Monday, January 25, 2010

ECW Progress report: Endings and Beginnings

As a fan of nostalgia, I find it difficult to let things go. I loved the cartoons of my past, I adored the video games of my childhood, and I miss the feeling of actually having no responsibilities on a Saturday. However, all good things have to come to an end, and it's never until it's gone until you realize what you've lost. It's the memories that remain. With that said, I am not surprised with the latest moves the ECW brand has made to make things interesting. If anything, they are coercing me to accept the fact that times have truly changed. I have to come to terms with the fact that as one era ends, another begins.

Zack Ryder has made it a point to say that he's the new heart and soul of ECW, now that he has defeated Tommy Dreamer and sent him packing. As expected, he's been bragging up a storm about it, without fail or scruples. Someone should make it a point to silence him. Who is that someone? How about the person that has no choice but to step up and take Dreamer's role as the defender of ECW's honor? The one man who knows heroism like no other? I'm talking about the Hurricane (he could definitely use Bob Dylan's cool song, but this Hurricane isn't a boxer, but I digress). The Hurricane has made it a point to try and get at Zack Ryder every time Zack makes his claims. Now, since the Hurricane is not only good friends with Dreamer but also someone who has been around to know of Dreamer's career, it would behoove him to not step in and take a shot at Ryder. So far, the Hurricane hasn't been too successful as Ryder had beaten him in the ring and evaded his every attack. Still, persistence on both ends remains rather evident. I'll get into this in more detail next week, based on what I know, read, and care to ignore.

The next piece of info has to deal with Ezekiel Jackson becoming the new #1 Contender for the ECW title. In fact, it has less to do with that as it mostly deals with Christian being the longest-reigning ECW champion since the rebirth of ECW in 2006. It seems that no matter who they put in front of him, Christian is able to outsmart, outwit, and outwrestle his opponents, allowing him to regain or retain the ECW title. They've tried veterans as well as rookies, and Christian has dominated, regardless. Does Ezekiel chances fare better? Well, if Kozlov could lose to Christian, I'm But, anything is possible in the WWE so, who knows? I do. This is because the WWE is so redundant, so stagnant, and so unoriginal with their ideas as of late, that you'd swear you were watching a rerun of some bad wrestling show....or bad sitcom. You could also factor in the fact that Christian is one of ECW's best workers, so having him lose to anybody is defeating to his credibility. But, Christian's work rate has been well-documented. So, why is he king of a mountain like ECW? Ask Vince McMahon since he has a great idea as to why .

Upon seeing these two developments, I came to the stark and harsh revelation that what I feared would happen has finally happened. It is now official. The era of the original in this new ECW is over and the era of the new blood has finally taken shape and is officially a reality. From 2006 to early January 2010, ECW had a hint of the original to it with whomever was involved and whatever has went down. Now, it has been purged from the very letters that made it what it was. It seems former ECW brand member Elijah Burke prophesied the truth about a new age coming. He was just wrong about he being the one to usher it in. Turns out it's Zack Ryder who's the one to bring it forth. Just like Burke, it's through words that they make this claim. However, it is through subsequent actions from these two that the truth has come to light. This is a new beginning for ECW. Gone are the memories of the original in the ECW arena. Gone are the days of the hardcore revolution. Gone are the leaders of the new dawn in professional wrestling through violence, innovation, and toughness. Now, we say hello to a new age. Just like the old school, new stars are put forth, but not to innovate, but lamentably regurgitate what is being seen Mondays and Fridays. Sure, there's more action per se, but it's to serve one purpose: to create new stars for the other shows, not to change the way we look at wrestling. To be honest, there is still a level of interest to be had in this version of ECW, but, it's starting to fade out with all the extra nonsense we are familiar with when we turn to USA on Monday or MyNetwork TV on Friday. There's no room for true innovation, just room for complete regurgitation.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that somehow ECW can be more than just a filler show, echoing the sentiments of the WWE. Maybe there is still hope, but after Dreamer's departure, and the aforementioned facts and happenings of recent times, I'm doubtful. Can ECW truly be the place to find true innovation as it once was before? Can it rebuild my interest in mainstream wrestling once again? There's only two options they can take: shut down or find an answer. The answer, in my view, is a star that can make the show whole and viewable in a different light. A star that brings back a style reminiscent to that of technical wrestlers of old. The star in question, is Bryan Danielson. He can be the superstar to improve on the way business is done. He can be the beacon of hope when all is lost. Then again, there might not be an ECW to save when he debuts as the lingering possibility of ECW's demise still hangs in the balance. One way or another, the era of the original that started in 2006 is over, and I have to come to terms with that. That doesn't mean I have to like it. But, that doesn't mean that ECW can be all bad, right? Well, let's see. Santino Marella was just hosting the Abraham Washington Show in his place, doing Ivan Drago impressions to insult Vladimir Kozlov as a stab at the Conan O'Brien/NBC/Jay Leno situation. Yea....where's that remote?

Monday, January 18, 2010

ECW Homecoming: why a good idea can be a waste of time

If you don't know by now, the newest ECW #1 contender is Ezekiel Jackson after winning the ECW Homecoming battle royal. Yes, that same Ezekiel Jackson that just received a crash course in character development after languishing as Brian Kendrick's bodyguard saying nothing, doing nothing, and meaning nothing. All of a sudden, he's a contender for a title after...well, being a bodyguard for William Regal. Is this a slam against Jackson? No. Is this a slam against his ability? No. It's a slam against the people in charge of creative development and writing. Is it too much to ask for a little attention to detail for ECW? Yea, you don't care, but some of us actually do. That said, I'm going to point out why I didn't bother to watch this, and why I think this idea didn't come off too well. Well, other reasons than just the fact that, this shouldn't be ECW (by the way, Tommy Dreamer was at an indy wrestling show this past weekend. Look into EVOLVE WRESTLING. Might do you some good)

Ok, problem number one lies with specific details. The first thing that was mentioned when it came to this idea, was that ECW's esteemed G.M., Tiffany, mentioned that former ECW stars would be invited back for a competition to see who would qualify for a battle royal to get contendership for the ECW title. You're having matches to qualify for a battle royal to become a contender for the title? Convolution aside, here's the problem: as soon as this was mentioned, we see two current stars fighting for contention, in Ezekiel Jackson and Vladimir Kozlov. Ok, now you're not being clear about your stipulations. If it's for ECW stars making a homecoming, then maybe it should just be those stars making a homecoming. If you wanted all ECW stars, past and present, you should have just said that. Instead, the writers decided to be vague with the delivery, hoping people wouldn't care about the stipulations since they already don't care about the brand. Ironically enough, this didn't garner new ratings and no, nobody cared. However, since the title match will be on a pay-per-view event (Royal Rumble 2010, to be honest), don't you think you should put some effort into creating a good back-story so people won't be confused as to why this match is happening? Consistency is key when it comes to stories and plans, folks. This is why TNA isn't treated very fairly. Well, that, and for the dumb ideas they put forth.

Another point to consider is the very fact that in order to decide a new #1 contender, the WWE had to use stars from other brands to fill in the gaps. Way to make the ECW brand look weak, guys. The very idea of a "homecoming" shows that you don't have the talent to come up with wrestlers on the very show you have that are up to snuff for the challenge. In fact, they did have challengers. The problem is, they all challenged for the title and lost, except the Hurricane and Vance Archer. How are they doing? Well, Archer already lost his first match, and Hurricane is fighting for the honor of ECW, and looking pathetic doing so. Why? Is it because the WWE has no other main face to job out in ECW with Tommy Dreamer gone? Maybe it's because he's friends with Jeff Hardy, who quit the WWE while maintaining all types of stardom, got convicted for drug smuggling and dealing, and is now on TNA for a short amount of time? Who knows? So, any and all future challengers were burnt out before they even got started. Some drawn out feuds would be helpful, right? No, that's too much work. Let's just give everyone a title shot or two, have them lose, and not bother trying to build some good angles and feuds. Oh, and while we're at it, let's call upon stars that aren't going anywhere but could be going somewhere from other shows to help us with our contender problems. In the end, we get Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne and C.M. Punk wrestling for a title they don't need or could have used on their first run in ECW when they could have been wrestling on their respective brands, making strides to be important again. And, when looking at this, it can be easy to say that, sadly, this devalues them as much because it takes away from their time on their own shows.

My final point lies with the general concept and what it lacks. If this is an ECW homecoming for wrestlers to battle for a shot at the belt, wouldn't it be more fitting to say, involve the stars from the past? As a fan of what ECW stands for, I know I would. Yes, this might be my weakest point, but let me tell you: people still long for the original ECW and some of its stars. Specifically, they long for one man who would have made this homecoming awesome: Rob Van Dam. If you hear something like a homecoming for wrestling, specifically for ECW, then you would hope that some stars from the past would show up. If there was anyone most competent to handle this current ECW roster, it would be him. He has the charisma, the talent, and the credentials to back it up. But, we all know that this is virtually impossible due to many, many factors, including Vince's need to control the ECW product, Paul Heyman's release, RVD's lack of interest in wrestling full-time, etc. Now, some would say that asking for old stars to return would also be counteractive to the youth movement in ECW. The thing is, you can't play up a homecoming angle of sorts with an entity like ECW and not include all aspects of its past. You just finished getting rid of Tommy Dreamer, a card-carrying old school ECW member. Now, you want to talk about a homecoming? Let's not forget the fact that great strides were made to make people forget that these guys were on the ECW brand. Come on.

Yea, this might not be my best analysis, as it seems I'm slowly signing off on ECW, but I'll try to be much more analytical about ECW. However, it's hard when those involved don't have the foresight to make the show watchable. It's also hard when you have the spoilers in your face already. All I'm saying is the thought of an ECW homecoming could have been done much better. You don't have to throw random ideas on the screen and see what happens. Some planning helps. Also, foresight and preparation are good. I'm not asking for Shakespeare, just some planning. Then again, it is asking much. Why should I care about a writing team that doesn't care about a brand that's not worth caring about? Where's that plug to ECW? Why hasn't anyone pulled it yet? Oh, that's right. It's still precious enough to merit some sort of homecoming....for stars and people other than those connected with ECW. That makes sense.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Trent Barretta and Caylen Croft: Miz and Morrison 2.0?

Don't you just love buddy movies? Who doesn't? Two guys or two gals or what have you, joining together to get in all types of trouble trying to get from point A to point B, while we either have a laugh, shed a tear, gasp in fear, or stand up and cheer. It's like the ultimate guilty pleasure. The funny thing about these movies is how these buddies get together. Some times it's by chance or circumstance, while most of the time the buddies have been life-long or long-time friends. You know the type: the type of people that hang out every day, if not every weekend, shooting the breeze, go to clubs on a Friday night trading off on wingman status, playing video games all day if need be, and comparing their lives to each other to see who has it worse, or better. You'd think that this was a case that would never be found in pro wrestling or sports entertainment. Interestingly enough, these types can be found in wrestling. Enter Trent Barretta and Caylen Croft.

This duo of bosom buddies have found their way to ECW and are sharing their excellent adventures through tag team wrestling with the masses who will watch them. They are incredibly cocky, incessantly garish, and virtually joined at the hip. When it comes to tag team wrestling, they work in a synergy that's reminiscent to the olden days of the 1980s (even though they look like jobbers). It's actually quite refreshing to see this, as tag team wrestling has been rather uninteresting and lacking. So, who are these two fellas that we are getting to know and, well, hate? Let's find out! Thanks, Wikipedia

Trent Barreta's real name is Greg Marasciulo. He made his professional debut in 2004 as part of the New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC). He debuted under the ring name, Plazma, and lost his first match to Dan Barry. He would later team with Dan Barry and start a regular tag team with him as they made their way to various wrestling promotions, including Jersey All Pro Wrestling, where they were literally beaten down by teams like the Hit Squad. I can still remember seeing them get thrown into the wall of the arena. He would then be welcomed into the WWE training facility of FCW, where he would meet up with Caylen Croft after a failed stint at becoming the "queen of FCW". Yes, that's what happened. They then found their way to ECW as a tag team and have been their since.

Caylen Croft's real name is Kris Pavone. After leaving Youngstown State University as an art major, he studied under Danny Davis and Nick Dinsmore, learned his craft as a wrestler, took part in the ECWA Super 8 tournament in April 2003, and later joined Ohio Valley Wrestling as part of the WWE's original training facility. In OVW, he wrestled under the name, "Hitman" Chris Cage, and was involved in many a feud in the promotion. After teaming with Nova, he teamed with Tank Toland to become the OVW tag champions with him in 2003 and 2004. He then won the OVW World championship from Matt Morgan, before losing the belt to Chad Tolad, Tank's cousin. To obtain retribution, Cage teamed with Mike Mizanin (the Miz) to beat the Tolands for the OVW tag titles. He was later released from OVW and his WWE developmental contract for behavior problems, allowing him to tour other promotions, including Ring of Honor and Cleveland All-Pro wrestling to hone his craft. He made a few appearances in OVW, despite not having a WWE contract during that time period. He was given another WWE contract, but this time with FCW. That's where he met Trent Barreta. They became a team and went on to win the FCW tag titles. After this, they found their way to ECW, and the rest is recent history.

Now, these two have already shown decent chemistry as a team, along with a rather boisterous attitude. I initially stated that they could be the next "Miz and Morrison", resembling a team that not only uses ECW to break out and become big stars, but also become overnight sensations as a tag team. However, this possibility is hampered heavily by a few factors. See, it's going to be hard for Croft and Barreta to reach the top if the top of the mountain is heavily safeguarded. Also, one would say that their ability as a team might not seem as, intriguing, as that of a Miz and Morrison. Lastly, if say, they do reach the top, is it really going to matter? Here's a better question: does anyone really care if they can make it to the top, or if any other team could?

To start, let's look at the team of Barreta and Croft on a multi-dimensional level. Yes, they have a "throwback" appeal to them, reminding us of the teams of yesteryear. One look at the way they are dressed and the way they are acting reminds me of the many jobber tag teams of the past like Mike Bell and Buck Quartermaine, Barry Horowitz and Reno Riggins, and even Duane Gill and Barry Hardy. However, this team is to be taken seriously. In that essence, they could be reminiscent to makeshift and non-makeshift teams like the Beverly Brothers, Power and Glory, The Young Stallions, Well Dunn, and to the least extent (because to compare them directly as equals would be truly insulting), the Midnight Express. However, the problem with this team is that their aura and delivery seems rather one-dimensional. Sure, they're a great team, but what else is there? Should we take them seriously if all we know is that they're a duo of cocky "bros"? One would also elude to the fact that you could take advantage of this team idea, but the creative teams of FCW and WWE are so vastly different that what caught one in the training facility won't catch on in front of a WWE audience. Some examples of this happening include the Heart Throbs, the Highlanders, and KC James and Idol Stevens. This, I feel, mostly lies on the creative team's lack of interest in doing research on the characters that come up from the training camps. Either that, or, they do the research, send their ideas to the creative heads, and have their ideas shot down. It's kind of tough to reach the top when you have no help from those who can. Looks like these two have to handle their character development on their own.

Now, say they get past this creative development problem. Now, they have to contend with the tag division stars. This brings us to their biggest problem: the tag team champions are D-Generation X. They wouldn't put anyone over if their careers depended on it. Sadly, their careers never do. If they can, they'll bury any tag team they choose. If it means to make the team look virtually incompetent in the ring or outside, they'll do it, simply by not giving them the proper credit or even the attention the team is looking to get. Triple H loves squashing and discrediting stars he doesn't see as a big deal, or does see as a threat, while HBK loves to do what Triple H is doing as long as their friendship is intact. Throw in their midget mascot, Hornswoggle, and Barreta and Croft have a better chance of winning the Powerball. All Hornswoggle is good at doing is making wrestlers look like incompetent fools, as he is, for some reason, impossible to beat up, even though he's half the size of the wrestlers, and very slow. People have to suspend logic and give this a level of believability. If that's the case, then on wrestling standards, most of the wrestlers that have lost to, or have been befuddled by Hornswoggle aren't capable of being top stars. Interesting enough, that's what is the adopted mindset by everyone who sees this happening. Trent, Caylen: if you want the tag belts, you better kiss some serious butt, otherwise, you'll be lucky to win even a staring contest against D-X. If it works for them, then sucking up should work for you.

Now, say that the first conditions are not an issue. Say that Barreta and Croft become tag champions. The question is this: who cares? Thanks to the WWE, tag team wrestling means as much to anyone these days as paint drying. Every legitimate tag team has been split up, every upcoming tag team is discredited, and every major tag match involves 4 main eventers instead of actual teams. Gone are the days of the Hart Foundation, the Rockers, Demolition, and even the Legion of Doom. Instead, we get cookie cutter and cop out tag teams put together for the sake of furthering feuds, and putting over singles champions. Whatever happened to having the best matches on the cards being tag matches? I'll tell you what happened: wrestling changed in 2002 and the WWE couldn't afford to or didn't want to put over any more tag teams. Every major team of that era was split, and tag wrestling was lost to the foolishness of the creative teams of the WWE. I kind of mentioned something along these lines about a year ago (see the ECW analysis on the Miz and Morrison: best team of the 21st Century. Sure, I like these guys, but they aren't as great as the stuff I've seen). Being a top tag team is equivalent to, well, winning a carnival game or the crane game or receiving a cardboard crown from a fast food restaurant. If Trent Barreta and Caylen Croft do the unthinkable, the first question on everyone's minds won't be "Where will these two go from here?". It will be "Who are these guys and why should I care?" If you're a budding tag team in this industry, steer clear of the WWE.

Be all of this as it may, Trent Barreta and Caylen Croft have a ways to go before becoming as good as their ECW predecessors, the Miz and John Morrison. However, if they want to be big, they have to want it. They have to take the steps to get noticed. They have to work on their delivery, perfect their move execution, and become the best at what they do in and out of the ring. No, that won't be easy on a dead-end show like ECW (which shouldn't be called that, quite honestly), but if any team can do it, I'm sure they could. In a world where tag team wrestling is non-existent, these two can breathe life back into it, along with other teams on other brands. They've got ego, chemistry, and a life-long "brotherhood" that few teams can say they have. They have all the keys needed to be a top tag team. All they have to do is get the ball rolling in their favor and make some noise in a quiet environment like ECW. Perhaps a few rounds of Guitar Hero can prepare them for that. I'd suggest some Quiet Riot or Twisted Sister.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

ECW's place in the WWE's ever-changing world

Happy New Year to everyone reading. I hope everyone had a great holiday season, but now, it's back to business.

The WWE is heading in a very interesting creative direction when it comes to booking talent, establishing matches, preparing for pay-per-view events, and maintaining their spot at the top of the food chain. On Raw, the plan is to fully maximize the potential of the "guest host" position. While doing so, the move is to place two polarizing entities, D-X and Hornswoggle, together to maintain entertainment from the general masses. Also, moves have been made to promote new talent that either the fans would want to see on top (Kofi Kingston) or talent that gets great reviews with the pundits (Sheamus). All that, plus the WWE is taking interesting measure to keep John Cena in certain situations where he won't do anything to affect the buyrates or ratings negatively, like battling in the middle of the card or not even doing anything on a show. On Smackdown, the plan is to try and maximize the amount of wrestling done on the show with various stars making their plays at being top stars. Some of the things you see on Raw are being seen on SD (talent being liked by the pundits getting over). There has been some talk about making SD as interesting as Raw with something like a guest host. Also, a lot of stars that were big in early to mid 2009 are not so much anymore, while stars that weren't are (see C.M. Punk's fall to the mid-card, and Rey's rise to the main long as Batista is there). Throw in the Undertaker's reign of terror and that's SD in a nutshell. So, where does this leave ECW? That part is fairly easy. See, ECW's place is on the chopping block. ECW's plan is to die....or at least take a severe blow so irreparable that it enters a virtual coma.

The writing was on the wall for quite some time now. In fact, the rumor mill had been working hard to dig up this dirt and let the world know ECW's fate. Due to its middling ratings, its lack of support from WWE officials, and now, its non-existent connection to the original ECW, ECW has to go. It has to be done away with, once and for all. The evidence of this being the case has never been more evident than what took place on December 29, 2009 at approximately 11:00 P.M. It was at that moment that the ECW we see on Tuesdays can no longer be considered a part of ECW's actual legacy. It was the moment when Tommy Dreamer's WWE career had ended.

Along the lines of kayfabe, Tommy Dreamer had been challenged by Zack Ryder to a match. If Dreamer couldn't win the match, he'd leave ECW and the WWE for good. Dreamer failed to win, and his career was over at the aforementioned time. In reality, Dreamer had admitted to stating that he asked for his release from the WWE. In other words, he was quitting the WWE. This was the same Tommy Dreamer that had already signed a new contract with the WWE last year after declaring that if he couldn't win the ECW title, he'd be finished with wrestling. In truth, he pulled this little creative coup in order to salvage what was left of his WWE/ECW career and instill some value it. He thought he could get Vince's attention and make himself an important and precious commodity once again. Did he succeed? Well, he won the ECW title, defended it a few times, and ultimately lost it to Christian. After this, Dreamer was virtually absent from anything ECW-related. Sure, he'd pop up on WWE superstars, but that wasn't the ECW brand, that was the Superstars show for all brands. It finally dawned on Dreamer that, despite his best efforts, there was little the WWE was going to do to push him, so, the decision came to leave while anyone still cared. So, Tommy Dreamer said his heartfelt goodbyes, with his wife and kids in the arena sharing his feelings. He left his ECW t-shirt in the ring, and departed to the back with his kids to most likely introduce them to the locker room. Thus, the last remaining piece of ECW's original legacy had departed, leaving the ECW brand an even emptier, hollower, shell and a fading shadow of the original upstart organization that promoted and ushered change into the wrestling world.

What made this version of ECW still remotely logical and even palpable to a point was that it still had three main proponents of the original ECW, albeit altered by the WWE and its officials. This version had ECW's mind, body, and soul. Its mind was Paul Heyman, its body was the ECW originals that went with the flow just to keep the soul of ECW alive, and its soul was the resilience the ECW originals had despite all adversity against it. This ECW lost the mind when Paul Heyman was relieved of his duties and subsequently fired. It lost most of its body when virtually every original from RVD to Joey Styles had quit, was fired, or was promoted to another branch of the WWE, with the exception of Tommy Dreamer. Dreamer became the embodiment and the soul of ECW when he was the last man standing. When Dreamer left, gone was the body and the soul. Now, the ECW you see before you as of Jan. 5th, 2010, is no more than a pale, lifeless, imitation that one wouldn't dare hawk at a trade show. With that in mind, and trust me, the WWE has this in mind, there's no better time than now to put an end to ECW, once and for all. As for Dreamer's departure, well, that's just the beginning.

The next move is to somehow devalue the ECW title. Enter the ECW homecoming (I'll talk more about this in 2 weeks on 1/17). Apparently, it has become a novel idea to involve former ECW brand members from Raw and Smackdown in qualifying matches for a battle royal to see who gets a shot at the ECW champion, Christian, at WWE Royal Rumble 2010. Now, I could go on and on about why this idea has no merit (again, see me in 2 weeks), but I think the most obvious element of surprise to consider here is the possibility of a star from another brand winning the ECW title. All they need to do after that, other than beating the former champ again in his rematch, is either fight another champ in a unification match on that brand, or somehow devalue the ECW title in one of various ways (throwing it in the trash, retiring it, or whatever non-canonical idea the WWE can come up with to eliminate the belts value)

The final move, although it's avoidable, but it would be useful, is the usurping of the ECW GM position. If not that, then somehow, ECW G.M. Tiffany loses power (maybe due to a Vince McMahon crazed power trip) and someone else comes in to fill the spot. Then again, that would be counter-productive to WWE's plan to destroy ECW, so just have her lose power, have some sort of martial law declared, and watch ECW dwindle into obscurity, either through a series of matches with other brands for supremacy, in which ECW loses, or a series of farewell matches in a retrospective form or matches where the winner or winners get to go to any brands of their choice. It seems convoluted, I know, but it's something to help tie up loose ends. However, knowing the WWE and its writers and officials, they will probably just cut off ECW as if nothing happened, start a new brand of sorts with the same mentality of putting over new stars, and go about their business, as if ECW was just a footnote.

The WWE is making preparations to change the landscape once again. However, the changes made are different per brand, while there are some similarities. Raw's motive is to maximize the guest host position, while putting over new stars by having them battle old, established stars, while somehow balancing the main event with both the old and the new. Smackdown's motive is to employ a more wrestling-based approach to the latter part of Raw's motive, instead of incorporating various forms of entertainment like a guest host, although the idea is still on the table. ECW's motive is simple: to cease existence. The WWE can't use it, Vince McMahon never wanted it, and the value of it has plummeted to nothing. There's no connection to the old and original. There's no reason why the show should even be called ECW anymore. The ratings are poor, the writing is sub-par, and the matches, although well-wrestled at times, are glossed over due to the public's general malaise towards the brand either because no major stars they know are on it, or because they know how much of a mockery it is to consider this as ECW. This show is slightly better, ratings-wise, than Superstars, and is now barely comparable to other wrestling shows that can compare to it. The first shot was fired through Tommy Dreamer's retirement. The next moves may very well be in place. Don't be surprised if, by Wrestlemania's return, ECW is as extinct as....well.....good character development.