WWE fans can certainly save themselves some cash by illegally streaming WrestleMania or other pay-per-views, but they're not getting nearly as good a product as they would if they ordered them.
Beginning with Royal Rumble and ending with TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs, the WWE calendar asks for fans (in the United States at least) to shell out around $45 at least 10 times a year.
2012 featured 12 WWE pay-per-views. If a fanatic ordered every single event, they paid about $500.
It's easy to see where the temptation to bypass payment comes from.
The issue is that the experience one has on their computer watching a fuzzy version of Extreme Rules or Survivor Series is far less enjoyable. It is certainly cheaper to download a bootleg copy of The Hobbit, but seeing the same film on the big screen in a movie theater is just more fun.
The same goes for WWE pay-per-views.
Fans incur a steep price when they order these wrestling shows, but they benefit from superior visual quality, dependability and overall experience.
Those streams are often marked with grainy, low-quality images, not to mention annoying pop-ups.
A fan can still soak up the drama of a John Cena vs. CM Punk match, but most of us are spoiled with the fact that just about everything is available in high-definition. The difference between streaming SummerSlam and ordering it is the difference between Olive Garden and the more pricey, fine Italian restaurant, the difference between analog and digital.
If Rosa Mendes comes on the screen, don't you want to see the best possible image of her, not some warbled picture that strains your eyes?
Maybe how the wrestlers look doesn't bother everyone. Maybe the general vibe of the matches is more important, not seeing Punk's tattoos pop on screen or the welts on Sheamus' chest.
What happens, though, if you can't see the action at all?
There is no guarantee that a streamed pay-per-view is not going to cut out at any moment.
Should it do that, there's not anywhere to voice a complaint. There's no one to ask for a refund.
When the main event is about to start, the last thing fans wants to worry about is whether their stream will give out. I can say from personal experience that a stream went awry during the Daniel Bryan and CM Punk match at Over the Limit 2012. By the time it came back on, the match was over.
Can someone tell me if I missed anything?
Ordering the pay-per-view the official (and more expensive) way can't prevent an outage, but the signal is going to be far more consistent. WWE has been doing pay-per-views since The Wrestling Classic. Who knows how long that free streaming site has been up?
The choice is to fiddle with the website and troubleshoot as WrestleMania plays on without you, or to just put down the money and not have to worry about it.
Forty-five bucks is a price worth balking at. Throwing a party centered around the WWE pay-per-view of your choice can help alleviate that.
As your buddies gather at your house for that steel cage match, leave out an empty jar and ask them to chip in.
Even if you only get some of your money back, it'll be more fun to watch Dolph Ziggler sell a clothesline when a crowd of friends react to it. Sharing the experience deepens it. Sharing the pay-per-view fee makes it less painful.
Could you conceivably huddle your friends around an illegal stream as well?
Gathering around the laptop isn't feasible, but if you can hook up your TV to display your computer, then you're in business. The issues of how good it looks and the lack of dependability of the stream linger, though.
Ordering the pay-per-view legally allows you peace of mind when hosting all your broskis. Rather than pay-per-views being a drain, they become monthly Super Bowl-like parties.
Watching WWE pay-per-views is an expensive habit, but the real deal is much better than the free version.
With all the generics, knockoffs and bootlegs out there, life is full of the choice of quality or price. For WWE fans, the culmination of feuds, ultimate grudge matches and championships changing hands should be the highlight of the fan experience.
One can buy the nosebleeds or the good seats, rotgut or fine wine.
The unique spectacle that is WWE—the violence and the theater, the characters and the pageantry—is better viewed the way WWE intends, price tag be damned.