Shades Of Grey #6: ECW Is Dead

I loved ECW when I first got into wrestling, I mean, I couldn’t watch it more than once a month, and I discovered it on accident, but I loved it. See, we had this filter you’d put between the coaxial and the cable line, and it would give you free PPV. Sure, this only worked until PPV went digital, but it was awesome, it helped make me a wrestling fan. It’s how I started watching WWF and ECW (WCW I got into through Nitro and the video games). But yeah, scrolling through channels one night, hit the PPV one, bam, wrestling, my night is set. Hardcore Heaven 99 was my first exposure to the product and to the stars that I’d read about in magazines and online, and to the product….oh, the product. ECW set the bar for TV product for me in a way, because they held nothing back. At no point watching the show did I feel like the guys were reading from scripts, hitting bullet points maybe, but not scripts.

It was a breath of fresh air. I had no idea what the storylines were, and to be honest, I didn’t care. These guys were putting on entertaining match after entertaining match, and I was hooked. Sure, I’d only seen a few of them work before; like Taka Michinoku, which confused me since he was a champion in the WWF at the time, and I’d seen Sid Vicious work (unfortunately), as well as Chris Candido (on a Wrestlemania VHS), but that was about it. It improved the show for me, to be a hundred percent honest.

I watched the Dudley Boyz in their prime, cutting a vicious heel promo, and then having a brutal match, and I immediately wanted more. I was happy when they went to the WWF/WWE because it meant I would get to see them more. Sure, the style was going to be toned down, but the work could survive without the weapons and cursing. And it did, too. They’re one of the best tag teams of the last twenty years for a reason, and it’s that they worked their asses off to entertain the crowd. They know what they’re doing, and they know how to get the best out of their opponents as well. The famous ladder match between the Hady Boys and Edge and Christian? Six months away from when this match happened. Flaming tables, if I remember right. Hardcore.

And I mean, keep in mind, I was, at this time, watching WWF primarily and WCW when things were boring. To me a hardcore match was either two guys beating each other with weapons, or two guys brawling outside. And when I say weapons, I mean chairs and kendo sticks, the occasional announce table. Hardcore was primetime friendly, hell, it was audience friendly. It was a revelation to realize that what I considered hardcore wrestling was the softcore of pro-wrestling. Bob Holly vs Al Snow in the Mississippi river was nothing…alright, no, that remains awesome. It was eye opening.

I watched Taz work twice, hell, I watched Bubba work twice, and one of those for each of them was against each other! I took one look at Taz and saw what I read about in the magazines and online, that he was small, but he looked like he couldn’t wait to kick someone’s ass. I’m totally going at this with nostalgia in my eyes, and it’s starting to show.

Anyway, my first exposure to ECW left a big imprint on me for years to come, and from that point on I’d keep an eye out for it, any time there was a PPV I was glued to the TV. I was a fan.

Though like many fans I saw the writing on the wall back in 2001, and I understood that the company had been living on borrowed time. Workers were jumping ship, the TNN show was gone, news was getting harder to find, and then Paul Heyman was on Raw and we just knew that it was done. It had a good run, but they expanded too fast and couldn’t keep themselves afloat….essentially where Ring of Honor would be if not for HD Net.

When WWE did their ECW reunion PPV it was unique, and it was brilliant in that it was a celebration of everything ECW even with the WWE influence. The show had a sample of everything that was ECW at its core and it made us remember. Nobody expected them to try and relaunch ECW a year later after the second reunion PPV, and to be honest, no one was surprised when it turned into what it wound up being. ECW was before its time, but in todays days and age its just….hardcore wrestling like that went out with the 90’s, and while there was so much more to it than that, that’s what people expect when they think of ECW. Even the ones who know better, I mean, when we all turned on that first episode of ECW on Sci-Fi we were expecting tables, trash cans, brawls in the crowd, all of it. We weren’t thinking international cruiserweights, or tag teams, or even edgy controversial storylines, everyone was waiting for the extreme.

ECW as a brand was never ECW, no matter what the letters said, or what the belt was, or if Tommy Dreamer was there, it wasn’t ECW, it was just the name.

When ECW was put down again in favor of NXT it should have been the final nail in a casket that should have been buried already.

But I mean, hey, WWE owns the rights and trademarks, if they’re done with it, then it’s done. Right?

Wait, what do you mean TNA did an ECW revival complete with a reunion show featuring original ECW stars? What do you mean they put it on PPV and built a stable up based around them being ECW guys?

No, I’ve heard that it was actually pretty well done, and that some of the angles were in the “must watch” category, but what’s the point? It’s been nine years now. Sabu is broken down, Raven is well past his prime, Dreamer is still Dreamer, Sandman is past his prime. About the only big name ECW original that has stayed constant?

Rob Van Dam.

And you know what? RVD was doing pretty well before the revival came about, he was the champ, I mean.

So really, who benefits from TNA doing an ECW PPV? Was the buyrate up from usual? Are TV ratings up? Did it ignite a fire under creative?

Or did it just pay tribute to a company that went under nine years, and offer pay days to stars that haven’t worked in the mainstream in years, if ever.

TNA needs to build their own product for today, something they can market going forward. That means young people, new people, things that haven’t been done before.

Though if they really think that revivals are the way to go, I have this bitchin WCW idea that involves Bischoff, Hogan, Russo, David Arquette, Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash, and Goldberg that would guaranteed not draw a dime, but it would fit the motif perfectly.

New ideas, TNA. Think about where you’re going to be next or in five years, not in a month.

Don’t pay tribute to ECW unless you’re ready to learn from their mistakes. Otherwise in ten years someone is going to be promoting a TNA reunion PPV, and I trust that isn’t the goal Dixie Carter has in mind.

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