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World’s Most Dangerous Column 01.12.14: The WWE Network and Casting Sister Abigail
Posted by Greg De Marco on 01.12.2014

Welcome to The World's Most Dangerous Column, the Sunday home for your favorite 411Mania News Report's favorite 411Mania News Report!

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I don't know if you heard, but the WWE made a rather large and important announcement this week. They finally revealed plans for the WWE Network, and I must say...

...18 months and it was worth the wait!

As a longtime wrestling fan (approaching 30 years), I have to say this is right up there with Vince McMahon going national in the 80's and Eric Bischoff using Ted Turner's money to nearly take down the WWF. Simply put: this is big.

I'm not going to go into all of the details about the WWE Network. The WWE themselves do a great job on WWE.com, and 411Mania's own Justin Watry does a bang-up job in this week's Truth and Lies.

What I want to offer is some perspective...and of course...opinion!

The phrase "Game Changer" is tossed around far too much nowadays. The current buzz-word du jour was even used by WWN Live's Gabe Sabolsky when describing the online network's move to an HD feed. A great move that's beneficial to viewers? Yes. Game changer?

A game changer is when you actually change the game—you do something so drastic that the rules simply don't exist like they used to. And the WWE Network is indeed...a "Game Changer."

How? Well, I'm glad you asked!

One of the rumored (and later confirmed) selling points of the WWE Network was the inclusion of WrestleMania and other pay-per-view events from the company calendar. Rumor met reality, and it turns out that all of the pay-per-view events will be streamed on the network. Remember, this thing carries an average monthly cost of $9.99, meaning you're already saving $40 per month (more for ‘Mania) by watching the PPV events.

I know some of you watched the for free anyway, but now you don't need to deal with the pop-ups or finding the right feed to steal from. You can legally watch it at the most discounted rate possible.

DirecTV, who is already running scared from the online platforms, noted in an LA Times article that they're considering dropping WWE pay-per-views from their portfolio.

In fact, here's my favorite part of DirecTV's statement, taken from the LA Times article linked above:

"Clearly we need to quickly re-evaluate the economics and viability of their business with us, as it now appears the WWE feels they do not need their PPV distributors," DirecTV said in a statement, adding that the audience for its events "has been steadily declining, and this new low-cost competitive offering will only accelerate this trend."

What's most telling is DirecTV isn't bitching about losing a huge money maker here—they're throwing the WWE under the bus for a decline in performance. Piracy and the economy is more to blame than the WWE product, but leave it to DirecTV to put that spin on it. Consider this: DirecTV has already caused a sever in the relationship with ABC, as DirecTV subscribers can no longer use the full breadth of the ABC app. Something's up, and I believe it's the fact that the online, digital platform is arriving and cable/dish is worried about their future.

Bottom line: The WWE Network will cause a decline in PPV buy-rates, and fast.

DVD Sales
The DVD industry isn't what it used to be, but the WWE is still a leader in that industry. The network will launch with 15,000 hours of programming, and is likely to grow to over 100,000 hours of programming. Who needs an assortment of DVDs when you can have the catalog at your fingertips, basically free when you buy a monthly PPV, 80% off of the retail price!

But there's more here—the WWE is sacrificing this part of the business to get ahead of the movement. Digital is taking over, and the WWE is at the forefront. And they're doing so not only with old content, but today's content as well.

Price Point
$9.99 a month. Say it with me people: nine dollars and ninety nine cents per month! That's big, in a very little sort of way. Or little in a big sort of way—I don't know.

Either way you slice it, at ten bucks a month this thing is a steal. WWE could have easily charged $12, $15 or more for the network and it'd still be more than worth it.

But they didn't, the WWE elected to keep this thing cheap as hell, yet while putting their most premium content on it. This is basically crazy, but it's crazy enough to work. And it will.

Independent Wrestling
For years, the internet has been the home of independent wrestling. Gabe Sapolsky, who I don't always agree with, shared some really poignant points to those on his WWN Live mailing list. Here are two of those points:

Everyone is talking about the WWE Network, and rightfully so. It is an out-of-the-box, game changer. WWE is basically sacrificing it's DVD and PPV revenue in an effort to gain leverage to negotiate sky high TV rights. They believe their future business model will depend on TV right fees and not the traditional DVD/PPV market. They might be right, this might backfire on them, but either way this is the gutsiest thing they have done since the late 90s and the biggest game changer since Vince McMahon wiped out the territories and went national in the 80s.

This time...using game changer is totally okay!

Just like Walmart did to the mom-and-pop, WWE is giving you a product at a price that the small guy can't compete with. WWE's goal is to use all this content for $10 a month to bump up the subscribers and then leverage that into more TV fees. In the process, they are lowering the price expectations consumers have for DVDs, PPV and iPPV, similar to what Walmart did for a loaf of bread.

Gabe is exactly right! WWN Live doesn't list prices on their website, but I can tell you that a WWE pay-per-view and a month's worth of access to NXT and their expansive wrestling library is cheaper than a 3-hour indy broadcast. Not to mention DVDs, which are in a decline anyway. Why pay $15-$20 for a DVD when you can have everything for nearly half that?!?!? This could hurt the indies in a way similar to national expansion hurting the territories. The big difference now is intent. I don't think Vince wants to wipe out the indies today—back in the day, he indeed wanted to hurt the territories.

Imagine WWN Live, RIng of Honor, PWG or another company putting their entire library online, plus broadcasting live events and immediately adding them for on-demand access, all for $9.99 per month. They couldn't survive under that model, yet the WWE is taking a stronger, better produced product (and more content) and doing just that.

Some independent promotions could become innocent and unfortunate victims here--they simply cannot compete.

In a week where TNA painfully paid off their AJ Styles angle, the company is fighting off reports of not having a home with Universal Studios (despite naming them as TNA's hub for all programming at the end of last year) and is less relevant than it has been in years. TNA is pushing #Impact365 and "leveraging" the online platform, but the WWE is suddenly making them look bush league—which they largely are!

This could have a positive effect. The WWE is likely pulling all of their content from YouTube, meaning TNA can jump in and become the premier wrestling content provider for the site. Which could actually help TNA, especially if they lose their Spike TV deal in the next 12-months. This is something I actually predicted in my 2014 Bold Predictions, which you can read here.

The Entertainment Industry
For the first time in a long time, the WWE is actually out in front on this, not lagging behind. They didn't beat UFC Fight Pass to the market, but the extra time was worth it. The exclusive live events are likely to be matched by the NXT specials and other exclusive content on the WWE Network.

But for the same price point ($9.99), UFC Fight Pass subscribers don't get live PPV access. According to the UFC Fight Pass FAQ, they can't due to the broadcast rights in the US and select international markets. The prelims fall under that same umbrella, outside of what used to stream on Facebook and UFC.tv—those are now "UFC Fight Pass Prelims." The UFC appears to have a larger library on demand out of the box than the WWE does, but I'd imagine that the WWE will eventually surpass their content level.

But the WWE doesn't only factor into combat sports with this move. According to Matt Ferretti's Yahoo Finance piece, "the network has huge implications for everyone."

He puts it best here:

"If you're a sports fan, imagine being able to pay for [a] football network that would let you watch every NFL game in a season and all the pre- and postgame shows, as well as past games and highlight shows. Boxing and the UFC could follow suit, offering pay-per-views as part of their package. Or maybe HBO will offer its HBO Go service without the need for cable.

With more and more consumers itching to reduce their cable bill and an increasing number considering cutting the cord, options such as the WWE Network are a good thing."

Did you ever think the WWE would make a decision that impacts decisions made by the UFC, HBO and DirecTV? Well here we are, in 2014, and Vince McMahon is proving once again why the WWE transcends professional wrestling into sports entertainment—he's fearless. Time will tell if it pays off.

In wrestling today, there is no show quite like Raw. Giving us moments and memories that we will cherish forever, and some we'd rather not ever recall again. This space is the chance to look back in time, each week, to a Raw memory.

On October 7, 2002, the WWE put a TLC tag team match on Raw, for free. Not newsworthy in 2014, but twelve years ago it was a big deal.

First Ever Tables, Ladders & Chairs to be broadcast on RAW
Kane (defending the World Tag Team Championships solo) vs. Rob Van Dam & Jeff Hardy vs. the Dudley Boyz vs. Chris Jericho & Christian

Have a match or a moment you'd like to see here?
Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This week's edition of WWE Monday Night Raw saw another great Performance from Bray Wyatt and The Wyatt Family. Bray absolutely killed it...yet again. Their story is now largely focused on Daniel Bryan, but we still get references to (and towards) Sister Abigail.

Let's go back in time...

Now, the way that Bray talks to Sister Abigail makes you assume she's passed away. But nothing is guaranteed—I mean, old school fans will remember that Kane was introduced, dead, and alive all in the same episode of Raw! Sister Abigail could be very much alive and well. Well, as "well" as the likely deranged matriarch of a serial-psycho family could be.

Which brings about the most obvious question: If Sister Abigail is indeed alive, and debuts on WWE television, who should play the part?

WWE NXT Diva Bayley
Bayley, the former Davina Rose of independent wrestling fame, has shown the ability to play a character role early into her WWE career. As the Diva shunned by the other Divas, she exhibits somewhat psycho tendencies, ones that could translate nicely into the character.

And I know it's a small thing that can someone else could overcome with hair extensions, but her thick head of hair really accentuates her look, making her a perfect candidate for the role.

NXT Diva Paige
If you poll a section of Internet Wrestling Community members on the topic of the next NXT Diva who should hit the WWE main roster, and when, the answer would be a resounding "Paige, like yesterday." Paige has a great look, is amazingly talented in the ring, and comes from a wrestling pedigree.

So could Paige pull off the gimmick? The main concern would be the accent, but a good acting coach could fix that.

Where the WWE needs to test Paige first is in the character development area. Give her a new character, and see how she carries it. If she pulls it off, she's a great candidate to take on the role of Sister Abigail.

Independent Star Leva Bates
Leva Bates is an insanely talented and engaging star on the indies. Anyone who has heard her Greg DeMarco Show appearances knows that she's knowledgeable of character development, and anyone who has seen her perform knows that she can take on any role. Her background in cosplay has carried over into her wrestling, and could easily carry over into the role of Sister Abigail.

Leva hasn't spent any time in the WWE Performance Center, but she lives in Orlando—where she, appropriately enough, is a character actress for Universal Studios.

I once said that if Leva had been brought in to play the part of Claire Lynch, the character could be a TNA Knockout today. Of course, that went to a completely different character actress from Universal Studios!

Mickie James
No, this isn't just an excuse to post a picture of Mickie James—although that is a benefit!

Mickie James made her debut on wrestling's biggest stage—the WWE—as a psycho "single white female" stalker to Trish Stratus. And she did such a great job, she was immediately over with the fans...so much so that she was treated like a face at WrestleMania 22.

At the end of her TNA run, Mickie James scaled a ladder and cut a scathing promo that reminded me of how great she really is. No reason she couldn't play the character, except for the fact that she isn't "Sister Abigail," she's Mickie James!

But there is a way around it. She can't really reappear as Sister Abigail with no flack or backlash. The fans, announcers and everyone else would need to know that it's Mickie. Everyone else...but the Wyatts.

Maybe Mickie's been manipulating them. Maybe the real Sister Abigail passed away when Bray was so young that he doesn't remember enough about her to know it's not really her. Whatever the reason, it's a deep character that could go a long way.

UK Star (and Paige's mom) Saraya Knight
Who better to play the matriarch of the Wyatt Family than an actual matriarch, this time of England's famed Knight Family.

Saraya Knight is best known to United States fans in one of two ways: either as the former Shimmer champion, or as Paige's mum. But she's an accomplished wrestler who gets it all—in-ring action, character development, promo execution and overall psychology. She's a perfect match for the Wyatts.

She's older than the Wyatts, so as a "sister," she might be a sister of Bray's storyline parents—his aunt—or just the oldest of a larger family. Either way you play it, she'd be way over and would do a great job.

Paul Heyman
During his most recent WWE run, Paul Heyman has been everything Sister Abigail needs to be: manipulative, conniving and almost inspiring. Someone who could control Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Remember when Bray first attacked both Daniel Bryan and CM Punk? His reasoning? "The Devil made me do it."

What better devil than Satan personified himself, Paul Heyman!

I know, I know. "Everybody knows Sister Abigail is a girl's name!" I get that. The story here would need to be that Sister Abigail was metaphorical. Bray never met Sister Abigail, but always interacted with her. Maybe she passed away and Heyman stepped in. Maybe she never existed at all. There are many ways to get to the point of the story—but the point is most important: Paul Heyman revealed to be the one behind the Wyatt Family madness.

AJ Lee
The Wyatt Family is crazy, and AJ Lee is crazy. It isn't beyond the scope of believability to see her as the female influence behind Bray Wyatt's maniacal control over Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and now Daniel Bryan.

Oh yeah…Daniel Bryan! AJ Lee was once storyline-engaged to be married to Daniel Bryan, a ceremony that was halted when Vince McMahon named AJ the General Manager of Raw. Another great reason for the Wyatts to target Daniel Bryan could easily be AJ Lee.

Those are my ideas, now it's time to let...

A tradition started at the end of each point when I wrote The Wrestling 5&1, "You Decide!" is your chance to weigh in on a major question facing professional wrestling each week. Vote once per hour, and leave your opinions in the comments section!

You've seen the options, now let your voice be heard: Who should play Sister Abigail?

Return and vote once per hour!
Voting closes Wednesday night!

So Ryback recklessly clotheslines Dolph Ziggler in a way that gets Mr. Zigglesworth concussed for the second time in less than a year.

Ziggler is still out of action, and will undergo more testing. And somehow, this is Dolph's fault?

Seriously, WTF?

Reader and listener favorite Cherry Bomb!

Follow Cherry Bomb on Twitter at @CherrryBomb!

Before we depart, enjoy and support these independent efforts!

Adam Pearce's fourth edition of The Scrapyard!

Darin Corbin's latest W.R.E.S.T.L.I.N.G. Reflections!

Quick Hits to return next week!

Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, drop a line in the comments, and until next time...


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