The origins of the WWE Network can trace back to 2000 when USA Network filed the lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as the WWE) due to breach of contract which saw most of its programming moved to Viacom-owned TNN and MTV. The Delaware Chancery Court ruled in favor of the WWF in June 2000. Then CEO, Linda McMahon, revealed that WWF wanted its own cable network and testified that before WWF signed a rights deal with Viacom, the company had floated the idea of acquiring USA’s Sci-Fi Channel, and reformatting it as a dedicated wrestling network. USA executives rejected the idea, and McMahon said that former USA Networks President Barry Baker encouraged her to talk to other programmers about potential deals. “I can tell you right now, Linda, you’re not going to get anybody to give you a network,” McMahon testified. In 2005, USA Network re-acquired the rights to all WWE programming.
In September 2011, WWE officially announced plans to launch the WWE Network in 2011 as a pay-TV channel. WWE then conducted a survey asking people if they would pay for the WWE Network if it were a premium channel. In an email sent to WWE fans who might be interested in the WWE Network, WWE surveyed fans for their thoughts about the WWE Network airing WWE’s pay-per-views to subscribers for no additional charge. The survey also noted that feature repeats of Raw and SmackDown, as well as footage from World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), XFL, Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW), American Wrestling Association (AWA), and WWE movies would also make the lineup. Original programming was also noted in the survey.
As the result of an online poll, WrestleMania Rewind was chosen as a name for a new WWE Network show on October 17, 2011. The original launch date was set for April 1, 2012, which would have coincided with WrestleMania XXVIII, and WWE’s official website featured a countdown clock that would have expired on April 1. The clock was quietly removed, and the network did not launch as advertised. WWE chief marketing officer Michelle Wilson allayed fears about the future of the WWE Network, saying “There will be a WWE network in some shape or form. We are in late-stage negotiations with distributors”, and confirmed that WWE Legends’ House had been filmed. In April 2013, WWE had switched plans and aimed to release the WWE Network as a premium pay-TV outlet, with a potential price of $15 a month.
On Old School Raw in January 2014, WWE ran teasers promoting an announcement on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, later confirming that the announcement concerned the WWE Network. At the Consumer Electronics Show, WWE revealed a comprehensive plan which would see a launch date of February 24, 2014 in the United States. WWE Classics on Demand closed on January 31, 2014 to make way for the WWE Network. A free trial period was offered during the week of the launch. The logo initially used for the WWE Network eventually became the standard logo used by the WWE corporation in August 2014