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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Why Doesn't Anybody Get It"
June 20, 2006 by Burke Fengler


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The return of ECW has happened. The moment everybody was waiting for with bated breath has occurred. Everybody's talking about it. I'm not seeing a lot of good response from the latest incarnation.

People are saying that it reeks of McMahon. Honestly, it does, but that's not what's missing from our latest version of ECW. People are saying that the Sci-Fi Channel connection is the fly in the ointment. I don't think that's the problem either. I have a friend who's been in the industry who is trying to get involved with WWE even as this is written and have seen the ideas he has submitted to creative. Ideas that included vampires and science-fiction elements. Ideas that if presented to me on television, would compel me to watch. And this person isn't a no-talent hack who is jock sniffing to get into the industry. This is a graduate of the Wild Samoan wrestling school who has been on the same card as wrestlers like Owen Hart and Mick Foley. The fact of the matter is that a good booker can take the silliest idea and get it over. Paul Heyman was a master at this. If you watched ECW from the beginning, and saw the debut of the Dudleys, you know what I'm talking about. At first glance, Little Snot, Big Dick, and Dudley Dudley were probably the silliest thing I had seen in ECW yet. (And no, Bubba Ray and D-Von were not part of the original incarnation). We all know how that gimmick ended up. It's not completely Vince McMahon's fault that the new ECW stinks so far. It's not bad ideas or science fiction. It's two things. Passion and misunderstanding.

Let's start with passion. One of the main reasons that ECW was so awesome back in the day was the passion of everybody involved with the company. It started right at the top with Paul Heyman, whose passion for the business would shine through in everything he did. It was his passion for the business that inspired everyone in the company to follow suit. Everyone was out to give the fan every ounce of energy they had to make the fans go home happy. This passion was the fuel that made the ECW engine run.

ECW fans were passionate because they weren't just watching the show, they were part of it. Sign Guy and Hat Guy weren't just fans, they were part of the show. Fans would go to the dollar store and bring weapons for the wrestlers to use, and they would actually use them. The audience was allowed to participate. People would bring creative signs and they would be part of the show. (If you think this originated in Stamford, watch old WWF tapes from prior to 1995 and see how many signs were in the crowd before the ECW influence.) The curtain was pulled back a bit, and the fans were allowed inside. THIS is what created the rabidly loyal fan following. If you go to a WWE show, you bought your ticket, and you're allowed to watch and bring a sign (unless your sign disagrees with McMahonagement) and that's about it.

ECW wrestlers also had more reason to be passionate due to the fact that most of the wrestlers had other positions in the company. It was well documented in "The Rise and Fall of ECW" what these roles were. When the wrestlers are doubling as your sales force, your ring crew, your street team, and your artists, they tend to have more passion than somebody who simply shows up when they are supposed to. The wrestlers were more passionate and bled ECW because they literally WERE ECW. Look at it from this perspective. If you built your own house from the ground up, you would be much more likely to care for and maintain it than you would an apartment or a room at the Holiday Inn. Old school ECW wrestlers helped build the house they lived in. The new ECW wrestlers are part of a media conglomerate. They're staying at the Holiday Inn. Old school ECW employees were passionate because they invested a lot of their literal blood, sweat and tears into the business. In the new ECW, the checks come from Stamford. The workers show up where and when they are supposed to. The workers don't seem to have as much passion for the new ECW because it's painfully obvious they don't have a stake in the new ECW.

Vince was right. "At the end of the day, Mr. McMahon is still in charge". Heyman can't be the Pied Piper this time because it doesn't seem like he's playing the tune anymore. Heyman could still elicit this same passion for ECW if he was truly handed the keys to the car. This is still Paul's baby, and it's not too late to let him run the show the way it was meant to be.

The second part of this is misunderstanding. Vince and Co. OBVIOUSLY don't get, and never got ECW. Did you ever see a match in the old ECW start with garbage cans full of weapons sitting around the ring" Not often. Why did we never see a hardcore battle royal where all weapons were legal" As my aforementioned friend stated, "because we never wanted it.". ECW wasn't just about hardcore. ECW wasn't just about crazy spots. Why is it that McMahonagement always thinks that all it takes to recreate ECW is leave some weapons lying around and do crazy spots" If that's all it took, XPW would still be around and would be a major fed. ECW fans LOVE straight wrestling matches, provided that the rest holds are at a minimum and the participants know a headlock from a hole in the ground. Look at the Malenko-Guerrero classics from the summer of '95. There wasn't any blood, flaming chairs, or cheese graters. Just wrestling. As Gordon Solie used to say, "The name on the marquee is wrestling." Fans will still watch wrestling.

When you watched an ECW show in its prime, you got it all. Old school wrestlers, up and comers, technical expertise, intricate storylines, AND garbage wrestling. ECW was like a stew. There were a ton of ingredients mixed together to make a dish better than the sum of its parts. ECW was also about an alternative. In ECW's heyday, we had Hulk Hogan's geriatric band of has-beens on WCW, and garbage-men squaring off against clowns in the WWF. ECW simply targeted people who missed wrestling in all of its forms. ECW can still work in the same way if Vince would pull his head out of his butt and realize that the average ECW fan wants an ALTERNATIVE to his other products. All the proceeds go to his pocket anyway. I don't understand why he can't just swallow his pride and realize that a successful ECW will still line his own pockets. Sports Entertainment fans will still know where to find their show. ECW wasn't and isn't for everybody. ECW fans want a McMahon-free product, or at the very least, McMahon lite.

I would disagree with anyone who believes that now isn't a great time to bring back ECW. Wrestling fans are dying for an alternative. It's very similar to 1994 right now in the wrestling world. The business was in a downturn. We have a group (TNA) that is trying to push names of the past (Nash, Sting, Steiner) over the true future of the business (Samoa Joe, Styles, Daniels). This reeks of WCW. We've got RAW trying to be as ridiculous as possible (just like 1994 in the WWF), and we have a glorified indy on Friday nights in SmackDown!, which basically is treated like a B-Team by the WWE. (Kind of like Thunder for WCW in the late 90's). Fans NEED an alternative. And yes, I am aware of and have enjoyed Ring Of Honor. But it just ain't on TV, and it isn't the bouillabaise that ECW was. The average Joe like me wants convenience. Vince has a unique opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle twice. All he needs to do is hand Paul Heyman the keys to the car, keep it gassed up for him and stay out of the way.

by Burke Fengler ..


Jay Canton wrote:
ok, i dont reply much on here, but i cant help myself here. i am so tired of hearing people whine about the new ecw. listen if it was sooo great back then it wouldnt have went out of business. if it had so many viewers, like everyone claims, tv stations would have lined up to sign it to a contract. all it was, and is, is a cheap second rate wrestling/stunt show that was brought on for the sole purpose of putting TNA out of business. which by the way if TNA was so great it could manage better than a midnight time slot on the east coast. wwe is the king of wrestling everyone just needs to get that thru their head. raw is the number one show and always will be. ecw will die as soon as school starts back and all the little kids that wanna watch that stupid shit have to be in bed b4 it goes off. so please stop whining about mcmahon, telling him to change things, just quit watching, that will send the best message of all.
Dylan L. wrote:
Actually, what I don't understand, is why don't people like you get it. You people, excuse me, you ECW fans don't get it. There are so many different levels of this that you people are not comprehending. I am sick and tired of people complaining about Vince McMahon. You people are always complaining about him, but he has the best professional wrestling show in America. That is apart of why ECW won't work though. Don't get it" don't get why I was just talking good about Vince McMahon, and now I'm talking bad" Well, listen up.

I am no ECW fan. I would rather watch a regular one on one wrestling match. With no catches. That's why I've never been crazy about ECW, but are people exactly opposite of me. I respect them, but they just aren't thinking it through. They are always talking about back in the glory days of ECW with Sandman, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, Terry Funk, Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten,etc.! You people don't realize. Look at that list. Really, just look at it! These men are so much older than "back in the day", they can't do the stuff they use too. Some people that that were in ECW back then don't even wrestle anymore.

Okay, that's a major problem out of the way that no one seems to understand. But you know, I'm just going straight to the core. I'm skipping all the little nifty do's and do da's. You people are complaining about Vince McMahon, well listen up. He is funding ECW all of the way. Without WWE, there would be an ECW. Because Vince wouldn't have the money. so WWE must be doing something right if they have enough money to start another brand, but yet all you people do is complain. If I was funding a company that wasn't mine. I would want ownership in it also. I would do it the way I wanted to.

So, the point is, you people are right, Vince is messing it up, but it is his money. If you people are angry about this, and it not being "extreme" enough. Go jump of a roof, through a "extreme" table with thumbtacks on it, with a beds of nails wrapped in barbed wire tied around it on fire. Get someone to record you doing it. then when your "extreme" butt is in an "extreme" hospital. You can "extremely" cry in pain as you watch it over and over again.
Ryan W. wrote:
After reading this article and the subsequent responses, I understand why the people who responded said what they said. But just because Vince is the only one standing doesn't mean he has the "best" show. And a few of those responses were quick to say "well if it's so great, why didn't tv stations pick them up"" Because there's more to it than that. Certain sponsors will worry about certain aspects of the show, execs worry about time slots based on what else is on during their air time, etc. Also, when ECW was on tv the first time, they got the shaft; plain and simple. As they say: "you can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it no one will see it."

Vince is ruining the new ECW because he's trying too hard to prove that he's always right. He needs to just let Paul Heyman run the show and stand back. It's not like Paul can't build talent. Let older guys like Dreamer, Sandman and Funk get their last 15 minutes in the spot light and Heyman will premier new, awesome talents as he did with RVD, Lance Storm, Tazz, the Dudley's, Raven, Rhino, Justin Credible, etc. After he lost his big names, he turned around and made names for guys like Credible, Mike Awesome, Masato Tanaka, Yoshoshiro Tajiri and others.

If the new ECW is to continue, Vince needs to check his ego at the door and realize that this will fail with him at the helm. He's just lucky that TNA is stumbling to push their young stars and attracting new fans instead of taking advantage of the lackluster product in WWE.
Richard Miller wrote:
Everyone seems to be complaining about the new ECW, yet so far it's the highest rated show on cable television. These same people who complain are still going to watch it every Tuesday, and when ECW comes to town, these same people are going to buy the tickets.

We all know it's not the same thing as it was ten years ago, i.e. taped in a crappy venue with crappy picture quality. I never really followed ECW back in the day, but I would watch every now and then. And the funny thing is, that's probably no different than most of the people here - most of the people who are excited about ECW's return are a bunch of poseurs. That is, unless you're excited for THIS reason: It's a new brand for WWE. We get to watch WWE three times a week, and not just two. That's right - do like I do, and just enjoy the show for what it is; that is, a third brand of the WWE on a new night, and a brand that will add to the excitement of WWE as a whole, as long as the ECW roster is utilized at the interpromotional PPV's
Richard wrote:
You simply proved my point and the point of others who said that ECW should not be resurrected. Not because ECW could not succeed in its past form, but because Vinny Mac would not allow ECW to exist in its past form. Anyone who was a true ECW fan would tell you that if Paul Heyman was calling the shots then ECW would have an excellent chance at a second life. But until Vinny Mac gets out of the way, ECW will be destined to fail...................
Jesse Lee wrote:
My response is to the first two who responded to this column. I'm a huge fan of ECW and I find it difficult on how anyone could not want a different alternative than just a two-nights a week deal. When I first started watching, there was RAW IS WAR and WCW Nitro, as well as WWF LiveWire and WWF Superstars on the weekend. I would record RAW and watch Nitro on Wednesday, so I ended up having wrestling available throughout the week.

Now we have RAW on Mondays, ECW on Tuesdays, TNA on Thursdays, Smackdown! on Fridays, and plus, the RAW Replay thing. We also have Velocity and Heat on the Internet, plus, a few PPVs every month. Right now, there's wrestling for everyone with their own types, plus there's still ROH (which I've only seen three matches of.)

I, too, find it rather dumb to complain about Vince, it's not as though he's wanting to kill wrestling. It's just that he has his own image in mind. However, the fans have a right to complain (no matter what their complaints are towards) because they're the ones Vince wants to bring in. Would you ignore those who don't watch your product and risk losing your audience or would you try to find something for them to enjoy and attempt to keep them viewing" Yeah one person won't do anything, but given how impressionable most of the Internet wrestling community is, it could expand.
David Temrick wrote:
Normally I would jump right on the ECW bandwagon here. Because I am a fan. I'm not a fan because of the chair shots and spinning leg lariats off the ring onto a prone wrestler. I'm a fan because the men and women who made ECW gave everything they had to entertain us. I wonder if we can say that about more than a handful of people in the WWE right now"

To give ECW some credibility and a slightly larger roster they recruited Big Show and Kurt Angle to ECW. They put Paul in his old leather trench coat and a suit that doesn't look like it was just in a cows mouth. Do I think it's been "McMahonised"" Well sure. But to be honest it's not as bad as everyone seems to be thinking.

Back when ECW got onto TNN it was already being funded by Vince. He was given Paul money so that he could use the ECW talent as a pool to draw from for the WWE. Remember that when you list off the "hayday" characters of ECW you need to list in there all the wrestlers that made a stop in ECW and came out better for it.

Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Eddie, Taz, RVD, Mick Foley....the list goes on and on. Love it or hate it, ECW will always be a fan favorite because the talent gave everything to make sure the fans went home happy. This isn't always the case, but most hardcore fans would agree that ECW offers the fan a larger variety and guys AND girls willing to take a Singapore Cane to the head.
Shane Trent wrote:
I'm sick of people with their "Vince must be doing something right if" shpiel. Or "if ECW and TNA were so great they'd be number one right now". These are viewpoints of ignorance. To think that has quality is the only factor in financial success is the same logic in saying Armagedden is a greater movie than the Godfather because it made more money. I won't waste the space explaining, but once Jay and Dylan get a little older they'll realize the folly of their ways.

As for the article, he nailed it. Vince doesn't get it, and never will. In the late 90's Russo and Ferrara took ECW's adult elements and sold it to Vince, he bought it and "Attitude" was born. But that wasn't the soul of ECW. The soul of ECW is about rebellion. It's about punk rock crashing into disco, it was about grunge kicking hair bands in the balls. Vince doesn't understand that concept because he's never been an underdog. (And before anyone thinks an ignorant statement like "yeah, but Vince took on Billionaire Ted" you don't understand the situation. The only thing that made Vince an underdog was his ignorance allowing WCW to pass up the WWF in the mid 90's.) WWE thinks ECW is about girls stripping naked. That is Vince's version of "adult content". When Heyman's version of "adult content" is gearing storylines to adults, as in not treating the fans like they are seven years old.

I think just a few simple changes would improve the show dramatically:

* Tape the show in a smaller arena with pure ECW fans. For new viewers to see a rabid packed house of maniacs is going to get the product more over than a overly tired Smackdown arena with dim lighting.

* TAPE the show. Heyman pieced together brilliant shows with editing and a lot of taped out of ring content. Bring that back. I don't want to hear about costs of an extra taping. Tape once every 3 weeks and get 3 episodes together.

* Create more video packages on the old ECW stars, and other classic ECW moments and matches. For old fans it'll remind us WHY we love these guys. For new fans it'll show them why the old fans LOVE these guys. Honestly I followed ECW as much as anybody, but it's been anywhere from 7-10 years since I last saw some of these guys in an ECW ring, and I can't remember every one of the 10,000 angles they participated in. My mind is too cluttered from 3 years of Eugene angles!

* End the "Invasion" angles. I know they promised Sci-Fi interaction with RAW, but the only people its getting over is Edge and John Cena, not ECW.

* Add a rebellious element to this show. ECW is a rebellious entity. There's truly nothing edgy about Sandman caning the Zombie. We need to see this as a worked shoot. We need to see Heyman vs. McMahon. Even if its just in storyline, Paul Heyman needs to go out there and shoot on McMahon saying he's sick of him, his writers, and the Sci-Fi network ruining ECW and he's taking it back. Then go off about how Heyman has contractual power over ECW, and he's taking it back. A piece of paper saying Vince owns ECW doesn't mean anything because the fans own ECW not Vince. Now ECW has something it never had before, corporate backing. And he's going to use all the money Vince ever earned off of him and use it against him, by stealing stars from RAW and SMACKDOWN, and by breaking gold plated tables, trashing hotel rooms, and whatever else they can spend money on. Paul will vow to make Vince regret ever buying ECW. Then the McMahons can get involved on the show leading to a point where Vince finally "sells" ECW back to Heyman.

I'm actually not sure if I want this version of ECW to succeed. Part of me just wants to put it to rest if its going to be Vince's version. It's almost like seeing yet another KISS reunion tour. I see guys that look like Peter and Ace but I don't think that's Peter and Ace....
joseph sonkowsky wrote:
The new ECW is nothing like the old ECW. The old ECW was edgy, hardcore and had some great wrestling matches. Malenko-Guerreo in '95 were some classics. Vince stole the ECW gimmick with Attitude. It was a smart move for him as it propelled him past WCW. Now, he needs to let Paul E run ECW so there can be some form of competition and both RAW and ECW can prosper. At least with the old ECW there was plenty of in ring action. Not like wrestlers fathering hands, 80 year old women stripping, or a wrestler attempting go at it with a corpse. At least Paul E presented a product that was focused on the athleticism and not the drama. He gave us the steak with the sizzle and not just the sizzle. His promotion revolutionized the industry and I dare say Vince and his writers should have taken some more notes. I'll take a good Chris Benoit-Sabu match anyday over Eugene-Umaga. Benoit has great technical savvy and Sabu revolutionized hardcore. Eugene is a glorified challenged person and Umaga is a cheap Samoa Joe ripoff. I don't think either of the latter knows a wristwatch from a wristlock. Bottom line is that Vince is a great business man and Paul E is a great booker. For a true wrestling fan Paul E presented a much better product. Vince may now own it, but he needs to let Paul E do what he does.
Kenny McKnight wrote:
after reading this article and the comments that it has recieved, I'm surprised....I really am. I mean...the first two comments were absolutely rediculous. Those people obviously dont get it. I am a fan of all wrestling and I follow WWE (including ECW) and TNA closely. This was a very fun article to read and it had some really good points to it. Vince needs to get a clue. He just wants to make money and right now he has the opportunity to make a good deal of green (Made myself think of monday night with the spirit squad when I typed that.) Anyways....Vince needs to take a step back and let ECW make him the money he intended to make from it when he made the call to bring it back....Let ECW help build up his wrestling dynasty even more than it already has been.
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