My last column focused on the new WWE-owned ECW and their very first television taping in Trenton, New Jersey which I was lucky enough to attend. This column – less than a month later – will look at five simple steps to fix the new ECW, that is if you think it needs fixing…
Before we get to that, though, exclusive columnists at TBL have their columns archived on the site. As the owner of this joint, you could say I’m an exclusive columnist! It just so happens that I wrote a column last year on this day and I went and re-read it and wanted to pull out the following text to briefly review:
“Jean Paul Levesque is one of the central reasons why RAW has become “turn-it-off-TV” over the past few years. His schtick is the same week in and week out…
WWE has made that investment in Jean Paul Levesque and, though it’s a glaring conflict of interest, Jean Paul Levesque has made that investment in WWE through marrying the Chairman’s daughter. Love or not, it’s a huge conflict of interest to continually put the belt on the Chairman’s son-in-law. Again – that’s another column for another time.”
Some quick points. First, Jean Paul Levesque (for me at least) continues to make RAW “turn-it-off-TV.” Just ask my former roommate – whenever this dickhead would come on-screen when we were watching the show, I’d get up and leave the room because I can’t stand watching him or his character. On a business level, I don’t know how any wrestler can work for WWE when the head writer’s husband/Chairman’s son-in-law is constantly put in the main event picture or top billing on the shows. Conflict of interest indeed…
Now, on to this week’s column.
Step 1: Decide if there’s a problem
One of the most entertaining parts of going to the first ECW show was listening to the two toolsheds sitting behind me analyzing the product fifteen minutes into the show! “You can really see Vince McMahon’s fingerprint on the show, but you can tell that Paul Heyman is booking it.” Fucking idiots.
This, however, is a massive problem in the internet wrestling scene. A new brand is launched and less than 24 hours into its existence, nerdy internet dorks have already written it off as garbage and unwatchable. Well, it must be watchable because it’s drawing record ratings for the Sci Fi Channel (not that this is a major accomplishment since the general content of that channel is niche anyway). So my first step in fixing the new ECW is to first assess whether or not there is a problem to be fixed!
In my humble assessment, there are no problems in ECW that are insurmountable and I would even go so far as to say that there are no problems, period. This is a new brand, it needs time to figure itself out. But in the interest of keeping this column going…
Step 2: Don’t Call it ECW if it’s not ECW
Much of the criticism of the new brand comes from fans of the old ECW product not seeing any of the old product in the new brand. I support this criticism. You don’t call a beat-up old lemon of a car “brand new” if it’s not brand new. And you certainly don’t take a promotion with the history of ECW and slap that name on a new “brand” in the world’s largest wrestling engine.
That might piss some people off…
But a reasonable argument can be made that all of the big ECW players who are not under contract to TNA or other promotions have been signed to the new ECW and that with Paul Heyman present, there exists the possibility for some of that old magic to shine once again. Let’s take the positive side here and assume that this is, in fact, ECW and not some extension of RAW or Smackdown!
Step 3: Let ECW be ECW
This may be one of the more debated points online. How do you balance securing the image of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that is WWE and still let ECW do what ECW does? Well, this is a tough one, but if you’re WWE – you let ECW run free. That’s right – let Sandman drink and smoke all over the place and pour beer on breasts. Let Tommy Dreamer piledrive some of these “Vixens” in the new promotion. But most of all, let Paul Heyman be Paul Heyman.
Vince McMahon may never agree to it, but Paul Heyman is the most influential writer/booker/promoter of the last fifteen years. He took a regional promotion out of Philadelphia and made it a powerhouse on the entire East Coast (sorry folks, ECW was never bigger than the East Coast, national TV deal or not). And he did this at time when two billion dollar wrestling empires were raiding his talent, stealing his storylines, and putting out a technically superior product. Any man who managed to create something out of literally nothing deserves – if possible – to be the head writer of the reincarnation of that promotion.
Thanks to the global power and financial resources of WWE, it IS possible for Paul Heyman to be in charge of ECW once again. Let WWE and the McMahons take care of the business end of the product – an area that Heyman obviously lacked in. But when it comes to putting a product out there that is called “ECW” – then no man should be given the job of preparing that product other than Paul Heyman.
And yet as you read this, Vince McMahon has taken control of the ECW Creative Team…
Step 4: Stop Interbrand Feuds – NOW
If ECW fails it will be in small part due to the egregious interbrand warfare between RAW and ECW. It’s unnecessary and it’s not “ECW” style. Let’s think about it. The ECW Champion is the WWE Champion. He defends that title on Monday Night RAW and is currently in a feud with former WWE Champion John Cena as well as WWE RAW Superstar Edge (who brings his WWE RAW Diva girlfriend, Lita, with him all the time). Wouldn’t it have made more sense to let RVD drop the title on RAW to Edge, Cena, Flair, HBK…anyone…and then let him go back and be the reigning ECW Champion?
Maybe RAW Superstar John Cena couldn’t take the title because of his current feud with ECW “Extremist” (call them fucking wrestlers – what the fuck is “Extremist?”) Sabu. So between Cena, Edge, Sabu, and RVD we have two “brands” that are intermingling non-stop. Why can’t Edge fight Cena on RAW for the WWE Championship and Sabu fight RVD in ECW for the ECW Championship?
Interbrand feuding is hurting ECW. If you don’t believe that, then look at the negative reaction that ECW wrestlers get on RAW. It’s not supposed to be like that – ECW is not supposed to be a promotion of heels. The fans don’t want to see this constant intermingling and it needs to stop. Now.
Step 5: Stop Insulting Hardcore ECW Fans
The brazen set of balls on WWE to run a show at the ECW Arena and then to put on a mere two hour show including intermission and Paul Heyman promoting the Wachovia Center show was disgusting. What a slap in the face to the fans that made ECW a brand worth reviving. How grotesque…
In the late 1990’s, RAW wouldn’t have overtaken NITRO in the ratings if it weren’t for the loyal WWE fan base. Similarly, those of us who watched WCW back when it was part of the NWA and all the way through to the last NITRO wouldn’t have made that promotion a success without our loyal viewership. And there is NO better example of how a rabid fan base can make or break a promotion than what ECW fans did for that promotion in the last decade.
Being an old ECW fan, I got the joke when the first match on the new ECW television show was Sandman destroying the Zombie. I laughed out loud when I saw that live and I laughed in my apartment when I saw his cane the hell out of Macho Libre the following week. I get that joke. ECW fans get that joke. What we don’t get is why this guy doesn’t want Kelly stripping. Who is this guy, who is Kelly, why is he against her stripping? The old ECW had some of the most complex characters in all of wrestling history. Raven, Sandman, Dreamer, and even New Jack had some of the most intricate relationships. The Franchise was successful because he had so much surrounding his character.
Nothing surrounds the current characters on ECW television – where are the minute-long promos with the weird camera angles? Where are the “lights out” moments when some new twist was added to the storylines? Where are the little things that made ECW so successful?
So here are my five steps to making ECW successful right now. In truth, these five steps could have been written before ECW was even put on television and it would have provided a rough roadmap on how to make the new promotion a success. In other words, I don’t think that the new ECW is a lost cause, but I do think that those involved need to take a step back and reassess what they’re doing on a weekly basis. It’s probably not a good idea (no matter how economical) to run ECW shows at the same venue as family-friendly Smackdown shows (I speak from experience – the crowd in Trenton was about 95% Smackdown and 5% ECW).
Why not take a page out of TNA’s book (which is actually a page from ECW’s book) and run the same venue each week? You want that rabid fan base back? You want that product that electrified crowds throughout the East Coast? Open up the coffers, buy the ECW Arena, and put on a weekly (or even bi-weekly) live event that is broken into hour-long television shows. Whether the suits at WWE believe it or not…it will work.
Just like it did in the past.
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