WWE Network Success, More WM31 Plans, Roman Reigns Debate

Do you think the fact that WWE Network still reached 1 million subscribers after the big Royal Rumble gaff is concerning?

I understand your concern about WWE being able tout 1 million Network subscribers a couple days after a pay-per-view their fan base clearly rejected but the entire #CancelWWENetwork outcry was somewhat overblown. A lot of the people that joined in the “movement” were expressing displeasure over the way the Royal Rumble match was booked and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I do not know how many people canceled or what the current subscriber count looks like, but it could be some time before we find out how many subscribers actually canceled over Royal Rumble backlash. I was annoyed as anyone over WWE’s blatant unimaginative/lazy/arrogant/illogical booking of the 2015 30-man Royal Rumble match but not enough to cancel my Network subscription. If you were, canceling is the best way to send a message.

Do you feel the Royal Rumble concept is outdated? Especially since the last two Rumbles have been booed out of building. Will this event end up becoming an afterthought like Survivor Series?

This is a point that Mick Foley made in a blog on his Facebook page. I agree the Royal Rumble is becoming “just another show” but it’s the aforementioned unimaginative/lazy/arrogant/illogical booking killing it, not the concept becoming outdated. In fact, we can look at the numbers and the excitement and conclude the Royal Rumble concept is as popular as it’s ever been, even after the disaster last year.

What I don’t understand is how this year’s Rumble match ended up even worse than last year’s Rumble match and the company repeated the exact same mistakes. I truly believe it’s not that Roman Reigns won that caused the crowd to reject it, but how some of the favorites were eliminated, how lackadaisical Reigns’ victory was, and the fact Kane and Big Show were among the final standing.

In the days leading up to the Royal Rumble, I explained how Reigns had to be booked to “earn it,” so that people would respect his victory. It’s like Vince McMahon just decided they were going to cut every corner possible and say, “here it is, now take it or leave it.” Again, I don’t understand why and cannot explain the unexplainable.

What is your opinion if WWE decides to do Undertaker vs Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 31?

I do not see Undertaker returning to face Daniel Bryan and believe if he comes back, it will be for a program with Bray Wyatt. At this point, I see Dolph Ziggler (as a heel) as a possibility to work Bryan. While it will be on the Wrestlemania undercard, if given a little bit of time, it could be a very enjoyable match. I cannot confirm Undertaker at press time but he has been included in promotional material for the show. If Undertaker was a definite “no” for Wrestlemania 31, he wouldn’t be included. That tells me the door is open and we should find out for sure very soon.

There seems to be a lot of hate targeted towards the WWE for the decision to go ahead with Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, but isn't it also possible that Lesnar may have refused to go down clean to Bryan? The size of the wrestler should not matter, but I have a feeling losing to Bryan in his last match may have mattered to Brock.

Absolutely everything I have heard about Brock Lesnar since he returned to WWE in 2012 is that he’ll do what’s asked of him. I know he’s questioned one or two things creatively but for the most part, he’ll do what WWE wants as long as he gets paid. Everyone I speak with comments that Lesnar isn’t a problem to work with and follows instructions given to him. So to answer your question, I do not believe that Brock Lesnar “refused” to work anyone. In fact, while most expect Brock to leave WWE after Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon is confident he will re-sign (almost to a delusional degree).

With that said, the plan all along has been to do Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. It’s not a bad plan, it’s not my preferred plan, but it could have worked (and still could). But boy, WWE has made it hard. They’ve mishandled Roman Reigns so badly since September, they’ve cut their fan base in half.

It’s fascinating because if I write an article that takes the heat off Reigns, his cheerleaders applaud me and detractors condemn me. If I write an article that puts the heat on Reigns, the cheerleaders turn heel and the detractors go babyface.

I’ve concluded people view Roman Reigns through the narrow black and white dualistic lens of “love him” or “hate him.” I try not to think like that. Roman Reigns is an up and coming WWE superstar with a tremendous amount of potential (the cheerleaders are giving me a collective “amen” here). He was the favorite to win this year’s Royal Rumble match dating back to last year and was hand-picked for Brock Lesnar to pass the torch to at Wrestlemania 31.

I have seen shades of “mega star” in his work and it doesn’t bother me to push back against the people that say he’s “not ready.” Obviously the words “not ready” can mean a lot of different things and can be debated depending on the context (I guarantee people are digging up recent comments made by Steve Austin on his podcast).

The problems started with the promos and I spoke up immediately. The readers that “love him” said it wouldn’t hurt him and maybe it wouldn’t have, until Vince McMahon scripted him to do nursery rhyme promos fit for children. Instead of protecting him in the Royal Rumble match, he was carelessly and recklessly booked to go over, when other “fan favorites” were easily dismissed and then Reigns showed his inexperience in some brutal media interviews.

To be fair, in the interview with Sam Roberts, Reigns said he wanted fans to leave happy.

Click here to load Tweet (if not loaded)

Yes, Roman wants the fans to leave happy but he doesn’t care about his critics, in fact, non-wrestlers critiquing his work is asinine. AND he’s hopefully just the guy getting rich.


However, from what I’ve heard over the weekend, Reigns did just fine on live events as a babyface and like I said, Lesnar vs. Reigns could still work! Did you hear that Reigns supporters? It could still work! They had a good first step on Raw last week but there is concern over Lesnar’s status.

We’ll see how it plays out but I encourage every single reader of Wrestling News World to stop this dualistic thought process of love or hate, black or white, etc. It doesn’t work like that. Not by a long shot. There are a lot of issues to examine when evaluating Roman Reigns and the situation WWE is in for the second consecutive year.

From the Ask WNW vault...

January 2015: I have been listening to you say for months that if John Cena can’t beat Brock Lesnar after three tries, then who could beat him. Now that Daniel Bryan is back, you do a complete 180. Wouldn’t a Daniel Bryan victory at Wrestlemania 31 make Cena look even weaker and make Brock being a beast pointless? - We’re told the decision has been made. Obviously that is subject to change but there is no reason for me to argue and campaign for a certain point of view when WWE officials have made up their minds.

My argument for Daniel Bryan over Brock Lesnar is that it’s a story of total redemption. The guy beat Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in one night — got held down by injury — and came back and beat the unstoppable. That type of story is something I believe would get over huge and not devalue anyone or anything.

The reason I have been saying for months that if Cena can’t do it, who can is because Bryan has been out. How could I campaign for Bryan when it was unknown if he would ever wrestle again? Now we know his in-ring career is set to resume later this month.

However, the argument seems to have been resolved. Roman Reigns has been tabbed the “special one” and we’ll see how it plays out, barring a change of direction.

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Tuesday, February 3, 2015.

You can submit a question for the next installment of Ask WNW at this link. If you have problems with the form, you can send your question to [email protected].

Have more questions? Check out the Ask WNW archive and Premium Mailbag!

WNW Contacts - Send News, Email Richard Gray, Premium Support, Ask WNW.

Download our FREE App! Dirt Sheet for iPhone, Android and iPad.

  • Kurt Luttrell

    I have wondered in the past if reigns was “ready” , but after being a fan as long as I have been one, I also know that you have to give people a chance to sink or swim. Mcmahon didn’t think Steve Austin had mic skills, until Steve pushed like hell to be given a chance on the mic. We all saw what happened because mcmahon let him have that chance. If they want reigns as the “chosen one”, then let him BE the chosen one. The nursery rhyme crap made absolutely no sense to put on a guy with an “ultra cool bad ass” gimmick. Maybe in time he could have made that work, but not so early in his push. Less is more right now. I think reigns can handle his positioning, but not if they keep throwing garbage at him like they are. Want him to shine? Give him the tools and let’s see what he has.

  • The constructive comments re: Roman Reigns have started on Facebook. Let’s keep them going here!

    Your opinions matter but we’ve seen enough of…

    1) OMG Roman Reigns is so lame. He can’t draw to save his life, BOO REIGNS and #CancelWWENetwork
    2) OMG Roman Reigns is EPIC! How can you not see it? HE is “the guy” and the spoiled IWC fans don’t matter.

    • TheBigKing1

      LOL. I’m kinda like you. like Reigns and am supportive m, but I do see s as well. But yes, You’re right. It’s like love him or hate him in the IWC…especially a lot that hate him. SMH!

    • Controversy creates cash

      In all seriousness Richard from a business perspective you must have loved the Rumble result this site has been flooding with comments recently especially on the Roman Reigns articles.

  • Splat

    I’ve moved on. I’m more worried about how the rest of the WM card fills out.

  • Dustyn

    I was at the Edmonton show this past Saturday, and Reigns was MAJORLY over with almost everyone, men, women and kids alike. Very, very few boos for him. He faced the Big Show in a Street Fight, which was actually quite a good match.

    On a side note, Damien Mizdow had the what I would say the best showing of the night. He is HILARIOUS! I found myself watching him more than The Miz & The Uso’s through out the whole match!

  • jdl

    There’s no debate. They’re going with Reigns and he’ll either sink or swim, end of story.

    • Bob’s Diner

      Indeed. Either way, it will be entertaining

  • Snap

    To look at things objectively, the WWE Network can hardly be considered a success since it was projected they would have AT LEAST one million subscribers domestically but they could tell that wasn’t going to happen so they’ve had to do some restructuring and count international subscriptions in that total so the network numbers would come across as profitable. Didn’t they even go so far, from the start, to say that one million domestic subscribers was their “break even” point? So, one million subscribers is a good milestone to hit, but considering they were projecting much more interest doesn’t make it something to really be celebrated.

    As for Roman Reigns, what can I say? WWE needs to realize they don’t want another “John Cena” rather they should want a Roman Reigns. If we’re speaking of outdated concepts, as I have stated numerous time, the whole “face of the company” concept is outdated and all the focus should NOT be placed on one single guy. Put Reigns at the top, put Bryan at the top, put Ambrose and Ziggler at the top because as much as they may try to prevent it, there are going to be freak accidents which leaves one of their top guys injured and if that happens to be the guy they’ve invested all their time and money into, they’re going to run into problems.

    I think the only thing that can really affect Reigns at this point is what he says outside the ring. There are ways he could have voiced his displeasure without coming across as condescending or an ass. Roberto Orci pretty much did the same thing with people who didn’t love Star Trek Into Darkness (with comments like – paraphrasing because I don’t have the quote in front of me – “this is why I write the movies and you don’t”) and people REALLY hate him because of his attitude. It’s all about being diplomatic. If WWE intends for Reigns to be a face, we’ll see how his next media interview goes. Since it’s really Reigns’ “first offense” then just give him a warning. I don’t have a problem with him otherwise.

    • Bob’s Diner

      Yeah, the network cracks me up. Pretty sure they still need like 1.2 million to break even, and that is after firing 6% of their staff and making drastic budget cuts so they can look like they aren’t losing money on it. But WWE are going to WWE and pretend this makes them the most successful ever.
      Fact is, unless they can change their trajectory to show some growth as a company and increase their fanbase (which ratings and PPV revenue before the network would suggest otherwise) there is no growth for this network at all. Even if they can crawl to that 1.2 million mark, it will never do better because their fan base is not growing.

      • TheBigKing1

        They will hit 1.5 by WM31, or at least by Summer Slam. Guaranteed.

        • Bob’s Diner

          No they won’t. This is their peak – they have no markets left tap into.
          Not to mention that after WrestleMania the business always decreases.
          Please explain what makes you think they could possibly hit 1.5 million by SummerSlam?

          • TheBigKing1

            My memory isn’t the best…but I DO remember that you was the same one that said they won’t hit a million by the end of the year. They didn’t. But a month later, they did.
            As far as why I think they would hit 1.5 by those dates? Simple! They are growth in subscribers every quarter…a SLOW but steady growth. Even if it has a cap..they still know that there is more to go. Secondly, they had a successful first run in November with the free month for new subscribers…which they said translated into their current number, because a lot of those free subscribers turned into real subscribers afterwards. So they will have another successful return again…which is why they are doing that promotion again. And lastly…WRESTLEMANIA. Duh! Who wouldn’t want to see WrestleMania. When they were selling PPVs only, obviously the highest grossing PPV was WrestleMania. So I would let you put 2 and 2 together. You do the math. Later bro.

          • Bob’s Diner

            Firstly, the ‘growth’ every quarter is ridiculous. They gained 3,000 domestic subscribers last quarter and their churn rate is extremely high.

            Secondly, they hit 1 million a month into 2015 because it was finally launched in the UK and Ireland – their second biggest market (and the only one that is currently growing).
            Thirdly, I’m sure giving the network away for free gets people to sign up, but how many of those people will watch for a couple of months before getting bored and cancelling their subscription? It couldn’t have worked that amazingly if they are doing it again 3 months later – because if you are making money from something you don’t give it away.
            Lastly, WrestleMania is the peak period but has never drawn 1.5 million people to watch it, even when headlined by the biggest stars in the world. The only thing that may draw in some casuals this year is the possibility of seeing Sting in his final match, but otherwise, given the poor ratings last year and the even worse reviews of the shows the past 9 months, I can’t imagine this WrestleMania is highly anticipated outside of the hardcore fanbase. And they already have the network.
            Not to mention that once WrestleMania is finished, all those people that signed up for that one show will just cancel their subscription.
            It is great you enjoy the network so much, but to pretend it has been the success it was expected to be is just denial

          • ron

            Again one answer to why it will be a success long term and that is Technology. The fact that RAW is one of the most viewed shows on cable tells you that it will also be one of the top streaming services. When the population catches on to the technology.

          • Bob’s Diner

            People have already caught on to the technology – that is not the problem. There has always been a huge discrepancy between the number of viewers Raw gets every week and the number of people that actually pay money for the PPVs (or special events as they are now called).

          • ron

            Wrong more and more people everyday are going to that model of streaming their TV selections and Not subscribing to cable or satellite services. My 2 sons 20 and 25 have just recently moved out and got their own houses neither has cable or satellite service but the first thing they got was Internet service for their viewing media. As that grows their subscriptions will grow. They are at the front of this technology and while a risk today it will pay off in 5 years.

          • Bob’s Diner

            Being in on the technology doesn’t mean there is a demand for their product. Pro wrestling isn’t the same as movies or television – it is a very specific type of programming that can only appeal to pro wrestling fans. This isn’t like Netflix or Hulu that can appeal to all types of people with a wide variety of programming. If you don’t like pro wrestling then the WWE network is not for you.

            Match that up with the amount of people that are actually willing to spend money on WWE programming and you have a number far less than WWE predicted at the start

    • Jay El Bee

      Who said the Network needed 1 million domestic. I find it hard to believe anyone in the WWE ever said that, especially since they had plans to release it worldwide as much as they could by the end of the year.

      • Snap

        Here’s the article: http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/wwe-conference-call-highlights-more-info-regarding-earnings-wwe-network/

        The relevant quote is “The target is 1 million subscribers to
        at least break even with the WWE Network. George Barrios reiterated
        from earlier in the call they believe at full distribution they can be
        at three to four million subscribers.” and keep in mind that this was prior to the network’s launch and long before it became available in international markets. They had to restructure their business and fire staff when it was clear they just weren’t going to hit the “break even” point let alone a potential three to four million subscribers.

        There’s also this article: http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/preview-thursdays-major-wwe-network-update/

        The relevant quote being: “Prior to WWE’s Network announcement in July, the company had made it
        clear they needed 1 million domestic subscribers to break even and they
        would consider the launch successful if they met that target before the
        end of the year. ”

        That’s not a knock on WWE trying to turn a negative into a positive or on the WWE Network itself, but it doesn’t make the network as much of a success as some would like to believe. A good point to consider is, if the Network was doing phenomenally well, why are they giving away entire months for free in hopes of attracting new subscribers? Once a year I could totally see, as many premium services offer free previews, but two such previews within three months of one another?

        I hope the network does well and I really hope WWE puts more into the streaming service so it’s not just a handful of programs repeated over and over again.

        • Jay El Bee

          Are you sure because neither one of those articles provide a link to the WWE saying it had to be domestic. Also I’m pretty sure the company that Richard said “they needed 1 million domestic subscribers to break even” was not the WWE but actually Lemelson Capital.

          • Snap

            According to the first article it was George Barrios, WWE CFO, who made the comment about 1 million being the “break even” point, while in the second article I cannot find any reference to Lemelson Capital and the line “After July, WWE backed off the 1 million subscriber target considerably,” clearly implies that it was WWE itself that set the target and not a third party.

            Furthermore, what I could find about Lemelson is that they announced they had a stake in WWE in May 2014, months after the launch of the network and the short thesis linked in the report was dated the same month and mentioned nothing about a break even point for the network. It would also be fair to assume that if the comments were being attributed to any company other than WWE it would have been made clear in the article and nothing about the article suggests it wasn’t presenting facts as given by WWE.

            Again, I should reiterate that I am not knocking the network service or WWE trying to make a positive out of what is clearly a disappointing turnout, it’s just that the network requiring international distribution to scrape by the 1 million subscriber mark when they expected significantly higher numbers doesn’t make the network the home run they are playing it up to be. I’m not trying to point my finger at WWE and say “HA! You failed!” but in an age where kayfabe is dead we should be able to see past the smoke and mirrors and realize WWE isn’t happy with the response the network has generated and were expecting more.

  • Gary Robert

    Does anyone else find the announcement by WWE that they suddenly hit 1 million subscribers as interesting timing, coming just on the heels of the Twitter campaign where so many people were canceling? I can’t see how they hit this # during that trend. Makes no sense. Do they currently have 1 million subscribers or have they had 1 million people subscribe but not stay on etc etc?

    • Kris Mystery

      Something to remember about people supposedly cancelling their subscription (not that i believe many actually did )… They may have cancelled but technically they are still subscribers until their term has ended. If a lot of people actually did cancel the numbers will reflect this in time… not immediately.

      • TheBigKing1

        It wasn’t that much.

    • TheBigKing1

      It wasn’t that much people that unsubscribed. Most of those were just venting their frustrations, and some were blowing smoke.

  • Kris Mystery

    The Royal Rumble will never be as exciting as it once was and there are a number of factors for that. The main reason being … drum roll please…. The internet!! Plain and simple. We are in an age where information is available to us about absolutely everything at the click of a button… including professional wrestling. We are told about almost everything that is going to happen months in advance and that takes away any element of surprise. Without surprise there is no wow factor and there never will be again. Wrestling sites such as this one do a great job in their reporting… and in all honesty they do too good a job. We all know the plans going forward but we know that going in to these sites we are going to be fed this info. Then we complain about the winner of the matches even after we’ve known for the longest time they were going to win the matches. Without surprise we will never experience the glory days of wrestling again. And as far as Reigns not being ready… says who? We the viewers? Wrestling is a scripted show and we need to take what is fed to us…whether we like it or not. Vince McMahon thinks Reigns is ready and that is all that matters. WWE is still making a boat load of money off their target audience…kids. He doesn’t give a rats behind about us in the IWC… nor does he need to.

    • Jbreed Slay

      You’re right. Especially this year there were so many potential RR winners, probably more than at any other RR ppv, and if it wasn’t for the spoilers on the internet, Roman Reigns may have been the guy we would least have expected to win.

  • Pedro Moreno Pacheco

    the thing i enjoy the most in the royal rumble are the special entries. some are awfull like drew carey while others are awesome like bubba this year.
    but since doing fantasy book is the thing now the rumble could have end better if whenn ambrose held the big show reings was able to connect the superman punch and eliminate show. then enter kane and eliminates ambrose. then ambrose in a explosion of anger eliminates kane from outside just like how kane eliminate cm punk the last year setting up a mania match between this 2.

  • Vomkrieg

    Can i just be on the fence about Reigns and not quite in either camp 🙂

    I like the guy, he’s done some good work and the Shield was entertaining as all heck. I’m not 100% sold on his skills as a solo performer, but i’m willing to let it happen. That said, his promos of late have sucked, his booking in the rumble sucked and the “via satellite” segments while injured were awful.

    I guess i’ll say i quite like Reigns the performer, but how WWE are handling his elevation is pretty bad.

  • Casey Franks

    I think that a lot of the problem with fan perception of Reigns is that we are constantly being told that he is on the verge of being this huge mega star… and we when think mega star most think Austin, Rock, Hogan, ect… then we see Reigns…(I’m not trying to crap on him or anything, as I actually think he has the potential to be great) and honestly he is just not…. that…. you could feel Austin building, you could feel Rock building, and yes you could feel Cena building when he was the DR of Thuganomics…but with Reigns…. I don’t feel anything but forced…

  • Gary Robert

    Bleacher Report has a nice possible full Mania card that looks very good, if anyone has seen it.

  • Dave Barton

    I just wanted to remind everyone about Brock’s ego in WWE, as it relates to the possibility that he would refuse to lose to Bryan. Brock tapped out clean to Benoit while he was still WWE Champion…


    • Jay El Bee

      Different Lesnar. He was a normal every day wrestler back then, not a guy who might be heading back to the UFC if the rumors are true.