Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The end of the road

Well, ECW is in the books as over and done with. It ended with only two matches, and a lot of useless nonsense. Sounds like a typical WWE television show. Now, where does that leave this blog? It leaves it done and over. I promised myself that I would end it if this version of ECW ended. So, yea, it's over, and I'm done.

I do want to thank everyone who listened to me analyze in person, or read this on the Internet. I was reluctant to do this only because I figured no one would read it. But, based on the response I've received, I would say that I got a lot of great reviews and responses. I just wanted to pretty much say what I felt was from the heart and from my passion as a wrestling fan. I'm glad that everyone had a fun ride and enjoyed what I had to say. I hope that you got something out of this. I know I did: I learned that I'm a pretty decent writer, if not pretty good. I'm glad I got the training.

So, what's the next move? Well, I'm going for a much needed hiatus. I don't even think I can write anything new, especially since there really isn't anything I can follow on a short-term basis in hopes that I can get what I want to say out there before it goes kaput. Yes, that's right. I did this knowing that ECW was coming to an end, sooner or later. You'd have to be a complete fool to think otherwise. Do you honestly think Vince likes to make money with ideas that not only wasn't his, but ideas that hurt his product in the process? No, I don't think so. If it happens, then so be it, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. If he liked this version of ECW, he wouldn't have paraded around with the original ECW title, now would he?

So, there really isn't much more I can say, except thanks for everything. Thanks for the readers, the contributors, and anyone else who had the chance to get a glimpse of this blog (except the spammers). I guess my next move is to just enjoy NXT and other wrestling promotions like a true wrestling fan would. But, I will thank one more thing. I want to thank this version of ECW. Without it, I wouldn't have much to write about. But, I don't thank it for the negatives. I thank it for the positives. I thank it for helping to rejuvenate Christian's WWE career, for helping expose us to great young talent, for giving the Miz and Morrison a platform to reach excellence, for giving stars like Evan Bourne and C.M. Punk a place to call home when they could no longer do so elsewhere, or no longer desired to. Thanks for some of the great moments in wrestling that will always be remembered. Lastly, thanks for giving some of us who remember the original ECW a place for some of our favorite stars to call home, if for just a brief moment.

Well, I'm not going to cry or anything, especially since you can't see it. I am going to say that it's been a great ride. But, eventually, the train has to stop. It's been almost 3.5 years since the WWE decided to introduce ECW under their watchful eye. It was good, it was bad, but it was wrestling. That's what I liked best: the fact that there was wrestling to watch. Near the end, it wasn't the case, but it still was much better than what I was watching on Monday and Friday. Farewell, ECW. Thanks for the memories, the stars, and everything else in between. And for anyone out there who doesn't think that blogging about something you are passionate about is something you can do, open this blog, and read. I did this for close to two years. I sacrificed a few nights, and Sunday afternoons along with some weekday afternoons to get my thoughts out there. Trust me, it's worth it. If you can get at least one reader, it's worth it.

So long, farewell, and enjoy. Ok, and for one last time: "E-C-W, E-C-W, E-C-W....."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ECW's final tale of the tape: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em

If you're reading this, you know that as of this week, ECW is no more. The WWE is now cashing in its chips on the new version of ECW, and playing with a new hand called NXT, with a youthful roster, showcasing talent from the indies, from the WWE farm systems, and from generational wrestling families. Here's a bright question: why wait until now to do such a thing? Why hold out on this move, while trickling in a slow build with new talent showing up on ECW in a sparse and miniscule way? Why rest laurels on making ECW a brand where the new can begin and the failed linger onward? Here's a staunch answer: ECW could no longer kill the grass roots. No matter how long ECW lingered, the competition just kept on striving. Within the past few months, ECW could no longer compare or outrate TNA's 2 hour show on Thursday. Also, ROH has finally managed to get itself a t.v. show moved to Mondays, promoting more action, wrestling, youth, and athleticism in its hour than any hour on any WWE show, specifically, ECW. It has come to the point where ECW has become veritably unwatchable. It's a shame, really, because, for the most part, ECW was much more watchable than the other main shows for its energy, athleticism, logic, and connection to an actual wrestling product. There were no guest hosts on ECW, nor were there dumb storylines involving weight issues. ECW was young stars striving, veterans surviving, and vice versa. The problem is, as I've stated many times before, ECW was never going to get the support, respect, or assistance every other WWE show gets on a regular basis, because, well, it's ECW. It's not a "Vince" idea, so it shouldn't matter. Now, WWE NXT will take its place, and the wrestling world couldn't be more excited. Thanks, ECW, for opening the door for this possibility, though. Now, what's up with your battles with these other feds? Also, why the change to NXT? Those answers and more will be analyzed....right now! (I was trying to do Neil Everett while typing when I realized that blogspots and ESPN don't really play on the same level...)

Ok, in the past,when I started these analysis topics, I purposely took my ideas of what the new ECW brings to the table and compared it to the 3 biggest forms of competition they would face on their own level. I said that the WWE is using ECW as a way to cripple these forms of competition, by siphoning their talent away, showcasing them on ECW and leaving their respective homes scrambling for answers. ECW could only logistically compete on a comparable level with Wrestling Society X, TNA wrestling, and Ring of Honor (ROH). When I compared them initially, I said that ECW couldn't match ROH or WSX, and was tied with TNA. When I compared them after a few months of existence, I saw that the changes made altered my answers slightly, still giving WSX and ROH the edges they needed, with TNA now better than ECW. However, logistically, only TNA was a winner because ROH didn't have a television deal at the time and WSX was canceled after 9 to 10 episodes. It's 2010, WSX is still canceled, TNA has 2 hours and is moving to Mondays (it had a strong 3 hour show that managed a record high for TNA at a 1.5), and ROH is on Mondays as well with their own t.v. deal. How does it measure up? ECW, once again, doesn't win, except against a defunct WSX. Now, ROH has a place to show these stars, although the WWE is making it a point to take them for themselves , and TNA has more stars to use and more t.v. time to do so, unlike ECW. The ratings for TNA have shown this consistently as their ratings have ballooned from 1.0 to about 1.4 on a regular basis, while ECW can barely make a 1.2 rating. Also, HDNet has expressed great support in ROH and its longevity, despite ratings, while ECW has had many a pundit looking to skewer the show for its lackluster ratings, viewership, and generally forgettable matches. I mean, ECW had been omitted from about 2 to 3 straight PPVs, while the most TNA has done was omit certain stars. ECW was showing its lack of polish, lack of drawing power, and lack of usefulness. What was the WWE to do? The answer is in the title, folks. If you can't beat them, join them. So now, ECW is joining in the new manifesto that ROH, TNA, and now, other upstart federations EVOLVE, CHIKARA, and Dragon Gate USA are now utilizing: preparing for the next generation and evolution of wrestling. The future is now, and it's time for a change.

While the WWE used ECW to put over new stars, thinking that new stars mean new direction in wrestling, the other feds used new stars from around the wrestling world to put forth a new wrestling regime. New stars trained in the standard WWE way doesn't guarantee new direction. You still get a formulaic, uninspired, wrestling product with the same old, same old. The difference: the stars that are doing it are woefully unskilled. Meanwhile, in other facets of the wrestling world, you have a new direction with new styles that have yet to break free into the mainstream that the WWE generally controls. We get styles blended from Mexico, Japan, and Europe along with the traditional stuff. Now, that's what I call the next evolution of professional wrestling. In fact, the five organizations I named have done something along those lines for the most of their collective existences.

TNA wrestling had become an amalgam of wrestling styles with no definitive brand, up until now. It seems that TNA is taking the WCW approach, blending stars of old with stars of new and stars who never got the break they deserved. You'll get the best of the indies, the kings of the old school, and the castaways of the WWE that were fired or have quit for one reason or another (I'd like to think because they were more talented than the WWE could handle, but I digress). This has worked for the most part if not for the effort, then for the sheer athleticism these guys put on. Since TNA came to television in 2004, they have succinctly outperformed the WWE stars on virtually every PPV the WWE has put out there, with few exceptions (the WWE had made it a point to make sure their big 4 PPVs had something good, but they don't always strike gold). This trend still holds true today, but sadly, the backstage environment overshadows this greatly. Regardless, TNA is making its mark and making its move to change wrestling. If that wasn't the case, then they wouldn't be managing to get something close to a 2.0 on the night they competed directly with the WWE. People support TNA for one single solitary reason: as bad as it looks or seems, it's an alternative, and anything's better than watching a guest host or a midget goof off on t.v., let alone the same guys getting the same push every now and again (Cena/HHH, round 100, anyone?)

ROH has scratched and clawed its way into the mainstream, spending countless amounts of dollars on DVD sales, tickets, at least 3 events a month, and now, television on a high-definition network. 8 years ago, the remnants of ECW in the forms of Rob Feinstein, Doug Gentry, and Gabe Sapolsky came together to help bring about a legitimate alternative to the wrestling scene in 2002. It's been 8 years, and ROH has gone from wrestling's best kept secret to wrestling's #3 organization, giving the fans the athleticism and entertainment they have longed for since the demise of ECW and WCW. It was through Doug and Rob that ROH became that #3 organization, but due to circumstances beyond their control (Rob's legal troubles and, I believe, Doug's subsequent departure because of Rob, and later, Doug's death), ROH hit a terrible snag in their longevity. It was through Gabe's booking knowledge and now, Cary Silkin's presidency, that ROH returned to its rightful place as a top organization, with amazing battles involving many of the top stars you see today. As of late 2008, Gabe was released from his ROH contract and a new booking crew was made, with Adam Pearce at the helm. Despite the changes and shifts, the ROH support had remained remotely strong, and the accolades that the organization had received by its peers. In fact, to this day, two things can be said about this company. ROH has produced some of the top stars that not only made TNA a household name, but it also added to the roster depth and continued success of the WWE, so they have had a hand in setting up the next generation of professional wrestling with the stars they create. Also, as of March of 2010, ROH will be the longest-running independently owned and independently-run organization to have survived relatively on a national level. No big companies to give them money. No stock options. Just money from the ground up to go on. The record for longevity was held by ECW with a scant 7 years to their name. That's quite a feat, and as long as they continue their run with hard-hitting action, high-flying feats, and the most concise form of professional wrestling, they will continue to grow as an organization.

But, wait! TNA and ROH aren't the only game in town. In fact, Gabe's loss in ROH is the gain of three other organizations, and these three organizations have formed something of a partnership to help usher in the next generation of wrestling on the independent scene. Now, when there is mention of a new type of wrestling style, and an evolution in the game, these organizations might very well have their compasses pointing in the right direction. The organizations in question are EVOLVE, CHIKARA, and Dragon Gate USA.

First off, Dragon Gate USA became a reality when the fabled Dragon Gate organization in Japan decided to co-brand its existence with Ring of Honor. This led to a few shows where ROH showcased Dragon Gate and their stars to amazing fanfare. However, due to some monetary issues and Gabe Sapolsky's release, Dragon Gate and ROH disbanded their partnership. When the decision was made to give the U.S. a brand of Dragon Gate wrestling where its top stars among others on the independent wrestling scene could come together to showcase the Dragon Gate style of wrestling (Japanese wrestling mixed with Lucha Libre, courtesy of Ultimo Dragon and Skayde) to those of us on the western hemisphere. It was only fair to bring in Gabe Sapolsky as the man in charge of DGUSA, since it was he who helped orchestrate the relationship between ROH and Dragon Gate. Since its inception, DGUSA has earned the right to be the organization that has had the best show of 2009, with more on the way, along with a brand new title being introduced, the "Open the Freedom Gate" title, which is currently held by Dragon Gate's BxB Hulk. If Gabe helped ROH reach the level of excellence it has today, the possibilities are endless for DGUSA.

However, Gabe's need for a new evolution wasn't limited to an established brand like Dragon Gate. One day, he got together with Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan in the WWE) and suggested to bring a new organization about, just like ROH, but new and different, focusing more on the wrestler's lives and on a more professional form of wrestling, utilizing win/loss records, and disciplinary action towards anyone looking to break the rules. This organization would be called EVOLVE and it would focus on not just the evolution of wrestling, but the evolution of the wrestlers involved, taking them from breakout stars to breakthrough ones on the wrestling scene. Due to Danielson's newly-acquired WWE contract, Gabe had to rely on another top star to help him. Enter Davey Richards. Richards is a professional wrestling dynamo, cut from Danielson's ilk, who masters in powerful kicks, concise scientific wrestling, and amazing precision. Danielson openly considers Davey as the next to be considered, like himself, the "best wrestler in the world". So Gabe, Davey, and former FIP owner, Sal Hamoui, began the EVOLVE organization. The first show, which showcased the many stars of the Jeff Peterson Tournament, earned the respect, attention, and adulation of wrestling fans. In fact, both EVOLVE and DGUSA have been considered much more entertaining than ROH, either due to their respect and support for Gabe, or due to the fact that their organizations still remain true to bringing more of an alternative to the wrestling world. As soon as this was the case, ROH decided to sign Davey Richards, among other stars to contracts, in an attempt to keep them from straying from ROH. While doing so, they have been pulled from any and all other shows from other organizations. This might very well be proof that EVOLVE is the true evolution of professional wrestling that ROH couldn't be, or can no longer be.

Where does this leave CHIKARA? Well, CHIKARA is a wrestling organization built on the styles of Skayde, as it revolves around Lucha Libre. It can be said that it is the first legitimate American Lucha Libre organization, even though other wrestling styles are allowed and showcased. Other than that, this organization promotes a very diverse way of professional wrestling, being somewhat comical in its approach. It definitely caters to the fans that come from both Generation X and from the Millenium Generation (that would be those born between the late 70s and the late 80s), with its comical references, surreal mentality, and innovative aspects. CHIKARA's stylings have allowed them to work side by side with organizations like EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA, as all three organizations look to promote a different look at the wrestling world. In fact, CHIKARA has been voted the "wrestling promotion of the year" for 2009, if not for its aforementioned attributes, then for its complex, well-thought, inviting, and compelling storylines and angles. CHIKARA's blend of what we know and love may very well make it a forerunner for the next evolution of professional wrestling.

So, what does this have to do with the WWE? Well, other than their need to steal stars from CHIKARA (see Colin Delaney), they have virtually ignored the attempts of these organizations to make way for the next level of wrestling.....until now. It's not enough that they have to steal stars, compete at an indy level, and showcase this on ECW. Now, they have decided to join up with these companies by casting off ECW and now taking a chance at promoting their new stars through NXT. Since ECW couldn't beat them, or stop them, the WWE will join them through NXT. Next week, when NXT starts, we will see 8 of their top stars being mentored by top stars in the WWE, through a more reality-based television program. Think "The Ultimate Fighter", only with WWE. Is this a good idea? Well, to get over new stars, yes. The WWE has the television time and production value to do it. But, I just find it funny that the WWE chooses to focus on the new stars fully now that every one else is. Sometimes the best way to beat your opponents is to do what they are doing....only better. Then again, the best way can also be to not do what your opponents are doing. This is probably why TNA still survived on a stacked Monday night against WWE. They may not act like it, but the WWE is concerned. This is why ECW can't go on anymore. It's not pulling weight. so, it has to go.

ECW will just about a memory by the time this will be published. In its place, NXT will come to life, breeding the next level of WWE wrestlers to help usher in the new level of WWE and the new wave of wrestling and sports entertainment. This comes about because ECW couldn't kill the grass roots of independent wrestling and national wrestling looking to change the face of professional wrestling. So, if you can't beat them, join them. Good luck, NXT. But, I'm warning you, right now. If you botch this up, fail, falter, or slip up, your competitors will take advantage, and they will run with it, properly. It might not be shown on t.v., like NXT will be, and it might, but it will happen. If I'm wrong, then if I see any of their stars on NXT, I'll know why: because you couldn't beat them, so you coerced them to join you. If I'm wrong, then where did Kaval and Daniel Bryan come from? Certainly not from under the wings of Steve Keirn or Johnny Ace...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pushing new talent: the ECW way

As the new ECW draws to a close, one has to wonder about all the good things the brand did. Let's see, they downplayed Dreamer's Title, that's not good. They crapped on CHIKARA star Colin, that's not good, either. Hiring Mike Adamle? Removing Joey Styles? Firing ECW Originals? Allowing ECW originals to quit? Bringing us the Abraham Washington show? Abject failures like DJ Gabriel, Ricky Ortiz, and Tyler Reks? De-valuing Katie Lea and Paul Burchill even further? Vince McMahon as ECW champion? Ok, yes, the point is that there are more bad points on ECW than good ones. But, I will say this: the new ECW did something the original ECW did very well. For that, I have to commend this new version. What did both versions do? They pushed new talent, and the wrestling world has been thankful for ECW to this very day, even when some don't admit to it.

When ECW came into fruition about 15 years ago, the common conception about the wrestlers involved were that they were not quite good enough to be in WCW or the WWE. To quote Taz, ECW was the "Land of the misfit toys" (just like in the Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated film). It was a collection of stars past their prime, stars that never got a chance, stars that weren't even on the radar, and stars who never started wrestling until just recently. There was Raven, Taz, the Sandman, Public Enemy, the Pit Bulls, Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, the "Franchise" Shane Douglas,"Superstar" Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, Terry Funk, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, 2 Cold Scorpio, Ron Simmons, Al Snow, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Axl Rotten, Mahoney, the Dudley Boys, the Gangstas, the Eliminators, Justin Credible, Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Chris Candido, the Baldies, C.W. Anderson, Steve Corino, Rhino, Tajiri, Jack Victory, Cyrus, Joey Styles, Joel Gertner, Sid Vicious, Bam Bam Bigelow, the One Man Gang, Jason, Jazz, Nicole Bass, Chastity, Dawn Marie, Francine, Beulah McGuillicuty, Super Crazy, Little Guido, Big Guido, Tommy Rich, Tracey Smothers, Kid Kash, Louie Spiccoli, and, one of the most notable stars along with these people, Tommy Dreamer, just to name a few. You bring up any of these names circa 1993, and the common consensus would have been that either no one knows them, or no one cares to know or remember them. This is where ECW starts to flourish. Instead of treating them all like 2nd class citizens, or no-talent chumps, ECW took their positives, accentuated them, and exhibited them for all of us to see. Soon, the select few of us that marveled at them became a general mainstream. Thankfully, 85 to 95% of the people I mentioned ended up in WCW or WWE for at least longer than a cup of coffee and we were all taken by it: those of us who didn't know their talents, and those of us who knew all along. Now, did this version of ECW follow this mindset fully? In all likelihood, no, but they did a great job in sticking with the basics: find a new talent to utilize, give them a platform to get over, promote them to a better brand, and give the main show talent someone new to deal with, creating more opportunities, more matches, and more challengers for the top. So, with all of that said, I'd like to point out 7 key instances where ECW pushed new talent that got over on new brands, by a large or small margin, but big enough to leave an effect on us. Ironically, each of these instances fall into different categories when it comes to experience. 2 of these instances were from wrestlers who wrestled independently for the majority of their lives before being discovered by the WWE. 1 of these instances didn't enter a wrestling ring until after college, leaving his experience to be limited to the shortest amount. 2 of these instances found wrestling to be the ticket for them after seeing what the other forms of life have in store and jumped in with limited experience, but enough to get by before coming to the WWE. Lastly, 2 of these instances probably have the least amount of wrestling in their backgrounds as they received crash courses, but have excelled greatly due to their boundless passion. If you have any idea who I'm talking about, then you know who I think are the biggest success stories to come out of this version of ECW by what we've seen them do and what they've been through.

When talking about someone with little to no knowledge of the squared circle in his experience, be it independently or not, one has to imagine just how far a guy like that can go. Well, Brock Lesnar proved to us that you can go very far in a short amount of time with the right amount of determination, precision, and passion. Now the guy I'm talking about isn't Lesnar, but like Lesnar, has experience as an amateur wrestler and has proven to be a great commodity for the future if not the present. Yes, I'm talking about Jack Swagger. Love him or hate him, Swagger has all the tools needed to be a big name in the WWE, be it sooner or later. He's a two time ECW champion and has recently had two incredible outings with John Cena and Triple H. No, he hasn't won, but he is still making his play at being a big deal in wrestling. He has the wrestling chops to hang with virtually anyone in the ring, as did Lesnar and even Kurt Angle. He has a unique look that can or has garnered him attention to the point where he would go from tuesdays at 10 to Mondays at 9, on live television. If it seems like Swagger won't go anywhere as of right now, due to his win/loss record on Raw and who's he's lost to, I only have two estimations to give on that: 1) They are waiting for the right time to make him a big deal as a top heel, or 2) they've just about given up on him. Regardless, he's made an impact as a wrestler and as a character for the short amount of time he's been here. His skill on the mic has improved, his look has been exactly what the WWE needs, and his persona does speak volumes. All he needed was a place to get his feet wet, and ECW proved to be the best place for that.

This next wrestler actually got an office job first. Upon losing interest, he looked into wrestling, wrestled the indies for a bit, then joined up with the WWE. Now, he's on the cusp of becoming the next top star on Raw. He's Kofi Kingston, and boy, has he made an impact. He was given some vignettes on ECW, showcasing his need to scope out "trouble in paradise". That soon became the name of his amazing finisher, a 360-degree spin kick to the face. You'd say that just looks and sounds flashy, but that's what has been securing him victories left and right in the WWE, along with his very unorthodox, athletically sound wrestling style. Since coming to ECW, here are Kofi's accolades: a long-standing unbeaten streak, a tremendous outing in the 2009 Money in the Bank match, a U.S. title run, an I.C. title run, a World tag team title run, and just recently, a very noteworthy rivalry with Randy Orton that placed Kofi in the WWE title picture on Raw. He has also revealed his true roots as a Ghanaian wrestler with a profound respect for Jamaica after living there (hence the name, through kayfabe). His upbeat mentality, amazing athletics, and unorthodox style has the wrestling world on fire, and there's no reason to put it out anytime soon.

Kofi isn't the only superstar to have considered the life outside of wrestling before becoming a wrestler, nor is he the only wrestler to find instant success as well while doing this. Just ask Sheamus (for more in-depth info on Sheamus, check out my 8/2/09 blog). He went from children's television, some sports, some film, and even education to wrestle in Europe. Since being brought here to the U.S. by the WWE, he has practiced and toiled in the WWE's training camps looking to become a top star. How did he do? Well, after boasting an impressive win/loss record on ECW in a few short months, he was picked up by Raw, he ran through and retired Jamie Noble, and has antagonized both John Cena and Randy Orton in his quest to become the WWE champion and Raw's conqueror. In no more than a month, he became the current WWE champion, defeating John Cena in a tables match. Now, a lot of people have problems with this, let alone the personal relationships Sheamus has backstage (if you don't know by now, he's HHH's workout partner. Do the math). Quite honestly, I can look past all that and see a valuable commodity and prospect in Sheamus. He's an accomplished wrestler in Europe, blending power, technique, and a very unique look together to create the Celtic warrior we see today. Was he pushed too fast? Perhaps, but I feel it was all an eventuality, if not something that should have happened already. Plus, you'd be a fool to not see it as a veritable success on ECW's part in producing a future WWE champion. It would be a shame if you did.

But wait! Not all stars had the veritable look and feel that the WWE was looking for. Some guys had to try out for this role, via the WWE's reality show and competition, Tough Enough (2000-2004). During the inclusion of this, wrestling fans were given a chance to try out for the dream job of wrestling for the WWE. The verdict: a few minor successes, and some rather abject failures, with the exception of two. Only two have done the Tough Enough franchise justice. One man won the competition, while another was a runner-up, whose passion for wrestling gave him the chance to wrestle for the WWE on a trial basis until he reached his goal of making it to the main shows. Those two men, as you have probably heard of, are John Morrison and the Miz. What else can I possibly say by these two success stories that I haven't done before? Heck, I spent 3 blogs on these guys as a team. I could not have been any more impressed with their abilities.

Morrison wanted a chance to promote his athleticism to the WWE, and after failing to meet the challenge in TE2, he made it and won TE3. He then went on to do a plethora of things: learn his craft on the indies scene for a spell, train to perfection in the WWE farm system, act as Eric Bischoff's apprentice, team up with wrestler Joey Mercury to obtain tag team excellence, and went on to start a semi-successful singles career as Johnny Nitro, until the night he won the ECW title. Then, John Morrison was born, no longer a wanna-be movie star boy toy, but now a pseudo-rock star of a man. He would hold the ECW title a few times, then reclaim the I.C. title, along with win the WWE and World tag titles for lengthy amounts of time. How did he accomplish this? He did it by disparaging his opponents with a very obscure yet interesting point of view on life, showcasing his intellect, confidence, and charm. He also had help with the tag belts with the other TE success story: the Miz. With the Miz, he became a very proven commodity in the WWE, on the verge of becoming the next World champion, but after the breakup with the Miz, he is no longer on the verge. He might very well be on track to doing it before 2010 is through. Through tremendous fan support, a natural charisma, a chiseled body, and a knack for internet television (be it the Dirt Sheet with the Miz, or the Palace of Wisdom, by himself), Morrison has been quite the success story to say the least.

Let's not forget, however, the emergence of the Miz. He started out using his full name, Mike Mizanin, on reality shows, like the Real World, showcasing his love and interest in wrestling, emulating stars like the Rock. So, he took the plunge, jumped into Tough Enough, and was the runner-up. But, he was given two great consolation prizes: a chance to hone his craft in other federations, and a spot in the WWE farm system. Once brought up to the main show, he was the subject of everyone's ridicule, seen as a t.v. star trying to be a wrestler. Little did they know that Mike's passion would outlast the criticism. He formed an allegiance with John Morrison to create one of the most successful and entertaining tag teams in recent history. After winning tag team gold and starring in some very entertaining programming (the Dirt Sheet was the calling card the Miz needed), he decided to not be overlooked as his partner, John Morrison, was starting to come into his own as a star. So, the Miz bid his partner farewell, in a very violent way. After which, he broke out on his own to do the unthinkable: call out John Cena. It was a brave, but foolish move, but it did get him his notoriety as he went on to secure the U.S. title and have some of the most impressive outings in his short career. He is now currently taking Chris Jericho's place, if you would say, as one half of the Unified WWE tag champions along with the Big Show. On a final Miz note, he's been saying a whole new catchphrase: "I'm the Miz...and I'm awesome." He could not have been more correct as he, like Morrison, got his taste at a big break on ECW, after both of them tried and failed at making impacts on other shows initially.

But, what about the stars that have toiled long and hard on the indies scene or overseas before getting to the big dance, like Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko? Can they be pushed? Ask Evan Bourne and see for yourself. He went from wrestling in some of the most action-packed matches all over the U.S. and even in Japan before being discovered on national television. From the IWA to NWA, and from Dragon Gate to ROH, Bourne defied gravity with some of the most incredible aerial moves I've ever seen. Then, he was scooped up by MTV to wrestle for Wrestling Society X under his indies alias, Matt Sydal. The WWE found him, shipped him to the farm systems, brought him up to ECW and he became the most talked about high flier in the WWE this side of Rey Mysterio. In fact, it was because of this that the fans voted for his first ECW title match which involved Matt Hardy. Although on the losing end, Bourne found himself on a new brand, Raw, defying gravity and making highlights whenever he can, against many different stars. Now, he might not be doing very well at the moment, but you can't deny that his ability earned him a spot on the most prominent show in wrestling, Monday Night Raw. That's quite a feat.

Bourne isn't the only one to have done this, as the final instance is the most prominent ECW personality to make a wave in the WWE. He's innovative, ground-breaking, and at times, controversial. He's C.M. Punk. After toiling in the indies, he won his first major title in ROH before signing a contract with the WWE. Under the tutelage of Paul Heyman, Punk excelled in the farm systems of the WWE before being brought up to ECW. Upon doing so, he maintained an excellent win/loss record and a very diverse manifesto: Punk is one of the first ever straight-edge WWE wrestlers and is addicted to competition. He doesn't do drugs, drink, or smoke. He's 100% substance free, and bred to compete. This helped him garner much needed attention and victory, as he maintained some interesting rivalries in ECW, with old and new stars alike (including RVD, Elijah Burke, John Morrison, Hardcore Holly, Shannon Moore, and even Big Daddy V). It wasn't until 2008 that Punk made his play for excellence as he won the 2008 MITB (Money in the Bank) match at Wrestlemania 24. He cashed it in against Edge after Summerslam of that year to win the World title. This would mark his first of two consecutive MITB victories, and one of 3 World title wins. He also became the fastest to win the Triple Crown in the WWE, beating Diesel, as he won the I.C. and World tag titles within a given year. However, as time passed, his demeanor had changed upon using the second MITB briefcase on Jeff Hardy. As he cashed it in on a tired and virtually defenseless Jeff Hardy, the fans cried foul and he fell out of favor with the wrestling public. It was soon after this that Punk's true colors came to fruition as he started to use his straight-edge lifestyle as a ploy to discredit Hardy and his personal demons and troubles. He made it clear that straight-edge means he's better than all those who aren't. Now, he takes it upon himself to try and save those who aren't and make them converts to a straight-edge lifestyle, which is taking on a very cult mentality. He's not alone as he is employing the help of Luke Gallows (formerly Festus, who was in that state as Festus due to the medications he received over the years) and Serena, an obsessed fan of Punk, looking to follow him anywhere. Despite the turn, Punk has shown his ability to be a veritable success, and has played his part in helping to usher in a new generation of wrestlers looking to make their way to the top of the WWE. Thanks to Punk, the new and next generation can now rest easy in knowing that even they have a chance at greatness.

You might not agree with it, might very well hate it, and truly despise it, but ECW has done its best to push new talent and start a new generation and new wave of talent in the world of wrestling. Punk, Sheamus, Bourne, Miz, Morrison, Kingston, and Swagger are all key elements in the longevity of the WWE, as they will be talked about well into the next decade. For this to be true, you have to credit the new version of ECW. You might not like it, but it did exactly what the first and original did: it pushed new talent. It's too bad that they couldn't do everything else like the original. Well, it's coming to an end and opening the door for the new, so no big loss, right? Nope, not at all. In this blogger's opinion, as bad as ECW was, this was one positive I stood for. So, no regrets in watching, and no regrets in blogging. Thanks, WWECW. You've made the wrestling world brighter in seven new and different ways.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Breaking news: ECW's new direction: the next generation of the WWE, in 3 weeks time

We interrupt all scheduled analysis ideas and posts for a special announcement: the future of ECW on SyFy has been revealed. It was revealed yesterday by a rather boisterous, confident, and somewhat reserved Mr. McMahon on the ECW broadcast (he probably felt that way because he just finished embarrassing Bret Hart one day prior on RAW). Anyhoo, Vince clearly stated that in 3 weeks time, ECW will be no more. In its place will be the next generation of the WWE through its superstars and its direction. McMahon stated that it would be an evolution of the WWE in many ways and that it will of course change the landscape of the WWE in one way or another. Then, he just left, no further questions. Ironically, that might have been the only interesting thing on ECW. I say "might" because the matches they had that night were visibly great. The problem is, well, they've happened already on one show or another. Still, the matches were good. Oh, and yes, I found the segment with Gregory Helms to be very interesting. It's funny how the WWE takes it to task to blend reality with kayfabe. Isn't this supposed to be a PG show? If that's the case, then maybe C.M. Punk should pay Helms and even Chris Jericho a visit (I mean, he already did in a way, when he posted their bail).

In any case, this was the big announcement that we have all been waiting for since the rumors dropped that ECW was getting the old "Heave Ho". I thought the WWE wouldn't bother trying to change it until after Wrestlemania, if not later this year. Instead, the changes will come either on the week of the Elimination Chamber PPV or the week after leading into Wrestlemania and onward. This is huge news. It's so huge that any ideas I had for analysis (the hurricane/Ryder feud, ECW's involvement in the big ppvs), have been put on complete and total hiatus. In fact, I'm not even going to reference them, since they aren't relevant anymore. I mean, they aren't going to even bother to continue with the Hurricane battle with his troubles. Also, since ECW won't really be around very long, why mention their existence? I said that ECW shouldn't be considered ECW now that Tommy Dreamer is gone. Strangely enough, he Twittered that his departure had something to do with this new direction. As expected, predicted, and acknowledged, there can be no ECW without a link to the past. Tommy was that link, and now he's gone, so there should be no ECW. I guess I was wrong. Someone in the WWE does have logic in mind when it comes to continuity and storylines.

So, where does that leave this wonderful blog? Well, it leaves me with the rest of the month to come up with analysis ideas that will sort of send off this wonderful blog and ECW together. The very last blog will either come on the Sunday of the final ECW or the night of or after the final ECW. So, what can you expect? Well, here's a breakdown:

-a full analysis on how this version of ECW did for the world of wrestling what the original did: push new stars, either successfully or unsuccessfully

-an analysis on how the WWE is now cashing in on this "evolution" of wrestling craze that has other federations (TNA, ROH, CHIKARA, Dragon Gate USA, and EVOLVE) chomping at the bit, waiting for the WWE to slip up

-a final analysis on this version of ECW and its tales of the tape against the current iterations of its potential competition (TNA and ROH)

-a farewell blog, for ECW, for myself, and for all those who listened, read, and supported ECW and this blog.

So, that's all for this week. Tune in the next 4 weeks for hopefully some of my best work, since, after all, it's my last work. It should be interesting, fun, and hopefully....extreme.

Take care now. Bye bye, then.