AS I SEE IT 8/15/2001
by: Bob Magee

Some thoughts on various subjects:

-- The debut of Main Event Championship Wrestling

I attended the debut show of Main Event Championship Wrestling Saturday night at Philadelphia's ECW Arena.

Free show or not, the crowd was impressive. Other things weren't impressive. Most things were OK for a start.

First, I fully expected to see no more than 300 or 400 people there. MECW did no advertising, other than limited online advertising, leafleting of the Monday Night RAW in Philadelphia, and word of mouth.

The crowd was easily over 1,300...packed on the level of the old days at the Bingo Hall.

MECW should get a fair number of people back the next time on September 22, with the possible problem of running against ECWA in Wilmington (featuring Christopher Daniels), as well as a rumored CZW date. The MECW crowd had a fair number of CZW fans at the show, which could take away from a potential MECW house that night.

I also liked the touch of John Collins (although not introducing himself as owner) coming out and thanking those in line one by one for attending.

It was also great to see Curt Hennig looking great in the ring again. He doesn't seem to be missing a step, and looked to be in almost identical shape to his WWF prime.

Then there was the not so impressive...

There was Buff Bagwell's refusal to job to NWA Champion Steve Corino, resulted in a sort of match with Jack Victory. Given that Steve Corino has caught heat from Howard Brody for even putting over talent once in a non-title match in Dusty Rhodes's Turnbuckle Championship was clear that Corino couldn't do the job here.

It's been reported that Bagwell left the building by intermission. I wouldn't be surprised if he's burned another bridge with this fiasco.

The one that seemed to annoy the crowd the most was the absence of Barry Windham, who was backstage...but who backed out of a bizarre match tagging with Mike Rotundo against former Pitbull Gary Wolfe and local indy worker Johnny Hot Body, who were both doing a laughable "Gladiator" gimmick, with a costumed gimmick right out of the days of the 1980s Titan Toon Adventures. Local indy wrestler Rockin Rebel quickly filled in for Windham, as the match was turned into a quick squash.

I hope that this promotion succeeds. But there are lessons that John Collins and lead booker Jim Fullington (aka The Sandman) have to learn:

* If Collins has money, as he's rumored to have, he should spend it to advertise in the Philly market...but spend it smartly. Word of mouth won't always work like it did Saturday. If he runs local cable commercials on Comcast and other area cable services during wrestling programming, he can get a good bang for his buck.

* In the long term, Collins should consider buildings other than the Arena if he draws well on a consistent basis. ECW made a mistake with staying in the Arena three years after they could have run mid-sized venues in the Philadelphia area, and made money doing so. MECW should avoid their mistake.

* Collins and those booking shouldn't put up with prima donna behavior like that of Bagwell Saturday night. He should learn one of the most important lessons of the last years of Turner's it crashed and burned because of the inmates running the asylum. Bagwell has been ridiculed online almost since the show ended for his actions.

* Get some consistent storylines. Granted, this was a first show... But giving crowds storyline reasons to come back is an essential. Crowds aren't always going to come back month after month because of mere brand loyalty.

* Don't promise what you can't deliver. All the news of "names signed to contracts" that aren't, "TV stations that will air the show" that aren't (yet) going to do so; and the like created a lot of confusion and unnecessary ridicule for a promotion just getting started.

-- The politics of online shilling...

Speaking of MECW, there has been some online controversy about certain websites giving Main Event Championship Wrestling too much free publicity....or, if you will, "shilling".

I guess I look at it this long as everyone is aware of the interests being served, I don't have that much problem with people helping their friends. I plug Combat Zone Wrestling, Jersey All-Pro Wrestling, NWA-Jersey, the East Coast Wrestling Alliance, and Liberty All-Star Wrestling in the Philadelphia area, and Heartland Wrestling Alliance and Ohio Valley Wrestling because I'm friendly with promoters and/or workers in each company...and because I like their varied styles of product.

I also do so for other independent promotions around the country, simply because I believe in promoting independent wrestling.

But in the first case, I try to be clear that I'm doing just that...helping friends and independent wrestling overall.

I'm not collecting a paycheck from any of these promoters, nor am I seeking the promise of one. There are only two local independent promoters who comp me into shows. Others don't. I promote their shows anyway...just the same as if I were walking into the shows free.

The credibility issue in situations like this would be solved so easily by a simple step: if webmasters or reporters are promoting a show because they are getting paid, are friendly with people in the promotion, or are seeking work in it....then for God's sakes, let them just say so.

No one writing about wrestling is working for a Pulitzer Prize.

But if a writer is promoting a company the friend owns or works for; be straight about it...and the information being provided will be treated with far less skepticism than if these relationships or motivations are being hidden.

When they aren't straight about it, the plugs will be treated with skepticism.

I think it's just that simple.

-- They're damned if they do and damned if they don't...

A webmaster noted for his reporting on Japanese wrestling publicly ripped Paul Levesque for making an appearance at the Terry Gordy Memorial this past weekend, claiming it was an act of "self-promotion".

OK, let me get this straight... someone from North America's major wrestling promotion appears at a show designed to pay respects to a wrestling legend (something, I should add, his promotion largely failed to do until they mentioned his appearance at this event)..and he's doing something wrong?

As I've read it, HHH put over Terry Gordy and the Freebirds....not himself. I think it's commendable that he took the time to do it, given that he was doing rehab in Birmingham. If that's "self-promotion", I'd like to see a helluva lot more people in wrestling doing it.

-- Since when do "family values" include deliberate deception?

As I've reported on many of these sites, WWFE, Inc. has filed a Third Amended Complaint in their civil lawsuit against the Parents Television Council, L. Brent Bozell, and others; which can be read in full here

The new highlights of the amended complaint back up what those of us involved with Wrestling Fans Against Censorship have been saying for nearly two years about the deliberate "Big Lie" strategy employed by the PTC so as to create an image of public and corporate sentiment being on their side. Now here's concrete numbers to prove it.

Some of these examples cited in the amendment to the complaint include:

* Regarding initiatives undertaken to lobby the Coast Guard in December 1999, claiming that they spoke on behalf of "300,000 members of the PTC". In fact, the PTC had only mailed 154,474 letters containing the "Warning to Sponsors" to PTC Members and only 7,692 of those had been signed and returned (4.9 percent of the letters mailed, and 2.5 percent of the alleged 300,000).

* Regarding initiatives undertaken to lobby the US Department of Transportation in December, claiming to speak on behalf of "300,000 members" In fact, the PTC had only mailed 154,474 letters and received only 7,692 reponses.

* Regarding lobbying of General Motors, Ford, AT&T and Wendy's in October 1999 that involved mailing of 154,474 letters to "PTC members". The letters requested that the Members sign and return an enclosed "Warning to Sponsors Reply Form." In response, the PTC received 7,692 signed forms (4.9 percent of the letters mailed).

* Regarding a July 26, 2000 letter mailed to the CEO of Subway and forty-four other CEOs of major corporate sponsors and advertisers, Bozell stated: "As Chairman of the Parents Television Council, I am writing you on behalf of our 500,000 members to ask you to exercise responsible advertising practices and stop sponsoring WWF Smackdown! with Subway's advertising dollars."

At the time of this letter, PTC had received, at the most, 161,879 signed forms from people authorizing them to speak on their behalf (only 32 percent of the stated number).

This, not to mention the nine companies still listed on the PTC "Good Guys" List that are advertising on RAW and/or Smackdown and/or Heat. Here's the truth about what they've done since January 1:

* ConAgra - has advertised on 68 episodes, plus sponsored 1 PPV
* M&M/Mars - has advertised on 49 episodes, plus sponsored 2 PPVs
* 1-800-CALL-ATT - has advertised on 32 episodes
* 1-800-COLLECT - has advertised on 30 episodes
* Burger King - has advertised on 23 episodes
* US Armed Forces - has advertised on 16 episodes
* Pep Boys - has advertised on 11 episodes
* Ford Motor Company - has advertised on 6 episodes
* Wrigley - has advertised on 1 episode, returning to advertising within the last two weeks.

Now everyone has the right to freedom of speech, whether or not one agrees with their opinion; including the Parents Television Council. But libel, slander and defamation against a person or a corporate entity are not protected speech. Neither is blatant, deliberate, and documented lying about the facts of a situation, several examples of which are above.

Eventually, the PTC is going to find this fact out the hard way...before they're driven into bankruptcy by the verdict of the civil suit against them.

Until next time...


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