ECW 2008 Begins
When the year began, I was almost positive that ECW would eventually be defunct (again) and combined with Smackdown. It didn't even seem that WWE/Vince cared about the product, especially when they continually made the matches only a couple of minutes or less at major PPV's (Kane vs. Chavo at WM24).
After Wrestlemania, ECW took a chance with Kane as champion (Chavo never should have been the champ). CM Punk was also gunning to reclaim the title, and with the MITB win, interest in a meeting between the two was something to look forward to after all of the Chavo matches.
However, outside of Punk, Kane, and the new sensation Kofi Kingston—there was nothing. Stupid storylines, almost as bad as TNA, were the main part of the show. It almost looked like there weren't any writers for ECW, only SD/RAW writers who, after finishing writing assignments with SD/RAW at four in the morning, would throw together an idea or two for the ECW program. In other words, it seemed very half-assed.
When Big Show entered at the end of spring, I actually allowed myself to believe that the ECW title would one day again be considered a major title. I also thought that with Kofi Kingston in the picture, along with Miz, Morrison, and other younger stars that maybe someday the ECW TV belt would show face. With all of these pieces seemingly coming into place, it looked that ECW was finally in prime position to rise to the occasion and become the third brand that it was meant to be—the level ECW once was in the 90's.
Then, in a few weeks time, they sent us into the disappointing unknown once more.
First, it was announced that Kane, Mark Henry, and Big Show would square off for the title at the next PPV. I was positive The Show would take the title and have a long reign validating the title more.
A week later the WWE Draft was held. It seemed like an opportunity to put in a rising star who would one day take the belt from Show. Punk went to RAW (no surprise since he still hadn't cashed in his MITB—he was obviously going for another title). Then went Kingston (a somewhat disappointment, since he was still brand new).
Then two of three things happened that I didn't expect at all: Kane went to RAW and Big Show went to SD; just a week or two before their triple threat match (including Mark Henry) for the ECW title. I honestly didn't get it at all and knew right then that Henry was going to win (uggghhhhh).
The additions? Finlay and Hornswaggle came over from SD and my third, pleasant surprise: Matt Hardy from SD. ECW was pretty much depleted of the World title division with hopes that Hardy would come through and the rest relied upon the young guys in the locker room. Major disappointment for ECW fans (as always).
Yet, at the same time, I found myself a bigger ECW fan than ever. Why? Because I wanted them to make it work. I wanted to see Hardy as World champion (something I believe he and Jeff deserved). In fact, I saw him as being the face of ECW and the one to bring it to the next level. But how would they do it? Who would he compete with?
It looked as if he was there, alone, with no certain future with the company. I honestly thought they put him there because they had no idea what to do with him—eventually leading to a future release.
Then, a week later, Henry was given the belt. Words cannot describe how much he didn't deserve the ECW title (even Chavo would be a better pick). I know the guy is a veteran, but he didn't deserve that spot; the man had no personality and the fans didn't react to him. I was almost sure that ECW would be merged with Smackdown at some point by the end of the year.
Reign of Hardy
As I stated above, Henry was not the right pick to be ECW Champ, however his character did become more interesting as champ. He finally got some reaction from the fans and became a decent heel, especially during his matches with Hardy, which I found very exciting. It was a good feud and seeing Hardy chasing the belt and almost winning every night reminded me of Chris Benoit in his WCW days.
When he finally won the belt, I knew that ECW had nowhere to go but up. And to add, Henry was now over with the fans as a decent heel (with Tony Atlas). Henry may have never deserved the title, but he did prove to me that he deserved to be given more spotlight; just not the ECW belt.
Hardy's feud with Henry gave fans more interest in ECW. And let's be honest, Finlay vs. Henry, or even Kane vs. Henry, would not have done the trick. In essence, Hardy carried the feud and made Henry a bigger star in doing so.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my ECW 2008 article, which includes analysis of 'The New Superstar Initiative', Finlay, Tommy Dreamer, Teddy Long, and more!