Cheap Heat: A Poor Substitute

Can’t get enough of Daniels? Who can?
– Tom Daniels, last week

Well, ladies & gents, that burning question has been answered, as I swoop in to save you from That No Good Daniels this morning.

Hi, I’m Matthew Michaels, and this is Cheap Heat for Thursday, June 15, 2006 – payday! – and this isn’t gonna be pretty…

But First

I was never a fan of Extreme Championship Wrestling. I didn’t even know it existed until Tazz debuted in the WWF, where he ended up doing things like jobbing to HHH, beating up announcers, and at one point ending Kurt Angle’s winning streak. And even then, “ECW” was more of a cult-like wrestling promotion that I had heard a lot about but never watched on TV or Pay-Per-View…

…I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. I grew up a Hulkamaniac, and stuck around through the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling days until around the time Ric Flair brought this foreign “real” World Championship to the WWF. Ric Flair was that old-looking guy that was always on the cover of wrestling magazines, next to headlines such as “Flair vs. Hogan: Who Would Win?” But Flair and Hogan never faced each other in the WWF, at least on TV, and my interest had waned, only watching an occasional Wrestlemania or Royal Rumble until finally “growing out of” wrestling and getting into more mature forms of entertainment like “The Real World” and “90210.”

But of course, no one ever leaves professional wrestling for good. (I think it’s something they put in the water, or maybe in those old WWF ice-cream bars.) Years later, I kept seeing my childhood hero Hulk Hogan on “The Tonight Show” where Jay Leno would egg him on about his feud with Dennis Rodman, Diamond Dallas Page or Karl Malone, and found myself wondering what he was up to. I saw people wearing Austin 3:16 and nWo t-shirts and wanted to know what that was all about. Eventually this guy was on college break, and showed me that a bunch of familiar faces were now in WCW, and when tuning in to watch those old stars, I got hooked on this great charismatic, smaller, wrestler … his name was Chris Jericho. That was it for me.

I would tune into Nitro to see what this rude, hilarious guy would say next. I didn’t care about the matches or workrate. I wanted the Ayatollah of Rock-n-rolla to make me laugh my ass off.

–Wait a minute. I tuned in to see a familiar face, and then got hooked on something new? That’s not how wrestling works, is it?–

To make a long story short, Jericho moved over to the WWF, and this happened:

Of course, my Y2J fanboydom led to me becoming a mark for The Rock, the New Age Outlaws, Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, The McMahon-Helmsley “FactGime” and eventually The Dudleyz.

They used to wrestle for ECW, right?

Now don’t get me wrong, while everything The Rock said had me craving more, and the HHH-Stephanie-Kurt Angle love triangle was a great example of pro wrestling as male-oriented soap opera, the athleticism and physical risks these guys took in the ring wasn’t lost on me. I was an older, more mature, wrestling fan. I had the Internet, by gawd! And without getting into too much more of a backstory, the rest is pretty much history…

Wrestlers Not Vampires… Please!

So now I’m a smart mark. Ya know, one of those wrestling fans who knows just enough about the “behind-the-scenes” goings on to think he’s an expert, yet in reality is still a fan at heart that just wants to see things go right (as long as it’s MY definition of right) so “the business succeeds” and he continues to be entertained. What smarks always forget, however, is that they are indeed still marks, leaving themselves open to be conned by whatever wrestling promoter is pulling the strings*. What’s worse, though, is that, when they get fooled, they knew it was coming, and have no one to blame but themselves.

You could imagine, then, how embarrassed I felt while watching Tuesday night’s ECW debut on the Sci Fi Channel. (If you missed it, John Cavanagh, Tom Pandich and Mark Neeley have the show rundown and analysis.)

I wasn’t embarrassed because Kelly couldn’t unhook her bra strap, or because ECW seemed to be throwing the network a bone by introducing a vampire-like character. I was embarrassed because I actually expected WWE Inc. to do the Little Things right, and was then upset when they didn’t.

I hate repeating myself, so I’ll direct you over to this silly little blog I created yesterday as a way to exorcize my demons, if you will. I also hate re-writing news items that I’ve already reported on, so here’s a link to everything posted on Inside Pulse that has to do with ECW.

What I’d like to do is call out part of Tuesday’s show that, if done differently, wouldn’t have necessarily made it an “A+” program, but could have made things a whole lot better: production, pacing and protection. Really, it just seemed like one big cluster f*ck — and I enjoyed the first ten to fifteen minutes of the show, including the tie-ins to RAW and Vengeance, which I feel are necessary to attract the initial audience. But how WWE can expect that initial audience — many of them newbies — to care about a bunch of faceless names from wrestling rings past, when they produce a show overflowing with filler, nonsense, and no sign of that “ECW Aura” (and fanbase) that was present on last week’s special and Sunday’s PPV… is beyond me.

MM vs. Daniels

Kaisen316: They would have gotten the reactions they expected if they didn’t AIR IT WITH A SMACKDOWN CROWD
PulseMM: the writing
PulseMM: the crowd was minimal
PulseMM: the writing sucked
PulseMM: after the first 15 minutes
Kaisen316: The crowd booing RVD and cheering Cena is exactly not what you want to have happen
PulseMM: i care less about that than ya know, justin credible getting killed
PulseMM: and trust me, i hate PJ
PulseMM: but watch The Ultimate Fighter
PulseMM: these guys are all nobodies
PulseMM: and they get background segments introducing them, showing their personalities, etc.
PulseMM: no excuses. film a f*cking interview with every man on the roster from noon to 5pm
PulseMM: need to fill time?!
PulseMM: introduce people to balls mahoney
PulseMM: use old footage
PulseMM: show people why they should care about him
PulseMM: the hardcore ecw fans know him, sure. but everyone’s admitting this isn’t just for the hardcore fans.
Kaisen316: it doesn’t matter
PulseMM: if you wanna make money
PulseMM: it does matter
Kaisen316: well, scratch that, it does matter
PulseMM: it was dumb booking
PulseMM: and i’ll give them ONE PASS
Kaisen316: but look, it doesn’t matter how well you film the show
PulseMM: since the ecw concept overall was rushed into
Kaisen316: a smackdown crowd is never going to be into it
Kaisen316: ever
PulseMM: but if 2-3 episodes in it sucks? then it’s a failure. they have until the tuesday after vengeance.
PulseMM: i disagree… it’s ALL about how you shoot it.
PulseMM: it’s a FAKE SPORT
Kaisen316: You’re wrong
PulseMM: 😛
Kaisen316: The allure of going to an ECW show for an ECW fan is not having to deal with WWE fans.
PulseMM: right
Kaisen316: not to mention the fact, ECW fans generally won’t be able to get tickets for any of these shows at this point
PulseMM: that’s different than “the tv show sucked”
PulseMM: these shows don’t sell out
Kaisen316: No, but certainly the good seats are already gone
PulseMM: hahahahaha from mike johnson: “after the last two years of ECW One Night Stand PPVs, everyone who tuned in last night was hoping for a Led Zeppelin reunion and instead found William Hung on stage. Instead of Eminem, Vanilla Ice was standing there, smiling on stage, doing his Ninja Turtles rap. ”
Kaisen316: and they’re still going to have to be there with 5 year old Tristan who loves him some John Cena
PulseMM: who cares?
PulseMM: let the hardcore ecw fans go to house shows at the New Alhambra
Kaisen316: THE FANS DO
PulseMM: the “fans” are the ones watching it on TV
PulseMM: and buying PPVs
Kaisen316: no, that’s the point… they’re not
PulseMM: this isn’t built to cater to old ecw fans
PulseMM: it’s to use ecw nostalgia to create a ‘new breed’ and new brand to make money
Kaisen316: If you don’t make it different it’s just another wrestling show on Tuesday
PulseMM: agreed
PulseMM: it has to be diferent
PulseMM: but the people in the stands is the least of their worries
Kaisen316: and taping it during smackdown makes it 0 different
PulseMM: not if you shoot it differently
Kaisen316: I think you’re wrong
PulseMM: use different angles
Kaisen316: Half the appeal of ECW is the crowd
PulseMM: make sure NOT to use the “entire audience” pan-shot
Kaisen316: a quarter of the appeal anyway
Kaisen316: and if you take that away you do away with the spirit of what they’re trying to recapture
PulseMM: ok and i don’t disagree with you but what i’m saying is, looking at last night…
PulseMM: they could have made a great show
Kaisen316: you can’t do it in arena full of people with chain gang signs and mysterio masks
PulseMM: DESPITE the fans
PulseMM: and DESPITE the arena
PulseMM: and they blew
PulseMM: blew blew blew
Kaisen316: I didn’t see it so I can’t say
PulseMM: oh. yeah, good point. loser.
Kaisen316: write my column tomorrow please
Kaisen316: 🙂
Kaisen316: even if it’s just a recap of your forum posts
Kaisen316: and this conversation
Kaisen316: about how you’re dumb 😉
PulseMM: never
Auto response from Kaisen316: I am away from my computer right now.

Never my ass.

In Closing

Look, to me, Justin Credible is that guy who tagged with X-Pac and Albert; Raven used to beat up announcers in the WWF before he BECAME one, and then had some bloody brawls down at NWA: TNA that were pretty horrible (but had tons of heat); and New Jack is one of Shark Boy’s former tag partners who got a kick out of Hulk Hands…

…I need a little bit more background info and storytelling than someone like Lucard or Daniels, or the IP readers that have been posting in our forums, who are true fans of Extreme Championship Wrestling going back years and years. I don’t have the perspective of FLEA, a man who has proven to be both an historian and clairvoyant.

Would it hurt to tap into those hours and hours of ECW footage from the video library and help a newbie out?

Here’s hoping Paul Heyman, Dave Lagana and the rest of the ECW writing team — along with McMahon and Dunn and their “final say” — throw fans like me a bone before it’s too late and the opportunity to hook us on another weekly hour of wrestling TV is squandered…

– Mm

*Mixed metaphors free of charge.