Breaking Down Daniel Bryan's Injury, Why People Aren't Buying WWE Network, Explaining Limited Spots

The following is today's edition of Ask WNW. Ask WNW is the most popular feature on the website where Richard Gray answers four questions daily, Monday through Friday. To submit your question for the next installment of Ask WNW, click here.
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When and how did Daniel Bryan get his injury?

It's my understanding that Daniel Bryan's injury was an accumulation of injuries that resulted in foraminal stenosis. In foraminal stenosis, a nerve root is compressed inside the neural foramen. The compression is the result of wear and tear on the spine. This is why Bryan underwent a procedure known as a cervical foraminotomy. You can read about the initial procedure at this link and get more details from a medical perspective at this link.

The second surgery that has been talked about deals with his elbow, not his neck. Apparently it's a nerve injury there that's causing him not to re-gain the strength in his arm. Bryan talked about that in a press conference after apprehending a burglar at his house. You can read my report from last month at this link.

Obviously neck and nerve injuries are serious, complicated and unpredictable. I can tell you from WWE's side the company has labeled him as "out indefinitely" and he is not currently in any creative plans. This could change if he receives a timetable as to when he would be eligible to return. However, a timetable is difficult because it all depends on how the nerve injuries heel.

I am a huge wrestling fan and was excited about the WWE Network. I signed up for it the first day it was available. Now after seeing the numbers, I am wondering if there is a such thing as too much wrestling. Could product over-saturation be the culprit for people not buying the WWE Network?

Over-saturation is a problem with WWE and I believe it's one of the reasons why Raw viewership isn't what it once was (especially considering the amount of viewers that tune out for the third and final hour). I've said since the beginning that a three hour show each week with pre and post shows is too much of a commitment. However, I do not believe this is directly the reason people are not buying the WWE Network as expected.

As I noted on Tuesday, hardcore wrestling fans in the United States have already subscribed to the WWE Network. That number as of June 30, 2014 was 700,000. These are people like me and you that see the value in a $9.99/month to get all the WWE Network has to offer. WWE has to find a way to get more casual fans to sign up. This can be accomplished by selling the monthly pay-per-views and it's imperative that WWE explain the pay-per-views "come with" a subscription. A tactic was used on this week's episode of Raw, with the constant 9.99 mentions. I don't know what you thought about it but I found it annoying, if not desperate.

WWE is now moving into international markets to see where that can take them and will look to adjust accordingly. I'm not saying they are giving up domestically, but they've seen little growth from April to June. Now they want to see what they have internationally. It will be interesting to see how the WWE Network evolves from this point forward.

Far too often, talented workers like Dolph Ziggler, Fandango, Damien Sandow and R-Truth continue to get buried with no story lines even on the horizon for them. The most annoying part about all this is that I hear the reasons are mainly that the writers are too busy or uninterested, and yet there clearly are too many hours of wrestling on every week, thus making enough opportunity for every worker to have some kind of a storyline and yet nothing happens. What's your take on this?

It's very easy for us to sit here and fantasy book, fitting everyone neatly into a storyline and restoring them to relevance. Executing such a plan is much more difficult. What a lot of people fail to understand is there are very few spots for workers on television and even fewer spots for the coveted main event spots. Currently, there are 16 performers advertised for the SummerSlam lineup. Those performers are as follows - John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Bray Wyatt, CHris Jericho, Brie Bella, Stephanie McMahon, Jack Swagger, Rusev, AJ Lee, Paige, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.

WWE's updated business model is based on the following key drivers (as stated by Vince McMahon in last week's conference call) - domestic live event attendance, TV ratings and WWE Network subscriptions. While there are many other revenue streams, this is the core of WWE's business. All three of these "key drivers" play off one another. Higher ratings mean higher live event attendance, which means a larger possibility of attracting WWE Network subscribers.

As I discussed above, WWE has to sell Network subscriptions based on the fact the pay-per-views are included (they are the main WWE Network selling point; without them, the WWE Network would not work). Now, we have to go back to the 16 performers on SummerSlam. Live events and television must prominently feature these performers in a way that makes logical sense to make people want to sign up for the WWE Network to watch the pay-per-view.

Now this doesn't explain the ridiculousness of Damien Sandow's gimmick or pairing Hornswoggle with Fandango (other than highlighting that Vince McMahon has a very strange sense of humor), but it does provide some perspective. WWE's core programming must focus on 16 performers and include filler material that provides humor and entertainment without overshadowing the 16 aforementioned performers. Not to mention the structure when looking at the SummerSlam card in that the main event matches have to have more attention and relevance than the undercard programs.

What I don't understand is that we're less than two weeks away from a "big four" show and a pivotal time in which WWE must not only attract new WWE Network subscribers but retain the ones they have and the main takeaway from this week's 3-hour Raw broadcast was $9.99. However, it's hard to sell a main event of John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar solely on pre-taped video packages.

From the Ask WNW vault…

March 2013: Did WWE ever think the reason for viewership dropping in the third hour of Raw is because the show doesn’t end until 11:15 and young audience isn’t up until that time especially a Monday night with school the next day? - WWE pursuing a younger audience could be a culprit for viewers tuning out for the third and final hour of Raw, however, I do not feel this is the reason. Prior to WWE taking Raw to a three-hour format, the 10-11 hour was always the most watched hour. WWE PG began in 2008 so the audience has been getting younger since then. My belief is viewers are suffering from viewer fatigue and are tuning out for the third and final hour.

Questions that are legible stand the best chance of getting answered. The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

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