Monday, April 27, 2009

Jack Swagger’s fall from grace

I feared this day would come. I knew it would happen. I knew it would only be a matter of time. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. I didn’t think this calamity would happen all so quickly. But, it happened. The worst has become reality, and now, there’s nothing more for him to do, say, or even attempt because it will be mired in mediocrity. On April 13, 2009, at around 9:10 PM, Jack Swagger’s career ended in the middle of the ring. It ended with him tapping out. It ended with an amateur wrestling prodigy like himself submitting to a very poorly done submission move. It ended at the hands…….of John Cena.

Once again, the WWE, unable to learn from the foolish mistakes they make or have made, destroyed another young prodigy before something could be done with his career. Sure, he had some stellar matches as of late, and has cut a very incredible pace in the ring against some key and not-so-key wrestlers, but to snuff out his flame before it’s even lit is just disgusting, disgraceful, empty-handed, closed-minded, and downright criminal. Now, I may be making it out to sound like he’s dead or critically injured, but he isn’t. Don’t take it in that light, at all. Just look at it as if your favorite underrated sports star got cut…again…from another team because he was expendable. Look at it as if your favorite wrestler was fired after not being utilized properly. Jack Swagger joins the many different superstars that have fallen at the hands of Cena, bad creative writing, non-existent booking, and overall foolishness. Sadly, it’s not just Cena who is guilty of this as stars like Batista, Rey Mysterio, and even Finlay have cut down many a wrestler on his way up. Who’s to blame? Do you blame the wrestlers who win for being too formulaic in their matches and pretty much wiping out these other stars before they succeed with the same old unstoppable schtick (ex. Cena’s five moves of doom, Finlay’s Shillelagh shenanigans, Rey’s 619 into...whatever, etc.)? Do you blame the writers for dropping the ball creatively, as usual? Do you blame the political structure backstage that prevents any forward progression if you’re new? Or, do you blame Vince McMahon for allowing all those things to happen? The answer: all of the above, because, sadly one mistake feeds off of another mistake, which feeds off another, and so on.

Look, if you want someone like Swagger or anyone to succeed in his or her career at all in wrestling, the easiest thing you can do, and the most commonly sensible thing to do is this: KEEP HIM AWAY FROM ESTABLISHED MEGA-SUPERSTARS UNTIL IT’S TIME FOR THEM TO INTERACT AND FIGHT, WHICH WON’T COME FOR A FEW MONTHS, OR MAYBE YEARS!!!! I had to put that in all capitals letters because this is a common mistake that Vince has made on a number of occasions from his first day of ownership until today. It’s happened to Mr. Perfect when he dealt with Hogan, and it’s still happening now. Logically, you should be following this for two very sound and succinct reasons. Firstly, if you put a relatively new star on the rise against anyone that’s much more popular than he or she is, with more experience in wrestling within just a few month’s of the rookie’s career, you’re already killing any possible big-time match they may have in the future. Instead of people waiting to see if these two ever cross paths later, when the top star remains great and the new star gets great, they get it too early, doing away with any possible big money draws that could occur when they do finally cross paths. Now, I know sometimes this isn’t the case (refer to Randy Orton), but you have to know that not every wrestler can pull this off. Some wrestlers have the gift, while others have to work at their craft before it gets there. So, why mess with the not-so-gifted so soon? Secondly, it is a matter of further logic. Logically, the wrestler on the rise shouldn’t beat the top star if they are doing battle. In fact, it shouldn’t even happen unless the rising star has had a few more matches under his or her belt, preferably with better or top mid-carders or even some top stars that aren’t on top at the moment. In that case, have him or her win those mid-card battles if need be, and have him or her put on the fight of their lives against the top stars that aren’t on the top at the time. You DO NOT thrust this rookie against a top star on top at the moment. The reason is because, logically, the top star should not lose to the rookie, especially if said top star has had marquee matches that have done big business. If he or she loses, then why was that person a top star in the first place if he or she can’t even stop this random rookie on the rise for a few months? However, the flipside is still just as damaging. If you’re the rookie on the rise, your loss to the top star will do indelible and irreparable damage to your credibility as a star. When people see you wrestle this star again, or others like him or her, you’re not expected to win or even be better than him or her. You’re expected to lose, and that’s that. Logically, no one will buy you as a star capable of many things because there will always be that top star that is better than you, that can and will beat you or should be expected to beat you. You don’t have the credibility to be a top star anymore. Sadly, this mindset is not only adopted by the fans who don’t know better. This mindset is accepted by the politicians and the like backstage that control your future. They can’t expect you to ever get there, because it’s not in your ability to do so. Hence, you’re relegated to mid-card stuff that can and/or will destroy your career. You might get a high-profile match against another top star that’s not quite on the top right now, but if you win, it will probably be because that star is on the way out or is expected to lose because he or she is old and can’t weather the new talent as of the point of when they are or aren’t hot. I know this is a mouthful, but it has to be said. In fact, I bet you if you ask any wrestling personality that knows the ins and outs of the business, the stuff I explained is an aspect of “Good match booking 101”. The problem with this: there are no bookers in the WWE, just writers who don’t know wrestling, and road agents who come up with match finishes and advice for wrestlers on the rise. Who then figures out how to book properly? The answer is the “head creative member/writer”, of course, which is someone who probably hasn’t booked a wrestling-related thing in his or her life. See the problem? I hope so.

The sad truth about this is that this has happened more than a few times over the course of 5 years with talent that should have been on the rise but, to no avail. The common excuse is that the “creative team” has no good subject matter or ideas for these wrestlers to follow. It’s like, they tried to sell this wrestler or that wrestler on an idea or joke that people found unfunny, or an act that people found uninteresting. Instead of faulting themselves, it’s the wrestler’s fault, and they get demoted, despite the fact that they are excellent wrestlers. Apparently, the bad ideas of the writers have to be worked with to the point of success regardless of how bad they are. If they don’t, in any case, the wrestler is kept around as a jobber until they are shown the door or they just get less and less television time until they get shown the door. Sometimes, this happens after an idea loses its flair (i.e. Chris Masters). Other times, this happens as soon as the wrestler debuts (i.e. Braden Walker, Scotty Goldman, Ryan Braddock).

What really burns, though, is when there is an idea that works or just happens to catch fire quicker than necessary and then the “creative team” pulls the plug. Another burning problem is when the idea doesn’t work as well as it should have and yet, the wrestlers are kept around and placed in more and more high-profile situations and better timeslots on television and PPV until people are sick of it. An example of the latter situation deals with wrestlers like Chris Masters, Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch, La Resistance, Chuck Palumbo, Jimmy Wang Yang and Shannon Moore, and currently Festus, Kung Fu Naki, and yes, even Ricky Ortiz. Seriously, people stopped caring or didn’t care then or now, so why parade them around on television like we should start caring? As for the former, some examples of wrestlers include Muhammed Hassan, Rene Dupree, Kenzo Suzuki, Umaga, Matt Striker (if booked right, he’d be as funny and as talented as Santino was supposed to be), R-Truth, Elijah Burke, The Spirit Squad (was there really a need to do away with most of them, when Kenny had potential, Johnny was one of your top prospects in your training facility, and Mikey could be a top cruiserweight? Sure, Nicky is Dolph Ziggler, but he’s starting to come up in the former pile with Lance Cade and the like), and now, Jack Swagger. They have great skill. They are getting some sort of reaction with what they are or were doing. They have potential to do more in the future? Why pull the plug? Is it because of the writers’ ineptitude in creatively writing for them? Is it because the fans are reacting to them in the opposite manner of what the writers wanted? Whatever the reason, don’t shirk responsibility, writers. It’s most likely your fault. The sad truth is, most of the people mentioned in the former were made to look useless against stars like Cena or Batista, guys they could probably wrestle circles around. Once that happens, stick a fork in them, because they are done. Bring out the pink slips, because the “revolving door of releases” is going to get a lot of users soon.

I just can’t believe they wasted all this time pushing Jack Swagger as the top guy on ECW, even to the point of giving him the “photo of the day” every day on only to squash him under the thumb of bad booking and politics within 4 months of his first title reign and even a few months since his first loss. I understand you don’t want to create another “Brock Lesnar” and push him to the moon, in fear that he’ll leave, but that doesn’t mean you have to squash him before he gets remotely anywhere. Meet up halfway or something. Now, what’s going to happen to Jack? He’ll probably do exactly what I said and tag up with Kozlov, or not, because of what I have to tell you next. Swagger lost his ECW title to Christian, a wrestler the WWE (specifically VKM), won’t give a second look at for top star consideration on any other shows because he just doesn’t have the look. So, what does this mean for Jack? He takes a back seat to Kozlov instead of teaming with him as Kozlov is now poised to become ECW champion, despite the bad reviews he’s received in many matches on SD and RAW and his relative credibility destroyed now that he’s lost to HBK and Undertaker (although he did beat Taker, which goes back to my original point about stars beating top stars not on top right now). I don’t see Swagger going anywhere for the next 4 to 6 months, if not longer. If he does, why invest in it? He’ll always be remembered as one of Cena’s latest defeated opponents.

Jack Swagger: you’ve got nothing left. You’ve got no need to show swagger because Cena owned you on live television, Christian owns your belt after live PPV, and Kozlov is poised to take your top spot. If you’re lucky, you’ll tag up and be considered for tag contention with Mark Henry, granted they didn’t fire him yet due to his Finlay-related losses. If you even get a bone thrown your way, why revel in it? It’s not going to mean anything. I’m not going to invest anything big out of it. My suggestion to you: start looking for work elsewhere. ROH can use you. I mean, look at how they’re treating Brent Albright and other WWE castaways that can wrestle. TNA would want you, but won’t use you well. Still, you’ll get paid and you might even get a top match here and there. It’s “WWE lite”, so it’s all on you. Just don’t expect to get anything great in the WWE anytime soon or even ever. To them, you’re just another guy who has the look and/or the ability to make it there legitimately that has to take a back seat to those who don’t have either anymore. Does the bottom of the ladder look good, Jack? I’m sure Cena can’t tell you his opinion, since it’s so hard to see the bottom from where he is and won’t take a second thought about what it could look like. Get used to it, Jack. All great wrestlers start at the bottom rung in the WWE. It’s just a shame that a good portion of them now-a-days never see past the bottom rung. But don’t worry. If it’s any consolation, it’s not the writers’ fault. It’s probably yours.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ECW Draft Results: wins and losses

Well, the WWE draft is over for the year of 2009. The results are in, and I can tell you, ECW didn't really get the best draws in the world. In fact, they lost a few key talents that made ECW big or were made to be big on the show. In my honest opinion, the results of the draft have Raw as the "sports-entertainment"-driven show with lots of stars that play along those lines, Smackdown as the wrestling-driven show with many stars that are stars that like to wrestle with innovative moves, and ECW as, well, the dog that gets the scraps. The scraps here include a handful of wrestlers with failed pushes and runs that have or have not occurred last year. Why the moves? What does this mean? Well, for us to have an idea, let's see who came and left ECW. So, here's who is gone:

-Hornswoggle: Does this mean what I think it means? The fighting Irishman, Finlay, will go back to, well, fighting? YES!!!! Well, at least I hope so. Hornswoggle is such an annoyance to watch. It makes me have to suspend a lot of logic to watch him do stuff, which, wouldn't well happen in a logical situation. His disappearance from ECW must mean that they want Finlay to be taken seriously again. It may also mean that Hornswoggle will add more entertainment to Raw for the younger fans. I just hope they don't make the same mistake twice and give him a title.

-The Miz and Morrison: These were two guys, whom I said that if they disappeared, ECW would suffer for it. Upon seeing who is drafted to ECW, I don't think they have found the most viable replacements for this duo. But, let's just focus on these two. Not only did they draft these guys off of ECW, as we all expected, but they put the Miz on Raw as part of the actual draft, while they drafted Morrison supplementally, as they did Hornswoggle. To many people, this might have been the dumbest move the WWE could make, putting the less-talented one on the A show, while the more talented one is on the B show. In truth, it can be seen as a huge negative, or a bit of a positive. If my theory is correct about the shows, Miz is fine where he is, while Morrison is fine where he is. The problem is this: the Miz might not make it out of the midcard due to the heavy-hitting players above him, like HHH, Cena, Orton, Batista, or even HBK, to name a few. Morrison has room to grow as a top heel as SD is rather understaffed with established heels. They have 2 in Jericho and Edge. They can use more. Lastly, Morrison had a run on Raw which was a bit of a letdown as well as a success. It was a mixed bag. Let's hope all goes well for him on SD. Too bad for ECW, though, as they lost out on the two top stars they needed to keep the show fresh, well, next to Christian and Evan Bourne, that is.

-Alicia Fox: She went from Edge's wedding planner, to D.J. Gabriel's dancing associate, to an independent Smackdown diva. Watch out for this one. She has potential to do much damage as a diva. She's got energy, flexibility, and some nice moves off of the dance floor. Two questions come up though. Will she fall into the same trap and end up with Edge again? Also, what does this mean for D.J. Gabriel? For the first question, I think anything is possible. For the second, well, it looks like Gabriel will be looking for work elsewhere.

Now, here's who ECW gained:

-Vladimir Kozlov: This was ECW's big draw and first pick on the live show. In fact, it was their only pick on the live show. The big, Russian bear is heading to ECW to fix whatever problems he had with his career, in the sense that, he's getting a refreshed push. He was undefeated, he fought for the WWE championship, and he made a big impression. Then, he lost his first match, and many since, and fell out of title contention. Now, he's on a smaller brand, with big dreams of championship gold. I think he can get it done on ECW, especially since Swagger has just about lost his "swag" (see next week's blog as to what I mean about Jack's fall from grace). Watch out, everyone, for Kozlov will destroy all.

-Ezekiel Jackson: So, The Brian Kendrick's associate is now flying solo. Is there a reason for this? There's a few, actually. Ezekiel has been shown as a threat to anyone looking to get at Brian, until lately. Jeff Hardy has beat him down. Kane has beat him down. Now, Ezekiel is as useless as Tyson Tomko when he was a problem-solver. So, send him elsewhere to re-establish himself. That's the plan, right? The only problem is that it doesn't look like much is going to come from this. The last bodyguard to be left on his own on ECW was Bam Neely, and he lost his job subsequently after a month or so of inaction and losses. In Ezekiel's case, it looks like he and Kendrick will be riddled with losses before termination. But, who knows? This is a chance for Ezekiel, so let's see where it goes.

-Zach Ryder: This proved to be one of the more nonsensical moves in the supplemental draft because at the time, they were moving a bunch of tag teams around, as if they were going to break them up, including the champs. Since they pulled our legs on that one, this still made no sense. Why? If you are going to unify the tag belts, why would you take it upon yourself to start cutting down the division? The WWE did, by cutting down 3 teams, while keeping the other 3 intact. What does this bode for the division? More steps back instead of strides forward. What does this bode for Ryder? I'm looking at a very disappointing ECW run, unless, maybe, they're going somewhere with this. I have already seen what they've done with his character thus far, making him some goof of sorts with a terrible catchphrase (Woo-woo woo woo? I'm sorry, but it only works if you're name is Martin Lawrence, and you're not even Dane Cook). I don't want to have to sit through that anymore, and I'm sure no one else will either. It's just a shame when they have a talented wrestler with loads of potential and they do this to him.

-D.H. Smith and Natalya: One tried to make his way through Raw, but could not. The other tried to dominate SD, but the politics backstage prevented that. What else do they have in common? They are the new generation of wrestlers connected to the Hart Family. Now, both are on ECW and both have a connection to Tyson Kidd. Natalya is his sidekick/girlfriend, while Smith used to team with Kidd in Canada, so there's chemistry there. In fact, these three will most likely make up a new "Hart Foundation" that has been in the works for a while now (it was supposed to be headed by Teddy Hart, but that didn't happen because Teddy Hart is...well, Teddy Hart, and Bret's enemies weren't about to let another Hart succeed). I guess this is what will pass for our replacements for the Miz and Morrison, which athletically makes sense. But, it may take a while for the extra dose of charisma to kick in a la WWE. So, keep your eyes peeled for this power group. Who knows? Maybe Teddy will make his way back...or not. Either or, D.H. and Natalya will be joining Kidd sooner than later, in my view.

-Hurricane Helms: He finally returns from neck and spinal cord surgery, has a few Hurri-pop segments, causes grief for MVP and Shelton Benjamin, fails to win the U.S. title, and is beaten off of television by Matt Hardy. Let's not forget that he's not as svelte as he was when he started, either. So, ultimately this was going to happen whether we wanted it to or not, sadly. I still think it's a good fit, because of Helms's athleticism. He can bring some depth to ECW as a face, and can make a run for the title, along the same lines as Christian could. Still, I can't quite shake the feeling that this might be the last hurrah for the Hurricane.

There you have it, folks. ECW gets one draft pick live, a few supplementally, they lose a major player live, and two others supplementally. This doesn't sound very poignant, but I think I can see where they are going with this, based on the rumors and knowledge I have on ECW. Word on the street is that Vince will be taking ECW seriously from now on again as a major brand. This is probably due to the Sci-Fi channel's change in direction to a more inclusive network for entertainment that sci-fi fans might have. This might also be due to the fact that WWE Superstars is back and will most likely be the lesser of the 4 shows, if not the least. This would be ECW's chance to re-establish itself. Lastly, ECW is moving back to 10 P.M. again. This was fine when they didn't have all that kiddy stuff on it (i.e. Hornswoggle) and now they don't. This might very well be the move ECW needs to re-invigorate itself, especially since they are on par ratings-wise with TNA and ROH isn't far behind with their 1-hour wrestling show on Saturdays. In the end, WWE is trying to make ECW respectable wrestling-wise, as they are doing with SmackDown.

However, I can't help but feel that this may very well be a smokescreen of sorts or just another failed attempt by the WWE to maintain. I say this because, well, let's be honest: Vince and his cronies don't care about ECW. They never have or will. This will be no different. They are probably just doing this to appease the many fans of the show that want to see more become of the brand. But, in a few weeks, all will be back to normal. I wish this isn't the case as ECW can be a solid brand, as I have said before. These picks aren't the best of picks as compared to other shows, but they are still solid, if they are treated as such. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Yes, the draft is over for this year, and ECW gets the scraps. These scraps, however, still have something left in their tanks for wrestling purposes. They might add depth to ECW or take away from it. So, let's see where this goes. Maybe this is a sign of good things to come. Maybe ECW will finally turn around. Maybe I'm asking too much and it's late. Whatever the case, these superstars now make ECW their home. Let's hope they make ECW worth watching.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The State of ECW address

ECW fans, wrestling fans, WWE fans, and all others listening. This is the state of ECW address as per, well me. I'll try to make this brief, but knowing me, well, you get the idea.

Wrestlemania is in the books and the draft is coming up. Where does ECW stand? ECW has Tiffany as its GM, a championship chase (again) to see who gets to tangle with Swagger at Backlash, and Evan Bourne is tearing up the scene again, toppling the likes of Tyson Kidd and the Miz and Morrison. Oh and, to add to the fun, ECW has had a crapload of clips to show, of other shows on their show. Seems like a great start to a new beginning, right? Yea...

I don't know about you, but I'm beginning to think that ECW has finally found its niche as what the WWE wants it to be: a valueless show that is only good for serving the WWE and its whims on the lowest possible level. It has become or is becoming a vehicle for getting other shows and wrestlers over. Also, its value is in question as some of its stars might be finding solace on other shows in the future with this draft.

Why in the world would you make Tiffany your interim GM? To show progression? Maybe. It's not a bad idea, but the problem is, effectively, she hasn't shown to have much savvy as a GM, let alone much brainpower. Then again, neither did Vickie Guerrero, and look how that turned out? I know it's just a toss-up or something for now, but I hope they go somewhere with it, in a positive direction, where, you know, Tommy Dreamer ends up as the new GM.

As for the championship chase, come on. How many times are we going to see this? You've got Evan Bourne waiting in the wings, and you've got Christian as a breakout star. You sure you don't know who should be the #1 contender? Oh well, I guess it just keeps things interesting. I just hope Swagger doesn't get short-changed just yet.

What, clips again? Let's hope this is the last of that. But, with WWE Superstars taking up the Raw portion of the dark matches, we won't know for sure. I would hope to see more matches again, since that's what has been establishing the ratings. Sadly, however, the ratings have been stagnant at 1.3, even with the wrestling.

Bourne, Kidd, Miz, and Morrison are proving to be the breakout stars of the show. They are proving it athletically, charismatically, and promotion-wise. If they take their leave of ECW via the draft, ECW will lose out, dramatically. However, we all knew this was going to happen eventually. So, ECW has to prepare to acquire some top talent as per this draft, otherwise, once again, ECW will be short-changed for the most part.

Now, as for the draft itself, the only possible outcome for ECW is to get a bunch of throw-away stars that might or might not succeed in the long run. That should be helpful to flesh out the roster, but who knows how long they'll remain at the top of the food chain before removal.

So, that is the state of ECW in a nutshell. It's not looking great, but I doubt it would mean ECW's demise. I say this only because of what is invested in ECW by the WWE. I don't think it's going anywhere soon, people, be it by cancellation or progression. If that's the case, let's just grin and bear it. Or just bear it. I'd say more, but I'm wiped. There isn't much more you can say about ECW now only because the draft will shake things up. That said, tune in next week as I'll analyze the draft and its results. Don't ask me what my predictions are. I'm sure what I say won't matter since the WWE isn't about giving us what we want all the time...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

ECW: 7 years of extreme...A look back

So, it's Wrestlemania weekend, and we've seen 25 of them. Today, I want to talk about the 7 years those Wrestlemanias had to share with ECW's existence. From 1993 (year of Wrestlemania 9) to 2000 (year of Wrestlemania 16 or WM 2000), ECW was the "little engine that could" wrestling organization that was known for one key thing: they were counter-culture. They rebelled against any and all wrestling norms in any way they possibly could. Whether it was with storylines, matches, or wrestling characters, ECW was counter culture....and they loved it....and we loved it. So, today, I'd like to take my time analyzing the seven years ECW existed as its own entity, free of the branding, the Sci-Fi channel and whatnot. I'm going to give my thoughts on the organization, what has happened, a synopsis of what ECW is, where it lies on this special night, and why its existence made a very large difference in the world of wrestling.

So, here's a rundown of what the original ECW entailed, year by year, from my own memory of what I've known or found out. If there are inaccuracies, I apologize. You can correct me if you like, but don't be a complete jerk about it.

In 1993, Eddie Gilbert booked and Tod Gordon ran NWA - ECW. It was then known as Eastern Championship Wrestling. As Tod and Eddie had a falling out that resulted in Eddie leaving, he called up Paul Heyman for help. Paul was just out of his WCW contract as he was fired. Paul agreed to help Tod Gordon and came on board as ECW's head booker. On his first night out, he introduced the fans to Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock, the Public Enemy. They started out as two guys who used to wrestle each other almost all the time there was tours. So, Paul figured that they would make a great tag team since they know each other so well. During their tenure as a team in and out of ECW, they became notorious for their dancing, table usage, and ability to be, well...public enemy #1 in all their organizations. Other stars that got their break fell into two different categories: veterans looking to belong, and new stars beloved for their unique styles. What made them all alike was that they were misfits elsewhere. ECW truly was the land of the misfit toys. These toys included the brutal and savage Tazmaniac, the beer-swilling, cane-wielding extreme icon known as the Sandman, the extreme "babyface", Tommy Dreamer, the original extreme enigma (sorry Jeff Hardy fans), Raven, the hardcore legends, Terry Funk and Cactus Jack, the "franchise" wrestler, Shane Douglas, and a plethora of wrestlers looking to be discovered in Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, 2 Cold Scorpio, among others. This crew could not have been so adverse or obscure than some of their names. What they brought to the table every night was a combination of great wrestling matches, hard-hitting brawls, excellent promo work, and tremendous desire. It was a sight to see.

1994 was to be the turning point year for the organization. Even though they were making some strides with ground-breaking storylines (Tommy Dreamer's caning and Sandman being stricken blind), Heyman knew that change had to be made. He knew that in order for ECW to get off the ground, he had to break it away from the NWA. So, when Shane Douglas won the tournament to determine a new NWA champion, he admired the belt, then threw it to the floor, and decided to cut a promo about how he wanted to represent the "new flame" of wrestling, instead of the old-school flame given to us by the NWA. He declared himself the new ECW champion and that this was the start of the ECW. It was a controversial move that only he and Heyman planned from the start. As they were being chastised by the NWA, the decision was made to sever all ties with the NWA and call ECW "Extreme Champion Wrestling". From there on, it was off to the races.

In 1995, they received new stars and lost long time ones due to their growing popularity. As new stars like Juventud Guerrera, Rey Mysterio, Psychosis, Konnan, Chris Jericho, and others made their mark, the older stars in Malenko, Benoit, Guerrero, and Public Enemy found greener pastures in WCW. Eric Bischoff was looking to ECW to strengthen his WCW empire to compete with the WWE, and they were ripe for the taking. This already added fire to the hated rivalry between Bischoff and Heyman. Meanwhile, some of the older stars were coming into their own as unique entitites. Cactus Jack was bitterly sticking it to the fans by wrestling without his hardcore mentality because of the intense pressure he felt to destroy his body for their enjoyment. Raven began his psychological war with Tommy Dreamer as their high school rivalry traveled over to ECW. This forced Dreamer to finally take a more violent approach to his work which the fans had been asking of him for a while, bringing life to Tommy's nickname "The innovator of violence". The Sandman found himself a very tough rival in the form of a man who would spend his career being an "extreme jobber", Mikey Whippwreck. Mikey always got beat up, never won, and somehow found a way to win gold, thanks to his endless amount of resilience. Also, another new face came onto the scene in the form of "Superstar"Steve Austin. His message was clear: he was held back by the WCW for too long, and later, fired over the phone while injured, but in ECW he was free to do exactly what he wanted to do, and that's wrestle. He was going to prove he was the best wrestler in the world, no question about it.

Come 1996, the only new stars that were left were the ones who were not international stars (except Jericho) as they were all taken to WCW. Later that year, both Cactus Jack and Steve Austin left to the WWE to fulfill their careers and reach icon status. 1996 would also be the year where many huge happenings would occur that were positives and negatives to the organization. The Tazmaniac character died, and in his place was Taz, the human suplex machine. Taz became a cruel, bitter grappler who took pleasure slamming the life out of someone. Sandman would fall victim to Raven's psychological terror as Raven used Sandman's son and ex-wife as tools to obtain Sandman's ECW title. Also, the Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards culminated their mimicking ways by impersonating the new World order. They called it the Blue World Order, and were the talk of the dirt sheets. ECW would fall victim to three different forms of controversy this year. One involved a storyline where Beulah McGuillicuty, a girl from Raven and Tommy Dreamer's past that teamed with Raven to antagonize Dreamer, was impregnated by.....Tommy Dreamer. This angered Raven and set up the long-time relationship between Tommy and Beulah as they united for the first time. As more evidence came out, it turned out it was a lie perpetrated by Beulah to hide that she was cheating on Raven with ECW valet, Kimona. They were wrestling's first lesbian couple, which Tommy was ok with, but the censors weren't, and ECW lost their time slots. When ECW returned to t.v., they had olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle on their show as a guest. He threatened to sue Heyman when he saw an altercation between the Sandman and Raven end up with the Sandman on a makeshift cross, with a barbed-wire "crown of thorns". Angle wanted nothing to do with this form of religious iconography that proved to be very sacrilegious, coercing Raven to publicly apologize for offending anyone. Incident 3 was an incident at a show where a man came on to replace a wrestler who couldn't make it. He took part in a tag match against the Gangstaz, New Jack and Mustafa. New Jack, being the violent wrestler that he is, severely beat up this wrestler. The problem with this was that the wrestler was only 17 years old. He falsified his documents to get the job that night and ended up suing ECW and New Jack. Both were acquitted but the publicity was enough to hinder ECW's latest endeavor: going into PPV.

The year 1997 was where they achieved their dream as ECW had their very first PPV event, called "Barely Legal". On this night, in the ECW Arena, history was made. There was a six-man tag match involving young stars from Japan. Rob Van Dam made his debut of sorts against Lance Storm, only to point as a fill-in for an injured wrestler, which coerced a promo from RVD that established his "I'm too good for this" attitude. Sabu and Taz had an epic grudge match to settle their scores. They hated each other in their 1993 matches, struggled to team up in 1994, and when Sabu no-showed an event, forcing the team to relinquish their belts, Taz had all he needed to inspire him to destroy Sabu. Sabu wouldn't return until 1996 after he broke his neck. They finally confronted each other and their match was set, but not without a lot of build-up. Lastly, a new ECW champ was crowned in Terry Funk, whom at his age, found a way to win major gold, by beating stars like the Sandman and Stevie Richards, and then later, Raven. It was a great year for ECW as they even got a chance to promote this and themselves on WWE television from September of 1996, well into 1997.

In 1998, the problems with keeping wrestlers continued. Sure, they had PPVs and television, but the allure of great paydays in WCW and WWE was too great. Saturn, Raven, and Richards all left before this year became 6 months old. At the same time, both the WCW and the WWE were utilizing ECW 's cutting-edge nature by mimicking their hardcore style and mentality on national television. To top it off, Heyman got the impression that someone was feeding the ECW stars to WCW from the inside. Because of such, he fired Tod Gordon as president, and confronted head referee and manager, Bill Alfonso, about it. To prove his loyalty, he got involved in an extremely violent match with Beulah, where he was beaten mercilessly. It earned him his respect, though. Also, with Gordon gone, Heyman was assuming all of the responsibility of controlling ECW. Wrestlers pitched in to help him as much as they could in different avenues, as ECW continued to survive on PPV events, ticket sales, and continued to invite new and different stars to the fold.

In 1999, the wrestling pace quickened without a halt, and only the strongest would survive. WCW was losing the ratings war every night they had television against the WWE. They lost money, wrestlers, and then, Bischoff was shown the door. The WWE continued to dominate, making new stars, earning new things, like IPOs of stock, and making new shows like WWE Smackdown. As for ECW, the stars were seriously considering disappearing to greener, more lucrative pastures. Debts continued to rise, checks bounced and Paul Heyman was running out of ways to keep his extreme followers happy. While he thought of this, the Dudleys were becoming the most hated and most successful tag team in ECW, utilizing their family, their managers, and even burning tables as ways to destroy the competition. Also, a continued rivalry between Super Crazy and Tajiri was tearing up the charts with incredible athleticism being shown. Then, Heyman had an idea: television. So, ECW secured a deal with TNN (pre-Spike T.V.), and ECW got a timeslot there. The deal was a raw one, as ECW was being swerved by the network left and right. Paul Heyman fought back with insults to them, and even angles about them, which made things worse. T.V. isn't all it's cracked up to be sadly.

In 2000, before the problems on TNN, but after the deal was inked, ECW lost Taz and the Dudleys to the WWE. With these stars gone, and their deal getting ruined, ECW was in plenty of trouble. As things got significantly worse, TNN made a deal with the WWE to bring Raw to the network. Heyman hit the roof and went on a tirade on live television. This tirade was censored heavily. Then, to make matters worse, Mike Awesome left to WCW as ECW champ. In an attempt to save face, ECW called upon Taz to win the title, while under a WWE contract. So a WWE contracted wrestler fought a WCW contracted wrestler for the ECW title. Bizarre, but sad. After the title was saved, the organization could not be. The last show was in 2001, as Heyman left to the WWE and cunningly found a way to have them pay for all the ECW debts, making ECW debt free and the property of WWE. ECW was then paraded around in a bad invasion angle in 2001 orchestrated to have the WWE fight both WCW and ECW, resurrected for an excellent reunion show in 2005, then a bad one in 2006, and now it's been on the Sci-fi channel with new WWE-style episodes for 3 years.

That's ECW in a nutshell. It's a large nutshell, but no matter. As to where it belongs on this special night, the answer is...nowhere. The WWE cleverly had all ECW talent involved in mixed brand stuff that puts the emphasis on everyone else but them. They don't even have Grisham or Stryker on for commentary. So, just as WWE wanted, ECW is out of the way. It's a footnote to a grand show like Wrestlemania. As for the show, well, it's meeting up with some serious changes, that might or might not be addressed here, let alone might or might not happen. The future might very well be uncertain. They've gotten rid of just about anything that bleeds "original", their new stars are ready to fly the coop to new brands, and the ratings have never looked worse, well, in standards compared to the other shows, and even the competition.

In all honesty, I think ECW has made a great impact on this business. It helped give wrestling some direction and progression. It was a different vibe that was to be remembered for what it has done for all of us fans. Now, there are some people who say that ECW wasn't groundbreaking only because of their negative reactions to all the violence. To you, I say, get off your high horse because you haven't come up with anything as cleverly has Heyman did. So, save it. Heyman did a great job coming up with these new characters and feeding off of pop culture to do it. It was a clever move, without a doubt, and you can't deny that. ECW was more than just violence, and if you just lowered your noses for a second, you'd realize that. In fact, ECW did do something great for the wrestling world by providing a litmus test for all independent federations. If you can survive for 7+ years while going national without any major funding or backing from some company, you can make it anywhere. So far, ROH has a PPV deal, a new T.V. deal, and have existed for 7 years with no public funding or multi-million dollar owners. If they can make it, they can make it anywhere. TNA has been around for 7 years with only PPV, and some significant t.v. time under their belts. If they can make it, they can make it anywhere. Sure, they have Panda Energy feeding them money left and right, but it's not the WWE or Titan Sports. So, it's stil a big accomplishment.

I know I'm probably clumping this all together with little or no direction, but I'm just a little too perturbed to think very straight (I saw the results of WM 25 live on PPV. If anyone needs me, I'll be trying not to break my television, because my head is hurting from all the crap). I just want to say thanks to ECW for the memories. You have made my wrestling experience great. It's a shame your legacy has been reduced to being nothing more than a clip show filled with recaps at times, or a show where new stars can be showcased, or semi-showcased, and old stars are struggling to get by. It used to mean something to say "ECW" out loud. Now, saying it has lost virtually all of its meaning. If this incarnation of ECW even knows survival for another 3 years, I'll be amazed. It's because at the end of the day, even though it's being molded into Vince's vision, it's not his idea. He won't use or care for something that succeeded without him. ECW is still being dangled over the garbage bin, and he's not sure if he should cut the line yet. He might not be, but with all the negatives on said show, as compared to the original, the line is breaking on its own....