AS I SEE IT - 9/15/2000
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This week...in one of the most transparent cases of Paul Heyman spin-doctoring ever, the following official statement was issued on ECWWrestling.com earlier this week:
"ECW's live events for this weekend in Des Moines, IA, Omaha, NE and Sioux City, IA have been cancelled. Fans who have already purchased tickets for these events can receive a refund from either the box office of each venue or Ticketmaster. The ECW locker room has been ravaged by injuries that are the result of our unique style of entertainment and ECW does not want to give fans less than one hundred percent of what they have come to expect from us. Furthermore, we want our roster as healthy as possible for the Anarchy Rulz pay-per-view on Sunday night October 1.
ECW will reschedule these events in the not so distant future. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our loyal fans. "
Then there was transparent case of Paul Heyman spin-doctoring number two reported by Jason Powell in the Pro Wrestling Torch.
"ECW or Paul Heyman has just cancelled their tour for the states of Iowa/Nebraska this weekend. The reason being that Heyman won't be able to pay his wrestlers due to the fact that he has to exchange the Canadian money made from this past weekend's tour in Canada to American money."
A number of sources have provided estimates on the time required for exchanging Canadian to US currency ranging from "instantly" to "an hour" to "72 hours". Specifically, a representative from American Express International Payment Services indicated to me by phone on September 13th that, while American Express itself doesn't handle such outgoing transfers/conversions, such a transfer could be accomplished in 72 hours maximum.
Others have even stated that with most major banks, Paul Heyman (or the appropriate ECW personnel) could translate the money using home computers.
In terms of the other stated reason... the fact of the matter is this, while a number of ECW wrestlers are hurt, that fact has little to do with the cancellation of the shows. ECW workers are dedicated women and men who have worked through such injuries as broken jaws and blown knees. Injuries aren't the reason at all.
The truth of the matter is this: Paul Heyman is too embarrassed to admit to his fans that he can't pay his workers this week.
It hasn't anything to do with currency. After all, someone in ECW certainly knew about what would be needed to transfer money from Canada well before the show in Mississauga, Ontario.
It's been well documented that payroll problems have been going on in ECW for some time now. ECW has been a week behind on paying its workers recently. With this news, they are now further behind. Any major wrestling or entertainment company that is barely making payroll week to week is in serious trouble.
Along with these financial concerns which have affected the company for the year 2000, Paul Heyman and the wrestling world are now awaiting the verdict of the USA Networks-WWF appeal. In Jason Powell's article, which originally broke the story of the three cancelled shows and the "currency transfer problems", Paul Heyman admitted that ECW was living hand to mouth while it awaits the verdict in USA Network's appeal of its court case with the WWF.
While it's been widely rumored for at least a month that ECW and USA are near an agreement to air a two hour ECW show late night on Saturdays; any agreement is being held in limbo by the USA-WWF trial. Until that case is resolved, it appears that ECW can't sign the desperately needed agreement with USA.
Heyman was said in the Powell article to have known the company would struggle financially until the USA Network appeal was decided, but had not thought it would take this long.
The cancellation of this weekend's shows because of "currency transfer problems" can't help but make those ECW workers considering other options even more ready to do so.
This has not been an easy year for ECW.
The year 2000 has featured lawsuits against ECW as well. Raymond Schweitzer, a long time ECW Arena fan filed a suit against ECW claiming negligence in an incident involving Terry Funk and Mick Foley when a flaming chair that Mick Foley brought into the ring to strike Terry Funk actually sent a flaming rag attached to a chair flying into the crowd.
Schweitzer then claimed that he suffered burns over many parts of his body due to the fire going into the crowd. Schweitzer claimed that because of that, he suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome in 1996 which caused an accident on his motorcycle resulting in the loss of a leg.
While the suit was dismissed, more than a few people view its dismissal as relating more to the actions (or lack thereof) of Schweitzer's attorney, rather than the facts of the incident in question.
Then this week, the September 11th Raleigh News-Observer reported on a lawsuit filed against ECW by a fan claiming that a Rob Van Dam flip off the top rope into the crowd in February 1999 left him with permanent back and leg injuries; and further claims that Van Dam was under the influence of drugs at the time.
While it would be exceedingly difficult... bordering on impossible... to prove the latter charge from a night 19 months ago, it is certainly true that many such spots by Van Dam and others have involved risk to ECW crowds (and to the crowds of other promotions employing styles similar to ECW).
But the overwhelming theme this year for ECW has been that of financial difficulties.
Back in the July 6, 2000 AS I SEE IT, I wrote about the subject of ECW's finances.
"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 [this column was originally written prior to the incident in Los Angeles].
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 a move: 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...
...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."
Two months later, little or nothing has changed.
Back a year ago, everyone thought that the TV deal with TNN would be ECW's salvation.
It wasn't, for any more than the short-term.
The fact is that even if ECW is able to make an agreement with USA Networks in the next month, with the concurrent badly needed revenue and exposure; things will likely be no different for ECW in the long term. A year or two from now, columns like this one will be written again.
Unless ECW makes the fundamental changes necessary in its actual operations, and sells off part of the company for long-term financial stability, the only thing that will happen is the inevitable being postponed.
All the posts on message boards, hate e-mails, and derogatory comments on websites directed at PWBTS, at me, and at anyone who criticizes ECW; as happened during the Raymond Schweitzer trial... won't change the truth of what this column says. Only Paul Heyman can.
The survival of ECW is in Paul Heyman's hands.... with all the years of dedication.... all of the heart and all of the soul...all of the blood, sweat and pain of its workers... with all the fanatical support by the company's supporters...
All of it is at stake.
If ECW dies, its blood will be on his hands.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)