The Real Reason So Many Fans Cancelled Their WWE Network Subscription After the Royal Rumble

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

If you’ve been on social media in the last 12 hours, depending on the demographics of your timeline you’ve noticed either a TON or at least a smattering of dissatisfaction with last night’s WWE Royal Rumble. The event ended around 11pm EST, and by midnight #cancelWWEnetwork was trending on Twitter.

For once the radical Philadelphia crowd’s overstated reaction was a fair representation of the feelings of the entire WWE fanbase. Boos rained down as the show went off the air, and as I’ve seen it put accurately: the crowd wasn’t booing Roman Reigns (the Royal Rumble winner), they were booing Vince McMahon. Roman Reigns just happened to be the guy in the ring (with The Rock, who for all his muster couldn’t sway audience opinion of the long-telegraphed and feared outcome).

The WWE Network “cancel my subscription” page crashed last night as the deluge of frustrated viewers expressed their discontent in the loudest way. Perhaps the biggest backfire of the WWE launching a pay-for-content network was the fact that fans can now vote with their wallets much more efficiently than ever before. Might be a better idea to ride it out for a while and visit this slot catalog instead.

Here is a letter that Redditor rblumenfeld76 wrote to WWE as he cancelled his Network subscription last night. The sentiment here accurately represents the reason so many fans cancelled their subscriptions as well. It’s not about the fact that Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble. It speaks to the change from “wrestling” to “sports entertainment” and much more:

I’ve been a fan of the WWE since I was 8 years old. I remember seeing Chris Jericho debut at my first live event in Chicago. I remember seeing the NWO on Raw and Triple H and Steve Austin winning the Tag Team titles at Backlash. I still have the collectible chair somewhere at my parents’ house.

Being a wrestling fan is something I’ve always been proud of, even when it wasn’t perceived as cool. Today, for the first time in my life I am not.

It is clear to me that the WWE is not proud of the people the WWE Universe entails. It is clear to me the WWE has no respect for those impassioned millions who dedicate their time and money each week to the very business that provides them with their living, that pays their bills. It is clear to me that those in charge of the WWE care more about the dollars they collect from more “respectable” sources than they do their fans.

It’s clear that those in charge of the company care more about pleasing sponsors and networks than they do about their fans. It’s clear to me that those in charge have fallen so far out of touch with their fan base that even the fundamental categorization of the product is different. The fans want to watch “wrestling”. The WWE tries to create “sports entertainment”.

It seems like nowadays, the WWE is more concerned with achieving a #1 worldwide trend on Twitter than they are providing the fans with the matches, feuds, and interviews they want to see. It seems like shows such as Total Divas takes a bigger priority than Smackdown! and Main Event. And yet, it’s more than that.

To many wrestling fans, it seems the WWE cares more about maintaining a “squeaky clean” image in the eyes of the public (despite that fact that those people don’t watch the product to begin with ). Yet there is an undeniable fact that the business, by nature, is a dirty one. Nowadays the WWE markets the products toward children even though the product was most successful when it was aimed at the 18-35 demographic.

The current product has been sterilized and subdued to the point of predictability. The current product is boring and dissatisfying. When was the last time a title changed hands on Smackdown!? When was the last time Smackdown had any baring on anything? It used to be an integral part of the schedule. Things used to happen on Thursday night. Now nothing of consequence happens, if anything happens at all.

And I cannot overlook that in the past year, the single most important part of the WWE, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, has been put on the backburner in favor of other storylines. In fact, we have gone months without having the title, or the champion, on regular TV at all. On top of that, those in charge have minimized every other title. Does the Intercontinental Championship still have any luster? Does the United States Championship? Do the Tag Team Titles? Because it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like those titles exist because they have always existed.

Ask yourself, who was the last Intercontinental or United States champion to go on to win (or even fight for) the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and when was that? When was the last time either of those belts elevated any wrestler to stardom?

In the past year:

  1. The WWE alienated the biggest star in the industry so thoroughly and completely he no longer has the passion to work in the industry. Then the WWE lied to the audience/customers and said he quit when really he was fired (warranted or not).
  2. The WWE launched a 24/7 network that significantly failed to meet expectations, costing numerous people their jobs and the CEO half of his net worth.
  3. The WWE has cycled through the same storylines again and again, giving the same main events to the WWE fans as they saw ten, eleven, twelve years ago, ignoring what the fans desperately want to see, as well as the abundance of new, burgeoning talent in the process.

The 2014 Royal Rumble concluded in a chorus of boos after the clear fan favorite was not even included in the Royal Rumble match. Fans said that those in charge were out of touch and didn’t care what the fans wanted. Flash forward one year later. The 2015 Royal Rumble concluded in a chorus of boos so loud even an appearance by arguably the most popular wrestler in the history of the business couldn’t drown it out.

The thing is they weren’t even mad at the winner. They were so mad because once again management and those in charge seemed out of touch. Or just chose not to care what we wanted to see. The decision makers not only denied us what we have been clamoring to see for two years now, but slapped us in the face while doing it.

I recently watched the series finale of the “Monday Night Wars”. And as much as I enjoyed reliving the top moments from that era, the thing I will remember most about it is how everyone has concluded that that era and the popularity of the business at that time will “never be reached again”. Then what is the point of watching it now? If you’re not even going to try, if it’s just an accepted fact that the best days are behind us, why should I bother watching now? And what kind of message does that send to your current roster?

I know that whoever reading this letter will probably not take it seriously. I know that there is an extreme likelihood that you are having a good laugh at my expense or that this letter will never be read at all. But that’s not my problem. That’s yours. If the customer is a joke to you, then I wish you well the next time your company endures ten-digit cutbacks.

Yet for whatever reason I hope this letter, as well as the hundreds, if not the thousands of network subscription cancellations finally make those in charge wake up. I hope they finally realize that the best days of this industry and of this company are not in the past but now. And that it is always their responsibility to the WWE Universe to make “now” the greatest era in the company.

In closing, as I was about to cancel my subscription I read this as one last plea from WWE Corporate to talk me out of what I can’t be talked out of.

“We do not want to lose you as a member and appreciate you being a fan!”

Do you? Because it doesn’t seem like it.

Signed,

(My name) Current wrestling fan, former WWE Network subscriber

Honestly couldn’t have put it better.

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