AS I SEE IT 5/29: More thoughts on WWECW

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

First, its TV program is set...well, sort of.

WWECW has TV in the United States. But the television is being described in releases as a "summer show" by SCI-FI Network:

"New York, N.Y., May 25, 2006 - SCI FI Channel today announced that World Wrestling Entertainment the producer of the No. 1 weekly basic cable TV series, 'Monday Night RAW' on USA Network, will debut a summer series on Tuesday, June 13, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling will be an alternative brand of wrestling suited to fit the SCI FI Channel’s commitment to fuel the imagination.

'Research tells us that there's a healthy appetite for wrestling among SCI FI viewers,' said Bonnie Hammer, President, USA and SCI FI Channel. 'With ECW, we're able to deliver to those fans unique action with a twist that's perfect for SCI FI.'

'ECW on SCI FI will push the boundaries of sports entertainment in new and unexpected ways,' said Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment."

For those who don't know, Sci-Fi Network is part of the NBC/Universal family that airs WWE programming on USA, NBC, and Telemundo. Three's no word as to what happens after summer.

So much for the remark Vince McMahon about making ECW an established brand...wait a minute, I'm getting ahead of myself...

In terms of letters this week, here are the thoughts of one reader who sees Vince McMahon as already making PR mistakes regarding WWECW. I'm withholding his name (per his request), but this comes from someone who actively worked with ECW on a management level.

"Vince McMahon just did an interview with where he just s%$#ts all over the original ECW as a small Northeastern promotion based in Philadelphia.

ECW drew sold out houses in NY (Queens, Hammerstein, 4,000 people in White Plains), Philly, Boston, Chicago (6,400 in The Odeum), Detroit (3,500 at the Fairgrounds) Pittsburgh (4,200 in the Golden Dome), Cleveland, Los Angeles (6,600 at the Olympic), Dallas, and almost 6,000 people in Toronto right before folding.

As someone who worked on street team promotions under the supervision of the team assembled by Steve Karel (and headed by Greg Bagerosy), and who remembers huge merchandise sales from Japan and UK, this is so insulting. So now ECW is a Vince McMahon brainchild? He made it worldwide?

The notion that ECW was a tiny little regional with a small vocal following (which the article actually says) is a slap in the face to all of us who worked really hard to make it as sucessful as it was. Vince McMahon can make all the money he can on ECW, that's his right. But to just write [off] the hard working people who dedicated our lives to a project we all loved, is just an unappreciative statement by Vince, and he should research the facts before saying such heartless things."

Whoo boy.

Vince McMahon is forgetting that people have memories, and that history can't always be edited, as some of the WWE 24/7 programming is. The letter above is from a man who was actively involved in ECW who made clear he hasn't forgotten his experiences.

The statement on that the above reader and former ECW staffer refers to reads as follows:

"Going worldwide with the likes of Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer and Sabu, however, is miles away from where ECW was prior to its closing in 2001. In fact, stationed out of Philadelphia, many looked at ECW as just a northeastern wrestling promotion. But the recently re-launched ECW will not have much of a struggle making an impact both here in the United States and overseas. In fact, according to Mr. McMahon, ECW already has plans for its own Merchandising and Licensing, International Sales, consistent Live Event schedule, as well as its own set of pay-per-views."

ECW licensed its own merchandise long before WWE, including video games. That's a well-known fact. Its merchandise was valuable over in Japan, when it was sold over there.

As most readers know, ECW had PPVs from 1997 to the company's closing in 2001. After taking over legal rights to the ECW name, WWE then held the "ECW One Night Stand" PPV last year.

Along with the above comments, this final comment in the article isn't going to make a lot of ECW fans feel better about what's going to be aired:

"So with the launch of the re-established brand right around the corner, will former ECW head Paul Heyman have a role? 'Absolutely,' exclaimed McMahon. 'But at the end of the day, Mr. McMahon is in charge.'

I'm going to PRAY that this remark was made as "Mister McMahon" and not as Vince McMahon, businessman.

The whole idea for WWECW is to provide an alternative. All too many fans simply don't believe that WWE and McMahon ares capable of providing a programming alternative to their already existing programming. As long as the current booking and programming regime have a hand in things, beyond the business end (which Paul Heyman admits he was poor at)...WWECW will basically be seen as little more than "WWF Attitude era version 2006".

Given the above in-character (or not) comments, here are some thoughts from reader Steve Moore on how WWECW needs to relate to its fans:

" I wanted to say the following, in regards to ECW, and independent wrestling on the whole. Earlier this month (May 2nd, to be exact), WWE had a scheduled stop in my hometown of Cincinnati for a SmackDown! taping. It seemed like it would be a decent show at the time, considering that I would get to see Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle (until he was deemed too injured to compete), JBL, and all the other top tier guys. In a deal I had made with my dad, which I'll spare you the details of, he agreed to get tickets to the WWE show and we would go see it.

Then I found out that Ring of Honor, a promotion of whom I had heard numerous times; visted their site on a regular basis; and own their first two shows on DVD; were going to be holding a show 45 minutes away in Dayton on 4/28.

Having never been to an indy show in my 25 years of life (which is kinda sad since the HWA [EDITOR'S NOTE: Les Thatcher's Heartland Wrestling Association] Arena is minutes away from my place of residence), I decided I wanted to go to ROH instead. So, my father picked up the tickets and we went. Man, I don't care what people have said about the quality of that particular ROH event. It was my first indy show ever, and I know I had a better time there than I would have, had I gone to SmackDown!.

This was evidenced by the fact that I told Jim Cornette, who was signing autographs that night, the exact same thing and got a reaction not unlike one I expected. I forked over my autograph money, and got in line. I got to the table and shook hands with the legend.

I told him that I was attending my first ROH show that night and responded with an excited 'Oh, yeah??' as if to say, 'Awesome, we've drawn another new fan.' He asked me point blank what I thought of the show so far, and I said verbatim: 'I'm having a lot more fun here than I would have if I had gone to see SmackDown.' His eyes lit up, and he replied with a resounding, 'YES! That's what I like to hear!' He high-fived me, and proceeded to excitedly tell the guy who was selling the autograph tickets and ROH owner Cary Silkin, what I had just said.

This is the point I want to get across: I believe ECW thrived because of its penchant for extra fan interaction. ECW gave you moment after oh-so-memorable moment, just like that, and you would never forget it. The wrestlers would work the fans vocally, interacting with them a lot more than you see in WWE. A prime example of this is the Dudley Boyz, who would damn near cause riots whenever they would get in the ring for a promo. And let's not forget all the crowd interaction in regards to wrestlers using weapons that the fans brought with them, and the high spots you would see, where a wrestler was thrown over the guard rail into the crowd, and his opponent would dive from the ring onto him.

This is what WWE is gonna have to do in order for the new ECW to succeed. They need to allow for the added fan interaction that we don't get on Monday nights or Friday nights. They need to allow guys like RVD to do the risky shit that we're used to seeing when we watch an old ECW show. They're gonna have to allow guys like the Sandman and Tommy Dreamer to be a bit risque with their language in regards to promos, even if it's censored on TV. If Vince gives Paul E. full creative control of ECW, I believe we can have the ECW we once loved....

I truly believe that the new ECW will rise to the occasion and give us that "Jim Cornette moment" we've been wanting for five years and you can bet I'll be watching when it happens."

Somehow, Cornette's reaction doesn't surprise me one bit.

Much like the above writer stated (far better than I will), if Vince McMahon thinks that just slapping the ECW name on a wrestling show is going to make people think that WWECW is the real thing...or even a second version of the real thing...than he's going to need to change his attitude really soon.

ECW fans are likely to be the most critical of this enterprise, as they will remember what ECW was...and contrast it with WWECW.

Having said that, I don't think fans expect to go back into a "way back machine" and get 1995 ECW with all the performers. Bringing back the 1995 (or even the 1999 roster) would be a physical impossibility for one thing. Some of the ECW talent of those year are dead (Chris Candido, Alex "Big Dick Dudley" Rizzo, Anthony "Pitbull 2" Durante, Ted "Rocco Rock" Petty, Johnny Grunge, and Eddie Guerrero, to name a few). Others are retired, inactive, or not interested; with still others under contract to TNA (The Dudleys, Shane Douglas, and Raven).

But it IS necessary to bring back some of the names. It's also necessary to bring back the spirit of the old ECW. But as long as Vince McMahon's in control of anything besides the pursestrings, all too many wrestling fans won't believe that the spirit of the old ECW will exist in WWECW. Vince McMahon's having madea comment in a widely circulated story that may or may not have been written in character isn't going to help anyone's perception to the contrary.

Until next time...


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