the company is that it turns out that a large chunk of the potential international audience are already using them, so that the potential for further growth is much less than thought).  The WWE only recently signed a renewed multi-year deal with Sky, so it would be surprising if they hadn’t allowed for the proposed Network launch in its terms.  Another possibility is that they’re trying to launch it in the UK as an actual broadcast channel, something which has worked unexpectedly well in Canada.

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Sep 20

Night of Champions 2014

Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

This is what you might call a post dictated by the blog format.  I’ve not been closely following the build-up to this show (as you might imagine, there have been other things to occupy my attention over the last couple of weeks), nor do I have the faintest intention of watching it (since Chikara’s King of Trios shows are this weekend, and as Night 1 is already on VOD, I know that my wrestling-viewing hours for the week ahead are pretty much accounted for).

But let’s run down the card anyway.  Night of Champions notionally has the gimmick of every title being defended, which isn’t much of a gimmick, really – plenty of WWE shows have all the titles being defended.  Still, it’s something to say.  Of more interest this year is the fact that the WWE’s “WWE Network” streaming service launched around six months ago, so that the first batch of subscribers will be coming up for renewal around now.  In theory, that makes this an unusually important show, because it has to persuade people to re-sign.

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Aug 16

Summerslam 2014

Posted on Saturday, August 16, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

The actual content of the last few WWE shows has been overshadowed by the rather more pressing question of how the WWE Network is doing.  For those joining us late, or who are simply blog readers who don’t follow this wrestling stuff between monthly posts, let’s recap.

Since the 1990s the basic model of major wrestling promotions in the US has been monthly PPV promoted by weekly TV shows.  The WWE Network attempts to break that model, offering the same “PPV” shows on a Netflix-style streaming service, along with a substantial on-demand back catalogue and some genuinely desirable new material such as NXT, at a monthly price that vastly undercuts the PPV providers.  This makes the WWE an early adopter, in terms of being a reasonably substantial content provider trying to cut out the distributors entirely and sell directly to audiences.  Hence, the performance of the Network is – or ought to be – of interest beyond the wrestling bubble.

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Jul 20

Battleground 2014

Posted on Sunday, July 20, 2014 by Paul in Uncategorized, Wrestling

For the WWE right now, the unfortunate reality is that perhaps their most compelling storyline is “how is the WWE Network doing”, a question that certainly has shareholders on tenterhooks.  While the next subscriber number will be out shortly, the rather desperate tone of the on-air promotion gives the distinct impression that it’s not going to be spectacular.  It could yet turn out that effectively dumping PPV in favour of a subscription streaming service is a great move that was simply ahead of its time; but right now, it’s looking increasingly as if the WWE is learning the hard way what happens to early adopters who were a little too early.

In the meantime, we have a show this weekend, which will be somewhat of a time filler, because the next two shows are rather higher priorities – August is Summerslam, which is traditionally one of the biggest shows of the year, and September has to hook the people who subscribed for Wrestlemania and will be coming up for their six month renewal.  That said, the card is not without its interest; while there may not be much going on in story terms, it has plenty of potential to be a strong show in the ring.  You’ll note the near-total lack of gimmickry on this show, which tends to suggest that they’re saving all that stuff for Summerslam.

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Jun 29

Money in the Bank 2014

Posted on Sunday, June 29, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

Check out the posts below for our Marvel 75th Anniversary Omnibus thingy, and for this week’s podcast season finale!  Meantime, though, I’ve got a PPV to cover…

Money in the Bank has wound up an interesting pay-per-view (a term I’ll keep using for want of anything better, even though most US viewers will probably be WWE network subscribers) more by accident than design.  This is the show built around the annual Money in the Bank Ladder Match, in which the winner gets the right to challenge for the world title whenever they want in the next year.  Since “whenever they want” is treated as many “on any show, without having to give any notice”, it’s effectively a licence to ambush the champion and practically guarantees winning the title.  A couple of people have failed, but it’s still a pretty reliable indication that somebody is destined for the main event.

But WWE Champion Daniel Bryan is out with neck surgery.  The original idea was that he’d be back in time to wrestle on this show, so the company stalled on last month’s show and ran a bunch of angles with the idea that he’d resist the Authority’s attempts to pressurise him to surrender the title.  Then it turned out he wouldn’t be able to wrestle on this show either, so they did a screeching U-turn and stripped him of the title after all.

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May 24

Chikara S14.1: You Only Live Twice

Posted on Saturday, May 24, 2014 by Paul in Wrestling

We’ve done a couple of previous posts about the Chikara indie promotion, which spent much of 2013 pursuing a remarkably audacious storyline in which the company itself closed down, and storylines were carried on through a mixture of micro-indie shows, social media, ARGs, and even a film.  With the company now about to run its first official show in almost a year, this seems a good time to check in on them.

For those of you who read the WWE posts, Chikara are an interesting contrast.  For one thing, there’s no equivalent of Raw or Smackdown; promotion between shows consists primarily of promos and recap videos on YouTube (and, in the past, blog posts on their website; no doubt we’ll see more of that in future).  This changes the dynamic quite a bit; it means there’s more incentive for every match to count (both in storyline and in-ring terms), and no need to cycle through matches to fill hours of weekly television.

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