AS I SEE IT - 7/06/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome this week to 2TBN.com at http://www.2tbn.com, and Inside Scoop
Wrestling News at http://www.iswn.com, and the returning Innovators of Wrestling columns
board at http://www.iowrestling.com, which carry AS I SEE IT beginning this week.
AS I SEE IT is back up and running on PWBTS.com, but not before one last little shot by our "friends" at Interland. Late last week, they cut off the e-mail box that PWBTS webmaster Fritz Capp used to have InterNIC transfer the site registration information to Smarthosting; thus delaying the transfer of PWBTS.com until after the July 4th weekend.
As I said last week, I would strongly advise readers with e-commerce and fan-based websites to reconsider the use of Interland as a webhost, given the company's reckless and possibly illegal conduct over the last two weeks.
I can assure PWBTS.com readers that you've not heard the last of this whole situation.
For those of you who regularly read the AS I SEE IT archives, due to our change in webhosts, there has been a slight change in the URL. The archives are now located at http://pwbts.com/columns/magee.html.
To this week's column...
Last week's ECW News.com received a photo which has made its way around the Internet... of the 'space available' sign on the Viking Hall, better known the ECW Arena, showing the ECW Arena to be for sale.
In that article, sources within the Mummers Fancy Brigades (the division of the Mummers organization that the Viking Club competes in) confirmed to ECWnews.com that Butch D'Amato, the captain of the South Philadelphia Vikings is seeking to move the group to a smaller facility as the Viking Hall is too big for their current needs.
With the increased national touring of ECW, the company is running a much lighter schedule in Philadelphia these days, thus limiting the income that the Vikings receive from shows (cut back from the old schedule of every three weeks to once every 8-10 weeks at best).
However, The Pro Wrestling Torch reported on July 1 that Viking Hall has, in fact been on sale for about a year. However, the ECWNews.com report is, the first time that this information has become public knowledge. The Torch report also indicates that Mr. D'Amato may have a difficult time getting a buyer for the building, as his asking price is apparently being viewed as too high.
If ECW isn't forced to leave the Arena in the immediate future, it will certainly happen eventually. If you think in terms of business sense, it's something that should have happened long ago. More on that in a minute...
For many who are long-time Arena dwellers, leaving the Arena and its memories would be difficult.
I feel I have the right to offer an opinion about this, as I've followed this company for over eight years, back from its beginning as a small independent promotion running shows that featured main events such as Sal Bellomo vs. Tony Stetson at local Philadelphia bars on February 21, 1992...
I sat with 60 others at Cabrini College for ECW's first TV taping in March 1993 the night before a snowstorm that paralyzed the area for days... turned my dial to SportsChannel Philadelphia on April 6, 1993, the night ECW hit TV for the first time... was there during the days of "Eddie's Championship Wrestling" and its Memphis-flavored product in 1993...
I was surprised beyond belief with an entire Arena the night Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton crashed the ring on a night in April 1994... watched Ted Petty and Johnny Grunge win the hearts of the toughest wrestling fans in the world... witnessed the world class talent of Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit... was privileged to see the ring magic of Rey Misterio, Jr. Juventud Guerrera, and Psicosis... and watched the work of legends like Terry Funk, Abdullah the Butcher, Steve Williams, and Stan Hansen....
I watched the two and one-half year development of one of the top feuds in wrestling history, Raven and Tommy Dreamer... watched the Dudleys develop from little more than comic relief to becoming two of the most hated heels in the business... I was there the night that ECW taped ECW on TNN for the first time at the ECW Arena for a TRULY national... even international TV taping.... I watched Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn work WRESTLING matches of the year two years in a row.
I was there for the experiences that went beyond just wrestling... the night when we said goodbye to "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert in our own special way... when we saluted a man who was "big brother" and loved one to many, Joey Marella... on the never to be forgotten night in August 1995, when fans and workers alike were in tears as Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero worked their last ECW show...
And I was there for the historic night in April 1997 when ECW's million to one dream of getting on PPV became reality with Barely Legal... and together with my younger brother, I was given the privilege of meeting and getting to know many of the names you've read above, some of the most unique personalities on earth, for the very small price of helping our friend (then ECW employee) Kathy Fitzpatrick...
I've been there all the way to the present day.
But Butch D'Amato trying to sell the ECW Arena may be a blessing in disguise.
It's time for ECW to leave the Arena.
With ECW's well-publicized money problems, it is literally insane for the company to turn away hundreds of people (with their badly needed ticket and merchandise revenue) at each Arena show; even with the fact that each and every ECW Arena show violates every fire law in the city of Philadelphia.
There are a number of mid-sized facilities in Philadelphia that ECW can run in, have Ticketmaster handle their tickets for them, and have a professional looking venue to run shows in. It's long past the time that the company does so.
But this potential departure from ECW's birthplace pales in comparison to the loss of ECW's national television outlet, TNN, as part of the fallout of the WWF/Viacom/USA Networks trial that concluded last week. In a less than surprising move, TNN officially announced that ECW on TNN would be cancelled after the September 22nd airing.
TNN's treatment of ECW has been shabby at best, even though ECW's Friday night program has been the highest rated on their network. Promotional and advertising support promised never materialized. What advertising there was for ECW often ended up on the same "Friday Night Thrill Zone" package that ECW already a part of. In other words, the advertising was preaching to the already converted.
Further, TNN's editing requirements for ECW on TNN to shove in 2 1/2 minutes more ads than the average TNN program often left the program with even less continuity than Monday Nitro.
As for the future...
Despite the numerous rumors all over the Internet, USA Networks have not made an official announcement as to plans for replacing wrestling programming on their network. Monday nights will, as of now, feature movies.
Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation/Fox Sports has also reportedly come into the picture. It has been rumored for a while that Fox wants to get programming for the sports/entertainment channels it owns, such as FX and the many affiliates of FoxSports Net, including Philadelphia's Comcast SportsNet.
There are other players. ESPN 2 has also been reported to be interested in wrestling programming. BET is also developing something called the Urban Wrestling Federation, with talent from such existing promotions as Maryland Championship Wrestling.
Strictly ECW, the ECW fans lobby (that I've often said is more efficient and dedicated at what passes for the ECW "office") has sent out information to lobby potential national carriers for ECW all over the Internet and asked that it be posted.
For the Strictly ECW people...and for the wrestlers who work as hard as anyone in a ring today; often not knowing if a paycheck is coming, or when it comes, if it is even good, this plug is for you....
"...We ask that we the fans prove one last time that we can make a difference in ECW's stake in history. We all need to write. We all need to tell these carriers that bringing ECW to their stations would bring US to their stations. It is time for every ECW fan, whether they have been there from the beginning, or whether they first discovered ECW last week, to stand up for the promotion they love.
As important as this is, we cannot stress enough the issue of being polite and thoughtful in your correspondence.
[Please write to the following:]
Steven Chao, President of Programming
1230 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10020
Attention: Steven Chao
David Hill Chairman and
Arthur Smith Vice President/Programming
FOX Sports Net
1440 South Sepulveda/Second Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90025
FOX Sports Net feedback page: http://www.foxsports.com/feedback.sml
Attention: David Hill or Arthur Smith...."
I can also add the following contact name of the Senior Vice President in charge of ESPN/ESPN 2 program acquisition, John Wildhack:
Senior Vice President/Programming
Bristol, CT 06010
One possible time rumored online for a rescheduled show was Tuesday nights. That would present an interesting irony, given that ECW's television during its glory years of 1994 to 1996 was on Tuesday nights at 6:00 pm on SportsChannel Philadelphia. At that time, it was the highest rated program on the station outside of the airings of Phillies and Flyers games. When a ECW show was pre-empted to air PRIME Network reports on the OJ Simpson murder case, hundreds bombarded the station with angry calls.
But before it concerns itself with new venues or TV deals, ECW has one even more glaring need.
The fact of the matter is that ECW is constantly behind on payroll to its workers. The company has been widely reported to be behind as much as four weeks recently, and to be two weeks behind at present.
Whatever I think of him personally, I have to acknowledge one thing. It's insane to ask Paul Heyman to be as creative as he once was if he's trying to financially save the company seemingly every other month. Therefore, the product suffers by comparison to the 1994-1996 era.
The only way that will change is for Paul Heyman to sell ECW.
Heyman has to sell either a majority interest in ECW, or a sufficient portion of the company to bring in enough cash where money is not a day-to-day, hour-to-hour concern.
According to several online sources, money was enough of a concern that Heyman was seriously considering putting the company "on hold" for 30 days. It is well known that Heyman has had to make locker room speeches, trying to keep morale up; and was absent for a stretch of 3 out of 4 TV tapings, attempting to get loans against future PPV revenues.
It was also reported that WCW offered Heyman $500,000 to show up at the Great American Bash to do an interpromotional run-in angle, which he had apparently been considering, but wanted more money.
In terms of potential buyers, there are several groups who have expressed interest in ECW, including one made up of a number of investors including former WCW executives Jay Haasman and David Crockett. The other two major offers have come from Showtime and video-game maker Acclaim (which already has a minority stake in ECW).
There have also been rumors of interest by SFX, the same company that sought a higher degree of involvement with WCW.
Another rumor again involves XPW owner and adult film mogul Rob Black, who Paul Heyman once attempted to do business with until the negotiations were made public.
However, even when promised by each and every potential buyer that he will have full and complete creative control of the in-ring and TV product; Paul Heyman refuses to give up financial control of ECW.
Heyman's smoke, mirrors, and magic style of management can only go on for so long before something gives. Since 1998, Heyman has had talent streaming out of his company to the WWF and WCW; simply because workers have to look out for their futures.
ECW's financial situation has been so bad at times, that in one recent case, a mid-level worker couldn't even afford to make a TV taping because he hadn't received a paycheck. Even Mike Awesome's all-too publicized walking out on ECW for WCW while under ECW contract was said by Awesome to involve breaches of contract due to not being paid.
ECW workers leaving the company is not a matter of dedication or commitment to ECW by its workers, popularly known by some of the company's fans as "selling out". That isn't the issue and hasn't been for some time.
The issue is the financial instability of ECW as a company and Paul Heyman's unwillingness to relinquish enough control for the company to take the steps necessary to survive.
If any of the three things I've mentioned above: a new national television carrier, a change/modification in ownership, and a movement toward treating ECW LIKE a business (such as running larger arenas in markets like Philadelphia) do NOT take place; ECW as we know it will not be in business at this time next year.
Certain ECW fans can send me all the e-mails they wish saying that this column is just another example of PWBTS writers hating ECW. That, of course, would explain why a portion of the column is dedicated to asking AS I SEE IT readers to contact potential national television carriers.
For newer readers, this is a reference to the fact that PWBTS writers began to point out as far back as late 1996 that there were elements within ECW that could result in the company's potential demise. As a result, we got hate e-mails by the hundreds, were trashed on message and bulletin boards, as well as by rival newsletters. We were told we weren't "loyal", as if blindly defending a wrestling promotion was some sort of patriotic act.
But the people who wrote those posts, letters and e-mails in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 can't deny reality any longer.
Unless ECW obtains a new national television carrier, new ownership, and starts making fundamental changes in many of the ways it does business, the company simply will NOT survive. This would be a tragedy for ECW's workers and its fans. It would be a tragedy for those who don't even follow ECW, because it would mean one less place for talented workers to perform, thus hurting the business overall.
No wishing and hoping can change that fact.
Only Paul Heyman can.
We'll all see together if he does.
Until next time
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)