AS I SEE IT 6/26: More on ECW in Philly...

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

In yet another ECW-related change, it's now officially announced by WWE that the ECW TV taping, which had been unofficially announced for July 4 (which had been announced on the New Alhambra website, and which was to be officially announced at Saturday's show) at the ECW Arena has been moved to the Wachovia Center.

"Sci Fi Channel presents ECW Live" is listed as taking place on July 4 with a 9:00 pm start (going live at 10:00 pm with the actual TV show) at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. Tickets went on sale last Friday at 10:00 am via Ticketmaster. This occurred, after the whole issue of the June 24 house show being moved to July 4, confusing announcements on noted websites, and the lack of clear announcements to the contrary by ECW Arena management.

One report online suggests that the only reason the show was moved from the ECW Arena was that they couldn't have pyro at the ECW Arena. Why is having pyro so essential to having an ECW show? What makes this even more curious is the lack of time prior to this announcement. Other questions include how this show can draw anything close to a respectable-looking crowd in the Wachovia Center, with so little notice...and on July 4 in Philadelphia?

Then, there was the ECW Arena house show last Saturday night. The pre-show atmosphere was fun as there were cook-outs, the usual pre-show comsumption of adult beverages, and such. New Alhambra management was smart enough to open up the second parking lot (typically only used for large events and boxing) to allow for tailgating.

As for the actual show, I wish I could say this reminded me of a ECW show. It didn't.

By no means was it a bad show... by normal definitions. But asking fans to pay $25 for a show that's over in 2 hours and 20 minutes (including an intermission, a bikini contest and a Paul Heyman promo) isn't giving them $25 of action, even if there's a WWE PPV the next night, and some of the talent has to get to Charlotte.

Things started off with the typical pre-taped message regarding WWE's proprietary rights, including restrictions on pictures, etc. etc. The fans booed heavily and started the first of several "F%$# you Vince" chants of the night. Then WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts came out, instead of Steve DeAngelis and was booed loudly at the beginning of the show, and pretty much all night long any time he showed his face.

Some thoughts on the show:

CM Punk got a great reaction coming out to "Miseria Cantare", his great Ring of Honor music (now WHAT was that about using copyrighted music?....more on that later). The match was pretty obviously a WWE-style match, rather then anything that reminded you of his ROH or IWA matches; with vocal segments of the crowd already hooting at the WWE match style early on.

Mike Knox rolled up Balls Mahoney for a pinfall while holding Mahoney's pants after Mahoney missed a chairshot. Crowd chanted at Knox "We don't know you", and booed the hell out of the standard "heel cheats to win" screw finish. Blame WWE for putting him out there before introducing his character, not Knox. All anyone knows is that he's the one keeping you from getting a free view of "Kelly's" breasts. So much for character development.

In the Justin Credible-Sandman match, Justin Credible came out to his old "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" music (which he got a CD of from a fan during the pre-show tailgate in one of the funnier pre-show moments...again what was that about copyrighted music?).

Then, came a commotion...and out came Sandman through the crowd to his generic WWECW music.

Remember...this is a house show and no TV. There was NO excuse for not putting "Enter Sandman" on the loudspeakers, since it bothered no one to have 2 other traditional entrance songs played, including one in this match. If WWE can't use Metallica, then get Motorhead's version of the song, or even an instrumental sound-alike if you have to do so. An audible segment of the crowd in back of me even chanted "Enter Sandman".

There's even one report online yesterday that states Sandman and Justin Credible went home far earlier than scheduled because of the negative reaction from the Arena crowd after WWE didn't use Sandman's traditional music at the Arena.

After the match, segments of the crowd broke into loud chants of "This show sucks". Uh oh.

As if on cue, the old ECW "This is Extreme" hit the speakers and Paul Heyman came out to a loud reaction. In a really nice touch, Heyman saluted the memorial banner for Ted Petty with a salute to the banner and a cabbage patch dance type gesture, and went over and hugged John "Hat Guy" Bailey.

A large vocal segment of the crowd chanted at Heyman "This show sucks." Heyman said that they "had to make some compromises" but claimed that "the bottom line was ECW was back and they would beat the compromises in end". He lost a sizable minority of the crowd at that point. He said that "he had waited 5 years to be back in the ECW Arena and that no matter what porno rejects and wannabes and losers ran here (seems Heyman still has a hard-on for Rob Black and XPW, even years well as toward companies like CZW that have run the ECW Arena for nearly as many years as Heyman himself did) , ECW is back".

Heyman admitted to the crowd, which was even more vocal about it than the first time, that Sandman's generic music sucked. Heyman pushed the July 4th taping, which didn't go over too well, given that the taping had been moved from the ECW Arena to the Wachovia Center. There were some in the crowd who yelled "sellout" for him shilling the show. Heyman's curious reply was that "a sellout would tell you to go to RAW and Smackdown", but he was only telling people to go to the July 4 ECW taping. (Huh? Isn't the same name on each paycheck? They all read know.)

Heyman then introduced Tommy Dreamer. Tommy Dreamer gave a speech talking about one of those stranger than fiction moments when one of his daughters fell and hurt her head earlier that day (describing her head as looking like JT Smith's did the one time after a fall at the Arena.... yikes!), but once they realized there was no major damage, Beulah and the kids told him to go to the Arena because they knew how much the fans meant to him. Dreamer gave a nice speech about past talent and those who "couldn't be here" and said they were part of a family. Dreamer said ECW raised the bar for wrestling and would have to work harder to do it again.

The main event saw Rob Van Dam defeating Kurt Angle by clean pinfall (with Dean Malenko as the special referee). Angle got a big pop from the crowd, who showed they weren't against ALL WWE talent. Van Dam was greeted as you'd expect. This was a great match to be given away anywhere but on PPV, with Van Dam getting the clean pinfall after a Five Star Frog Splash.

After a great main event, the crowd seemed to leave with an attitude of "That's it?", which given seeing Malenko again, and RVD vs. Angle which was great...seems a shame. That's not the best reaction if you're WWE and trying to get people to give up part of their July 4 for a TV taping to come down to South Philly. Philadelphia is a market that's spoiled by so much, and so much good wrestling of different styles that an effort perceived rightly or wrongly as half-assed simply isn't going to work.

The word getting out about a 2 hour and 20 minute house show isn't going to encourage people in other markets to run out and buy tickets. It's notable that there was NO lineup announced for this show prior to the opening bell. I mean NONE. I do wonder how finalized the WWECW roster is. If THAT is the reason for such short shows, then WWE isn't handling this well. As the cliche goes, you've only one chance to make a first impression, and the one they made in Philadelphia for WWECW could have been far better.

Lots of comments about last week's column:

From Paul Brown:

"Yeah, I was at the ECW taping/Smackdown taping in Trenton. Totally agree with your comments in the article. I was in the 6th row and the only thing that came close to the show being ECW-like was when Sandman came down from the stands and spit beer on me & those in front of me. That was the only part of the whole show that I enjoyed & it didn't involve wrestling. Other than that, I had no idea what the hell was going on. The stripper segment was also retarded and made no sense to me. Even if that segment was on RAW, it would have been a stretch.

I feel bad for Paul E. This isn't the vision that he had for this brand.

Like I said, I understand that former ECW talent will play a limited role in this WWECW brand. But let them play it for as long as they're scheduled to do so. Have Sandman come out to "Enter Sandman", or even a sound-alike if the rumored royalty issues with Metallica are true. Hell, didn't Motorhead do a cover of the song? Use that if you have to. Try running a TV taping in Philadelphia's ECW Arena without it..and watch the crowd crap all over the entrance.

From Jeff Capo:


Couldn’t agree more with your latest column concerning the Mega Crapfest trying to pretend to be ECW. Like you I saw many of the TWA shows and followed ECW when they first came to be. I even reffed for them at the first TV taping at the Hamburg Field House. What I saw this past Tuesday was a debacle. The Zombie?!?!? What the hell was that. By the way, nice belt they gave RVD, looks like it was right out of K-mart. What a shame, I know a lot of the guys who worked ECW in the early days. It was a shame they had to endure this mess. Sorry, but ECW is dead, and Vince and Paul Heyman just buried it for good."

What can I say about that response?

From Marc Morin of Canada:

"I must say that after reading your thoughts on the first ECW show on Sci-Fi Network, I strongly disagree with you on a few points.

I will give you this: this first show was quite a disappointment. But I think where you get off the tracks a little bit is when you start saying that if the shows continue to be in this vein, this program has no chance of lasting past labor day weekend. I think you are wrong and I will tell you why.

First of all, we wrestling “fanatics” all have great memories of ECW. Whether it’s Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Terry Funk, Cactus Jack and all the others that started their careers there and electrified the Philadelphia crowd, we all remember at least one great match, and most of us remember dozens. ECW was always a product that was destined to the “hardcore” wrestling fan, and by that I don’t mean fans of “hardcore” wrestling, but rather just really big fans of the sport.

..While we fans loved it, ECW was never a truly profitable entity. When Heyman tried to put it on TV with hopes that it would propel his product into the same stratosphere as the big boys, it backfired big time. We can blame the networks for that, or we can blame Heyman’s bad business sense, but in the end, it all comes back to the product. And the truth is, the ECW product was not marketable to the average wrestling fan....

... I still feel that the first show was a disastrous experience. I think it will be hard to find the right balance between the old stuff and the new elements. As far as the vampire and zombie gimmicks, I personally don’t have a problem with them. If this is what Sci-Fi wants in order to put ECW on TV, what are they gonna do? Refuse?... I say keep playing along until you get real results and you can really get your way after that.

But until they strike that perfect balance between topless shows, invasions, ECW style matches and WWE style interviews and backstage segments, we fans will just have to accept to be dragged along for the ride. My guess is we might see a couple more guys from WWE making the jump: I can definitely see Chris Benoit, for instance, going back to ECW upon returning. I also think that WWE will use ECW as a bit of a training ground as well, maybe getting guys like CM Punk to come in and using ECW as a springboard to get them on Raw.

...In the end, I believe ECW will turn out to be a good show. But no, it will never be what it was before. No more. There will be no crowds chanting that "Cena sucks c**ks on TV. All matches will not involve fire of thumbtacks or chairs or tables or ladders or trashcans, and you can be sure that more and more emphasis will be put on production values and backstage segments.

One last thing… You complained about the ring announcer and referees. Ok, it would be nice to see the same ones we had back in the day, but isn’t that just being picky a little too much? I mean, did the WWE product fall from grace only after Earl Hebner left the company? Was Nick Patrick the reason why WCW was able to stand head to head with a Raw for all those years? I mean, at that point, we’re just looking for things to complain about."

So in short, what you're suggesting is what's being aired isn't ECW. It's a WWE brand. No one is asking that what aired 10 years ago air now...all of it anyway. But good technical wrestling, which is conveniently forgotten by those who choose to do so, was part of ECW. High-flying action was also part of ECW. So was introducing new talent to the US market. ECW wasn't just barbed wire and flame-throwers at 20 paces.

Oh, and sanitizing crowd sound and signs so little Johnny and little Suzy aren't offended when they watch a Smackdown taping is just plain stupid. If you want real crowd interaction like ECW had, tape ECW in smaller venues in traditional locations, not with Smackdown crowds in Smackdown venues. Again, try that crap in Philadelphia at the ECW Arena on July 4 and you're going to have crowd problems that even Vince's sound mixers and sweeteners can't fix.

Why ask Atlas Security and Steve DeAngelis to come if you aren't going to use them (and didn't use DeAngelis on June 24, either)? Dammit, let's see what talent from the original ECW CAN be used and use them, even if just to add a LITTLE authenticity; plus introduce new talent and give us a reason to care about their characters.

If Vince McMahon isn't going to have any of those things he promised the ECW TV program would have, then just let the WWECW project go after the summer. Because to do otherwise, if there's no intention to have new talent and character development, SOME hardcore action, high-flying action, or technical wrestling, why bother?

From Brian in South Jersey:

"Vince brought back ECW to kill it once and for all. Now you might ask why would he spend money to kill it in the end? EGO.

Let's face it, ECW will make money with DVDs, PPVs, t-shirts and house shows. This way, he can say his WWE single handely killed WCW, ECW, AWA, and the UWF. I really wish I was wrong.

You know I was there when we had to all sit on one side of the Arena to make it look full, during snowstorms, heat waves and monsoons. Even when DC Drake returned, I marked out big time. There still is time but, not much. I hope I'm wrong."

Sad thing is, I wish I could argue with him. Even the main event of the improved second week featured Edge (with Lita) with Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle and Rob Van recognizable ECW name out of four wrestlers. Three WWE names out of four. What this looks like is WWE RAW with a little "attitude", and I emphasize a little.

From Brent Hale:

"Like you, I thought it was gonna be great to be able to see ECW once again. The fabled Extreme Championship Wrestling, one of the baddest shows ever done (used to watch the syndicated version, never got to see TNN since I had no cable during this period) and was AMAZED. So, here I was hearing about the illustrious resurrection of ECW, and wondering if it was gonna be even close to the excellence the show once had.

Like you and a lot of others, I was eagerly anticipating its debut on the Sci-Fi Channel (I never watch that channel even though I am a BIG sci-fi fan) and was counting down the days before it's illustrious return. I figured McMahon and WWE had given Heyman some good creative room and hoped they wouldn't leave their mark on it.

The time rolled around and the program aired.

I was stunned. Totally stunned. What I saw was...well...interesting. It was NOT what it was more or less advertised to be in a way. It was something that was birthed, but seemed to be horribly mutated or a bad result from a genetic experiment gone haywire. It wasn't absolute dreck, but it was VERY close. As I said, I was stunned. VERY stunned.

What in the world were they thinking? Sure, they need to work on it, to get it to where it needs to be, this much is obvious. But what was shown seemed to be hurried, just tossed together to further a few storylines, and more or less seemed like a test project to see about making RAW and SMACKDOWN! go back to one continuous brand and allow ECW to remain separate...

I will say this that it was just average, nothing really spectacular, something just thrown together and hope it would draw what it needed to. That's all. The passion seemed to be there, the heart of making it work was there, but it just didn't seem to be right where they wanted to be. The Zombie was absolute dreck, although it WILL be interesting where they take that one. It is bizarre to say the least, and if they are trying to appease certain segments of the Sci-Fi Network watchers, I don't think it's gonna work that way."

I think that first show was appeasing what they think Sci-Fi Network THINK science fiction fans are, not what a handful of vocal Sci-Fi viewers are, or science fiction fans in general are. But it's appeasing no one with an IQ over a gerbil. The first show certainly irritated wrestling fans. The second show wasn't anything close to ECW, but it could at least be watched by WWE fans with a brain.

From Michael Gannaway:

"Hey Bob,

You really think the next ECW show won't do great numbers? I'll tell you this much, there's gonna be people who will tune in hoping it will be as bad as last week so they can laugh at it. That's the only reason I ever watch RAW these days. When I want good wrestling, I just pop in an old ECW '96 TV tape or an ROH DVD."

If that's all they tune in hoping it will be as bad as last week so they can laugh at it, they could just tape Smackdown and watch it over the weekend.

Funny thing was, in terms of ratings, Michael turned out to be right. The second show did a 2.3 (the first show did a 2.8), which could be attributed to the NBA finals or pissed off wrestling fans...there's little way of knowing. That's not the drop-off some people, including yours truly, expected, after that utter debacle of a first show.

Until next time...


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