The most important action of Tuesday’s WrestleMania 30 news conference at Hard Rock Café in Times Square didn’t take place on the podium.
To the stage’s left, behind the press chairs, Josh Mathews spoke to the Bella Twins live on the WWE Network before the event began. Scribes turned their backs to the stage and took pictures of that broadcast, part of the biggest gamble Vince McMahon has taken since mortgaging everything he had to put WrestleMania I at Madison Square Garden on closed-circuit TV.
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On Tuesday, WWE doubled down once again.
“The WWE’s legacy will be immortalized,” WWE executive and on-air personality Stephanie McMahon said of the online on-demand network, which debuted in February and will have its pay-per-view coming-out party Sunday in New Orleans for WrestleMania 30.
Although the show still will be carried by standard pay-per-view outlets, that income can best be compared to AOL dial-up Internet income. The future involves getting enough people to pay $9.99 a month to make up for and exceed the revenue the company is parting ways with. WWE took in $82.5 million in PPV revenue in 2013, but fans will now be able to get all of those broadcasts along with a cache of other WWE new and classic programming for the monthly fee.
To get the largest audience possible, WWE is bringing back the company’s most iconic stars. Hulk Hogan is back as WrestleMania 30 host after years working for rival TNA Wrestling. The Ultimate Warrior, who was belittled by WWE on a DVD compilation for the circumstances leading to his exile, is now being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Saturday in New Orleans.
Hogan, who was at Tuesday’s news conference, spoke of the nostalgia of being back where he made history by teaming with Mr. T. at WrestleMania. But then he quickly looked ahead.
“WrestleMania is also about pushing ahead for the future, and the future is right now,” said Hogan.
The Hulkster joked that he’s been asking the same question for 30 years, “What’cha gonna do?” But he added that thanks to the new network, “I finally have the answers.”
Notwithstanding all the marketing, there is going to be a wrestling card Sunday. If Daniel Bryan can beat real-life WWE executive and 13-time world champion Triple H Sunday, he’ll go into a triple-threat match with champion Randy Orton and Batista for the WWE world heavyweight title.
The TV storyline of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon believing the scruffy Bryan doesn’t have the right look to take WWE into the next era is believed by many to come from real-life doubts by the company’s brass.
Bryan hinted strongly during the event that the crowd’s unyielding support of him, including the infectious “Yes!” chant, is what put him over the top into a marquee position.
“People have way more power than they think,” Bryan said.
The beard stays
Bryan made it clear that although his real-life wedding to Brie Bella is the Friday after WrestleMania that his signature beard isn’t coming off. He said he will trim it, mostly to please Brie’s grandmother. He was willing to compromise that much considering the rest of his wardrobe.
“I’m already wearing jeans,” Bryan said.
Batista works both sides
During Batista's quizzical appearance, he said whoever came up with his script “should be fired immediately” and didn’t seem to be kidding. Like many who appeared, including John Cena, Triple H and Bryan, he lamented the room loaded with reporters but lacking fans not making any noise.
But Batista took it one step further, stepping out from behind the podium and pretending to be a fan mocking Batista. And at different times during his diatribe, he said both how happy he was to be back in the WWE fold, but that he only returned because he had some extra time between movies.
Punk rocks less
The CM Punk effect continues to fade. The crowd assembled outside Hard Rock for the red-carpet entrance offered numerous wrestling chants, giving an extended nod to their favorite performers. When it was time to chant “CM Punk,” it last all of five seconds. A Punk chant only slightly longer came a few minutes later.