First off, I'm psyched about Mick Foley coming in to talk to us tomorrow, and if it's okay with Sam, I'm definitely getting an autograph. But before I get into his book, I wanted to make a post on my take of ECW with the DVD we just saw fresh on my mind.
I never saw ECW during its heyday, I'll say it right off the bat. The only wrestling we ever saw was WWE wrestling, and my knowledge of ECW stems from watching the (WWE produced) Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, catching the first One Night Stand (a PPV that WWE produced, "bringing ECW back" for just one night - very clever name for such a PPV), seeing the failed ECW "invasion" in 2001 and now catching the new version that comes on Tuesday nights. That might sound like I know a thing or two about ECW, but I'm sure any ECW loyalist will tell me to shove it and that I know nothing about ECW and what it meant to its fans at its prime. And you know what? They may be right.
What I do know is that ECW fans are incredibly loyal fans who truly loved their small-time company that hit it big. I do know that ECW was more than just broken tables and tables lit on fire. There was a spirit in the company and in its presentation that made it so contagious to be a fan, and that effect is still there. When ECW was being "brought back" by WWE, there were so many fans that were all supposedly hardcore ECW fans, but I'm willing to bet that a good portion of them never saw guys like Dreamer, Sandman, and Taz in action in ECW. I'll go a step further and say that a lot of modern-day ECW fans probably never even saw the company in the 90s, and only got onboard their popularity train when it was brought to WWE. There was this allure to ECW, a legendary pull -- when ECW said extreme, they meant EXTREME (cue shots of Cactus Jack here). The fans were so rabid and adamant and so in love with their small company that Vince decided to cash in and bring it back. He reinstated ECW, got it its own night of television each week, sent in his own WWE guys to make for some kind of invasion storyline, and he even had John Cena lose his championship to Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand in the Philadelphia hall, where some fans carried a banner that said "IF CENA WINS, WE RIOT." That might've been laughable in a WWE arena, but it's a good thing John lost the match because, well, you just never know with an ECW crowd.
I made a post not too long ago saying that I think, nay, believe, that Vince is a smart man who knows what he's doing... most of the time. As much as people want to slam him, I don't think many would be so eager to fulfill his role in the company, and even less would succeed, if any at all. With that said, I think Vince dropped the ball with ECW (I shouldn't say "I think," but well, this is my opinion and with who knows who reading, I feel this is appropriate wording). This didn't even happen once - it happened twice. The first time was with the WCW/ECW invasion storyline, which some point to and say, "this is where wrestling lost it." What should've been the hottest angle he had ever done, and with so much talent and history right in his hands, Vince just... let it die.
But the fans wouldn't let ECW die. I found it interesting how down on ECW Eric Bischoff was, saying that they were never close to being #2 out of "the big 3." And yet, WCW went under and I've never heard a crowd chant for that company to make a comeback. Not the way ECW chants would randomly start up here and there. Not bad for being #3!
Enter mistake #2. Vince reinstates ECW and once again, word is out and it seems as though, to steal JR's line, business was about to pick up! He seemed to legitimately want the company to succeed, and RVD was going to be the face of the new brand. Joey Styles delivered a killer promo on Raw when JR returned, a promo that was so good it stills gives me chills to remember it - and off he went to ECW, with a full head of steam. Paul Heyman, mastermind of the original ECW, was back, and there was a buzz about this company. The fans hadn't let the spirit die, and now they were being rewarded.
At first it did well. But slowly, it started getting out of Paul Heyman's hands, and going to the hands of the guy who controls everyone's wallets, Vinnie Mac. And this is a mistake I think ECW is still struggling to recover from, the second mistake that Vince did. If he truly wanted the brand to work, he should've left it at the hands of Heyman. Heyman had a vision and was the man who originally gave ECW life, and he should've been the one to bring the new version life too. Instead, we got a bastardized version of Smackdown, with more WWE guys main-eventing ECW shows at first than ECW guys! Now the show is staying afloat, but unless Vince shakes it up, it probably won't last another year. Was his pride too much to swallow, to finance the brand but allow Paul Heyman to work his creative magic and keep his own nose out of it? Or was he justified in taking an active role in overseeing and adding the WWE touch on a show, that was, well, a WWE show? Personally, I'd say he's more than justified since he's footing the bill and it is his show, but if he wanted to appeal to that special spirit of ECW in the fans, he should've stepped back and let the man who created that spirit do what he does best - fire up those fans and keep that spirit alive.