Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

This comes as a surprise to me even as I’m typing it, but with the lack of focus and the inexplicable tag team championship situation on iMPACT!, the John Cena love fest on RAW, and the freak show parade on SmackDown!, I’ve found that I’m enjoying ECW more than every other weekly pro wrestling show on television lately.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Why ECW on SciFi is the best pro wrestling show on worldwide television today.

ECW currently has a perfectly functional cast of characters featured in entertaining matches week after week. The roster consists of simple, relatable archetypes, and each performer (except for the Boogeyman, who has no place in any wrestling ring in 2007) fits snugly into his slot while epitomizing a well-known wrestling character.

John Morrison is the cocky, arrogant heel champion who thinks he’s better than everyone else on Earth. He’s very athletic and has wrestling skills, but he’ll gladly take a shortcut to hang onto his gold if need be. Fans should want to see him lose, and get that smug look wiped off his face.

C.M. Punk is the plucky young stud that you know could defeat the champ if only given a fair chance, but he keeps getting outsmarted and falling short. He made quite a statement in the tag team main event last week, standing alone at the end of the match and scoring the pinfall victory. He’s a viable threat to Morrison’s gold, and fans can sense he’ll cross paths with the former Johnny Nitro again soon.

Elijah Burke is the ultra-talented, egomaniacal jerk that you want to see get his teeth handed to him, but nobody’s really been able to dominate Burke to date. You either love to see him win, or look forward to seeing him finally meet his match. Burke boasts athletic skill, phenomenal conditioning, charisma, and no shortage of self-confidence.

Kevin Thorn is the powerful enigma who doesn’t talk much and possesses a dramatic and unique aura. His vampire-esque gimmick makes him stand out from the crowd, and he’s usually good for a decent power match, especially against his normally smaller opponents. Important for me is that Thorn doesn’t believe he actually IS a vampire – that would kill the gimmick the same way the Boogeyman was ruined early on in his SmackDown! run. Rather, Thorn worships the vampire mystique and attempts to emulate their legend by frequenting bite clubs and wearing his canine extensions to the ring.

Matt Striker is the Dean Douglas of this century, the smarter-than-you-and-he-knows-it, annoying, cowardly would-be king of the classroom. Mr. Striker plays his role to perfection, working on your nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. He’s smarmy, annoying, and willing to do anything to win and gain the admiration of his peers and the fans. His frustration and anger caused by the lack of respect he receives could make him dangerous under the right circumstances, as seen in the next profile.

Big Daddy V is the massive, towering monster heel that can move a mountain and dominate any opponent. He’s the guy that the other men on the roster don’t want to face in the ring, and with good reason. Complete with mouthpiece heel manager Matt Striker who brings focus and purpose to the big man’s violence, Bid Daddy V’s going to be a force to be reckoned with on Tuesday nights for a long time to come.

The Miz is the young punk who seems to be getting better in the ring while continuously running his mouth. He believes that all the women in the arena are undressing him with their eyes. According to him, all the ladies want him while their men fear him. That take is interesting, to say the least, but they’re reinforcing the concept by having Extreme Expose falling all over themselves for the Miz week after week. In fact, I fully expected the Miz to turn mega-heel on the three dancers this week, remembering how Layla El treated him on SmackDown! not that long ago. But there are already plenty of heels on the roster as it is, so this might not happen anytime soon.

Tommy Dreamer, Stevie Richards, Nunzio, Balls Mahoney and even Tazz in his commentary role round out the crew as the rugged, hard-nosed survivors of a more extreme time, representing the legacy of the original ECW, while Joey Styles is a breath of fresh air at the commentary position compared to JR, Michael Cole, and Don West.

The one-hour time slot is perfect for ECW; any more time would be too difficult to fill with quality programming, so they’d wind up with useless backstage skits, ridiculous wackos running around, and less focus. The hour moves quickly, so there’s rarely an opportunity for the viewer to run out of gas, as I often do myself on Monday and Friday nights with the WWE.

There are no overused authority figures on ECW to muddy the waters, no midgets with championship gold (what a shame – with their talent roster, WWE could have one smokin’ cruiserweight division instead of the thrown away, non-funny comedy garbage they currently feature), and no sense of too many people backstage who Creative has no idea how to properly utilize. ECW on SciFi is a tight, fun little hour of pro wrestling, almost like a nice snack compared to the seven-course meal served up by RAW and SmackDown! week after week.

Last week, the show opened with John Morrison obliterating a nameless jobber in his new “15 Minutes of Fame” challenge, a classic heel champ effort to highlight what a jerk he is and show off his nice corkscrew neck-breaker or as I call it, the “Strange Daze”.

The instant Kevin Thorn and Stevie Richards climbed between the ropes for the first true match of the night, I knew it’d be another extended squash for the would-be vampire. But while Richards has done a fine job of putting over higher-on-the-card talent since the new ECW debuted, this time he shocked us all and defeated Thorn with a quick reversal into a backslide for the victory. This added a touch of realism and kept things fresh. Upset victories happen in other sporting events, and the fact that one could happen in this environment was a welcomed surprise.

Nunzio faced the Miz in what was also likely to be a standard squash, but it turned out to be far more competitive and fun that it looked to be on paper. Nunzio even got to kick out of one of Miz’ finisher attempts and nail the Sicilian Slice before losing to Miz after a nice knee-lift/neck-breaker combination. Squashing a nobody doesn’t mean much, so when Nunzio put up the fight that he did, it made Miz’ victory seem all the more meaningful.

Just before the main event, Big Daddy V displayed his dominance by quite literally squashing two unfortunate souls in a quick contest, during which the former Mable never even broke a sweat. Amazing, considering all the food he must be carrying around in his enormous frame. Think of the strain on that guy’s heart!

The apex of the show was a tag team match that employed the classic formula, as Tommy Dreamer played Ricky Morton well enough to draw sympathy heat from the crowd. Dreamer’s partner C.M. Punk was desperate to get into the match, while Morrison and Burke kept him at bay and pounded Tommy down with a visually stunning display of high-impact athletic attacks. When Punk did finally tag in, he cleaned house and scored the victory over Burke, cementing his place at the top of the card and leaving Morrison no doubt dreading his next encounter with the Straight Edge Superstar.

Eschewing the “too much love for one performer”, and “crash TV” styles prevalent in other wrestling shows today, ECW on SciFi feels like a breath of fresh air every Tuesday night. I hope they continue to take the less-is-more approach, featuring simple characters and solid in-ring action. As the Lizard Queen herself would say, SmackDown! is more like a circus than ever, RAW is all Cena all the time, and iMPACT! is far too hit-or-miss to be enjoyed on a regular basis. ECW is the brightest light in the pro wrestling sky today; what a surprise.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base.” – Dave Barry