Cheap Heat: Countdown To Oblivion

Something quick about the Sopranos season finale. It has been universally considered to be an enormous disappointment and new fodder for groups who can’t wait to be the first to chime in when a show has “lost its edge.” I say: if you haven’t learned anything by watching The Sopranos, you should have learned that David Chase writes for him, not you. Think of him as the HBO equivalent of George Lucas without completely lame dialog. The finale of season 6 came in the second to last episode, the episode that saw Meadow moving to California, Phil finally catching up to Vito (with the best visual possibly in series’ history with Phil emerging from the closet), AJ finally being forced to grow up and get a real job, Silvio killing Dom, and Tony figuring out he can still get a little on the side without guilt. Had this episode been the season finale, I don’t think anyone would have batted an eyelash and print wouldn’t have been wasted about how the show is losing its edge.

Basically, what the season finale gave us was a set up for the final eight episodes. If you consider the second-to-last episode the season finale and the season finale the season opener for next year, you’ll get where Chase is going. From a writing standpoint, he’s getting a head start on winding the characters down. AJ has grown up… finally. If one wants to start looking at symbolism, one could analyze him giving his bike away to the ghetto kids a symbol of him passing along his childhood and passing along the idea that he will ever get into his father’s line of work. Meadow is away for Christmas, taking her bleeding heart away from New Jersey. In an Italian family, not being home for Christmas is a big deal. Maybe Finn finally got to her, when he called her a hypocrite for wanting to help people being taken advantage of when that’s all her father does. Carmella threw away the private investigator’s card, for once wrapping up a storyline instead of leaving another in the thousand dangling storyline threads Chase abandoned and never picked up.

Throughout the series’ history, Chase has never been keen on going with what fans want. He kills characters who people like, he keeps alive characters who people hate, he dedicates entire episodes to dreams, he’s kept AJ from ever even dabbling in the mob (even after dropping hints that he was making money on the DL from thievery), he constantly leaves storylines dangling with no resolution (dead Russian? What dead Russian? AJ the party planner?), and writing the characters into strange situations. Look, as much as I love the Sopranos, it’s never been the most solidly written series on television. I say “series” because many of the individual shows are incredible, however moving the show along as a series has always struggled. Early in the show’s history, on the extras of the first season’s DVD, Chase said he wrote each episode as a one hour movie. For the first season, this worked great. As the series has moved into later seasons, it’s become a curse and one of the show’s few weaknesses. Leaving one dangling plotline in a movie isn’t bad. Leaving a hundred dangling plotlines during the course of a show’s history is.

That being said, look at the season finale really for what it is, the opening gate for the final eight episodes.

Sunday, In This Very City

And here it comes, the net backlash to the ECW PPV. I could take credit for starting it last week but I won’t. Last week, I decided it was woe to be ECW. This week, I’ve revised it. I feel it’s more woe to be an ECW fan, at least, the ECW fan who fell in the love with the product with the late nineties.

Most people, even myself, are condemning the new product before we even see it, and that isn’t fair. What we all need to remember is that ECW the product has failed once before. It went bankrupt. A successful business model doesn’t go bankrupt. Creating a brand new version of the same thing is somewhat stupid.

Let’s be honest here. ECW fans are not going to be happy with this new product. They’re not going to be able to walk stars out whom, mostly, are unknown to the WWE audience and expect them to care. They can’t cart out the Sandman and expect a huge pop from the standard WWE audience. These are the people they are selling this product to, not the ECW fan. The ECW fan is going to show up regardless. The ECW fan is going to buy Two Night Stand regardless. At this point, they need to sell it to people who aren’t ECW fans. Why? Because the ECW fanbase are part of the reason the last product failed.

Yes, I went there.

Look, ECW had a television product. ECW ran live shows. On their best day, their ratings came in around 0.9. The product had a national timeslot that no one, even the folks who claimed to be fans, watched. If ECW pulled in a 4 or 5 rating on TNN, do you really think the show would have went under? If people bought enough DVDs and T-shirts, do you think the show would have went under? The WWE would be stupid to cater specifically to this crowd, because it’s a niche group that only buys so much. Now, with it open under the WWE, even less people are likely to support it. People, myself included, are coming out of the woodwork to declare it a failure because it won’t be like the ECW of old.

You know, that company whose tape library was purchased for a whopping half a million dollars.

If ECWv2 doesn’t appeal on some level to the standard WWE audience, ECWv2 will fail. You will be left with the One Night Stands and 12 weeks of programming and that will be the end of a glorious experiment. If you can convince the entirety of the old ECW audience to watch, plus some WWE fans hooked by the PPV and the first couple of shows, then it might have a chance. The formula here should be more adult oriented, with a greater focus on the in-ring product and clean finishes and a lesser focus on cartoony gimmicks which Vince has (inexplicably) returned to in the last few years. Whether or not it escapes him that wrestling’s biggest boom occurred when we stopped with the stupid characters, we’ll never know.

Tazz vs Jerry Lawler

The match that’s been brewing for, what, ten years now? Way back in the day, Lawler hated ECW. Tazz was the face of ECW. Tazz and Lawler feuded with no certain end to the feud. This is finally the blow-off match to that feud. This match will consist of Lawler delivering an anti-ECW monologue, the crowd getting a good froth on, then popping like mad for Tazz’s entrance. I expect this match to last about 35 seconds. If they’re smart, they’ll use this to “fire” Tazz from Smackdown and drop him in the lap of ECW. However, I’d also prefer him not be seated with Joey. Joey should do the show by himself. He never needed color, and he doesn’t need it now. Winner: Tazz by choke-out.

Mick Foley & Edge vs Terry Funk & Tommy Dreamer

The face of ECW vs Raw’s golden boy paired with the bloodiest feud on Raw’s roster. Edge proved he can work hardcore at Wrestlemania and I expect this to be a debacle of the highest order. Mick can be a heel in ECW, and has been in the past, so Mick will probably work this match with lots of headlocks and leave most of the violence to the Innovator of Violence. However, picking Tommy to win an ECW match is like picking Triple H in PPV. You always think he’s going to win, but he never does. However, having Grandpa Hardcore in the match mitigates that point. Winner: Terry Funk pins Mick Foley.

Kurt Angle vs Randy Orton

Ah the match that everyone is pointing to saying “OMG SEE THEY ARE MAKING IT RAW LITE!!11!” People are going to have to deal with these sorts of matches if they want the new product to succeed. This match could very likely have headlined a PPV before Randy Orton got suspended. People wonder why, exactly, Orton gets to come off suspension and immediately get a PPV Payday. Does anyone actually know what Orton was suspended for? Could it possibly have all been part of the story? Get over it. Kurt seems like he’s going to be pushed all the way to the top of ECW as his style seems to fit the best with the ECW roster because, honestly, Kurt could wrestle a kid’s snowsuit to a convincing match. I expect Orton to lose here and then be incorporated back into the ECW product. Winner: Kurt Angle.

World Championship: Sabu vs Rey Mysterio (c)

This match really has no excuse to suck. Rey has been working WWE style for the last few years, but I do believe he will be able to pull out some stops for this. I’m hoping here for a good old ECW spot-fest since both guys can certainly pull it off. The problem I have here is I’m almost certain that Sabu will not be walking onto Smackdown as your new World Champion, so Rey probably gets the win here. Also, ECW Fans will likely not revolt if Rey Mysterio wins the match… not so much with

WWE Championship: Rob Van Dam vs John Cena (c)

If John Cena wins this match, I fear for the buildings surrounding the venue. Cena, in one being, embodies everything the people who paid a hundred dollars or more for this event despise in a wrestler. A guy who relies more on his gimmick than his work ethic to get by. A guy who is a merchandise machine first and a wrestler second. If Cena walks into One Night Stand and beats RVD on his turf… well, let’s just say it will be a ugly scene. It will actually thoroughly disgust me, and I’m not even already against the product.

In Closing

At writing, I haven’t watched the ECW/WWE Wednesday Night show (I went to see Rent tonight… again) so I won’t be seeing it until tomorrow.

Keep an open mind all. It’s all you can do.

Thanks for reading.

Daniels

Can’t get enough of Daniels? Who can? Check out Monday’s East Coast Bias where Daniels talks non-staged sports