Sunday, May 31, 2009

The circle is complete....for the next generation of Harts

I felt that it was or would be a nice touch to mention that minor line from Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. The Harts family's next generation of wrestlers are all on the same brand by draft or such, and are now one unit. Tyson Kidd can formally welcome his friend, Natalya as well as his long-time partner, D.H. Smith. This talented trifecta has the talent to go very far in the WWE if all goes well. In fact, they have the chance to make as much noise, filling a void ECW has had in talent since April. But, before we go into that, let's have a look at D.H. and Natalya and see what makes them tick. Thanks, Wikipedia...again!

D.H. Smith's actual name is Harry David Smith. The middle name is the first name of his late father, David "Davey Boy" Smith, also known as the "British Bulldog". Davey's wife was Diana Hart, the youngest girl in the Hart Family, so D.H. comes from some serious wrestling history. He was trained by his father as well as Diana's brother and famous wrestler, Bruce Hart. He made his unofficial wrestling debut in 1996 when, at the age of 10, he teamed with his cousin Ted Annis (we know him as controversially talented wrestler Teddy Hart), to face TJ Wilson (whom we know as Tyson Kidd) and Andrew Picarnia at a Calgary House show. He made his official professional debut at the age of 15 at the Rockyford Rodeo, becoming a mainstay in Calgary's Stampede Wrestling organization. In May of 2002, Smith teamed up with his father twice, shortly before his father's untimely death. He turned down a contract from the WWE in 2004 to go to college and wrestle in Japan to fine tune his education in wrestling and academia. In that same year, he started teaming with TJ Wilson to form the "Stampede Bulldogs", a tag team that pays homage to D.H.'s father's team, the British Bulldogs, which consisted of Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid. That same year, the Stampede Bulldogs formed a stable called "The Hart Foundation 2.0", which consisted of themselves, Teddy Hart, and Teddy's good friend, Jack Evans. Initially, they were to wrestle in only Stampede Wrestling, but soon enough, they wrestled in America, competing in MLW (Major League Wrestling).

In January of 2005, Smith toured Japan for 5 weeks, wrestling with NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) as the Black Assassin. He broke his hand during this tour. After he healed, he left Stampede Wrestling to wrestle a number of dark matches for the WWE. He then toured Japan again and later returned to Stampede Wrestling in October of 2005. On November 25 of that year, he was beaten by TJ Wilson, his long-time partner, in the finals of a tournament for the North American Heavyweight Championship. Smith then traveled to his father's country of England in January of 2006, wrestling in 1PW on January 6. He was billed as the mystery opponent for Jeff Jarrett, handpicked by Bret Hart, Smith's uncle. Later that year, Smith and his relatives attended Bret Hart's WWE Hall of Fame induction. He took that opportunity to meet with WWE execs for a shot in the WWE. They accepted, and he was sent to the WWE's farm systems of OVW, DSW, and FCW. After he completed his training, he was called up to Monday Night Raw. It was a failed experiment due to cold reviews and a suspension for a drug-related issue. After many months of inactivity, he was drafted to SD and then to ECW just recently, making his return to television by assisting Tyson Kidd and Natalya.

Natalya's real name is Natalie Neidhart. She is the daughter of Ellie Hart and wrestler Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. She received training in the Hart family training area, the "Dungeon", the basement of the Hart household where many wrestlers were trained by Stu Hart, the Hart family patriarch. Natalie was trained there by her uncles, Bruce and Ross Hart. She also received training in amateur wrestling and mixed martial arts. Currently, she is the only 3rd-generation female wrestler in the world today. Between the years of 2000 and 2001, Natalie acted as the host and ring announcer of MatRats, a wrestling youth-promotion created and lead by Eric Bischoff which did include Teddy Hart, Harry Smith, and TJ Wilson as wrestlers on their actual shows. In the year 2003, Natalie began working for Stampede Wrestling, starting a long-time feud with Belle Lovitz. The feud even spilled into the Prairie Wrestling Alliance where even a tag match was held between the two, only it involved Jim Neidhart as Natalya's partner. In 2005, she joined forces with the wrestling stable, the Myers Family.

Intending to hone her skill, Natalie toured England in 2004 and Japan in March of 2005. Upon returning to Canada, she became a heel and on June 17, 2005, won a four way match to become the first ever Stampede Women's Pacific Champion. Later, she vacated the title, and in November of 2005, she damaged her cruciate ligament in Japan, having to undergo surgery in early 2006. After being out for 6 months with this injury, Neidhart won the SuperGirls Championship from Lisa Moretti (we know her as Ivory while in the WWE), at a show held by NWA: Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling representing Big Time Wrestling. She lost the title in October 27, 2005, and had her last match in Stampede Wrestling before signing in January of 2007 with the WWE. She said thanks to her fans there, and reported to the WWE farm systems of FCW and OVW. In April of 2008, she was called up to the Smackdown roster, as a heel, under the name, Natalya. Her outing on SD included a partnership with Victoria, multiple losses in tag team action to rookies, and only one attempt at the newly vacant WWE Divas title, which she failed to get wrestling Michelle McCool. Some say it was due to her backstage heat with McCool over McCool's attempt at teaching her to wrestle the WWE style, which was something Natalya was more than capable of over years of training. After which, she was drafted to ECW, but not before introducing Tyson Kidd and acting as his valet.

Those were two very long and difficult journeys for these new draftees. However, if it's any indication of what they are capable of, the sky is truly the limit for Natalya, D.H., and even Tyson Kidd...if all goes well. All has to go well for these three, as they are the new representatives for the Hart Family. In fact, Kidd and Smith have the indelible task of filling the gap left by the Miz and Morrison as the top ECW tag team. It's not an easy task, as Miz and Morrison had everything to assist their excellence, like charisma. That might be something rather lacking on Kidd and Smith's part, for now. It's only a matter of time before they get noticed for their charisma. Still, there's room for growth. So, all has to go well for these three....hopefully.

I say, "hopefully", only because of the unforeseen factors that may or may not play a role in their untimely demise. One such thing is trouble with their health. They all have to stay healthy in more ways than one. Other than being careful in the ring, they have to make sure they don't hurt others, either. They don't want to end up like Kennedy, so, yea. Also, if there's a drug policy that needs following, they better do it. The last thing they need is another suspension, as D.H. Smith already has a few strikes against him. If he blows this deal, that's it for him, legacy or no. That could really hurt Tyson Kidd as his skills as a singles star will be put to the test, and so far, it hasn't looked good. I'm not talking about his style, as he can get it done. I'm talking about his record against big name stars. Another problem, I'm sorry to say, is politics. The surname, "Hart", is not very popular with a few key stars, as Bret Hart has had some serious disagreements during his career. This includes problems between himself and the "Kliq". Currently, the two top members of said group are still active in the WWE, with one of them (HHH) taking a very active role in the creative process. They have already shown Teddy Hart who's boss by showing him the door before he even got to the main stage. This not only had to do with HHH and his fellow Kliq member, HBK and their distaste for the Harts, but it also had to do with Teddy's controversial nature. Also, we have already seen Natalya virtually lose all momentum while on SD because of her problems with Michelle McCool (who is dating the Undertaker, a non-Kliq member with lots of clout). One wrong word to the wrong person, and any and all of this group will be fired. So, they have to be on their best behavior and at the best of their ability.

Nevertheless, it is great to see these three together, continuing the Hart Family legacy. They are probably the finest of athletes on ECW and now they have a platform to showcase their excellence in their battles. They just need to keep their noses clean, and away from trouble. They also need to step up their style and show the world why they are the best wrestlers going today. If they can't do that, they will have to find another place to keep the Hart wrestling legacy alive. Because, I get the impression that the WWE management won't be too "Hart"-broken over their loss of jobs. Lousy puns.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Zack Ryder: Too cool for school or overconfident fool?

I was going to say that Zack Ryder has yet to be used on television since his drafting to ECW, but I have got a chance to see him this past week in a bit of a squash match, and I have to tell you, he was quite impressive.....athletically. I've always known he was impressive athletically. However, his gimmick is something I don't particularly care for. He wears his sunglasses "at night", and in this case, indoors. He's got tights that are reminiscent to Hardbody Harrison. His haircut resembles to that star of the viral video, "my new haircut" (in my opinion, he looks like a cross between Gob Bluth and Scotty 2 Hotty). Lastly, his catchphrase is very, very, VERY, annoying. "Woo woo woo, you know it"?! If you're not Martin Lawrence, you shouldn't be saying anything close to this. Yet, I bet you this gimmick will flourish, through the method of having it shoved down our throats, despite our distaste for it. But before I gripe away, I have to mention just how it all started for Zack Ryder.

This time, I don't thank Wikipedia because it doesn't have the whole story. First off, Zack Ryder's real name is Matt Cardona. For the majority of his career, he worked the independents with his long-time partner Brian Myers (whom we know as Curt Hawkins). They both came from Long Island and worked the local circuits, which notably included Jersey All Pro Wrestling. They teamed with Steve Corino and assisted his feud with Jay Lethal. After that short stint, they worked the indies some more, until they were called up to the WWE farm systems of OVW, and then FCW. They then changed their gimmick to the Major Brothers, Brett and Brian. They were then brought up to Smackdown with this gimmick. Sadly, they didn't really catch on, and word got out in a creative meeting that they really weren't brothers. So, they were revamped, retooled, and re-focused as the duo of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, Edge's biggest fans. They went on to assist Edge in winning matches as well as secure the WWE tag titles. After they lost the belts, they fell by the wayside, losing matches left and right, and then, Ryder was drafted to ECW, and the rest is history.

I look at Ryder's gimmick, and my assessment of it is this: he's the embodiment of the trends of the last 20 or so years. He's got the neon colors of the 80s, the wrestling gear, sunglasses, and catchphrase of the 90s, and the haircut of both eras combined with that video. The thing is, these trends are either annoying, became annoying, or will be annoying. It gives you a reason to hate him even more. It's veritably annoying, to say the least. But, I have to give credit to this idea as it is original. Who else can say they resemble everything that was corny about those years and actually make it work? In fact, after his squash match, I can say it can work. He hit two very impressive maneuvers to finish the match, although we have seen the moves before, but it has been a while. It shows that Ryder has a great amount of ability and talent, which brings me two my biggest gripes about Ryder.

One gripe is this: as talented as Ryder is, I don't see him going very far with it. His gimmick, as annoying as it is, seems only capable of drawing bad heat. I don't see people responding to his negative actions, or anything he does, particularly. He could become as unappealing as Ricky Ortiz started to get on ECW, or as forgettable as D.J. Gabriel. Could it be that the fans just don't know what to make of his gimmick and can't quite react to it? Or is it the fact that the fans do know what to make of it and find his gimmick completely unappealing? Whatever the case may be, after seeing him win a match, and hearing the new initiative to make new stars, we'll be seeing more of Zack Ryder and his antics, and the fans will decide if they want to see more or not.

The other gripe I have, which is my biggest one is this: they are pushing Ryder over Hawkins, which wasn't really necessary because a) Hawkins is just as talented and b) they were a talented tag team. While tagging up, we were treated to seeing Hawkins getting the victories with innovative moves while Ryder is taking the losses, getting squashed hideously. I'm sorry, but why is the latter getting pushed separately? A dumb catchphrase? A stupid look? Or is it the fact that he's just showing initiative to get himself over? Still doesn't make it right, but that's not too much to gripe over.

The problem here lies with the dissolution of the tag team. For the third straight year after Wrestlemania, the WWE goes from exhibiting some interest in tag action to completely shoving it down the waste chute within a month or two of the initiative. They made the Hardys the tag champs in 2007, after a rousing multi-tag team battle royal. We all thought more teams would be made and a division would be made. Instead, we get two brands with little or no tag wrestling, a severe loss of talent and teams, and a few spots of greatness (London and Kendrick, and the start of the Miz and Morrison era). In 2008, we got a chock full of tag matches on the Raw after Wrestlemania 24, only to have 2 to 3 key tag teams dissolve within a span of 3 months. We lost Cade and Murdoch almost instantly to problems they had on-screen, we lost London and Kendrick to the draft, we lost Deuce and Domino the same way, and the Highlanders to backstage problems and injuries. Now, it's 2009. The tag belts are unified by the Colons over Miz and Morrison on a match that was publicized for Wrestlemania 25, but then demoted to a dark match on that card. As they had a rematch on Raw, the draft was mentioned and the results are in. Miz and Morrison are split up, Jesse and Festus are split up, Hawkins and Ryder are split up, and the Colons and Cryme Tyme are placed on separate brands, with a rule going out that no inter-promotional matches will be had. Once again, the tag divisions are thrown under the bus, along with a few good careers, which include Hawkins and not Ryder's. My thing is this: why even bother with a tag division if you keep building it up to destroy it? Short-sighted nonsense like this takes the credibility away from an organization. And because of this, Curt Hawkins is probably the next wrestler to be shown the "Revolving door of releases".

So, Zack Ryder, the newest ECW addition, is here. His gimmick looks ridiculous and his partner was left for dead, but we have to look for greater things. Zack Ryder is now the embodiment of the fads we grew up with and now look as annoying. It doesn't matter that a lot of things were sacrificed for this, like the tag divisions, Curt Hawkins, and some precious air time. As long as Ryder has a platform to be annoying for our pleasure, we should be fortunate. He's a very talented individual, don't get me wrong, and I really think he's destined for great things. But, I don't know how great it's going to be with this idea or how much has to be done to make him appealing. I mean, if ECW couldn't truly get Ricky Ortiz or DJ Gabriel over, what chance does Ryder have? In all honesty, I don't really know. It doesn't really look great for him, in my view. The future isn't looking too bright enough for Zack Ryder to wear shades. So maybe, he should lose them, evaluate his career, or at least take the chance to make himself a big star with what he's given and really, really hope that he gets over. Maybe he will. Maybe he won't. Maybe I'm spending too much time analyzing it. I don't know. All I know is that he's on his own, and I don't think there's much else to sacrifice for him to get anywhere now. Actually, there might be. Anyone know of any annoying past or present trends that are worth milking to our discontent? The Macarena? The Running Man? Maybe a "Saved by the Bell" reference for Zack Ryder? Hey, they've got A.C. Slater...I mean, Ricky Ortiz, they've got a Kelly in Kelly Kelly. It shouldn't be too hard, right?

Monday, May 18, 2009

The prophecy of Ezekiel…..Jackson's career

He started off as a stoic bodyguard/associate of the off-kilter, bizarre, and arrogant Brian Kendrick. He would interject himself into matches when provoked, or not. He would show off his raw power in the ring at the whim of Brian Kendrick. He would also intimidate Kendrick’s opponents with just one menacing stare. Then, as things progressed, his effectiveness at Kendrick’s side started to fade. Before that could be answered for, he was drafted to ECW as of April 14th, 2009 as part of the WWE Supplemental Draft 2009. It’s been one month, and we have yet to see or hear from Ezekiel on his new brand. Why is that the case? Before we answer that, let’s look at Ezekiel from the inside and analyze his career.

Once again, I give thanks to Wikipedia for this info. Ezekiel’s real name is Rycklon Stephens. He was a professional bodybuilder and wrestler before signing up with the WWE through their farm systems. There’s no elaborate history on his career, no special things that might have happened, and no other organizations worth mentioning that he wrestled for, I suppose. So, as a difference for once, we have a wrestler without a storied past to write about (well, Kozlov didn’t have much either, but the fact that the father of the owner of WWE’s chief competitor brought him over here speaks volumes). Long story short, Stephens lifted weights, wrestled, then got picked up by the WWE, was sent to their farm systems in Florida, and was called up after one year of training to be Kendrick’s bodyguard/associate.

Wow, that’s a pretty short story. Sadly, it will be an even shorter career. You see, just as Ezekiel might be a product of his own environment, he’s also a victim of his latent success. He’s big, he’s buff, and he’s a brute of a man. That’s what Vince likes, if not, loves about a wrestler. Vince will always love big men as wrestlers, and Ezekiel is just another person to fit Vince’s very specific standards. There’s just one problem: many others have as well and still do. What happened to them? Some aren’t used, some are being pushed, and most have been fired. Sadly, Jackson might not be far behind. The sad thing is: his bodyguard/associate schtick was done already. In fact, it was being done at the start of his run on Smackdown by Chavo Guerrero and his bodyguard Bam Neely, a big man from Minnesota who was shown the door no more than 3 or so months ago. Ironically, Bam was also part of ECW while Chavo regulared both SD and ECW as brands. They had a televised end of their partnership, which put Chavo at Vickie Guerrero’s side as her assistant. As for Bam, well, he lost about 2 key matches, and then, he was fired from ECW. I suggested that he be put with Ezekiel as a pair of bodyguards for Kendrick, but, it seems the latter portion of my prediction (12/28/08’s analysis) ended up true. And, like it or not, Ezekiel is next.

I can just hear it now: Ezekiel Jackson was released due to a lack of creative ideas for him thanks to the creative team in WWE not trying to find anything. Yet, looking back at it, there really isn’t anything creative about Jackson. He’s big, buff, and a brute, but so are Mike Knox, and Kane, and the Great Khali, and Vladimir Kozlov. Perhaps, nothing creative can be found for Ezekiel Jackson because his character had been made to not look creative. And, with a shortage of actual wrestlers he can actually bodyguard on ECW, there isn’t much he can do except have some hard-hitting matches, which he will probably lose to Finlay, Evan Bourne, or even Mark Henry or Jack Swagger. This was Bam Neely’s problem and Ezekiel just assumed his place until it is time to make the seasonal cuts to the roster.

Now, creatively, you could attempt to do things with him, however, the ideas might be slim, if you’re trying to be politically correct as well as logical. I did have two ideas that came to mind over Ezekiel’s career that I’d like to share.

First, pair him with Mark Henry and Tony Atlas. You can bill them as “The World’s strongest men”, a dominant tag team of immense power that can be a legitimate threat to not just ECW stars, but to the Unified tag champs, the Colons. As it turns out, the easiest thing you can do with a person with a stagnant career is tag them up with someone whose career is also stagnant. If you’re going to tell me that Mark Henry’s career is going somewhere with nothing to show for it other than a few videos about his antics with Tony Atlas, you’ve got another thing coming.

Another idea involves a recently released superstar who was changing his look and persona for a future push of sorts. See, Elijah Burke, the wrestler in question, was planning to go from a world-class athlete to something of a cult leader. He would be known as “The Dark Prophet”, Elijah Burke. He’d carry around a goblet and wear prophetic clothing, preaching about how his movement is the right choice in life. Throw in Ezekiel Jackson for the ride, and you’ve got an idea going. Both Elijah and Ezekiel are names of prophets recognized by the Bible. I feel the WWE would have acted on this instantly, making them the group, “The Dark Prophecy”. They would preach about how their movement is the way to glory, or beat down those who don’t believe. It would seem like the whole “Reverend D-Von/Deacon Batista” thing, but how many of today’s wrestling fans remember that? Not the vast majority. That’s why the WWE can go with it. Wrestling is cyclical, as most pundits would say. What worked or didn’t work about 7 years ago could work now since it’s no longer prevalent in today’s society, but can be again. That's why the Boogeyman existed for so long and why Santina Marella is working now.

The political correctness of each idea is under great fire, along with the logic and effectiveness of each idea, when assuming the WWE’s mindset about creativity and Ezekiel Jackson. Ezekiel is strong, but not Mark Henry strong or Tony Atlas strong. So, instantly, that would be a minus. As for the “Prophecy” idea, well, cults, religion and all forms of those types of sects always lead to something negative in the end or along the way. This is why religion and wrestling, like politics and wrestling, should never mix. There is another area of political correctness you can talk about when considering the WWE , but I’m not going to even approach it because it’s been discussed to death, and, as an African American myself, I’m sick of talking about it. It's been a problem in wrestling for years. I don't see it getting solved soon.

The point I am wishing to make in this blog today is that Ezekiel Jackson’s career is sort of on “death watch” right now. With the ideas I posed, I wanted to say that, creatively, you can do something with Jackson. However, it might be rather late for that at this juncture of his career, since he’s already been pushed as just another big and brutish wrestler. I wouldn’t suggest going with my ideas and my ideas alone as there are a slew the WWE might consider. Then again, there might not be. At the core of these problems, though, there’s an inconvenient truth as to why Ezekiel’s WWE career might be in severe jeopardy. That truth deals with Brian Kendrick.

Brian Kendrick’s foolishness backstage when dealing with the WWE’s substance abuse policy has put him in the crosshairs of just about every WWE official to the point where they will bury his career until they openly decide to fire him for not following suit with the policy. What do I mean by foolishness? He smokes marijuana, despite the fact that the WWE fines all marijuana smokers, and, despite that fact, he’s been warned a number of times to stoop. Because of this, his involvement with any major titles has been curtailed. Also, in an attempt to keep an eye on his progress and chastise him with suspension without having to pull down Ezekiel with him, they drafted Kendrick to Raw, and Jackson to ECW. This is starting to help Kendrick, albeit a little, but Jackson got the short end of the stick as he has yet to debut on ECW, let alone win a match there. Thanks to his association with Kendrick, Ezekiel Jackson might not get the upward movement he needs.

It would seem that Ezekiel’s time in the WWE is about to come to a screeching halt, as he has yet to debut on ECW. When that’s the case after a draft for any brand, it’s more than likely a sign of your departure. It started with his association with Kendrick getting him demoted, and continues with his lack of character keeping him from being pushed. Sadly, his character is set to be something of a silent, brutish, powerhouse that only destroys. The problem: it’s been done and is being done currently. What do you do when you’re proven to be expendable by the organization that made a star out of you? You get that resume ready, call some friends, and hope for the best. You don’t have to be a prophet to see that the aforementioned is the right thing to do.

(*Editor’s note: I humbly apologize to anyone offended after reading this blog. It was not my intention and I will make any and all changes to remove the offensive material. This, I do promise. Thanks for reading.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vladimir Kozlov's campaign from global wrestling domination

ECW's #1 draft pick this year came late in the draft. The pick was Vladimir Kozlov. We have seen a lot of the Moscow mauler on SmackDown and sometimes on Raw, virtually dominating every opponent he has had. He has had many wins and a few choice losses, but he still remains intact as an impending threat to whomever he has to face. Now, he has entered the brand known as ECW and has proclaimed that he bids to take over this brand and continue his path of global domination. Was he always this megalomaniacal? Let's see, shall we?

Thanks to the power of Wikipedia, we have some insight on Vladimir. First off, his name is Oleg Prudius. Before getting into wrestling, he won numerous achievements in the arts of Sambo (he was the 2005 USA Open Heavyweight champ), grappling (he was the U.S. Kick-boxing association International Heavyweight grappling champion), and in football (he played American football for Ukraine's national team as well as for Santa Barbara City College). Other than that, Kozlov has appeared on the television show, The Wire, as well as the movie, The 25th Hour, directed by Spike Lee. However, his biggest moment was when he was introduced to Vince McMahon as a potential hire for the company. The person who set that up was Jerry Jarrett. Jerry Jarrett was not only a semi-current promoter, but he shared ownership duties of TNA with his son, Jeff Jarrett, until a falling out coerced him to leave. So, as a form of rebuttal, he took Prudius to the WWE. The WWE then proceeded to show him sporadically on television as he improved his wrestling craft, until he was brought to the Smackdown Brand in 2007. The rest is history.

Now, Kozlov's appearance on ECW as their newest and first pick didn't come as a surprise to many. This is due to the fact that he had been in some high-profile feuds while on Smackdown. To his merit, he had a triple threat match against Jeff Hardy and Triple H as a main event at Survivor Series. Due to the fact that Jeff was in an accident (kayfabe), Kozlov battled Triple H alone. I had hoped it would be a bit of a wrestling showdown, but I was wrong. It was a promising one-on-one matchup, but the fans found it to be a very flat matchup. This might have been due to the fact that they all expected Jeff Hardy to be in this match, so they booed due to the lack of Jeff Hardy. However, this might have been due to Kozlov's lack of pizazz, charisma, and appeal. I mean, he was a relative newcomer. His fighting HHH is no different than a standard Smackdown match. This proved to be a major setback for Kozlov and he would be forced into main-event cards that involved more than one person. It was a way to keep him in the loop while not exactly giving him a direct title shot or direct contendership. The WWE still had faith in him and his dominance while the fans have passed on him.

This is where the ECW portion of things fits in. You see, ECW is a brand where a failed star or formerly-pushed star can reinvigorate him or her self. Since this brand is in no way more important than Raw or Smackdown, it shouldn't be that much of a problem to anyone. This is also the case because, well, sadly, no one really watches this show, as the ratings have proven on a few occasions. So, why not have Kozlov continue his quest for domination? He won't be paired up with major stars that can very well defeat him soundly, carry him through a match, or be caught in a very sloppy match with him in it. This is perfect for him. Too bad for the others on this show, though.

I say that last part because, compared to the other ECW stars, Kozlov has received so much more. He's been given spots on Raw, Smackdown, and PPV main events near the end of the show. Has Christian or Jack Swagger been given that? No. They've at most gotten the opening match treatment. Now, the title picture on ECW has been restructured, and the inevitable will occur. There's a reason why Christian defeated Swagger for the ECW title, which is the reason why Christian will retain the belt at Judgment Day. Kozlov is next to win the title. In fact, at this rate, he'll be champion before the summer is through. Let's look at the track records for each and the inner workings here to get an idea.

Christian has returned to the WWE from a long stay in TNA. He's maintained his popularity and shown his veteran instincts that have secured him an ECW title run. He has won the titel by shady means, but a victory is a victory. However, we have all heard the stories from Vince McMahon about how he does not like Christian or his look. You would be hard-pressed to think that Christian was going to be a long-term champion. As for Jack Swagger, well, he was dominant for about 4 or so months. He lost his first match to Finlay, but that didn't slow him down. He lost the ECW title to Christian, but not before losing a big match on draft night to John Cena, which is almost destructive to anyone's credibility and push. I'm pretty sure at this point Swagger has just about bottomed out. Some say otherwise, but, in all reality, most stars that lose to Cena do bottom out.

As for Kozlov, well, he hasn't really lost too much momentum. In fact, for the momentum he loses, he gains it back in other matches. It's a pendulum with him. I think it's mostly due to the fact that the WWE remains faithful to him over the other two. They have faith in this gift from a promoter, than an established veteran and a trainee, successfully finishing up in the training facilities. Really shows who gets favoritism, doesn't it?

Kozlov claims he will dominate in ECW just as he has done everywhere else. Quite frankly, I can't say he won't. With minute competition, a very small fan base, a general malaise towards the brand, and some favoritism towards himself, how can he lose? He's been tearing through the competition as of late, and it's only a matter of time before he settles in on an established star like Evan Bourne or Finlay. He has the credentials to be a top star in the WWE as well as some wrestling knowledge to get by. Let's not overlook his toughness, either.

ECW had better be prepared for Kozlov's dominance and subsequent title run. The fans had better be, as well. In fact, so should the wrestlers. I say this because his dominance might put ECW on the map. Then again, it might not. The fans might take an interest in his power, then again, they might not. As for the wrestlers, they might give him a run for his money, then again, they might not. Why all this doubt? Well, if Kozlov couldn't dominate on Smackdown, what will dominating on ECW prove? ECW is a lesser show, by far, especially now that SD has more stars that can wrestle. If Kozlov will prove anything, it's that he's a star to fear, and a star on the rebound. Let's just hope a handful of careers aren't destroyed by him, physically, credibly, or charismatically. We don't need any more job losses because of a "hostile takeover". Right? (Man, that sucked).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

ECW Progress Report: ECW returns to 10 P.M. on May 5th. O.K.....

ECW is returning to its original time of 10 P.M. I would say this means something, and it might, but then again, it might not. For close to a year and some change, ECW has been at 9 P.M. Since it has, we've been treated to the TV-PG style of ECW. We've seen Hornswoggle make all kinds of mischief, we've seen some bad angles and gimmicks, and we've even seen some decent matches, for the most part. Will this be any different when they move? Well, Hornswoggle's on RAW now, so maybe. But, wait! The Miz and Morrison are gone, too. This does leave room for some serious analysis then....or not.

You see, the whole matter is that, well, it might not make a difference at this point. The move didn't help the ratings. In fact, they got worse. So, what's the big deal with the move back, then? Well, there are two schools of thought as far as that is concerned. There really isn't much to them, but it does seem kind of odd to make the change in the middle of everything, and out of nowhere, with little or no fanfare. But, even in the WWE, there's a method to the madness.

The first set of thinking is this: they are making the move to return to the way things were in 2006. They are going to return to the way things were when Heyman was at the helm and Vince was watching him. There will be some interesting gimmicks, match-making, and even decent storylines. Of course, it will be heavily edited and changed in case of the possibility that it feels too much like the "old school" ECW. Still, it will be interesting to see that style utilized with the new talent. All they need to do is call up Heyman, get one of his supporters, like Gabe Sapolsky, and you got yourself a show.

The second set of thinking is this: everything will remain the same, but the move is to regain the ratings it has lost. Vince McMahon made it clear, again, in another meeting, that ECW won't be the way it used to be. He feels that those days are over. It's time to move on. However, as the move was made and the time slot changed, the ratings took a nosedive, and a huge one, albeit, it was over time. This was caused by a number of things, honestly. One thing was the competition it was against. Forget the males because they found sports to watch and decent episodic television. For the kids and others, there's American Idol. Now, the WWE will say that they've beaten American Idol in the ratings. However, we all know that's just a big joke, especially since it's not even the season finale, when the ratings really rise. But, let's be honest. Even when American Idol wasn't on, they lost big in the ratings. Now, when your ratings are equal to that of your competition at times, and then, worse, something has to be done. But will a timeslot change work? It might since 10 P.M. on a tuesday night is still relatively a dead zone, unless it's baseball. I guess it all depends on your audience.

So, the change is coming. I'd write more, but what else can be said? ECW is going back to its regular time, and quite frankly, it's about time, I suppose. I don't know. I don't think this will increase the ratings with either the hardcore or the casual fan. This is because the casual fan doesn't even know what ECW is, let alone watch it. As for the hardcore fan, well, they can't be bothered with this version of ECW only because it's not authentic. It's a big waste of time and effort on their part to watch. So, what's the point? There really isn't one. Just know that you ECW watchers have to wait another hour, and have to tune yourself back to 2006 again to catch this show. Let's hope your interest returns, too, because after seeing the first ECW since the draft this year, things could stand to be better, well, at least in the big picture of it all.

Next week (which is subject to change), I start analyzing the new draftees. It will be Vladimir Kozlov, Ezekiel Jackson, Zack Ryder, and Natalya and D.H. Smith, respectively for their respective weeks. This should be fun, so stay tuned.