It's hard to believe that it's already been 37 months since WWE Network launched, changing the face of professional wrestling distribution.
This all goes back further than you'd think, as there were numerous attempts to stream pro wrestling before it was remotely viable. Many of these were hosted by Mark Cuban's AudioNet website (later Broadcast.com), mixing up "pay-per-listen" events from WCW as well as on-demand streams of ECW and Music City Wrestling's weekly television shows. Northern California's All Pro Wrestling experimented with numerous streaming formats before just about anyone else, even crowning an internet champion. Initially, he could be viewed in a medium, RealPlayer, which was so chappy that could only be called "video" if you were being charitable. Later, however, APW moved to downloadable matches using the short-lived ClickMovie service.
In the meantime, the DVD boom benefited indie wrestling, but once physical media started dying at the start of the decade, it took time to find a replacement. Less technically inclined promoters would eschew MP4 downloads, thinking they enabled piracy without understanding that DVD ripping easily accomplished the same goal. As infrastructure for live streaming and all in one production solutions became more affordable, some new players started to enter the game, with Go Fight Live initially being the most prominent. Unfortunately, a lot of the early players didn't have the best grasp of how to exploit the technology, resulting in botched streams. A lot of them, in fact.
So when WWE Network launched in February 2014, there wasn't much confidence in it working well. While there were some initial growing pains (the on-demand section was particularly unstable during its first few days) the service is now incredibly reliable—no doubt thanks to MLB Advance Media's backbone. Thanks to livestreaming being destigmatized, all of wrestling has benefited, with countless promotions having their own subscription services or jumping onto larger services and/or internet pay-per-view (IPPV) platforms.
That brings us to this weekend, where we've reached Peak Wrestling Streaming. WWE's official WrestleMania weekend shows aren't even the half of it. FloSports' FloSlam service has four of the most loaded indie shows of the year, with a small handful of others (like Progress and Shimmer) available via IPPV on WWN Live and Ring of Honor doing an IPPV on the Fite TV app.
If you're a wrestling geek who couldn't make it to Orlando, you're going to be stuck at home all weekend, but you're going to have a lot of fun while you're there.