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LaBar: WWE will be at crossroads in 2014

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 10:03 p.m.
 

Next year will be a make or break one for the industry of professional wrestling

In 2001, the wrestling world went from three main companies of WWE, WCW and ECW to just one.

The best of the best talent merged onto one roster.

At the same time, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena were in WWE's developmental system in Kentucky.

And, of course, we can't talk 2001 without mentioning the inaugural and final year of the XFL football league.

This upcoming year will see different changes but will be equally historic for the business no matter if it succeeds or fails.

It appears after years of suspense, the WWE Network will finally launch, likely in February. Within that launch, we'll see a change in the landscape of WWE programming.

It's expected the network will feature all of the WWE PPV's as part of the subscription package. Tie that into the fact WWE is looking to renegotiate its television rights deal and is hoping for more money — this means emphasis will be on the weekly cable shows of RAW and SmackDown.

RAW and SmackDown ratings dictate how much money the company can ask for in its television deal. It also means these programs on free television will be what is used to attract new customers for the network.

This is the exact opposite formula of what wrestling was built upon. The industry was on building storyline up and culminating with payoffs at a PPV. But, coming soon, the big events already will be purchased courtesy of WWE Network subscription.

The accountability for each PPV's performance will decrease as people won't be spending a large sum on the spot of a Sunday night, but many will be paying months in advance for a plethora of programming everyday that also will include pay per views.

In addition to the programming, 2014 will feature the milestone WrestleMania 30. A celebration of three decades of what has become an entertainment juggernaut sure to contain special WrestleMania moments with the stars of yesterday and today, and the emergence of new stars.

When 2001 was over, the business was in a booming stage. Not to the level of what it did in the late 1990s but it still was a profitable time. This time next year we'll have a better idea of where the business is going and its state of stability.

Ultimately, I think WWE will have a strong financial year. The economics of what it could command in new television rights, plus the profit from WWE Network subscriptions, will all be an increase compared to the last few years of business.

And I'll go on the record as saying, in honor of the historic upcoming year plus controversy that surrounds the NFL's rules and behavior, how about we give the XFL another try.

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