At the conclusion of last week’s episode of TNA iMPACT! , I found myself shaking my head and fists profusely at the streaming feed on my computer screen.
After eight years of being in business, the best thing TNA can come up with is yet another ECW-themed storyline/pay per view? My friends, I must be honest and admit that I take a small level of pleasure in telling you that this move is quite possibly the most asinine direction any pro-wrestling company has taken since the firing of Bryan Danielson.
How many people out there are actually pining for the fiftieth ECW resuscitation? We’ve had One Night Stand I and II , we’ve had Hardcore Homecoming, and we even had a WWE-ECW that was watchable for about two weeks.
Why in the blue hell do we need to see them again just one more time? Ironically enough, that statement within itself is hypocritical. What, is it going to be “different” this time? How much different will it be than the last time(s)? What can TNA offer fans other than what's already been shown by others?
Seeing as I’m feeling very altruistic at the moment, I can save you forty-plus dollars right now and tell you exactly how this storyline and the next TNA pay-per-view will go once this thing kicks into high gear:
Sabu does a cannonball into an active volcano.
Tommy Dreamer takes a bath in his own blood, forms his body into the shape of a cross, and screams at the hard camera.
Stevie Richards gets injured again.
Terry Funk rolls around the ring aimlessly and throws a chair wrapped in barbed wire at a fan. Mick Foley saves the fan in the nick of time and dry humps the same chair.
Sabu jumps out of the volcano and cannonballs back into it.
Shane Douglas cuts a great promo, but has trouble getting his belly through the ring ropes.
Raven and Rhino face Team 3D in a “dream match” that no one asked for.
Sabu jumps out of the volcano, sets a chair up on the lip of the volcano, gets a running start, jumps onto the chair, leaps into the air, swan dives into the volcano.
The fans chant “ECW! ECW! ECW!” The night is a “success” by TNA’s standards.
The process starts all over again for the next TNA pay-per-view, Extreme No Hardcore Surrender.
The sad part is, I’m probably not that far off from being right.
Witty sarcasm and snide comments aside, it pains me to see TNA stoop to such an uninspired level just to boost its sagging ratings and pay-per-view buyrates.
In the race to become a top competitor in the televised pro-wrestling/sports entertainment arena, the only thing TNA has accomplished is proving that the company on the whole lacks the knowledge and confidence to play with the big dogs in the yard.
Mind you, this isn’t a stigma that was placed on them by the fans. TNA was the one that instigated the fight against the status quo of pro-wrestling. TNA was the company that said, “We’re the best!” TNA was the company that had something to prove, and they’ve yet to prove anything other than their desire to be the Professor Farnsworth of pro-wrestling.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all about rooting for the underdog, but TNA was that underdog in 2002. Eight years later, they’re just mediocre.
They’re mediocre due to their inability to successfully market their own product and stubbornness to put money behind their homegrown stars. Since October 2009, TNA has spent more money on reliving 20-year-old moments and eras than they have on developing stars for the next generation and their breadwinning divisions.
At a time when most fans were complaining about the staleness of pro-wrestling, TNA unearths a nostalgic, 18-year-old era in order to stomp the competition. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
The thing that should really grind a fan’s gears about this direction is that it’s an uninspired rehash of something that’s already been done. Tommy Dreamer even admitted this in his emotional promo at the conclusion of the show last week.
So, the question begs to be asked, why does Tommy and crew need “one more chance” to do something they’ve already done at least TWO TIMES BEFORE?!?!
A: The WWE-ECW Tarnished the Legacy of ECW
No, it did not. After watching the first few episodes of the WWE’s version of ECW, we all knew—even if instinctively—that this brand was far from the ECW we knew and loved. The fact that it was on the Sci-Fi channel and Sandman had to face The Zombie and Macho Libre should have been dead giveaways to that fact.
Fans never appreciated WWE-ECW for what it was: Vince McMahon’s narcissistic vision of what ECW should have been. It’s just too bad that conceptually, the original Extreme Championship Wrestling was light years ahead of anything Vince McMahon ever dreamt of.
Let’s just be real with one another; the fact that Vince McMahon gave ECW two pay-per-views and a television show says a lot about the relationship he had with Paul Heyman and the company, as well as how he felt about ECW on the whole. If Vince never had any respect for ECW, he would’ve never put them on after he bought the company.
WCW never got a WWE show or pay-per-view (InVasion doesn’t count), and you should take care to remember that.
So, to hear Tommy Dreamer paint a picture of an evil genius destroying ECW’s legacy is ludicrous and preposterous at the least. As long as fans chant, “ECW,” there is no way the legacy of the company can or will be tarnished.
The funny thing about this whole deal is that Eric Bischoff, who has on multiple occasions publicly declared his hatred for Paul Heyman and ECW, now works for the same company that Tommy Dreamer and crew work for. Suck on that irony for a minute.
A: We Get to See the ECW Greats Once Again
No, the fans get to see some of the ECW greats once again, and sadly, these are only a few of the legendary stars TNA would need to really pull this off.
The three legendary ECW grapplers out of the bunch that we’ve seen so far are Tommy Dreamer (38), Raven (45), and Mick Foley (45). Rhino (34) rose to prominence towards the end of the company, while Stevie Richards (38) was a mid-card grappler with a cult following.
Al Snow (47) made an appearance during last week’s iMPACT! and works as a road agent for TNA. Pat “Simon Diamond” Kenney (42) also made an appearance, while Brother Devon (37) aligned himself with the group as Brother Ray (39) did not.
Spike “Brother Runt” Dudley (39) has worked with TNA and could be asked to come back for the angle, as well as “The Franchise” Shane Douglas (45). If fans pray hard enough, perhaps legendary hardcore figures such as Sabu (46) and The Sandman (47) could make a return to the company. Perhaps Bill Alfonso (52) could return to his incessant whistle blowing referee gimmick.
In what can be considered a Freudian slip, I forgot to mention that the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion—Rob Van Dam (39)—could also make have an extreme impact on this particular angle. I also forgot to mention that the presence of Taz (42) could swing things one way or the other.
If we’re really lucky, maybe Francine (37), Beulah McGillicutty (41), and Tammy Lynn Sytch (37) will make an appearance as well.
Out of the people I mentioned, only one is under the age of thirty-five. Is there any wonder to why people consider TNA to be a pro-wrestling nursing home?
These men and women are arguably the backbone of the original ECW, but they are not the sum of its parts. There are (and were) scores of other stars who made ECW a spectacular organization that may not or will not be included in this pay per view or the resulting angle.
We’ve also failed to take into consideration the health and physical acumen of these athletes. With 18 years of traveling and performing under their belts, there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to move and float like they did when they were in their early 20s.
Essentially, this “one last chance” is really going to be a watered-down version of what ECW once stood for, which actually makes it impossible to relive those exciting days of ECW.
A: At Least it’ll be Hardcore and Not PG
In my opinion, a lot of the better matches in ECW were “PG” and didn’t involve blood or scantily-clad women.
The thing that made ECW “extreme” and “hardcore” was the fact that a standard match in the company lasted at least 30 to 45 minutes. I imagine that it’s grueling for an athlete to go for five minutes in a wrestling ring, so how awesome was it that every wrestler in ECW could put on a clinic in the squared circle for at least thirty minutes?
As far as the pools of blood, rampant soft core pornography, and obscene language is concerned, ECW was able to find the perfect balance of these accessories and stellar in-ring performances, which painted the company as a brash, upstart revolution against the cookie cutter, five-minute match antics of what was going on in other companies.
In other words, the terms “extreme,” and “hardcore” are more synonymous with unpredictable and lengthy bouts than it is with weapons and blood.
It only takes Ric Flair donning a crimson mask on one episode of iMPACT! to prove that unnecessary bloodletting does not a quality show make.
Also, most fans are not clamoring for another Monster’s Ball Match between Abyss and anyone on the roster, so it’s crazy to assume that fans want to see a handful of 40-year-olds do something that 36-six-year old Chris Parks can’t even make popular anymore.
A: The ECW Storyline is a Great Invasion Storyline
There’s nothing great about this rehashed storyline. It’s another company doing something that was done multiple times before, only about a year too late.
It's not even a pure invasion storyline. It's actually more of an "occupation" storyline, where allied forces inhabit your town for an indefinite period of time for no real apparent reason other than "just because."
That’s the biggest problem with this ECW angle. This angle shows the world how TNA has wasted countless amounts of man hours attempting to pander to pockets of fans without a true focus on efforts to build up the company from the inside out.
A lot of people thoroughly enjoyed ECW, but it was never enough people to garner ratings on TNN better than what TNA is currently getting on Spike TV.
Sure the “real” pro-wrestling fans adored what ECW stood for and embodied, but these “real” fans are also fans that are a drop in the bucket compared to the legions of “fake” fans that are paying top dollar to enjoy a particular kid-friendly pro wrestling product.
“Real” pro-wrestling fans loved ECW so much that the company went bankrupt. There’s no way in hell that a company with that much of a strong following couldn’t garner enough financial support from its fans to stay afloat.
So, that must suggest one other thing: the fans that supported ECW weren’t strong enough or large enough financially to support the company. The fan base was too small for the longevity of the company.
These are the fans TNA is trying to appeal to in the midst of being on the brink of financial ruin. Not only that, but they want to do so without a strong writing staff. All signs point to epic fail.
The writing staff in the company, by itself, is a mess all around. It was honestly very average while Vince Russo manned the helm of the ship, and it was made worse with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s ambiguous presence in the company.
Throw in Ed Ferrara and a monkey with a clipboard, and you’ve got yourself an episode of Krusty the Clown without The Itchy and Scratchy show.
The creative team stinks to holy hell at this point and can barely sustain a feud for longer than a month, while ECW managed to keep fans interested in feuds that lasted for years and not just for two pay per views.
TNA has done nothing at all to correct this problem , and someone figured that placing an ECW themed Band-Aid over this gaping wound (thanks for that one, Ian Malone) would raise the company from the dead.
Do you believe in your heart that the company’s current writing team can handle an “original ECW” pay per view?
“No” is the answer you’re looking for.
In defense of the company, this storyline is only supposed to be for “one last stand,” so it really won’t require dragging feuds out all the way up until Bound for Glory in October. But something just doesn’t make sense to me about that logic, and I have a feeling this will be dragged out all the way up until October. God forbid it makes it into next year.
So, in conclusion, TNA’s sick sadistic fetish of feasting on the dead carcasses of rotting storylines and creative directions has reached its penultimate climax with their association with what’s left of the broken and battered remnants of the original ECW.
This is TNA’s last resort to building a fan base, and if it fails the company will have very few nostalgic eras to rely upon to keep from becoming another promotion drowning in the tides of the turbulent mainstream entertainment seas.
At this point, all we can do is pray that Paul Heyman says yes.
Suggested Reading: TNA Throws in the Towel With Latest ECW Garbage by Ian Malone