As promised, here is what I know so far (as of May 5, 2006) about WWE reviving the Extreme Championship Wrestling Brand (ECW).
I am assuming that the idea of doing something with the ECW brand was planted in the minds of the McMahons since the phenomenal success of the ECW One Night Stand pay per view last year. When the buy rate for the show came in, along with the crazy high sales of the DVD, Vince & Co. had to know they were sitting on a potential huge moneymaker.
However, nothing was done and it seemed that the ECW brand was fading away. When the announcement came of a second ECW pay per view airing on June 11, I suspected some backstage talking was going on. Paul Heyman had taken over Ohio Valley Wrestling after Jim Cornette was released. Finally able to write shows without Stephanie - who really dislikes him - critiquing his ideas, Heyman took OVW in a whole new direction and its popularity soared.
Heyman's contract with WWE was coming to an end and many believed Heyman would depart and possibly join TNA.
There had not even been a murmur about resurrecting the ECW brand even after the fans clamored for it after last year's ECW pay per view.
Suddenly last week, it was leaked that ECW was being resurrected. Not just for one night but as a real, viable weekly promotion.
Setting the Wheels in Motion
The wheels were in motion. Rob Van Dam won the Money in the Bank title shot at WrestleMania and implied strongly that he would challenge for the belt on the ECW pay per view.
Then, word spread of past ECW workers being contacted by WWE to sign long-term contracts with the promotion to work for the ECW brand. Now, remember, WWE owns ECW so every worker who signs to work with ECW is really an employee of WWE.
Paul Heyman missed his first OVW show last week, no doubt trying to put the ECW show together since it is less than a month away both for the pay per view and the actual start of the ECW brand.
Heyman actually has his own office in Titan Towers now, a major step up for him. He must have done something very right!
What is Known So Far
At this time, it looks a though ECW will reform with some former members as well as new, young talent from OVW and possibly from the cruiserweight division of WWE.
While WWE shops for a time slot on national TV, the ECW brand show will take the place of Velocity which you can watch on the WWE.com website or, if you're lucky enough to live in a country that still airs the show, you can watch on TV. The USA network will have a 2 a.m. timeslot open in June on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings according to www.pwinsider.com and that could possibly be where ECW will end up. But that is pure speculation at this time. Ironically I started watching ECW in the 2 a.m. time slot on the MSG channel years ago.
WWE has confirmed that, as of today, the following former ECW personalities have signed contracts: Sabu, Jazz, Axl Rotten, Balls Mahoney, and C.W. Anderson. Several more have been contacted. Former talent expected to be part of this project are: Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Al Snow, Balls Mahoney, Francine, and Danny Doring as well as those listed above. CM Punk, who was a stand out in Ring of Honor and did some work in TNA, is expected to be a major part of the promotion and one of the first non-ECW workers approached. Rob Van Dam will be the major star of the show, which thrills me since WWE has done nothing with his character and he is still one of the most popular wrestlers in the promotion.
Obviously, former ECW workers like Raven, Rhino, all three Dudleys, Shane Douglas, Jerry Lynn, and other major players are contracted to TNA and will not be able to participate in the new ECW show until their contracts expire. I have no idea which of the former ECW workers who are now in TNA would be interested in jumping to the new ECW show but it will be interesting to see what happens down the road.
This week on Raw, Joey Styles, former one-man commentator in ECW, "quit" WWE after tearing them apart for being storyline driven and more entertainment than wrestling. He will be the announcer for the ECW show. This couldn't have happened at a better time for Joey because everything he said in that powerful promo was true. WWE was unhappy with his style of announcing and were about to give him the axe before the ECW concept came to life. The promo was written by Styles and submitted to WWE for approval. They obviously approved it (which is a bit shocking) and Joey cut the best promo of his career.
Jim Ross will be back in his rightful spot with Jerry Lawler and Coach will move to doing more character roles.
Added late May 5: WWE just announced the following have signed contracts: The Sandman, Francine, Danny Doring, Tony Mamaluke.
Kicking Off the ECW Brand
To help promote the ECW pay per view and the brand, WWE will air a special show on Wednesday, June 7 on the USA network. The show - entitled "WWE vs. ECW Head to Head" - will be a two-hour special and will set up storylines for the ECW pay per view and beyond.
There are plans to run house shows as early as June 24. WWE has secured the former ECW Arena in Philadelphia on June 24 for a show called "WWE Presents ECW".
As you can see, WWE is certainly not letting fans forget that they are "allowing" ECW to live again and that they are the parent company. However, it has been reported that Paul Heyman along with Tommy Dreamer will write the ECW shows and do the booking which, if true, will definitely give the ECW brand its old flavor and style.
So, as it stands now, there will be a two hour special on the USA network on June 7 to begin the promotion of the brand and hype the pay per view. The ECW One Night Stand pay per view will air on June 11 and the ECW brand will continue right after that show.
Putting it all Together
With just over a month to gather talent, make plans, write storylines, design a set, gather music, and everything else that goes into kicking off a promotion - even a WWE owned one - this is going to be a fascinating experience for us fans. Can WWE, with Paul Heyman at the helm, pull it all together in just five weeks? Will people watch this new ECW show? Will people buy tickets for the house shows? And who from the WWE roster will be "jumping" to the ECW show? There are several former ECW workers under contract in WWE and at least some will migrate to the new show.
What night and time the ECW brand show will air on WWE.com (unless they can get USA to give up another hour of programming immediately like the 2 a.m. time slot I mentioned) is unknown. Exactly who will be part of the show is being uncovered a little bit each day. House shows are being booked and it looks like all systems are go for the ECW brand.
But I Have Questions
My question is - is this too little too late? When WWE bought both WCW and ECW, fans were clamoring for a different promotion. That didn't happen. When last year's ECW One Night Stand pay per view aired, fans were very hopeful that the angles and the storylines that were started would continue on one of the two WWE shows. That didn't happen. Now, suddenly, just as the clamor has died down, ECW is coming back. Will it be like ECW of old or will it be WWE's version of ECW? Will fans accept this new show? Can WWE secure airtime for it? Will Paul Heyman truly have full creative control? And what role, if any, will Tazz have in ECW since he was such a big part of the promotion? Will he continue to announce Smackdown or join the ECW brand? Will there be ECW matches on Raw and/or Smackdown until a TV slot is secured and will they be against other ECW workers or against WWE guys? Will this be a vigilante, outlaw promotion as Joey Styles seemed to set the brand up for? Remember, when ECW was airing, they were very vocal about being against WCW and WWE. In order to be authentic, ECW will have to be vocal against WWE once more.
All of these questions will be answered next month as we move into a new era of wrestling.
As an ardent ECW fan, I am hopeful but skeptical. I prefer to wait and see before getting excited. Too many projects have flopped for me to believe this is all going to be as I remember ECW to be.
However, you had better believe I will be watching - and reporting back - everything that happens with a critical eye and a soft spot on my heart for the ECW brand.
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I will be back with news on yet another new wrestling promotion that will be airing on MTV, more ECW news, the MySpace list of REAL wrestlers and divas, and much more.
Have a great weekend!
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