This coming Sunday, TNA will present its wecannotcalitecwsowehopethefanswillchantev2 tribute Pay Per View event, Hard(core) Justice. Now, my love/hate relationship with TNA has been well documented here in the past, but with this concept, I think that TNA has hit a new low.
My main beef with this is the whole idea of reviving ECW in the first place. I know that I’m in the minority here, and I’ll probably earn some hateful comments from the ECW diehards, but it’s time to let the corpse of this huge failure known as ECW rot in peace. The only thing that ECW had going for itself back in the nineties was a tribe of diehard vocal fans that gave ECW an image that was much bigger and better than the promotion ever was. Sure, ECW fans love to throw out names like Benoit, Jericho and Guerrero when talking about ECW, but they were never the focus of ECW. The true wrestling legacy of ECW is a bunch of garbage matches and too much blood. But ECW knew how to market itself as the bad boy rebel (Despite being secretly funded by Vince McMahon for years) to the internet wrestling community, which was only emerging in this period, and thus became a popular cult phenomenon. Just don’t forget that one of the prerequisites for something to become a cult phenomenon is that it has to fail first.
And ECW was a failure. I’ve heard some people say that “ECW failed because it was too good for the masses”, and to that I say bullshit. Yes, good quality products do fail sometimes, and crappy things succeed. It’s the same in many fields â€“ music, film, literature, you name it. But nothing ever fails because it’s good. Things fail due to bad management (And everyone knows ECW had tons of that), bad marketing, bad human relations and there are tons of other reasons. The fact of the matter is ECW could never reach a real audience other than its internet fan base. They had a few local TV deals (Which they had to pay for) but when they finally got a national cable deal with TNN, they could not deliver the goods. Granted, the timeslot was crappy and the network (real one, not the one that Don Callis represent) didnâ€™t seem to believe in ECW, but ECW earned that treatment by trying to antagonize the suits as much as they could. That’s smart management; turn on the only broadcaster that actually paid money for your product.
I can go on and on about the undead ECW, but enough about them. I’m pretty sure its fans already wrote me and this column off 400 words ago. When TNA announced the Pay Per View, the face and speaker of the this group was Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer is widely considered the heart and soul of the original ECW and this might be true. But watching his promo 10 days ago made me sick. I still remember hundreds of ECW fans chanting “sellout” at wrestlers who left the company in the late nineties, but you know what? Tommy Dreamer is the biggest sellout of them all. He talked about the ECW name being bastardized and seeing his friends fired, and how he only stayed with WWE because he wanted the job security. Yes, he had to provide for his family and I can’t fault him for that, but the way he washed his hands off of everything that happens? Dreamer wasn’t just a wrestler in WWE, we kept reading about him working backstage in one capacity or the other. And when he left he got a heroes’ farewell. He finally had a real run as champion, even if this was the “bastardized” ECW championship and he was featured as one of the top faces of this brand. If it wasn’t for WWE, Dreamer would have never known what it’s like to wrestle in front of real, major sold-out arenas and he would have never received the farewell that he did. In his professional relationship with Vince McMahon both sides benefited and WWE showed Dreamer the respect that he’s earned in his years in the business. And let’s not forget that Vince McMahon actually paid Dreamer’s paycheck in the original ECW also, since if it wasn’t for him pumping money to ECW and keeping it on life support, ECW would have folded long before it did. But watching him shed those crocodile tears on Impact and encourage the guy who yelled “Vince Sucks” was just low. No one forced him to work for Vince; other wrestlers did find satisfying jobs wither in the business or outside of it. Hell, Dreamer is so old that TNA would have jumped at the opportunity to sign him and make him a main-eventer. And truth be told, if Vince hadn’t fired his ass, Dreamer would still be kissing up to him today. So excuse me if I donâ€™t cry with Dreamer.
And just another side note about the so called “bastardization” of ECW by WWE. I think that having the EV2 (yes, that’s the name) guys show Hulk Hogan tremendous respect, with Devon even doing the gesture universally known as “We’re not worthy” is a bigger travesty to what ECW allegedly stood for. The original ECW positioned itself as the antithesis to everything that Hulk Hogan represented. But now in TNA they look up to him and Dreamer even asked Hogan for his permission to fight Abyss (Or for that matter, asking any authority figure for permission to fight someone)? That’s how you bastardize ECW, not by putting Mark Henry on it.
And then there’s TNA, the company that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. For eight years TNA has been trying to leech off the glory of other promotions. When they first started they were a poor man’s version of WCW. Then they started getting some big name wrestlers from WWE and used them to try and portray the promotion as an equal to WWE. Don’t get me wrong, if I ran a wrestling promotion and people like Christian or Kurt Angle were available I’d sign them in a heartbeat, it would have been foolish not to do so. But having them go out and trash WWE was bush league. TNA did not look like an equal or even a close second place to WWE. They looked like a minor league organization that clings to the name of the leading promotion in order to catch some of its residual heat. TNA never realized that by focusing their energy on its so called war with WWE (A war that WWE was and is wise enough not to acknowledge or tape part in), they diluted their own brand. They never tried to build themselves as TNA Wrestling and succeed on their own; they were nothing more than “the other wrestling promotion that isn’t WWE”. They repeated that same mistake with the pathetic promos that Hulk Hogan cut early this year.
But now they have taken things a step further. They actually put the TNA brand on the back burner in order to leech off whatever value the ECW brand might still have. TNA already draws a lot more viewers than ECW ever did to its weekly shows (In actual numbers, not in rating points) so they’re catering to the fringe of the wrestling world in a move that will probably will not bring any benefit to TNa in the long run. Don’t compare it to One Night Stand in 2005 â€“ that Pay Per View did not come at the expense of any of WWE’s traditional events and the WWE brand was a big part of it, even during the confrontation between JBL and Paul Heyman. Most of the wrestlers in that event were with WWE for many years that they were already identified with WWE. In that context, their participation at ONS, actually helped the WWE brand and its wrestlers. Here TNA is putting the spotlight on wrestlers that are either coming in for a one-off paycheck or guys that are identified with other promotions. Dreamer’s promo even went a step further towards hurting TNA by mentioning that whatever TNA is doing today, ECW already did in the past. It would have been one thing if he said that TNA wrestlers are the successors or the new generation of the ECW veterans. Instead he said “Long Before Samoa Joe, there was Taz”, and the same about the Beautiful People and Beulah/Francine. It’s like saying that the TNA stars are knockoffs of ECW people. He then went on to say that TNA is like ECW in the sense that this is where stars are made and veterans came to help create new stars. If that were true, then how come only four of the TNA champions since 2002 are TNA originals and the others were people who made their name in other promotions? It’s another example of TNA leeching off others â€“ they have one of the most talented roster that any wrestling promotion ever had, yet they keep putting over the people from other promotions! How is that helping TNA? How does that help drive the TNA brand into people’s minds?
TNA can and should succeed. TNA has all the elements it needs in order to do that. I love most of the TNA wrestlers, Impact has been mostlly very good the past two months, but I hate the ECW revival. TNA lacks the most important ingredient in order to succeed â€“ confidence in itself and its wrestlers. As long as TNA will show no faith in its own brand, the wider audience outside the Impact Zone will never do that. You can change things TNA, just believe in yourself.
For a different view on the latest developments in TNA, check out Dr. TNA.
Tags: dixie carter, ECW, ev2, ev2.0, hardcore justice, impact, one night stand, raven, Samoa Joe, Taz, The Beautiful People, TNA, tommy dreamer, vince mcmahon, WCW, WWE