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WWE Network Model, HHH vs. The Rock, Pushing Rusev Over Cesaro

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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What's the reasoning behind WWE moving all of their pay-per-views to the WWE Network?

WWE needed to offer a major incentive to fans to entice them to subscribe to the WWE Network so the decision was made to transition their pay-per-view model to a subscription model. It's very different and going through growing pains but I absolutely understand why it was done. Pay-per-view is outdated and buys had been on the decline aside from the yearly "pop of Wrestlemania." The idea is more people will subscribe to the Network than will order the pay-per-views and it will give WWE more control over their programming. Further, it creates a degree of stabilization along with opportunities to monetize their audience that were not there previously.

I don't want to focus so much on the financials because they are complex and involve multiple elements but the model makes sense. George Barrios, WWE CFO, stated just hours ago that live programming is the most-watched content on the WWE Network, a fact that's been continuously reiterated. Without original live content, especially content like the pay-per-views the core WWE audience is familiar with, it would be very difficult to market and promote the WWE Network.

All and all, the pay-per-views are the most attractive element of the WWE Network and are the reason why user engagement is so high. It was imperative WWE transition the pay-per-views to their Network if it was going to work. Again, there are growing pains but I believe this is the right direction.

With the announcement of subscribers still low, is it time to change the marketing of the WWE Network? When they first started, it was like Netflix in that they talked about all the content as user would get. Now, it's about making you feel dumb for buying a PPV.

I think it's safe to say WWE isn't going to make their target of one million domestic WWE Network subscribers by the end of the year. The company is trying to increase "subs" by offering simplified pricing plans, launching in the United Kingdom and providing new content and features. They're trying to further monetize the service by including limited advertisements. While people aren't subscribing to the WWE Network as quickly as the company had hoped, total paid subscribers are still growing. I think that's a very important point to keep in mind. If the numbers were declining, I would say WWE is in big trouble but growth -- even at 4% -- is still growth.

My personal opinion is the WWE Network is poorly marketed. There is too much emphasis on it being $9.99 without explaining the quality of the service. Maybe things will get better now that the service will soon be $9.99/month across the board but I don't think price should even be a factor. I've pointed time and time again to Wrestlemania being the most expensive pay-per-view but the most bought. I've also explained how we market WNW Premium here at the website. While I believe our prices and plans are both affordable and flexible for any budget, I don't believe that's the reason you should sign up. I believe you should sign up because it's a great product. You get a lot of value for your money.

I believe lost in $9.99 is the WWE Network is a valuable product -- even for a causal fan. You get every pay-per-view, original WWE content, outstanding NXT live specials and other live programs along with a vast and expansive video on demand library. Further proof WWE isn't properly relaying this message is how they bizarrely shame people that buy their pay-per-views on a traditional basis. Isn't that proof enough that people don't care about the price if they are interested in the product?

You mentioned in Wednesday's Ask WNW about who else -- besides Brock Lesnar -- The Rock could face at Wrestlemania 31. What about Triple H?

I believe there would be an opportunity to do Triple H vs. The Rock at Wrestlemania 31 and one could say the groundwork has already been laid by the segment on the 15th Anniversary special of Smackdown. The reason I am beginning to favor Brock Lesnar vs. Rock above all other matches has to do with the strength in which Lesnar has been booked. If he goes over Cena for a third straight match, I don't see an opponent outside of Rock that could be booked to have a believable chance at stopping him. I know this goes against any scenario of Roman Reigns returning, winning the Royal Rumble and challenging Lesnar but if Cena can't stop him, how are we logically supposed to expect Reigns to do in one match what Cena couldn't do in three?

I like Rusev. I've been on board with him as a wrestler since the NXT days and became more a fan when they stopped feeding him squashes with the Big E program. My question is: What's he got that Cesaro doesn't that warrants a consistent push and constant protection.

The only thing Rusev has that Cesaro doesn't is an opportunity. It's not that Cesaro hasn't had them before -- he has -- but not near at the level of Rusev. As you mentioned, Rusev is in the midst of a protected push but not only that, the direction has been very clear from day one (once they figured out where to bill him from). WWE put Cesaro over in the 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30 and then tried to force feed him as a heel with Paul Heyman, even though it was obvious he was breaking out as a babyface. One step forward and two steps back.

Former WWE star John Morrison was recently asked what it was going to take for Dolph Ziggler to get a main event push. He said something I found very true and is success in wrestling is usually a combination of luck and skill. Cesaro has plenty of skill but needs some things to go his way. It's all going Rusev's way right now, so it's imperative that he take full advantage of it.

Take Daniel Bryan as another example. All of the talent in the world, overcomes numerous obstacles, essentially forces WWE to push him as their top guy and is sidelined indefinitely with a serious injury. Success in wrestling is a combination of luck and skill.

From the Ask WNW vault…

December 2012: Why is Tensai getting buried almost every week, I always liked the guy, and think he’s a great worker, but is somewhat feels like they re-signed him to put over other talent. - WWE re-signed Matt Bloom to push him as Lord Tensai, an effective heel in the Raw main event scene. Remember his pinfall victory against John Cena? The problem is he couldn’t get over, even after several tweaks were made to the gimmick. As things currently stand he’s been used in an enhancement role and more comedy as they try and find a spot for him. Bloom wasn’t seen as a guy they had to develop but someone they were hoping could come in and fill a main event role. To put it bluntly, it just didn’t work out as hoped.

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Friday, October 31, 2014.

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