ECW is finally putting on the product that can make them a player again
April 25, 2000
By Fritz Capp
I was watching ECW on TNN this past Friday and I saw something that was so incredible I just couldn’t believe it. I mean I have to say, I was totally moved by it. What I saw was the old ECW, the one that used to make you drive to the ECW Arena through snowstorms, torrential rains and horrible heat just so you could be there to see what was going to happen next. I saw what made ECW a household name amongst wrestling aficionados when they were only a local promotion based out of Philadelphia. The opening match pitting Tommy Dreamer against Steve Corino quickly went into a wild brawl that added Jack Victory, The Sandman, Tajiri and New Jack into the mix making this one of the wildest brawls I have seen in years. I cannot believe that TNN did not edit the massive amount of blood being spilled by both Corino and Victory but I applaud them for allowing ECW to show what made them what they are once again trying to become - the innovators of pro wrestling. Weapons, brawling through the crowd, blood and intensity is what helped put ECW on the map and I for one am glad to see them returning to this part of their routes.
While it is no secret that for about two years I trashed Extreme Championship Wrestling, the misconception is that I trashed the workers. That was never the case. I trashed the stupidity of the Dudleys attacking fans. I trashed the moronic way that Heyman ran the company. I trashed the rampant drug use and the lazy booking, but I never trashed the guys' in-ring ability. That is easy enough to check out. Do not be swayed by people who would have you believe otherwise, because they are liars, plain and simple. To be fair you can also see that I have done the same to both the WWF and WCW as well, for pretty much the same reasons when many of those same incidents were going on in their respective promotions.
ECW was built on not only blood spilling but on excellent mat workers and high flyers also. Until this past Friday I saw one or the other but not both. It takes both for ECW to be what they were and it appears that they are now well on their way to returning to their former glory.
With wrestlers like Tajiri and Super Crazy, Justin Credible, Steve Corino, Mikey Whipwreck (who could be the most under utilized wrestler there, this boy can work), Masato Tanaka, Too Cold Scorpio, Rob Van Dam, Little Guido, Lance Storm (if they can keep him) combined with the "Extreme Team" of Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, New Jack, Raven and Rhino this company has a real shot at finally making up the lost ground they had to travel through mid 1997 - mid 1999.
Are they the ECW that once boasted names like Benoit, Guerrero, Austin, Saturn, Jericho, Foley, Mysterio etc.? No they are not. But then again is it fair to compare the new product to the old one? Not really. It was easy enough to do that when they were down but it is time to give them a fighting chance. Their talent roster may never again have the top names in the business like they did back in 1994/1995/1996 but then again you have to realize that the WWF and WCW would never allow that to happen. Big money contracts would be offered and talent stolen as is usually the case with ECW’s locker room. Unless Heyman gets a huge financial backer to bankroll the company this is Heyman’s plight and will continue to be for years to come. Heyman will probably never be able to compete with the big two’s money flow so he will always have to make the best with what he has. In defense of Heyman this is one of his strong suits. In the early days he took a bunch of no name wrestlers and made them all into household names and personalities.
Thinking back to the match I was talking about brings me to another topic and that is Tommy Dreamer. If you have not read the "TNN Spoilers" then please skip this paragraph as I am going to talk about the happenings of this past weekend at the ECW Arena. This weekend Tommy Dreamer once again showed that next to Mick Foley (and I have compared Tommy to Mick on many occasions) he is without a doubt the most loyal and selfless person in the business. This past Saturday night, ECW had Tommy Dreamer take the coveted ECW Heavyweight Title from Taz(z). In all the years that Tommy has broken his body and bled for the company he has never held the title. But on this night he finally captured the gold. So what does Tommy do? He later accepts a match with Justin Credible and turns the belt over to him. (Of course Francine came in a "low blowed" him to secure the win for Credible but think about it for a sec) I have seen Tommy go through 4 tables to the concrete, bled more than a stuffed pig at a roast, be battered and beaten for the sake of the company and now he steps aside in his own way to push other talent in the locker room. He could have held the title for a week but he didn’t. He stepped aside to give Credible the push. In today's wrestling world, most people are worried about what accolade they are going to receive next. They whine and cry about what they have done for the company and get complacent when they do not get what "they" feel they deserve. I believe many of them could learn a lesson from Tommy on Saturday night. This is not the same as when Yokozuna immediately turned the belt over to Hogan after beating Bret Hart in Las Vegas in ‘93. That was a case of Hogan wanting the belt upon his return. This was totally the opposite. This was a case of the person who should hold the title moving over to give it to someone else. Recently Jayson Shaya on the WCW Hotline said that ECW sucked after giving out the arena report for this past weekend. Considering their guys are just starting to realize what Dreamer has always known shows that statement to be ludicrous at best. Tommy Dreamer is without a doubt a person that all wrestlers should emulate as far as how to work in the business is concerned.
Want to know just how much ECW’s recent push on WWF programming helped their company? Let me give you a small case in point. My son knows the name of every WWF wrestler currently working there. He knows a few of the WCW guys and none of ECW...until last week’s Smackdown that is. All of a sudden a new name flowed from his mouth. That name was Tommy Dreamer. Tommy’s small part on WWF programming has now put his name forever into my kid's head. He now recognizes him in wrestling magazines, and yesterday, he wasn’t leaving the store until I got him his own Tommy Dreamer action figure. For the critics who say that ECW didn’t benefit from their exposure on WWF programming this time, I will have to politely disagree. If my son is any kind of indicator I am sure that there are kids everywhere who now want to watch ECW, just of curiosity, if nothing else.
Now I know I’m gonna catch some heat for this tidbit but it’s not like that’s never happened before. The only thing I think that was on the level of bad on Nitro was the David Arquette/Eric Bischoff match and the debut of Tammy Sytch. While I have never been a big "Sunny" fan, back in her WWF days, she was light years above where she is today. Being slightly overweight with two hundred pounds of ring rust is not the way to grab a mic saying. "I’m back!" In all actuality, who really cares? She did absolutely nothing for the match, looked out of place, and to be quite honest, when she first started talking, I thought she was on some kind of medication. There is no way that she can come out and try to be "Sunny" anymore. She is older and just does not have the pizzazz she once had. She can blame her problems on people she knew in the WWF all she wants to, like she did in a recent interview. However, the bottom line is that she has no one to blame but herself for her current and past situations that detracted her from staying on top of the wrestling game. It would be in her best interest to forget that she was ever "Sunny" and to try to re-invent herself into a viable character.
The Nitro show overall was pretty good, but I saw some of the old WCW starting to creep back in. Rome was not built in a day, so I'll take everything in stride. I especially enjoyed the "bloodbath" that Sting received at the hands of Vampiro. It looked great on TV. I do a question though, "What does Bret think about Sting coming down from the rafters again?" The other question that I have is, "Why should it matter?"
Vince Russo has been doing interviews once again claiming he was the catalyst to the new WWF programming. Ya know what, it doesn’t matter what you claim, the only thing that matters is what you do. Wrestling is a "what can you do for me tomorrow" business, and although Russo and Bischoff have improved WCW’s product, it hasn’t taken the country by storm yet. So instead of trying to list your past accolades, Vince, try building some news ones. All this from a guy who was hired out of a video store.
ECW’s TNN ratings came out (0.9) and even though my son (see above) shows that there was an influence because of ECW’s appearance on Smackdown, the wrestling fans by and large are not buying it. This is purely a marketing problem. As someone who works in advertising and marketing, I know this is an area that has to be addressed immediately. Sometimes marketing and public perception is more important than the product itself. If solid marketing could take a rock and sell it to millions of people (Pet Rock - circa 1970's) then marketing can help propel ECW. ECW has a good product as of this moment, but there are outside factors that are holding them back. Paul Heyman should invest in some marketing strategies that will paint his company in a more positive fashion. With all the blood, sex and violence being portrayed in the WWF and WCW, ECW is no longer the lone wolf in this area, therefore they should be able to market itself to a larger audience if done properly.
And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
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