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Can ECW Work?

May 3, 2006

World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the WWF) has tried on numerous occasions to create offshoot promotions from which it can draw in fans who don't care for the WWF/WWE "sports entertainment" intelligence-insulting style of pro wrestling. Every time it has failed... primarily because, in my estimation, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon doesn't believe that any other way is the right way to go when it comes to promoting the business.

But on Monday night, WWE made a rather unusual move by its standards. It allowed Joey Styles, the voice of the old ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) to cut a promo on the company, on its own air, criticizing it for the very problems that it has been long criticized for in many circles. Here it is, for as long as it lasts, via YouTube:

I don't know how long YouTube is going to stick around, and in many ways I hesitate to use programs like it in conjunction with my webpage... but, for now, I'll give it a shot. This one is too good to leave out.

The facts: WWE owns the intellectual property, back video catalog, and name of ECW. They have Paul Heyman, the man who turned it into an underground phenomenon, under contract. And now, after several false starts, it looks like maybe, just maybe, WWE is going to give ECW a chance for another launch.

What needs to happen for it to succeed? The formula seems simple enough to me:

-Give ECW its own location for TV tapings. The word is that, at least initially, tapings will take place at WWE events prior to SmackDown shows. Bad idea. You want to bring in new fans in theory, right? Tape TV at smaller venues where the ECW guys can do their thing, the fans who like well-executed pro wrestling matches with logical storylines can get into that, and the atmosphere will come across as something completely different on TV.

-ECW needs a two hour weekly timeslot on USA. TNA (the second-largest wrestling promotion based in the United States) is bottled up in part because of only having one hour per week on Spike TV. But with two hours, ECW can have longer matches, time for character development, etc.

-Keep Vince McMahon's hands off of ECW, and let Paul Heyman handle the booking. Sure, there are things that the old ECW could do that the WWE-owned ECW can't do, like the excessive swearing, fighting into the crowd, and dives into the crowd. Rey Mysterio Jr. doing a plancha into Psychosis, knocking him over the guardrail and into the first row of the ECW area, was great in 1996. But with liability issues and such, that just won't go anymore. But by the same token, don't let McMahon sabatoge the deal. WWE is not going to be allowed to look weak, but ECW should not be put in that position by being forced into inept booking or guys having to show up on RAW to job to mid-carders if ECW starts to "get over too much" in the war. ECW needs to have autonomy over its own personnel.

Let those four things happen, and ECW will have a strong likelihood for success. Deviate from that, and you'll invite trouble.

Don't get me wrong: if Rob Van Dam jobs to Triple H at WrestleMania 23 next year in a WWE Champ vs. ECW Champ match in Detroit, that's okay. Build it up for nine months, get the crowd into a frenzy (think of WrestleMania VI where you had Hulk Hogan fans and Ultimate Warrior fans cheering back and forth in the main event), and let those two guys tear the house down.

Speaking of guy things, this is a pretty common sense bit of research, but a new study finds that attractive women can make men lose their ability to make rational decisions. Read the report here. Beautiful women make great bartenders -- that's no secret. As if the alcohol wasn't enough to get the money moving...

May 2006 Commentary Page

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