A Modest Response: This Isn’t Extreme, but it ain’t half bad

In Feb 2008, saying ECW’s the best weekly pro wrestling show on television is NOT much of a compliment. That, however, makes the statement no less true. How is what has become the least watched major show on television, the best of what any program has to offer? Well, first, let’s look at the other major contenders, then we’ll check out an average ECW program and discuss what they do right and wrong.

First contender for best show on television currently is TNA Impact. This show is a cluster of misused wrestlers, with poorly conceived characters and feuds that all run into one another. This was thought to be due to only have a one hour show to work with, but since nothing has improved due to two hours, the only viable conclusion is TNA has no clue how to book their own show. Check the last AMR from Friday or Vinny’s Alternate Reality for far more on the sad state of TNA currently.

On to the WWE. Smackdown used to be the best show on television. WWE had a theme where Raw was almost pure Sports Entertainment, while Smackdown was far heavier on the wrestling side of things. This is no longer the case. Smackdown has become a breeding ground for ideas to be tried that, if they are successful, can be taken to Raw. Also, if an act is unneeded on Raw, they get to spend some time on Smackdown until their feuds on Raw seem fresh again, at which point they’re moved back. Add in the sheer discomfort I feel with Edge and Vickie Guerrero’s romance and this show is an easy one to decide to miss.

WWE Raw is the last other show we’ll cover, and it, of all of the shows, has the best claim besides ECW as the best on TV. For the next month, through Wrestlemania, it likely will be the best on TV, due to all the star power and major angles at this point. Nearly every major star in the company is on this show from Triple H, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, JBL, Kennedy, Umaga, and Randy Orton on down. That means that nearly every segment has someone who matters in it, but also established a wholly clear pecking order of talent. Besides Jeff Hardy recently, it’s extremely rare for anyone to be elevated on Raw. The show also suffers for featuring Vince McMahon so heavily. That means that whatever silly pet-project he’s on takes up half the show. Right now that’s Hornswaggle and that alone means they feature an awkward balance of segments, ranging from awesome to terrible and back again.

ECW is not an extreme television show, but what it does, it does extremely well. It features well organized shows, heavily skewed towards good segments, with very little on the show that outright fails.

On any given show you’ll get to see segments including the following set of wrestlers.

You get the CM Punk segment, perhaps two. If you haven’t seen him yet, Punk is a major cog in the future of the promotion. Punk consistently gets the longest matches on free TV, and while the Raw guys have a higher level top output, they reach it far less often than Punk does who has had very good matches with everyone from John Morrison to Jaime Noble. His promos are quickly improving, approaching their level of indy goodness while he builds more and more trust with road agents and writers.

Currently, Punk is feuding with ECW champion Chavo Guerrero. I’m not Chavo’s biggest fan, but he’s very good in ring and there is a certain segment of fans always hoping to see him elevated to the point of his late uncle, considering him just a step below the esteemed Eddie. Well, this show is allowing Chavo to have very good, cheating heavy long matches and raise his stock to where we can finally see how close he is to Eddie.

The former ECW champion John Morrison has improved exponentially since his team with Joey Mercury. He’s now a very good wrestler with a flashy, yet cocky style. It takes a lot for a flashy heel to draw boos, but Morrison has managed. Morrison is teaming with another man who has improved incredibly, the Miz. The Miz is the most annoying human being this side of Johnny Fairplay and has finally learned to channel that into his matches. Together, they’re the best heel team in WWE in recent memory, including the far more ballyhooed MnM, who got nowhere near this level of disdain from fans.

Feuding with them is the ECW stalwart Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer is still the man for good, short, intense matches and getting over guys who seem to lack direction. He’s remained the tie to the original ECW and no real fan of ECW will ever totally discount Dreamer. This show allows him to stay strong and maintain purpose.

His partner is known as Colin Olsen on the indies, Colin Delaney in WWE. Colin is a master seller, which is great because he’s in the old Mikey Whipwreck role of taking beatings and getting absolutely destroyed. Naturally this is leading to him getting over. As the first Chikara guy to be a WWE regular, its great to see him succeed.

Elijah Burke, a bit green still but coming along quickly is often featured, but more often is Shelton Benjamin. Shelton is finally getting the time and push his athleticism warrant. Shelton has been called a future star for years, now he has the time and space to show the rest of the brands that they have been missing the boat with him for years.

The rest of the show is weaker, but not devoid of interest. First is Kofi Kingston, the Jamaican wrestler, who is rather terrible. He’s quite green and doesn’t belong on TV, but, and I’m being totally honest, he interests me in a trainwreck TV way. It also shows that ECW will be where new talent will get a try, so I’m anxiously awaiting Matt Sydal or Colt Cabana getting this spot.

Lastly we have the women’s division. This is the same tripe as on other WWE TV, but at least the women are of different molds, so if you’re into cheesecake, there’s something to fit your individual tastes.

ECW has the lowest crap to goodness ratio of any show on TV. It frequently has the longest and best matches, and all the storylines make perfect sense. Why is ECW not a runaway hit then?

It’s treated terribly by the WWE. It’s a young stars show and should be outright sold as such. People love seeing the young stars of tomorrow. Put these guys over strong, and when they crossover with Smackdown or Raw, keep them strong, even if they lose. Beyond that the other major problem is predictability.

ECW is the most predictable show on television. With only an hour, they have a formula of specifically set up and self contained segments. These often include useless jobber matches and are totally unnecessary. When a jobber was going to break out, Colin Delaney, it was too overly foreshadowed to be spontaneous. Filling out the roster with more young talent and allowing for more good matches would go a long way. Everyone doesn’t need to be on every week, this way it’ll feel more important when they are. They already have the foundations of a serious competition to be the next big, young star. Legitimize it, advertise it, and become the show everyone wants to see!

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