WWE is celebrating the long-awaited launch of the WWE Network with what should be a historic episode of Raw on February 24.
Earlier this month, PWInsider (via WrestlingInc) reported that Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart and Undertaker are all advertised to appear. Other top stars are expected to make appearances at WWE's unofficial launch party as well.
The WWE Network's upcoming birthday seems so monumental, given WWE's all-in promotional efforts, that this week's go-home Raw for Elimination Chamber would have been more justified as a go-home show for the WWE Network.
In fact, should the aforementioned big names appear, it will be baffling that WWE failed to mention any of them Monday night. The "coming soon" strategy proved to be successful in the ratings pop (from James Caldwell of PWTorch) for Batista's much-ballyhooed return.
But while February 24 seems like a once-in-a-lifetime gathering, WWE fans should prepare to say hello to these icons rather than goodbye.
Given the theme of nostalgia of the WWE Network, it will be the Hulk Hogans of the world who will be trusted to sing the praises of WWE's homesick enterprise.
Many have speculated that Hogan's unheralded return will be used as a final sales pitch for the WWE Network. Rumors, theories and even some reports (from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter via WrestlingInc) have called for Hogan to appear at the end of Raw, leaving fans with a cliffhanger ending that will encourage them to subscribe to the Network.
Is he back? For how long? Will he work WrestleMania against a staffer from Gawker with Bubba the Love Sponge as the special guest referee?
Who isn't paying $9.99 plus the cost of an asterisk for those answers?
A better ending would feature Undertaker, Hogan, Sting, Ric Flair and Jimmy Hart on the post-Elimination Chamber Raw to join forces in the pro wrestling equivalent of summoning Captain Planet.
The WWE Network, of course, would play the role of Captain Planet. It's anybody's guess which legend would be what element—of earth, wind, water or fire—with the exception being Jimmy who would obviously be heart.
However the ultimate hard sell goes down, it will serve as a reintroduction of WWE's past that will mirror WWE Network's programming.
WWE's incentive to bring in Sting for his first and only WWE run in a wrestling capacity reduces with every passing year. No matter how ageless he looks wearing the Crow's face paint, Sting is a 54-year-old wrestler in a very dim twilight.
With every WCW pay-per-view being offered up on the Network, however, the whole landscape changes to accommodate Sting—the biggest WCW star to never set foot in WWE—and his stamp of approval. Sad as it may sound, Sting's WWE blessing will never mean more than as a spokesperson for a network that, if successful, could be a next-generation WrestleMania in terms of windfall.
Reports continue to surface, like this one from PWInsider (via WrestlingInc), of WWE's tempered, yet ongoing, efforts to land the elusive legend. Was Bill Apter's recent in-depth profile of Sting on WWE.com a foreshadowing of sorts?
Sting as an ambassador could be WWE's most valuable free-agent signing given what it could mean to its boom-or-bust network. The buzz alone would be palpable, not to mention packaged and monetized to entice potential subscribers.
With Warrior, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair,
Jim Ross, Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan all in house for WWE, the promotion's unmatched hype machine has the firepower that will fit the theme of the WWE Network.
WWE's curious refusal to announce the expected lineup Monday on Raw will give way to an environment next week where anything can happen.
If ever there was a time to shock the world with Sting's arrival, that time would be next Monday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.