In February of 2014, WWE launched an over-the-top digital network to satisfy the continuously busy and ever-changing lifestyle of the causal pro-wrestling fan. Throughout the following six years, more than 10,000 hours of content have been uploaded highlighting over 5 decades and 7 different promotions through its service. With a nearly 2 million subscriber base having the ability to watch linear programming as well as on-demand (VOD) content at their pleasure, the network has been a largely successful venture for the company, albeit executive changes, and the rumored tier plans.
While still an infant in this new medium, WWE Network has provided over 50 original content shows, the majority of them airing exclusively on the streaming service to its fans of all ages. And as shows are canceled and added to the network, some still hold up since the initial launch. In this 3-part edition of The Mouthpiece, I’ll argue for 3 shows that WWE Network executives should be urged to reboot in 2020 and into 2021.
Part 1: “Bring it to the Table”
A WWE Network original show that premiered in January of 2017, starred Peter Rosenberg and two other guests, however, primarily JBL and Corey Graves. The show’s premise was to dissect storylines, insider information, dirt sheet rumors, and other hot topic discussions, mainly catering to the smarter wrestling fan.
The show lasted only 6 episodes, which, in one particular May 8th, 2017 episode, included a lengthy rant by JBL, Graves, and Rosenberg targeted toward Mauro Ranallo. While it may not have been the reason for the cancelation, some could argue JBL’s actions were just the tip it needed to fall flat with the audience. However, the show offered something different that viewers weren’t often privy to watching since the network debuted. The network, at the time, lacked a large number of network original creative shows that could go for multiple seasons. Bring it to the Table was a show WWE thought could be relatable to the casual and smart wrestling fan base, whereas other original content catered to a particular audience with its adult theme.
While the topics seemed interesting at times, and the hosts primarily went outside kayfabe for most of the show, Bring it to the Table brought with it hostile and somewhat cringe-worthy segments. With JBL or Corey Graves ranting when it came to fan opinions and dirt sheet reports on talent or the product altogether, it often felt out of place. The show began to lose its luster and interest from the smart wrestling demographic and for the remainder of the series after the initial JBL incident, fan perception of the show became one that wasn’t in the interest of the fans but rather one pushing the company agenda. It seems that this is why in mid-2017, after publicly mocking fans’ opinions during the later episodes, the show was eventually canceled with very little explanation from either of the hosts.
The show was meant to be filled with controversy, with the hope that it would provide clarification to reports and other news that spread online. But during each of the very few episodes, little was done to provide an inside look with commentary, and more was purposely done to bash or even fully discredit any leaked reports and their reporters.
But things have changed over the past few years. Since then, fans have adored other insider shows, including WWE audio podcasts After the Bell hosted by Corey Graves, The New Day: Feel the Power, and the recent Fox-produced television show, WWE Backstage on FS1 hosted by Renee Young and others. The Bump is a relatively new show that premiered in October of 2019, has a similar approach in hot topic discussions, and can be seen live on the WWE Network as well as WWE’s official YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pages. These shows, particularly Backstage and The Bump, allow talent to be themselves, speak freely about the product, and provides an outlet to discuss topics infiltrating the online news sites. Over the last few years, it seems WWE has taken a different approach to kayfabe and the smart fans in pulling back the curtain while sticking to the company agenda to put talent over.
Could Bring it to the Table work in 2020? I don’t see why not. In fact, fans currently compare Graves’ podcast, The Bump, and WWE Backstage to a newer version of Bring it to the Table. Even though Backstage is a Fox-produced wrestling insider show, it proves that there is interest in insider shows, and a great reason for those shows to be rebooted on the network. The problem in 2017’s version, in my opinion, was the lack of diversity in talent and cemented the stigma relatively early that the hosts mocked the very fans who wanted to listen to what they had to say about a particular topic.
This can all change with a different host and guests, allowing it more time to breathe over time. It might also be the best time for WWE to introduce a new Bring it to the Table, where competing for viewership from other companies, including AEW Dynamite and NWA Powerrr is at the utmost importance. New hosts, same format, and continued capitalizing on the fan’s interest in the reality of wrestling news.
Just, let’s not bring back JBL this time around.