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WWE Continues to Dismantle the ECW Brand

Oct 17, 2007

In a move that continues to defy business sense, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) took several steps in the past few days that continue its pattern of dismantling the resurrected ECW brand. First, WWE's website posted a storyline-driven article stating that ECW General Manager Armando Estrada and Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero were having meetings that would see performers from both brands compete on both ECW on Sci Fi and Friday Night Smackdown. Since Smackdown and ECW already tour together, and both shows are taped on Tuesday, this is just the next step in WWE's swallowing of the ECW brand name.

At the UK tapings for ECW, CM Punk revealed Kane to be his mystery partner against Big Daddy V, John Morrison, and The Miz; while Smackdown's Hillbillies appeared and defeated Elijah Burke and Nunzio in a tag team match.

It was then reported by Wrestling News Desk.Com that entire episodes of the ECW program that air Tuesday nights on Sci Fi would be streamed on the WWE/ECW website, a bad sign especially in light of WWE's contract with Sci Fi to air the ECW program coming up for renewal at the end of the year.

A former member member of Senior Management said recently, "ECW was the stuff of urban legend. It had a rabid fan base, created more memorable moments in the 1990s on their budget than WCW did with hundreds of millions of dollars, discovered more talent and created more memorable characters than anyone in history except WWE, and when it came back after 4 1/2 years, we charged 400 dollars per seat ringside for The Hammerstein Ballroom and sold it out. Not to mention a pretty impressive pay per view buyrate. Amazing how WWE puts their machine behind it and can't duplicate what was done with passion, creativity, a great fan base, and dedicated workers."

The brand, which achieved worldwide cult status under the guru-like leadership of Paul Heyman, has been reduced to a WWE Tuesday night time killer, compared by one WWE creative team member, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, to "the waning days of WCW Thunder ..... at least last year, when it was struggling to find an identity between Vince, Stephanie, and Kevin Dunn's vision and the polar opposite vision of Paul Heyman, the show had some momentum as Big Show had heat, and characters were being established. Now, everyone knows this is just like Heat or Velocity."

For those who never saw the original product, ECW was a groundbreaking promotion that forced the stale WWE (then WWF) and Eric Bischoff-lead WCW to take notice and change the way wrestling in North America is presented. Paul Heyman's completely different vision for professional wrestling became the state of the art booking and character development, so much so that he was named one of the Top 100 Marketers in the world by Advertising Age magazine in 2000. Despite the fact the company was already in free-fall due to the loss of the TNN (now Spike) network, Heyman's ability to create a worldwide audience with so few resources could not be overstated.

In 2004, WWE released The Rise And Fall of ECW DVD, which became a worldwide phenomenon. It was only the 2nd DVD in WWE history to surpass 100,000 units sold, and is to this day the number two best selling wrestling or sports entertainment DVD worldwide, which well over 300,000 units sold.

The success of the DVD lead to WWE resurrecting the brand, the first time in history that has ever happened, for the June 12, 2005 ECW ONE NIGHT STAND pay per view. One of the best-received pay per views in history, the event was a smash success, selling $400 ringside seats to the sold-out Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, and amassing over 350,000 pay per view buys. The show, which was written by Heyman, was a shocker to many backstage, as Vince allowed Heyman to produce not only the show with the agents but also announcers Joey Styles and Mick Foley. It was also the night of Heyman's now-famous shoot (inside, "truthful") comment to JBL, "the only reason you were WWE Champion for a year is because HHH didn't want to work Tuesdays!"

ECW was brought back again as a stand-alone brand in 2006, debuting on Sci Fi after the 2nd Annual ECW One Night Stand, which saw one of the most heated WWE Title Matches of all time as Rob Van Dam beat John Cena for the WWE Championship. But immediately, WWE started changing the formula, and reports were that Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon clashed over the re-branding of ECW. Heyman was made the Lead Writer, and even turned heel on Van Dam, aligning himself (and reuniting) with The Big Show, who was crowned ECW World Champion in a riotous victory over RVD on July 4th in Philadelphia.

But behind the scenes, McMahon continued to change things up without notice, and according to several sources, Heyman didn't want to just be like all the other agents and writers and duck for cover when Vince started one of his "Mr.McMahon-like" tirades. "Everyone was shocked the way Paul would stand up for what he believed in, and most of all he believed in himself," stated a writer who admits he avoids conflict with Vince because "I just want my check and don't care if that means just swallowing a lot of crap to do it."

On December 3rd, Heyman and McMahon clashed heavily over the December To Dismember pay per view, and it all came to a head the next day in North Charleston, South Carolina, when Heyman and McMahon had what was described by someone who was in the building as "a very hot meeting." Heyman went home, and then reportedly didn't accept WWE's offer to continue working behind the scenes in developmental. Sometime in the past few months, either Heyman's contract expired, he quit, or he and WWE quietly agreed to a parting of the ways.

Heyman is reportedly working on screenplays, and enjoying life away from the limelight at home with his two children. A report in New York's eclectic GOTHAMIST stated Heyman was working on a major Hi-Def digital deal with Mitchell Stuart of HQ Productions and Clear Channel's "Stripped Online: Raw and Real" music series.

 

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