Putting it mildly, WWE Network’s integration into NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service wasn’t exactly hitch-free. Actually, it had several dozen hitches with more to come since the process is nowhere near the finish line.
One massive thorn in the side of wrestling fans is censoring content. In the seven years the network wormed its way into our hearts, we saw events and matches presented unedited.
It’s only natural to be in one’s feelings when the thing you’re used to is now tinkered with. Especially when it’s just so Vince McMahon and company can get yet another bag from another colossal conglomerate. But WWE and Peacock are going about this the wrong way. Rather than editing or erasing content from existence, they should do what Warner Bros. did with their streaming service and use “teachable moments” to create new content.
HBO Max removed Gone with the Wind in its early days, and it was a whole thing. One side screamed it was “cancel culture” run amok while the other half-heartedly applauded the decision. Filmmakers like Spike Lee and film historians were stuck in the middle. What Lee and others suggested was putting films in their proper context. If we’re going to talk about Gone with the Wind or Breakfast at Tiffany’s, let’s really have the conversation. Put significant films in their proper historical context rather than taking an “all or nothing” approach.
So yeah, HBO Max’s parent company WarnerMedia did that instead.
The studio looked to its bench of renowned film historians and put all of them in the game. Films we might call problematic for reasons exceeding my word count come with intros putting them in their proper perspective. Some movies even have hour-long specials with historians and professors keeping it as real as humanly possible about a film’s complicated legacy. Warner took a lemon and made enough lemonade to keep their streaming services quenched for years to come.
Let me be clear as crystal: this is not me raising my hand in favor of blackface. If you’ve seen one white man wear dark makeup to imitate a Black man, you’ve seen them all. The fact that there’s more than one instance of this in WWE’s history is one time too many. So I am not, nor will I ever, shed a tear for missing DX segments of Raw or an entire portion of WrestleMania VI going the way of the dinosaur. But I believe there is value in WWE owning its history rather than pretending it doesn’t exist. And it’s not just stuff like just X-Pac raising the roof while thinking he’s Mark Henry.
This is a chance to get the best wrestling minds together—the ones WWE is willing to pay—and honestly engage with the past. Explaining why women’s wrestling in 1999 wasn’t so much wrestling as it was Playboy auditions illustrates why it’s a huge deal when two women main event WrestleMania in 2021. Highlighting the risqué things Goldust did can show anyone who wasn’t around at the time exactly why that character was groundbreaking. On the flip side, it also brings to light the era’s homophobia, which gives everyone a chance to talk about how the industry slowly changed with the rest of the world. Minority stereotypes, sex celebrations, and probably everything ECW did potentially have educational merit and is ripe for new content.
I say “potentially” because, let’s be honest, not everything from the past is worth talking about for more than 60 seconds, much less 60 minutes. It’s hard to imagine a deep dive on Kaientai castrating Val Venis because the porn star/wrestler slept with someone’s wife. But Peacock streams plenty of movies that aren’t exactly fun for the whole family. If you can slap an R rating on Sleepaway Camp, then you can give a warning or flag older wrestling content that goes against WWE’s modern sensibilities. I’m not saying I’m dying to see “choppy choppy pee-pee,” but I am saying I want the ability to make a choice.
Anyone can understand why Peacock, and by proxy WWE, wants to whitewash the past. I grew up during the Attitude Era; I get it. WWE usually comes down with an awful case of convenient amnesia anyway, so they probably see it as a big W. But when wrestlers like Shawn Michaels are willing to dance with their demons on the record, the company he works for should do the same. Reframing WWE’s past rather than walking away from it is not only bad for consumers, but it means both companies are leaving money on the table by forgoing new material.
In a world where content is king, queen, and an entire royal family, that may be the biggest hitch yet.
What’s your solution, Cagesiders?