The Reality of Wrestling: The Return of ECW

The Reality of Wrestling: The Return of ECW
By Phil Clark & J.D. Speich

First, let’s get One Night Stand II out of the way. Was it a good show? Yes. Was it as good as last year’s? No. The main reason was that last year’s ECW show had one thing this year’s didn’t: a shoot feeling attached to the anti-ECW wrestlers at the show (wrestling or non-wrestling). They had a blow away match with Edge & Foley/Dreamer & Funk (I’m not accepting it as the six-person is supposedly was) that did get the crowd buzzing. However, the rest of the show really wasn’t anything special: the juniors tag match was fun, Angle/Orton was fun just because of the crowd and how Angle laid a beating on Orton in the early portions, and Tazz/King got as much time as it deserved. Rey/Sabu was going along just fine until the freak ending; whether or not the ending was legit or was planned to give one of the matches a shoot feel isn’t clear yet as it looks like it could be either. And finally, Van Dam’s big title win really didn’t seem like one as the match really wasn’t any good (big surprise huh?), but the crowd did make it entertaining as the game of pitch-and-catch they played with Cena’s shirt made the show. Overall, a pretty good show and a good start for the ECW brand, plus you know that JBL was waiting the whole year for that promo.

Now, I return you to the regularly scheduled column already in progress…

A plan coming to fruition can be a beautiful thing. Other times it can be something that is met with mixed reactions. The return of ECW as a separate brand from WWE is one of those things. Ever since the idea of bringing ECW back full-time was brought up last summer, people have been giving their opinions for or against the idea. In April, the announcement that ECW would be returning full time was made and about a month ago, Sci-Fi Channel announced that they would be airing ECW during the summer. In between both of those announcements, The E has been teasing different directions that the brand would be taking when it returned. Whether it’s another piece of nostalgia or something that will actually work is up to the fans and this summer will no doubt tell the tale.

P.C. Says: ECW shouldn’t come back, because it isn’t ECW anymore

The day it was announced that Vince McMahon bought the rights to ECW, ECW died. That was it, the brand was dead and nothing could bring it back. Of course, Vince believes that nothing is truly dead until he kills it (nWo is a prime example). That is my theory on why he even brought ECW back to begin with. Granted, he has a right to kill the brand slowly and painfully since he funded it for the majority of its final years, but what is the point of doing that? Most of the fans that followed ECW more than likely don’t watch wrestling anymore and if they do, they’re probably what’s pushing iMPACT!’s ratings up in the past month. Not only that, but garbage wrestling is basically a dead type of wrestling outside of Japan (CZW excluded) as today’s fans are more workrate orientated who more than likely wouldn’t like seeing 1-2 hours of garbage wrestling every single week. To put it bluntly: ECW was big in the 90’s, now it’s not.

Also, wasn’t “The Rise and Fall of ECW” good enough? That was the last value that the promotion had in my opinion: a fair documentary showing the brand to a new generation of fans. It had matches on the extras disc and another compilation of matches came out as well. I’m pretty sure that was sufficient for any new fans that were interested in what ECW was. I will concede that ECW was an incredibly interesting brand in its heyday, but ECW post-1998 was pretty repetitive as they lost any pure wrestlers they had left, Al Snow was gone and their best gimmick went with him, and there were no new stars to take the place of the aging stars that made ECW big.

Another reason that the return of this dead brand shouldn’t even be done is that nostalgia doesn’t sell for long stretches of time, which is exactly what Vince is hoping that ECW will do. The definition of nostalgia (according to Wikipedia) is “a longing for the past, often idealized and unrealistic.” The keyword there is unrealistic. When the past is the past, it’s not coming back. Not only that, but when you try to do that, it may work on new fans, but it pisses off your die-hard’s and the fans that were around for it the first time. Why? Because nobody wants to see the exact same thing done worse than it was originally. Plus, WWE has already tried a number of nostalgic angles and pushes that have failed miserably (Hogan’s sixth WWE title reign, Michaels’ comeback title reign). Nostalgia is hit-or-miss stuff and is only done good when it’s a one night thing, not when it takes up massive amounts of time because it isn’t progressive and is never something that helps a company long-term. Example: last year’s ECW One Night Stand PPV did so well because people—myself included—thought it was only a one time deal.

I believe that the fact that ECW got its own chant in any match resembling hardcore should be good enough and should be the lasting legacy of that brand. Unfortunately, it’s going to be given a second life. Interestingly enough, it will more than likely make Sci-Fi a wrestling channel for the brief time it’s on there as it was able to do the same for TNN when it first aired there in 1999. However, that’s not enough to make it a worthwhile venture and besides, if former ECW fans are looking for an alternative to The E, they should watch TNA. Where do you think Monster’s Ball and the No Surrender Dog Collar match came from?

The Reality is…it’s happening, for better or worse. With the head-to-head special scoring a 3.1 rating (good for a non-wrestling night), most would think that ECW has momentum. The fact that the PPV will likely do a decent buyrate would support that theory. However, other than what has been promoted on WWE TV and what is happening on a WWE promoted PPV, what does ECW have going for them? For anyone who believes that what’s been happening on RAW and SmackDown! is going to help the ECW brand when it begins, you are dreaming. All of these storylines will end for the most part at One Night Stand II. That means that when ECW debuts on Sci-Fi, they will be starting from scratch. What this means is that Paul E. will either flex his creative muscles proving what a genius he can be and make ECW work a second time, or it will all fall by the way side very quickly. Considering the fact that WWE guys are turning to ECW in cheesy nWo-like fashion, it’s not looking good for starters. Then again, if Paul is successful with bringing in some of the Japanese stars he’s wanted to bring in for the brand full-time (Tanaka, Hidaka & Fujita), it just might add some flavor to what could be a very stale product.