Monday, June 29, 2009

Extreme Rules....simple...right?

When I first saw ECW, the rules were simple: score a pinfall or submission, but adhere to the fact that falls count anywhere in the building, and there were no count-outs or disqualifications. The ref could stop the match based on his discretion, if need be. That was the general gist of ECW's wrestling rules. Fast forward to now, and well, you'd get a much different story.

At the start of the 2006 return of ECW, something strange came about. The once-implied ECW rules first changed in name to "Extreme Rules", then they changed in content and stipulation. Instead of being something implied for every match, it was now stipulated. It was reduced to a silly gimmick match idea. And yet, even as such was done, the worst thing happened: its simplicity left with it. Here's what I mean, if you'll indulge me.

If these rules are to resemble, let alone be the rules of that which was found in the original ECW, then the rules are supposed to be the same as they were enforced. But, this isn't foreign to the WWE as they have had dozens, if not hundreds of matches under ECW rules. These matches were "Hardcore matches", usually fought for the Hardcore title. Every time this was done, I made it a point to remember exactly where these rules came from and what they stood for. I guess that's kind of why I sort of respected these matches, regardless of what they did, essentially, and that was stealing from ECW. However, when they did at times, in some ways, they gave a nod to ECW when they did. But, for this new set of rules, "Extreme Rules", they don't really do that. Instead of falls counting anywhere, it's just limited to the ring. Instead of going all out and utilizing different weapons, it's just mostly garbage cans, chairs, and maybe even tables. Instead of having it happen in every match, it's stipulated once in a blue moon. The "ECW" in an "Extreme Rules" match just does not seem to exist, or at least hold up. But, I guess I could have and should have expected that since this isn't the original ECW anyway. But, if you were planning to give a nod to your predecessors, it would be better to do it the right way, with everything intact.

The other complexity that I wanted to address was how "Extreme Rules" became an overly accessible gimmick to the other brands. Instead of just being limited to that of ECW, it became a part of the WWE continuum through its inclusion on an entire PPV event. The motive: have every match be within the confines of "Extreme Rules". This became the premise of the "One Night Stand" PPV, instead of it just being an ECW reunion show. In fact, "Extreme Rules" became the new title of the PPV to make it sound a little less crude. One would say that they might have just taken the idea of "Extreme Rules" and over-saturated it to the point where the effect is no longer the same as it was before. However, that's not what vexes me the most. What confuses me is the need to have "Extreme Rules" stipulated over every match, and, well, not have it mean anything over the course of a whole night. They go out of their way to talk about how every match is under these rules, and yet, the idea falls by the wayside because of the extra stipulations each match has. What really bothered me was what they did at this year's Extreme Rules PPV with the ECW match on the card. It was supposed to be a "Triple Threat" match for the ECW title, and yet, the general manager, Tiffany, goes out of the way to say this match was a "Hardcore match". Man, is she inept at her job (I'll talk more about this on 7/5, next week). First off, in a triple threat match, they have already made it a point to avoid DQs and count-outs, let alone not count them as of recent times. So, why go to the trouble of making it official? Second, any person who has followed the WWE enough knows that a Hardcore Match is an Extreme Rules match as they are exactly the same, or were supposed to be, until the rules have changed for today's audiences. My thing is this: why go to the trouble of adding another stipulation that is exactly the same as what was proposed for the whole night? Lastly, if say, you do make this a Hardcore match, why don't you go and make the match a little different by stipulation instead of just like an Extreme Rules match? In other words, what happened to falls counting anywhere, and wouldn't that have made the match much more unique?

It may sound like me, nitpicking, but I try not to allow bad logic to ruin my wrestling experience. However, this has been a trend that has been continuing more and more, lately, and it's getting harder and harder to watch. Extreme Rules should be more than just a stipulation, in my view. It shouldn't have to be told. It should just be implied, as is, and the wrestlers should have to make the decision to whether or not use weapons and such, based on their abilities. That's how the original ECW played out. Wrestlers didn't have to go out and use weapons all the time. Sometimes, they let their abilities do the work for them. If that's not possible, then at least, try to make these Extreme Rules matches more authentic to the history they represent.

It seems that now-a-days, the only thing extreme about Extreme Rules is how extremely confusing it can get when it is called upon, be it in one or more matches. There's no need to add to a match like this, or take away from it. Just do what comes natural, add the stipulations needed, do not go to the trouble of changing anything or adding anything, and let the wrestlers do their business. Simple, right? Sure is. The hard part is relaying these ideas to the creative teams in the WWE and not having it, well, extremely messed up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Year 3 of the ECW/Sci-Fi Channel Experiment

Happy Anniversary, ECW! You defied death and destruction once again to give us another iteration of your life. This time, the WWE has put you on the operating table, sewn together some rather questionable body parts, and struck you with lightning to bring you back to life. It’s been 3 years since Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman decided that ECW return to television for the good of the wrestling world and its fans. So, how have those three years been? Let’s take a retrospective look:

As previously stated in a past analysis, the first day of the revival of ECW was headlined by vignettes of Test and Kevin Thorn, a wrestling zombie getting caned to a pulp by Sandman, Kurt Angle running through Justin Credible, an extreme battle royal showcasing the ECW stars of old and new brawling it out and Sabu winning, and, lastly, RVD getting crowned ECW champion along with the WWE title, only to be embarrassed by Edge and Cena and made to look like a weakling. You’d think it wouldn’t get worse from there but 2006 was good for many things, but bad for most other things. The good would include stars using the ECW brand as a platform to re-apply themselves as stars in the WWE, ECW originals continue their hardcore lifestyles in the ring, more chances to see RVD wrestle, and the debut of C.M. Punk: one of the guiding and shining lights of the WWE today with his straight-edge lifestyle, sardonic demeanor, and his rather amazing wrestling style. The bad would include failed attempts at putting WWE stars over as ECW products, the constant departure of ECW originals for one reason or another, ridiculous attempts to make the show more adult, title reigns that many fans looked down upon not just due to the wrestler, but who they fought, and the lowest of the “low-lights”, a PPV that qualitatively stunk match-wise, length-wise, and any other way possible. Those reasons, along with the slow gentrification of ECW as a whole to make it more “WWE-related” (ex. “Hardcore Rules” being implied changes to “Extreme Rules” being stipulated) made 2006 a very tumultuous year for this brand. To make matters worse, their top star was picked off by police for speeding and possession of drugs. Since he could no longer rep the brand as champ, it would make sense that an ECW original win the belt or something, but that never happened. At the end of the year, the man responsible for the ECW side of the decision-making process, Paul Heyman was relieved of his duties, paid for his employment, and the reins of the show were firmly placed in WWE hands.

In 2007, many more sweeping changes were made. First, many more originals were fired, along with stars looking to revamp their careers on the ECW brand. This was done at the beginning of 2007 as well as in the middle of the year. C.M. Punk lost his first match, deflating whatever push he had for major title contention for about 6 to 8 months. Also, two big storylines took form that year along with two major changes to ECW as a program. First, there was a faction war between ECW superstars, pitting the “New Breed” (Matt Striker, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von, and their leader, Elijah Burke) vs the “ECW Originals” (Sandman, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and their leader, RVD). It started with a random attack on Burke involving a table in January. It then ballooned into straight up factional warfare with the added elements of other wrestlers coming into play, one of which was C.M. Punk. The issue resolved itself when Punk decided to join the New Breed, only to cause dissension within the ranks. They later disbanded, Punk continued his run for stardom, and the ECW Originals also went about their business. Another major storyline involved ECW draftee Bobby Lashley and Mr. McMahon. Lashley was chosen by Donald Trump to face Mr. McMahon’s hand-picked wrestler, Umaga in a “Hair vs. Hair” match at Wrestlemania 23. Upon his defeat, Mr. McMahon waged a personal war on Lashley that ended up with the unthinkable happening. As Lashley won the ECW title at the only ECW PPV of its 3-year tenure, Mr. McMahon defeated him for it, making himself ECW champion. Even though the ECW originals were mad at it on-screen, I could tell they weren’t too high on the idea, but had to exert their feelings constructively. So, RVD, Sabu, Sandman, and Dreamer each had video responses to it. I had a feeling that what they did and said had some grains of truth to them. The belt that symbolized a wrestling revolution was being worn by the chairman of the company that bought them. It was being worn by someone who hated what ECW stood for. It was being worn by someone who despised the acronym of ECW. If the belt had any value, it was long gone after that. Lashley would reclaim the title, then vacate it after being drafted to RAW. However, even as a new champion was crowned in the form of John Morrison in June of 2007, the title would never be the same again. John Morrison was formerly Johnny Nitro of M-N-M, drafted to ECW and placed in the finals for the vacant ECW title for a wrestler who couldn’t make it ( that wrestler was Chris Benoit, and we all know why, by now, right?) Still, this occurrence proved to be helpful to Morrison as well as his opponent at the time, C.M. Punk, as they used the situation to their advantage. As for the two changes that year, they only helped to try and protect ECW for the future. One such change was the replay of ECW without commercials on, in case the show was to be canceled. Another change was ECW’s exchange of talent with Smackdown, and later, Raw to help provide the viewers of said brands a chance to see what ECW had in store for you if you watched it. All this did was provide a platform for ECW’s better stars to get over on for the future. This was probably the best answer as to why the Miz and Morrison became rising stars. This was also spear-headed by the then-ECW GM, Armando Alejandro Estrada (I miss that guy). Other than that, a new talent initiative was being situated for the brand, where stars like Kofi Kingston began their slow ascent to excellence in the WWE, and Colin Delaney, who started his fast descent to mediocrity. ECW was on the fast track to change, and the WWE had to be ready for it.

2008 would be a bit of a calendar year for ECW. Many major moves were made to make ECW watchable, let alone exciting, or at least different. The first move involved the removal of Joey Styles from the announce position in an attempt to improve the WWE website after years of tumult and low quality. In his place came the latest hire to the WWE, Mike Adamle. He came from a world of broadcast, including collegiate sports, local sports, and even American Gladiators. The pay he received had to be earned and being a broadcast journalist and backstage interviewer wasn’t just going to cut it. His time on ECW was mired in vast controversy as his quality and expertise was challenged on a number of occasions. He was very green, inexperienced, and error-prone. Instead of improving his craft, the WWE made him the GM of Raw. This left ECW with no play-by-play man, for about a moment. The new team then became Matt Striker and Todd Grisham, as Taz was returned to SmackDown to commentate with J.R. You would think this whole story about announcers wasn’t important, but it became the focal point of many discussions during the year. Another set of big moves that happened to ECW included not just a few firings, but the drafting of Kofi Kingston and C.M. Punk to Raw. Two of ECW’s top stars were gone, leaving room for others to step up, if at all possible. Enter Matt Hardy. He was drafted to ECW to fill in Punk’s spot, which he did excellently. The talent initiative continued that year with great highs (Evan Bourne, Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd), some tough lows (Gavin Spears, and the infamous Braden Walker), and some in-betweens (Ricky Ortiz, D.J. Gabriel, Paul and Katie Lea Burchill). As the title kept changing hands, including with Jack Swagger going undefeated before winning his in a few months, and Mark Henry’s reign of terror, Theodore Long took over as the G.M. Under his watch, some key things happened, like the return of Christian, which should have been lauded with great attention, but it wouldn’t be so. This was Christian’s new home and virtually no one cared in the WWE offices. The final big move was to put ECW at 9 P.M. to not just appeal to the younger fans, but to also garner better ratings. The one thing I didn’t mention this whole time was how the ratings took a nosedive after the first show, and never rose again. When it debuted on Sci-fi, to some curiosity and fanfare, it reached a 2.7. Through and including 2008, the ratings dropped dramatically from the low 2s to the high 1s, to the low 1s, to even the high 0s. It came to the point where this show was comparable to a 2-hour TNA show, which didn’t say much since that show was starting to improve and maintain a low 1 here and there. 2008 was a great year for talent on ECW, but a bad year for content as the show had many stumbling blocks creatively, but different high points athletically.

As for this year, here’s what we have been exposed to for the first six months: the Miz and Morrison break-up during the WWE draft which sent them to RAW and Smackdown, respectively, Jack Swagger’s continued reign as top heel, Matt Hardy’s departure to SD to terrorize his brother, Christian’s short reign as ECW champion, the disappearance of a few in-between talents by draft or by lack of creative storylines, Theodore Long’s departure as G.M while his assistant, Tiffany, assumed power, a middling mix of athletic competition and bad entertainment, Finlay’s return to being a mean wrestler, the emergence of the Hart Dynasty, Mark Henry’s terrorizing of Evan Bourne which included Tony Atlas’ return to the ring (Tony became Mark’s manager as of 2008), and lastly, Tommy Dreamer’s recent win of the ECW title. How did the fans react? Positively in person, but on television, not so well, as the ratings are the lowest they have been. This is still a high for the Sci-Fi channel, as it still reigns as the highest-rated show on the network. In fact, ECW might be the reason for the imminent name change of the network to “SyFy”, to employ a more casual approach to the subject matter. In other words, the name change is to show that they are more than just science fiction media. There’s still room for growth, in all honesty, for ECW, but I think the fan support has just about disappeared. That, in many short words, was the history of ECW on the Sci-Fi channel up to this point.

Now, I was going to end on this note, but then I got a glimpse of Paul Heyman’s “Heyman Hustle” article for The Sun newspaper. He started talking about how he was not impressed with Dreamer’s title win and how it was meaningless as compared to back when ECW was its own entity. He was actually more impressed with Dreamer’s winning the attention of Vince McMahon with his “ultimatum” (I blogged about that twice, if you need further reference). This was a big thing to Paul because Vince is a hard person to not just impress, but catch his attention. FYI: in the article, Paul Heyman stated that Tommy Dreamer is supposed to be like the John McClane character from the “Die Hard’ movie franchise. John was just an ordinary cop pushed to his extremes due to circumstances beyond his control which forced him to do very extreme things to survive. That’s exactly how Tommy started in ECW. He was an average Joe, whom no one liked, pushed to his extremes by many things (Sandman’s canings, Raven’s mind games), until he finally pushed back. However, what caught my eye in this article weren’t Paul’s views on Tommy. It was his views on ECW.

Paul Heyman made it clear what his vision was for ECW. He wanted to break away from what wrestling was in 1993 and start a revolution. He didn’t want to take part in the way the WWE or WCW did business, and he didn’t want to do what the independent feds did: get local talents to job to the castaways of the WWEs and WCWs that came to this small independent federation. Instead, Paul took the local talents and pushed them as the top and new talents of the federation. Instead of making the local guys lose to established stars that came in, he made them the established stars. This would hopefully set a trend in the business, and it did. This became evident in many independent wrestling companies that existed at the time of ECW or after it, like Jersey All Pro Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling, All Pro Wrestling, and the most prominent of the bunch, Ring of Honor. I say that for ROH because, like ECW, it is becoming a new sensation overnight and has become the #3 organization in the world, if not the U.S. Did ROH follow that mindset? Absolutely! In fact, half, if not some of the stars that you see rise into power these days in the WWE has spent time in ROH building or re-building his or her craft. The #2 organization of TNA had this in mind, until the mandate was passed to make their shows more star-heavy for ratings purposes. We now have something of a “WWE Lite” in TNA, but that’s not to say that TNA is not remotely decent at times. They still find ways to put together an athletically-sound wrestling card every now and again, so there’s something there. It’s their lack of re-focusing on the talent that made TNA big in the first place that leaves people disheartened to the product.

Now, does Paul’s vision still exist in this iteration of ECW? I want to say….no. In fact, it is even within ECW where we see new stars get beaten by established WWE stars. But, then again, we do see established stars get beaten by the new talents every now and then. However, can you really count that, since this ECW is a branch of the WWE? Evan Bourne once said recently that this version of ECW is much better than the original. I have to believe that when he said that, it was through his overall love for WWE and need to be a company man. He couldn’t be any further from the truth, especially since they aren’t very similar in most tastes. It’s like comparing apples to grapes. The mentalities were much different, let alone the ownership. What’s so much the same about this ECW when compared to the original except the need to push new stars?

It’s been three years, and this version of ECW has endured many, many things. It has endured many title changes, leadership changes, successful new stars, failing new stars, old stars rising, old stars falling, plummeting ratings, and a general malaise from the viewing public. Yet, like the “little engine that could”, it continues to keep rolling on and on. All us viewers can do is either go along with the ride or just get off at the next train station. Like it or not, this ECW will be what it is until someone decides to pull the plug. You can hope for a resurgence of the original, but the likelihood of that has been all but decimated. All you can do is either change the channel or take pride and joy in what makes you happy about this version of ECW. I’m not going to lie. I do like some things about ECW, and I don’t like some things about it. But, I still watch it, for the good things, because for what it’s worth it shows that the WWE might very well be listening to what the fan in me wants. But, just as suddenly as that can be true, it can be rendered false with a lot of nonsense. To sum this up, it’s been 3 years, and ECW might not have found the true identity it needs to separate it from its other brands, except maybe its ratings. The best one can do is just accepting this as ECW’s identity: an ever-changing brand, far departed from its hardcore roots. What a difference 3 years can make, right?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Extreme Rules 2008: The greatest night of Tommy Dreamer's life...again

You're probably wondering about the title of this blog. Well, if you are or were an avid follower of ECW's original iteration, you remember Joey Styles saying that the greatest night of Dreamer's life was on June 6th, 1997, the night he defeated Raven, via pinfall, for the very first time. He finally exorcised the "demon" of that which was Raven, his eternal rival, and constant thorn in the backside. Many cheered him, some did not. But, at the end of the day, Tommy was vilified. This past Sunday, he won the ECW title for the second time. Congrats, Tommy.

But, wait, what about the first time? Wasn't that a greater day for Tommy? April 22nd, 2000: Tommy Dreamer won the ECW title for the first time, only to lose it within 30 minutes of getting it to Justin Credible. That doesn't prove to be a very good night, nor a very great or eventful one. But, the real kicker was what Dreamer said about that night. While he celebrated the victory on that night, he later revealed that he was very mad that he won the title. The reasons are as follows: he was disappointed that he was made champion because all of the major players were elsewhere. He just got the belt out of convenience. That, I can understand. The other reason is that he openly stated that he wanted to be the only ECW star to not have won the ECW title. That sounds like a pretty dumb thing to say, especially if you were over with a lot of people. But, he probably had his reasons, so, I won't fault him on that. It was his prerogative. But, I hope that explains why that night wasn't so great for him.

So, here we are. Tommy Dreamer is on top of the ECW mountain. And, as soon as that happened, he signs a 3 to 5 year contract solidifying his status in ECW. Hooray! Tommy Dreamer is going to be with us even longer now. No, that's not sarcasm, although if it were, I'd be much more scathing with it. It's glee, somewhat, as we get to hold on to this version of ECW just a little while longer. Yes, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Tommy Dreamer is ECW. Without Dreamer, there is no ECW. Period. You can say there is, but you know, in all honesty, that without a modicum of the past, there is no present. It wouldn't be ECW, without question. That's something I wouldn't want to live through, really. Watching a show that has no semblance of continuity lampoon a name with many levels of continuity is fraud, really, or at least it is, in my opinion. So, now that Dreamer's the champion, what's he going to do next? I think I might have an idea.

The most glaring idea that comes to mind is this: Dreamer will defend his title, lose it, and never get a hold of it again for the next eon or so. When talking about to whom he'll lose it to, it's as obvious as it has to be. If the next champ isn't Christian or Swagger, it will definitely be Kozlov. As for why this will happen is also glaringly obvious. At the end of the Day, Dreamer is still a remnant of an organization that tried to stick it to the WWE. That makes him a target for Vince McMahon's destructive plans, be it from Vince or his subordinates. I mean, honestly, why keep the title on Dreamer if you have a crop of people you're putting more attention on, let alone people who have beaten Dreamer in the past? Is it any surprise that he won the belt at Extreme Rules in a hardcore match? To Vince, no it isn't. Vince has and will always see Dreamer as a hardcore wrestling reject who's only good when a weapon is in his hand. To that end, don't expect Dreamer to outdo anyone remotely decent in ECW. If he does, logically, it wouldn't make sense if you're Vince. How does this loser beat winners when he could barely hold his broken body together after years of punishment? Logically, the stars he finds value in should not be losing to stars that have no value. Yes, folks, I don't think that Vince finds Dreamer very valuable as a wrestler, but has some value to him to merit 3 or 5 more years with the company. Then again, talking logic with Vince McMahon and the WWE isn't exactly something very smart. Have you seen the recent storylines lately, let alone the finishes? If you can find the logic in some of these "wonders", let me know. I mean, they still haven't explained who set up the scaffolding on Raw to crash on top of Vince during the Million Dollar Mania Giveaway (although, if they tried, Orton would be the top suspect, right, or something..)

Also, who's to say that Dreamer's title victory wasn't anything short of a power move orchestrated by Dreamer to get what he wants? Lately, all I've been hearing about are contract negotiations not going the way the WWE wants it to, when dealing with popular wrestlers (ex. Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio). The weird thing is this: the locker room respects them for haggling. I guess that Dreamer has earned a ton of respect for doing this. This brings me back to my value statement I made earlier. What's Dreamer's value, you ask? Other than being the bridge between the past and the present of ECW, he still has a great mind for wrestling. Did you know that some feelers on the TNA side of things were looking to sign him up as a potential booker? As crazy as that sounds, it would have been the smartest move TNA has made since signing Kurt Angle....or putting the kibosh on Shark Boy Steve Austin......or letting Eric Young punch Jeremy Borash in the face (because we all know we have wanted to do that, right?) Tommy has a lot of friends in TNA in Team 3-d, Rhino, and even Shane Douglas and Raven, depending on how long they stay. His mind is ripe for the picking when it comes to booking, because he knows the business very well, if not better than most. If not TNA, then how about ROH? He could join the booking squad and put together some very interesting angles, not to say that they aren't interesting now. He could help in booking finishes as well. I'd be a fool to pass up on that. As for where else, I'd say Dragon Gate only because Gabe Sapolsky knows Tommy as well as Paul Heyman does and his input would be valued. So, in the long run, it looked like Tommy had the advantage here all along.

Tommy Dreamer is the new ECW champion. He won it on the second greatest night of his life at Extreme Rules. This should prove to be very helpful to Dreamer's shelf life. However, I can't help but wonder just how long that shelf life might be. I don't know about you, but haggling with the WWE, as wise as that might be, can also put you in a professional prison where you get nothing but garbage fed to you, through bad booking, lousy storylines, endless losses, and intense malaise towards your person. Don't believe me? Let's look at all the stars that chose to stay in the WWE other than to look for greener pastures elsewhere. Matt Hardy was poised to make a big deal of his career when being fired by the WWE for his problems with Edge. However, his love for the WWE was more than enough to secure a contract for him. Since then, he hasn't gone anywhere past the main event except for the ECW title. Not only that, but he didn't even get the full vindication over Edge, kayfabe-wise. However, that also holds for other organizations, too. Abyss could have went to the WWE as a big-time monster wrestler, but chose to stay in TNA and has been buried ever since, placed in storylines where he looks like a middling oaf. Let's also consider the amount of pay going into this renewal for Tommy. If it's enough to be covered by the WWE, they'll fire him in an instant, without question. It's happened to Dawn Marie, Colin Delaney, and a slew of others, and it could happen to Tommy. Lastly, who's to say that this title run will even have legs, as the WWE has a tendency of rewarding wrestlers for staying as well as returning, but bringing them down to the level they were when they were in the WWE just because they don't see any value in them. Don't be surprised if on tonight's Raw, the 3-hour "3 for all" edition, he drops the belt to Christian to add not just shock to the show, but to remind everyone just how valuable Tommy is as a champ. I wouldn't put it past the WWE if that happened. Regardless, Tommy's back for a few more years, and he achieved something he hasn't achieved in close to 10 years. Let him savor the moment, cherish it, and even love it like another child. It might very well be the last one he ever gets. One was Tommy....who won by himself..(seriously, he did. What? You getting sick of me saying that line?)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tommy Dreamer's Zero Hour

Well, this is it. Zero Hour. Tommy' Dreamer has rarely finished first, always playing second fiddle, ending up the third wheel, finishing forth, and fifth in line for things. Well, at least in the current iteration of ECW. Anyhoo, this is Tommy's final hurrah. He has to make this work, or he's gone. Yes, I know I blogged about this before, but I had to do it again because this is the day. This could be the final time we see Tommy Dreamer on television, in the WWE or even as a wrestler. For you Tommy Dreamer fans, it's a tough state of affairs to deal with, but it's reality. For you non-fans, some of you couldn't be happier. In general, however, this is the night where the direction of my blogs may change, if not subtlely. It's the night where an era can end.....or begin. It's "win or go home" for Tommy. But enough metaphors. Let's get on with the analysis.

Tommy Dreamer is entering the fight of his career tonight, where only he and a handful of others might have an idea as to how this will pan out. He enters the "Extreme Rules" PPV into a Triple Threat match for the ECW title against Christian and Jack Swagger. The gimmick: it's Hardcore Rules for this match. Wait, isn't that the essence of "Extreme Rules" anyway? Isn't that like naming the match after the PPV? Isn't Hardcore Rules just Extreme Rules? (I'll talk more about that on 6/28) I guess when they say this, they mean that the rules are that of what consisted of a WWE Hardcore match, which was ECW rules. There are no DQs, countouts, and falls count anywhere. If that's the case, then Tommy has this in the bag.

No one knows Hardcore rules better than Tommy Dreamer. He's been a multi-time WWE Hardcore champion. He's warred with some of the most violent people on the planet. His ECW moniker was "The innovator of violence". This meant that he found new and different ways to inflict punishment on his opponents, whether it meant handcuffing a person to a cage and beating him in the head with a chair, giving someone an "Ace Crusher" off of two ladders, or even giving someone a "Death Valley Driver" off the top rope through a table. This would have never happened if the original ECW fans didn't push Tommy to do these things. When he warred with Raven so many years ago, the fans wanted him to really get extreme as Raven kept making him look foolish. Tommy finally did by taking out Raven's flunkie, Stevie Richards, and then piledriving Raven's girl, Beulah, a person blown off by Tommy in high school because of her appearance (kayfabe). Later, Beulah would side with Tommy against Raven after faking her pregnancy. In reality, she married him, and they have two daughters. This is the family Tommy Dreamer has to feed every night when he gets paid. If he loses, how will he feed them? He can't lose. He knows all about hardcore matches. Yet, that hasn't really been a big help in the WWE as of late.

See, his opponents have proven that they can be as extreme or as hardcore as he can. Christian has been in his share of ladder matches, including the Tag Team Ladder Match of No Mercy 1999 that put him on the map as a major player. He's battled and brawled with the best of them. He's also been a hardcore champ, even though it was for a short time. He's even outsmarted and outcheated Jack Swagger in both ECW title matches on consecutive PPVs. That's impressive, to say the least. As for Swagger, he's taken a shortcut or two to get ahead. Let's not forget that when it came to getting extreme, he beat Dreamer at his own game. It was disheartening to Dreamer to say the least. So, yea, Dreamer has his hands full.

I wouldn't be making this out to be very important if I didn't mention the implications of the match. Should Dreamer be successful, he gets another run as ECW champion. As his track record has shown as of late, he has yet to really get a run going in regular matches against opponents. He has yet to beat Christian, has yet to beat Swagger, and has lost his share of regular matches to others. In a hardcore environment, he's at home and stands a fighting chance, unless his opponents outsmart him. So, his title run will be mired in inefficiency with many people likening his potential victories to luck and his losses to his being an undeserving champion. Should Dreamer lose, then he's gone for good, despite the rumors. There was a rumor going that he'd become the new GM of ECW upon re-signing, but he has made it clear that he does not want that to be the case. His contract expired, so if he loses, he's gone: no GM position, no returns, nothing. In fact, there was another rumor going around that the WWE expected him to do that should he re-sign. But, that's not going to be the case. It would be tough though, as ECW can use a pretty decent GM other than the rather pointless form of eye-candy known as Tiffany (I have a key idea myself for the blog on the first Sunday of July). But, if Dreamer loses, then the only thing linking this version of ECW to the past currently will be gone. So, then, this ECW can't be considered original, let alone connected to the original ECW. You might as well call this brand something completely different because it won't be ECW, no matter how you slice it. With no past, how can they have a present? Now, I know what some of you are thinking. The WWE has the ECW tapes and such and they have their past already. News flash: that was when ECW was its own entity with its own owners, and it's own bookers. There's a reason why ECW is listed differently on Wikipedia than its counterparts, ECW on Sci-Fi and ECW on TNN. The reason is the content, plain and simple. If you have to change your content in any way, shape, or form that's remotely contradictory to the original idea, then it really isn't connected to it. I could be wrong about that, and I could be right, but that's how I feel. Calling this version of ECW, by the acronym ECW would be sacrilege, illogical, and downright ridiculous. There's no Heyman, no Styles, and maybe no Dreamer. So, what makes this ECW? That phony belt? No, not even close.

This is a big night for Dreamer. How the WWE handles this will determine ECW's future. I'll even blog about the outcome next week, if not sooner. This is going to be a big move on the WWE's part. Do they reward Tommy Dreamer, despite all the stars they can use, and despite his embarrassments? Do they keep Dreamer from the title, ending his career, effective immediately, and the ECW era altogether? Catch Extreme Rules on PPV tonight and see for yourself. I know I will, and I'll have my fingers ready for the typing as of next week.