by David Swan
Last Thursday marked the three year anniversary of the full time resurrection of Extreme Championship Wrestling and amazingly more than a quarter of a decade later, "hardcore" ECW fans are still crying about it. Well its time for this to come to an end, somebody has it say it, and I guess its going to be me... The new ECW is better than the old ECW!!!! I'll do you one better than that the majority of the old ECW SUCKED!
Now before all of the smart marks rise from their parent's basements to attack me, allow me to defend my opinion. ECW's Legacy is completely fueled my nostalgia. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, this isn't a new revelation, but it needs to be stated. Nostalgia causes our parents to claim that shows like "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners" were 'hilarious' and causes people from my generation to swear that "80's cartoons are better than the $hit on TV today". We live in a society driven by nostalgia... if you don't believe me look no further than the Hollywood Box Office. This summer alone the biggest films are ALL remakes of ideas from the 60's, 70's, & 80's... Star Trek, X-Men, Transformers, & G.I. Joe.
Now back to ECW, for anybody reading this that's not familiar with ECW, here is the very abridged version of the history of the company. ECW was founded in 1992 by Todd Gordon, and reached its most notoriety in the mid-late 90's under the leadership of Paul Heyman. In August 1994, a well timed publicity stunt helped ECW gain momentum as an "anti-establishment" wrestling company when Shane Douglas captured the NWA Championship and immediately threw it in the garbage and declared himself "ECW World Champion".
ECW established a rapid fan base and produced many ideas and stars that were "stolen" by WWE & WCW. Paul Heyman masterfully portrayed the WWE & WCW as nothing short of Satan & Lucifer and used that image to gain the support of wrestling fans and wrestlers alike. Heyman would repeatedly accuse Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff of raiding his talent roster, but the truth is that Heyman was WWE's payroll at the time and much of ECW was being funded by Vince McMahon. WWE and ECW even ran several "inter promotional" angles leading into ECW's break out year.
It been debated a million times as to what caused the fall of ECW, in my opinion the blame falls solely on the shoulders of Paul Heyman, but not for the reasons that others claim. In the end Paul made the mistake of forgetting that ECW was a "niche" product that appealed to a small percent of wrestling fans. ECW expanded way bigger than it should have, by the end of the 90's ECW was running monthly Pay Per Views, had a weekly prime time show on the TNN Network, had DVD deals, video games, and action figures. The problem was that while they had all these things, what they lacked was a fan base big enough to warrant them and before long the company crumbled around them.
On April 4, 2001, Paul Heyman officially closed the company and declared bankruptcy. Vince McMahon then proceeded to buy the remain of the company from the courts, paying off the nearly 9 million dollars in dept that the company had acquired.
In 2005, WWE released a DVD documentary called "The Rise and Fall of ECW" the DVD was such a huge success (rumors have it that this DVD alone brought in more money than it cost WWE to buy ECW) that in June of 2005 held an ECW Reunion Show on Pay Per View. A year later, WWE re launched the company as the WWE's third brand.
By pretty much every bodies account the original launch of the WWE's ECW brand was a mess. WWE fans had little interest in seeing much of the old ECW talent and ECW fans automatically resented anything that wasn't from the original ECW. Eventually, WWE realized what Paul Heyman had forgotten five years earlier... that a world wide brand could not survive being marketed directly at a "niche crowd" and when WWE completely transformed ECW into a WWE style product the product FINALLY became watchable.
Its become trendy to bash the new ECW but I'm going to defend it.
FACT: ECW gives you the highest percentage of wrestling per show of any wrestling program on TV.
FACT: ECW has been the home of COUNTLESS new superstars that would have been welcomed into the old ECW with open arms: CM Punk, Evan Bourne, Tyson Kid, Kofi Kingston, John Morrison, and Elijah Burke to name a few.
FACT: ECW has been the home of many established stars that the "internet community" LOVES: Rob Van Dam, Chris Benoit, Matt Hardy, Chavo Guerrero, Fit Finley, Christian, Hurricane Helms, and others.
FACT: The new ECW has already produced more main event talent than the old ECW. Not one World Champion from the old ECW would ever go onto another World Title after leaving (and no TNA does not count in my book). Where as Rob Van Dam, CM Punk, Big Show, Mr. McMahon, & Kane have all held the ECW & WWE/World Championships.
FACT: Nearly one million more people watch "ECW on Sci Fi" every week than watched "ECW on TNN".
Back in the 90's, ECW was a proving ground for young talent. Countless future World Champions including: Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin all got their big breaks there. And that is one thing that hasn't changed, years from now we will look back at men like CM Punk, John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, The Hart Dynasty, Evan Bourne, and others and remember that they TOO got their first BIG breaks in ECW.
In closing, its time for people to realize that the ECW they remember is gone... its gone and no matter how many companies try to replicate it, you simply can't capture lightening twice. What stands before us now is a new ECW, an ECW that in many ways is far superior to its predecessor and if some people would give it a chance they might actually enjoy themselves.