Lex Luger Looks Like Gollum

“The Total Package” Lex Luger was known for his Herculean physique and high-impact power moves. His strength and appearance were so impressive that Luger was once tabbed as the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan by Vince McMahon. These days, he looks more like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. I’ve been watching The Monday Night War on WWE Network and seeing modern Lex Luger made me sad. Years of performance-enhancing and recreational drug abuse combined with a spinal stroke have left Luger a shell of his former self. The Total Package looks more like The Disheveled Packaged and seeing him on The Monday Night War was mildly disturbing. Check out the photo below to see Lex Luger’s uncanny resemblance to Gollum.

Lex Luger Gollum

WWE Network Update: Much Better, But Still Flawed

Here’s a followup to my first impressions article on WWE Network. After 10 days of uptime, performance is considerably better. However, there are still some issues that are puzzling. If you’re using WWE Network, I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Now in the immortal words of Degeneration-X, join me as I “Break it Down!” with more random thoughts on WWE’s new streaming Internet video service.

– As I mentioned, network performance has gotten much better. The buffering issues that plagued my first few days of WWE Network no longer occur. The streams have been smooth on both my MacBook (Google Chrome) and iPad (Safari). This was my biggest issue with the service and I’m happy that it’s no longer a problem.

WWE Network Robocop Sting

– For some reason, I’ve been watching goofy moments in wrestling. One of my favorites is Robocop’s WCW appearance during WCW Capital Combat 1990. The card is worth watching just for Robocop’s angle. Sting selling Robocop as a menacing ally is impressive. The Four Horsemen cowering in fear of a foe that moves roughly five feet per minute is legendary.

– Although WWE Network’s streaming has improved greatly, the search function is still annoyingly primitive. Searching on a PC is okay at best. As long as you’re sticking to wrestler and show names, you’ll get good results. If you input something more complex or specific, it can confuse the search engine. Searching on the iPad is just awful. The WWE App limits your search to wrestlers’ names and the results don’t always work. For example, I know that WWE Network has a classic WCCW match featuring Kevin Von Erich. If I search for Kevin Von Erich on the WWE App, nothing comes up. Search is a basic function that’s hugely important. WWE Network needs a more robust search engine.

WWE Network search

– Keeping on the goofy tip, check out the SummerSlam 2005 match between Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan. It’s HBK like you’ve never seen him before. Going into the match, Hogan exercised creative control and went back on the agreed upon plans to put himself — and only himself — over. There wasn’t much HBK could do…except make Hogan look like a fool for most of the match. It’s frickin’ hilarious watching HBK oversell all of Hogan’s moves. From punches to clotheslines to the legendary Hulk Hogan leg drop, Michaels sells each move as if he were taking a gunshot. It’s pretty awesome.

WWE Network Shawn Bump SummerSlam 2005

– I’m really enjoying the NXT archives. Part of the fun is watching up-and-coming talent, but for me, it’s all about the atmosphere. I dig the relatively small size and high smark concentration of the NXT audience. It’s like watching a Ring of Honor show…but with much more production money and cameramen that actually know what they’re doing. As an RoH fan, I especially enjoyed the last match between Cesaro and Sami Zayn. I enjoyed Zayn when he performed as El Generico in RoH, while Cesaro has several of my favorite matches from the last decade from his days as Ring of Honor’s Claudio Castagnoli. Between talent I use to watch in high-school gyms and an intimate atmosphere that’s quite different from Raw/Smackdown, I’ve been loving these NXT shows.

Conclusion (Updated): Despite the primitive search functionality, I recommend subscribing to WWE Network at this time. The streaming is smooth (for now) and new programs are added every week. Hopefully network performance doesn’t take a dive during WrestleMania, but I’m cautiously confident that the company will plan ahead and make sure that it has the bandwidth it needs. Between the classic content, original programming, and pay-per-view events, $9.99 a month for WWE Network is a steal.

Please let me know how your WWE Network experience has been so far. Are you getting your money’s worth? Are you happy with the service and content quality? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

WWE Network First Impressions: Not Ready For Prime Time

WWE Network launched earlier this week. The new online video service offers new WWE content and lots of archival content. The initial price for the service is $9.99 with a month with a six-month commitment. The company is offering a free one-week trial of the service. On paper, this is an outstanding value for wrestling fans. You get live WWE pay-per-view (PPV) events and tons of classic content for less than the cost of a single PPV. That said, there are some major issues that the company needs to work on. Here are my initial impressions on WWE Network.

– Do yourself a favor and watch all the Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat matches from 1989. If you like classic wrestling, these are some of the best matches you’ll ever see. The Ric Flair content alone makes WWE Network worth $10 a month.

WWE Network Flair Steamboat

– It was great fun watching wrestlers before they became huge stars. I enjoyed watching “Stunning” Steve Austin. There are a lot of wrestling fans out there that are totally unaware of his WCW/ECW work. The same goes for Mick Foley. I was always a fan of Cactus Jack in WCW/ECW.

– Naturally (and it’s a sad fact that it’s natural), WWE Network has lots of matches with wrestlers that died too young. It was great taking a stroll down memory lane with Rick Rude, Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, and others.

– It was fantastic watching classic Sting matches. I was a Little Stinger back in the day. He was one of my favorite wrestlers ever. Then he watched The Crow. That gimmick sucked. Give me neon-tights wearing, rat-tail sporting Sting over Crow String any day of the week.

WWE Network Sting

– I’m hoping that newer wrestling fans will watch some classic Bruiser Brody matches on WWE Network. Every “monster heel” character has been influenced by Brody.

– It was weird watching standard definition video in a 4:3 aspect ratio. It feels…unnatural.

– It was disturbing to hear the word “oriental” used so much in 1989 broadcasts.

– It’s annoying that WWE Network censors profanity. Wtf.

– While I expected the service to be loaded up with WWE, WCW, and ECW content, I was hoping for more WCCW content. I was big fan of the Von Erichs, Fabulous Freebirds, Chris Adams, and other wrestlers that worked for the Texas promotion. You can even see the Ultimate Warrior when he was known as the Dingo Warrior. Hopefully more WCCW content will be added on a rolling basis. I’m also hoping for more content from the “territory” days, like Mid-South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling shows.

– Watching the Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart feature made me sad. Michaels seems at peace with where he is and what he’s done. Hart has let go of a lot of his anger, but it still seems to be lingering in the back of his psyche. He, rather sadly, wasted too many years of his life being a bitter and angry man.

WWE Network Shawn Michaels Bret Hart

– The live stream works just fine. I haven’t had any issues with whatever is being pushed as “current” programming on WWE Network.

– On-demand content is another story. I’ve had numerous issues with buffering, as well as quite a few crashes. Performance on my MacBook (Chrome) and iPad (WWE App) has been disappointing. This is a big-time concern. While I’m jazzed about WWE Network’s potential and I’ve really enjoyed watching old matches, the performance has been abysmal.

– Watching WWE Network on my MacBook reminds me of why I hate Flash. The performance is shoddy and the CPU utilization is ridiculously high. I really wish the company went with HTML5 video. Hell, Microsoft Silverlight (think Netflix) would have been much better. This is what happens when a huge Internet video project is headed up in Stamford, Connecticut. If WWE had a satellite office in Silicon Valley, it could have hired a number of engineers to make a superior product.

WWE Network Performance

– WWE has already added new features to WWE Network. Shows now have bookmarks, so you can skip to the matches you want to see. Of course the buffering issues make this more difficult than it ought to be. Personally, I wish individual matches were available instead of entire shows. Slicing up PPV events into individual matches would potentially help performance and make the mediocre search function more meaningful.

– I’ve been using WWE Network primarily at home through an AT&T U-Verse Max Turbo connection (24 Mbps downstream). The service was usable 30 percent of the time, which would be a fantastic average in Major League Baseball, but is rather pathetic for a streaming Internet video service. When I took my iPad to a nearby coffeehouse to test out the service through a decent AT&T DSL connection, it was completely unusable.

Conclusion (For Now): WWE Network has so much potential, but it’s not ready…at all. It feels like a product that needs several months of beta testing, yet the company is comfortable charging for it now. While the current content lineup is great and has the potential to become brilliant, the performance is just dreadful. Hopefully WWE gets past the numerous technical issues that plague WWE Network and make it the streaming video service smarts and marks have dreamed of.

Stay tuned for more updates on WWE Network soon. For now, please use the comments section and let me know about your WWE Network experience. If you can, please list the type, speed, and provider of your Internet service.

WWE Network: 24/7 Streaming and Live Programming

At CES 2014, WWE announced details on the WWE Network, a streaming-video service that offers live and on-demand videos. WWE Network will feature live programming — including all 12 WWE pay-per-view events — and on-demand viewing of classic wrestling. Additionally, it will have a number of original shows that will be exclusive to the service. WWE Network will launch on February 24, 2014 at a cost of $9.99 per month with a six-month commitment required.

WWE Network will be available on a number of popular devices. According to the press release:

WWE Network, the first 24/7 network delivered directly to fans through over-the-top digital distribution, will be available on desktops and laptops via WWE.com. WWE Network will also be available through the WWE App on: Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices; Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy; iOS devices such as Apple iPad and iPhone; Roku streaming devices; Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4; and Xbox 360. Availability on additional devices, including Xbox One and select Smart TVs, will follow this summer.

Original WWE Network programming includes pre- and post-show commentary on Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackdownNXT WrestlingWrestleMania RewindThe Monday Night War, and WWE Legends House. I’m particularly excited about that last show, which features “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Tony Atlas and Hacksaw Jim Duggan living together and doing goofy things.

The press release notes that classic WWE, WCW, and ECW matches and pay-per-view events will be available for on-demand viewing — uncut and uncensored. I hope that WWE’s immense archive of the “territory” days of wrestling will be included as well. There are so many tremendous Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, Florida Championship Wrestling, etc. matches that I’d love to see. Hell, it almost makes me wish that I had a son, just so that I could show him how awesome Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Harley Race were in their primes.

Assuming that the streaming service works well, WWE Network is a fantastic value. The monthly cost is cheaper than ordering a single pay-per-view event and you get tons of other content to enjoy at your leisure. As a fan of current WWE programming and a huge mark for older wrestling shows, WWE Network is a must-buy for me. On paper, it looks like I would get way more than $10 of entertainment out of the service every month.

I know that several of you RPadholics are (wisely) WWE and pro-wrestling fans. Are you excited for WWE Network? Will you subscribe? What questions or issues do you have about the service? Kindly layeth the smacketh down in the comments section!