This Sunday will see WWE air its last 100% traditional PPV, Elimination Chamber. The launch of the WWE Network on Monday, following Raw, will change the way many of us watch the big, monthly, Sunday supercards the WWE produces. For the uninitiated, the network will allow its customers to stream WWE PPV’s live over the Internet (note: you’ll still be able to buy the PPV from your cable provider if you so choose). With Jim Crockett’s Starcade, and later, WWE’s first Wrestlemania, the PPV arguably revolutionized both booking strategies and revenue streams for professional wrestling. However, the WWE Network represents a new revolution.

The most surprising aspect of the WWE Network is how far ahead it is, technologically and content-wise. I’m not trying to sell it, but just look at the details yourself & compare this to other sports’ online packages. You get access to the live events, but not really games from previous years. The UFC had been experimenting with an on-demand offering like this as well, and while it does give access to some of its DVD library, it doesn’t nearly offer anywhere as much as the WWE. You can only compare the network to something like Hulu or Netflix. It’s funny. Like Ethan Carter III said in passing on Colt Cabana’s latest Art of Wrestling podcast, professional wrestling is usually a little behind on it’s pop culture references. I’m impressed the WWE “gets it” & is actually leading the way when it comes to streaming content here – not just leading wrestling, but content creators in general.

So what does this mean for Elimination Chamber? It means it will be a great PPV. WWE’s main goal is going to be to sell as many subscriptions to the network as possible, and the only way to do that is to put on shows that make people want to subscribe, so to that end you can rest assured that Elimination Chamber, and more importantly, the Raw that follows, will deliver (but more on Raw later). The card for this year’s Elimination Chamber is strong. Top to bottom, pretty much all of the matches have a good build up and look good on paper (except for maybe the Batista vs Del Rio match, but with Guardians of the Galaxy trailer just being released, they have to find something for Big Dave to do).

Pre Show: Cody Rhodes and Goldust vs. Curtis Axel and Ryback – Hopefully this will kick off a feud between Cody & Goldust, but given this tweet from the bizarre one, who knows if that’s still on the plate for Wrestlemania.

1: Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil – This is just a good old fashioned blood feud between former teammates.

2: The New Age Outlaws (c) vs. The Usos for the WWE Tag Team Championship – I’m honestly surprised the NAO are still wrestling, let alone still champions. The Usos are certainly ready for the straps, but I always thought they’d win them at Mania…

3. Big E (c) vs. Jack Swagger for the WWE Intercontinental Championship – Hopefully we’ll get Zeb Colter commenting throughout this match like he did on Raw.

4. Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio – Yup. This sure is a match. Moving along…

5. The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield – Two heel teams in trios action? This match has so much heat you can fry an egg on it. The only way this could be better is if it was in the chamber.

6. Randy Orton (c) vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro vs. Christian
Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship – The chamber always delivers, as does all six of the guys in there this year.

What’s more, the Raw following big PPV’s have slowly been becoming better than the PPV itself. This Monday will be no exception as the network kicks off immediately when Raw goes off the air, so expect something big to happen right around 11:05, with Michael Cole proclaiming “We’re going live on WWE Network!” What could that be though? The safe bet would be Undertaker coming back. He usually pops up around this time to get his Wrestlemania feud started, however, the are a lot of rumors that a certain “dude” in red and yellow might make a return to the WWE, brother. Either way, even with the strong card on Sunday, Raw on Monday is most definitely going to be a must watch.

Thursday Night wars?

One thing of note to come from the WWE network is that NXT will be airing on Thursday nights at 9 pm. This happens to be the same time rival wrestling fed TNA airs their weekly show. TNA, for a short while, tried to go head to head with WWE on Monday nights, however, that ended with TNA dragging its tail between its legs back to Thursday. This move will be an offensive maneuver by the WWE to make fans choose between the two. NXT is one of the best things going in WWE right now, and TNA has the talent on their roster to compete (their creative leaves a lot to be desired though). In a perfect world, this will light a fire under both programs and we’ll see both shows continue to get better, just like how WCW pushed WWF in the 90s. I’m interested to see how this actually plays out though.

Around the world

Kazuchika Okada, NJPW’s IWGP Heavyweight Champion, certainly had an interesting entrance earlier this month in Osaka:

The rainmaker's entrance.
Yes, that is a giant sword, a dinosaur and money is raining from the sky.

Also from that show, in the match of the month, there was an amazing bout between Tetsuya Naito and Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openwight title.

How can you tell it was good? The (normally silent) Japanese crowd even started going crazy. Keep your eye on Ishii going forward. He’s not really a top guy in NJPW, but the crowd loves him, and for good reason.

Philly area indie fed Chikara is officially back and will hold its first show in Easton, PA since they were mysteriously shut down at their last show. Check out their website for info, including some backstory to the angle that saw them shut down for nearly a year.