Top-Down Smackdown: The Network


One of the biggest challenges in a relationship is the whole sleeping together part.

I don’t mean sex. I mean sleeping together. It can be an adjustment: literally so for your muscles as they adapt to new positions, and figuratively if you have different strategies for falling asleep. Mine used to involve either complete silence or music that I like.

I married someone who prefers TV on all night.

That seems less complicated than it is, because even in the era of the 24-hour cycle. so many cable channels still run infomercials in the wee hours, and said infomercials are generally twice as loud as whatever you set the volume for while falling asleep. DVDs are no good, because after the movie ends you get the DVD menu, which generally runs the same two minutes of audio in a continuous, annoying loop. I mean, it’s fine if you can sleep through it, but I have difficulty.

Bless you, WWE network.

That may sound like a backhanded compliment, I’m sure – WWE Network is something I can fall asleep to. But it is. If I wake up in the middle of the night, odds are it’ll be to the sounds of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan taking me back to childhood, or some audience chanting “E-C-W!” Maybe a WrestleMania match of yesteryear. Regardless, it is comforting.

And when I’m awake, it’s pretty good too. Last week I had to be torn away from a Legends panel show (the same one that used to air on their on-demand PPV channel) to finish my work for the day. The NXT “pay-per-view” (you can’t really, logically call it that) was a fun departure from the usual roster of repetition, though I do wish most of the matches hadn’t ended in hugging. And holy shit, those old ECW episodes – back when it was called NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling, and looked like it was shot with a consumer-grade VHS camera in somebody’s basement. I have no idea how that show ever made it on the air, but I imagine it gets more views now than it ever did then.

You also realize, watching, why it’s good that this network was delayed. WWE only recently earned the legal leeway to allow old footage to even show a “WWF” logo or have anyone say “WWF” aloud – there are no annoying audio drop-outs, though from what I understand some entrance music has been adjusted for legal clearance reasons.

But there’s no censorship otherwise, that I can tell – some shows come with warnings upfront that what you are about to see does not represent current standards. Also, they have Over the Edge on their roster of every Pay-Per-View.

Yes, the show where Owen Hart died. That one. It has never been shown since then.

It’s difficult enough, as a fan, watching with my much younger wife and saying, “That guy’s dead now. And him. And him.” Can I watch it happen? Morbid curiosity is in play.

But what I mainly notice about the wrestling I grew up with is how standard the move sets are. Irish whip. Armbar. Arm twist. Abdominal stretch where the bad guy secretly keeps grabbing the ropes. Bodyslam. It makes you appreciate the skills of those who really stand out – Ric Flair and Roddy Piper, for example, do wonders with the same basic match layout as the British Bulldog and Irwin R. Schyster. I still love it all, but I wonder how bored today’s kids might be after being raised on Rey Mysterio.

And I remember myself, years younger, being looked down upon by women when they found out I like this stuff. I wish I could send a message back in time, one that would put that guy’s mind at ease:

“One day, wrestling will be the best marital aid you can possibly imagine.”

Talk amongst yourselves about Raw below.