02/25/14 by Rennie Detore
The WWE Network has arrived, brother.
And what better person to usher in this unique, streaming pay channel than Hulk Hogan, who returned to World Wrestling Entertainment on Monday to a response fit for a legend. Hogan resurfaced after a nearly 10 year hiatus from WWE to a sold out crowd as part of Monday Night Raw.
During his active professional wrestling career, Hogan entertained the masses in the 1980s as the WWE (known then as WWF) became a mainstream juggernaut. Sold out live events, off the charts revenue and television ratings that rivaled that of major networks defined the WWE when Hogan was on top of his game.
Of course, there was the merchandise, too. Hogan's torrid run as WWE Heavyweight Champion from 1984 to 1988 brought with it action figures, movies, television appearances and even a Saturday morning cartoon, the aptly titled "Rock and Wrestling."
It was Hogan, along with WWE CEO Vince McMahon, that essentially cultivated the pay per view business with the very first "Wrestlemania" in 1985. The idea at the time was considered brash and viewed as a make or break endeavor by McMahon and Hogan, easily the top draw at the time for the company.
Almost 30 years later, "Wrestlemania" is treated like the Super Bowl as cities clamor and fight to host the event, which sells out stadiums and creates an economic boom no matter where it lands each year. Hogan often is credited for putting "Wrestlemania" on the map, given his involvement in the initial one.
Hogan returns to "Wrestlemania XXX" as its host, far removed from his days battling Andre the Giant, but still positioned as a perfect pitch man for another WWE idea, much like "Wrestlemania I" that is teetering on boom or bust for McMahon and company.
It's only fitting that McMahon reached out to Hogan, now in his 60s, perhaps for the very last time to act as the face and flagship of his new WWE Network. Much like the first "Wrestlemania," McMahon needs his big guns to showcase his innovative idea that a network can work as a stand alone, online only entity through a smart phone, tablet or computer.
And who has bigger guns than "The Hulkster" and his self professed 24 inch pythons, a phrase Hogan used years ago to describe his biceps at the height of his, and their, popularity.
No one truly embodies the history of the WWE like Hogan, so it's only natural that his face is associated with this new project. The Network hit the market Monday in conjunction with Hulk's return to prominence.
The WWE Network is not only a huge risk by McMahon but also one that carries reward. It's $9.99 price tag essentially gives fans a taste of everything WWE has ever done or will do for pennies, particularly if you look at the cost of a modern day wrestling pay per view.
The aforementioned "Wrestlemania XXX" would normally run about $70 per household under traditional pay per view terms and when ordered through the likes of Comcast, Direct TV or Verizon FIOS.
McMahon decided to offer his marquee event this year as part of a WWE Network subscription. Those who argue that this business decision is flawed might have more than just a minute point, when you consider "Wrestlemania" typically does one million buys every year at $70 a pop.
McMahon and WWE are banking on its millions of fans to buy WWE Network and continue to pay that $10 per month subscription fee, thus creating continued revenue that will offset what the company will lose with its bulk, up front payday from "Wrestlemania" and other pay per view events throughout the year.
Frightening as it may be, this isn't new territory for McMahon. He made his company what it is today based on taking chances, and trusting his vision and product to speak for itself. It worked in 1985 with "Wrestlemania" and given McMahon's track record, the WWE Network seems to be in relatively stable, intelligent hands.
Adding Hogan to the mix is equal parts nostalgia and marketing, but ultimately makes the WWE Network that much more lucrative proposition.
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