Without going so far as to say that VMWare Player sucks (I use it pretty frequently, and I agree that it's nice/fun/nifty/etc)
In regards to your W8.1 VM, I don't think WMC is going to work at all with live tv unless you can pass through a pcie gpu to work with intel's vt-d or equivalent
I'm actually not sure if Type 2 hypervisors can pass through entire devices? I have a k-series intel processor, so even if it could I wouldn't be able to try it
Also, along that line, if you bought a k series processor you are screwed as far as ESXi goes. You won't be able to pass-through any of your devices (NIC, HBA, GPU) to the VMs. This doesn't keep you from being able to create VMs, but it's very undesirable for someone looking to have a WHS/W8.1/etc all-in-one ESXi solution.
Further, I don't believe WMC will work for copy-protected TV without a passed-through GPU. However, it may work just fine if you are looking to add OTA tv?
Someone else could hopefully clarify the WMC issues with or without a passed-through GPU, because AFAIK
this is usually the make or break point