By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
Five years ago WWE rolled out a truly revolutionary product. Being the company they are, they oversold the revolution at the time, but when WWE Network debuted, it marked a serious change for professional wrestling. In the half-decade since we have seen international companies copy their approach, independent wrestling companies try and fail to replicate WWE Network, and WWE increase the variety and quality of some of their best work. WWE Network brings a great service to both the hardcore wrestling fans looking for major action and the casual fans just looking to see their favorite stories reach an exciting climax.
With this praise of WWE Network, it pains me to say that it’s terrible. The user interface is basically unusable. Finding content on the network requires hours of prior Network scrolling to understand. Even though it debuted in 2014, WWE’s app interfaces look like they were designed in 2012.
Basically, it’s the best service ever, if you can get past how it’s the worst. So, to help WWE as they (hopefully, please, someday soon) look towards a redesign, I give you my tips for fixing the WWE Network.
WWE Network, when I pull it up on my PS4 brings up a completely different service than when I bring it up on my phone. The same is true when I launch the Network on my computer. If I want chapter markers, I can’t use the Apple TV plugged into my main television or the iOS app. I guess I don’t need chapters on the go?
When WWE Network launched, it seemed like those features would be coming everywhere relatively soon. It is still five years later. We’re still waiting.
The iPhone X came out 17 months ago. WWE Network still does not natively support the iPhone X screen. At this moment, it is the only app on my phone to make big ugly black bars appear at the top and the bottom and make me remember life before my pointless-but-beautiful edge-to-edge display. Why? How in the world is this acceptable for a service still charging $10 every month? I know people in WWE own modern phones? Why are they settling for this?
On top of this, WWE Network still runs on Flash, so it doesn’t run natively in Safari. Again, this is like a product designed in 2012, released in 2014, and never updated. It’s 2019!
Binges Are Life
Look y’all, sometimes a guy just wants to sit down on his couch at 2:00am and turn on a complete month of WCW programming from 1999. It happens to all of us! I want to watch Monday Nitro, then Thursday Thunder, then the absolutely insane pay-per-view from that weekend, and bounce back to Nitro! Why does WWE Network make a true binge of the past impossible?
In order to watch all of those shows as they were designed to be seen, I have to click through about four levels of “The Vault” back and forth, then I have to launch into the “Pay-Per-Views” menu for some reason. It’s obnoxious and pointless. Give me an option to watch shows in the order they aired. It shouldn’t be that hard.
I’m almost ashamed of how often I am up late at night wanting to watch WCW shows from 1999.
WWE Network is a great idea and a game-changer as a wrestling fan. With five years of watching WWE Network regularly, I couldn’t imagine enjoying wrestling any other way. Between the fantastic (and rather specifically targeted) exclusive content and the monthly pay-per-views without $60/month going to my cable company, I’m generally happy with it. I’d hold the NXT Takeover series of shows up as the greatest single series in wrestling history.
WWE has done great work with the content of the Network, but has let the user experience lapse. It’s time for WWE Network to be as usable as its wrestling is delightful.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.