WWE Network rolled out their newest original content after Raw last night (Jan. 2), Bring it to the Table, a half hour discussion show with Peter Rosenberg throwing topics of conversation at JBL and Paul Heyman.
The items offered for discussion were familiar to any wrestling fan on the internet, since they’re all things that come up often on Twitter or at websites like the one you’re on now. Conor McGregor. Bret Hart. Hulk Hogan.
Above is a clip of one of those topics, “Is three hours of Raw too long?” In it, you get a good example of the show’s dynamic, and purpose:
- Rosenberg is our surrogate, voicing the “fan” perspective. In this case, that three hours is too much, and Raw would be a more satisfying experience at two hours, like SmackDown.
- JBL is the voice of reason, presenting what is usually the company line on the topic, in this instance, that television revenue is one of WWE’s largest income streams and the third hour of Raw is integral to that, so it isn’t going anywhere.
- Heyman is the guy inside the business who views fans as marks. Think Bully Ray’s Twitter feed, or what we often (jokingly?) think of as Vince McMahon’s position, “f*** you, that’s why”.
Now, BittT occassional breaks through this formula, and that’s where it gets interesting. Of the clips WWE has released from the show, the one which illustrates the possibilities the most is this one, where Rosenberg asks about surprise Royal Rumble entrants. JBL gives a scouting report on Shinsuke Nakamura which is especially noteworthy considering he’s the corporate presence on the panel, and Heyman advocates (pun semi-intended) for properly promoting people like Nak or Samoa Joe instead of going for a shock debut.
Even here though, it comes up short of being a really valuable addition to the pro wrestling discussion. The follow-up isn’t a dissection of why AJ Styles surprise debut at the Rumble started his phenomenal 2016, but another opportunity for Heyman to mock fans for complaining. He’s not wrong when he says we “are always going to find something to bitch, moan and complain about, but until they boycott, S-T-F-U”, but complaining about fans complaining isn’t novel, or terribly entertaining.
The next episode of Bring it the the Table isn’t on the Network schedule yet. Heyman’s intro to the show makes it sound like these three (or at least, he and JBL) won’t be present for every edition. So, there’s room for the show, and the concept, to grow.
But is seems designed to be exactly what it is. The format doesn’t allow for conversations to go in unexpected directions, and it’s hard to imagine WWE putting anyone in these chairs who won’t stick to the script.
Just like “We are NXT” or the “pick a side” nature of the brand split, Bring it to the Table is a way for WWE to capitalize on wrestling fans being wrestling fans. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s not pretend it’s groundbreaking content.