June 17, 2008
Mat Matters: How to save ECW
By MATT BISHOP - SLAM! Wrestling
From ratings to the actual product, the reincarnation of ECW has been a considerable flop for World Wrestling Entertainment.
Unlike many others, I'm not ready to give up on ECW yet, not by a long shot.
With a little innovation and a favorable draw in the Draft, WWE can turn ECW into a viable commodity.
There’s no doubt in my mind ECW should be the breeding ground for future WWE superstars, but WWE needs to do a better job of giving ECW a decent hand to work with. It needs to build ECW as the upstart brand. Using this model and these goals, here is what needs to be done to "save" ECW.
First off, Kane needs to be removed as ECW Champion. Having Kane as the champion of the brand is downright awful. While I've supported Kane as a good, if not great, big man over the years, his latest run has been nothing short of boring and his style is getting tired.
When I think of ECW, I think of a show that should feature guys like Kofi Kingston, Shelton Benjamin, CM Punk, John Morrison and The Miz -- not Kane. ECW should be built around young, upstart talent -- not a veteran big man with limited feud potential.
It's hard to make anyone look strong around Kane because of his sheer size. Even though Chavo Guerrero was a veteran as champion, he was believable because he wasn't a giant like Kane is.
While I feel Kane has been underappreciated over the course of his career, this is simply not the correct role for him and it is hurting ECW as a whole.
With a new face, like Shelton Benjamin, as champion, it would allow for new feuds that would generally pay off in great matches. Imagine a series of matches between Benjamin and The Miz, or Benjamin and Punk. These would be fun, competitive matches and wouldn't have the same foregone conclusion as Kane-Guerrero 47.
From there, ECW needs to have a renewed emphasis on push new, young and exciting talent. Every fan knows what they’ll get from RAW and Smackdown! -- your standard WWE product. ECW needs to be the alternative product that goes in-between the standard WWE look and what all the other promotions present.
Again, people like Kane and Mike Knox should be nowhere near Sci-Fi on Tuesday’s at 10 p.m. If a bigger guy is going to see the light of day, it should be someone like Bam Neely, a guy with a distinctive look and, so far, some signs of a personality. To me, his upside is Tomko. His downside is any other random big guy.
Having more Extreme Rules matches would go a long way. Usually, these matches tend to be the best ones on the show. I’d go so far to say that every ECW Championship match should be contested under Extreme Rules. As it stands now, ECW is no different than RAW or Smackdown! and that is just criminal.
What hurts ECW even more is that it can’t operate like RAW and Smackdown! because it simply does not have the depth to do so. By my count via ECW’s roster page on WWE.com, ECW has 16 active wrestlers, 11 of which get regular time in the ring.
Even though ECW has only one hour of TV time per week, it’s not hard to see the show getting stale in front of our eyes. Part of this is due to the unequal distribution of faces and heels along with the stubbornness to put certain players in the show’s upper card.
Now, the upcoming WWE Draft makes this whole thing interesting. ECW got off-track last year when its biggest pick went loco. This forced the title onto Johnny Nitro way ahead of his time and, while it’s hard to say if this event had a long-term effect on the brand, it’s not tough to acknowledge that it set the brand off course significantly.
On top of that, the brand’s champion at the time, Bobby Lashley , was ripped away for no apparent reason and went on to do next to nothing on RAW.
This is why it’s so important for ECW to get a big jump on this year’s Draft. Essentially, how WWE treats ECW in this Draft will show its true long-term plans for the brand.
Now, for the purpose of this column, I’m going to go ahead and pretend WWE will give ECW a fair shake in this whole thing. Here are my suggestions based on WWE’s own list of its superstars of who to bring to ECW and where to send ECW "outcasts."
People ECW cannot afford to lose: Kofi Kingston, Shelton Benjamin, CM Punk, John Morrison and The Miz
Going through the rosters of RAW and Smackdown!, I was having a hard time figuring out who would be a good fit for ECW. In all honestly, it was a lot tougher than I anticipated. Maybe it’s because WWE has very few wrestlers who fit the mold for my version of ECW.
The only person on my jettison list I have a problem axing is Armando Estrada. As a performer, he fits the ECW mold, but the way he has been treated on TV in recent weeks seems to indicate his days with the brand are numbered.
Murdoch here, I believe, can be a breakout star. We’ve seen over the past few years that he can perform in the ring. On top of that, it’s clear he has a lot of untapped personality and charisma that tend to get buried on a show as top-heavy as RAW. On ECW, he’d have a chance to really get a big push and build some momentum.
Despite his appearance on RAW this week, Haas has been nothing short of an afterthought on wrestling’s biggest show. A switch to ECW would open up all sorts of opportunities, including feuding or teaming with Benjamin.
Due to injury, Dykstra has become a forgotten man, as well. When he was healthy, he was headed down the wrong road with Smackdown!. A switch to ECW could give him the push to superstardom that he needs.
While it’s still up to the bookers to write the show and the wrestlers to execute said show, taking these small steps will help increase ECW’s viability as a major brand and will only benefit the wrestling landscape as a whole.
Matt Bishop is SLAM! Wrestling's regular ECW reporter. Send Matt e-mail about ECW, wrestling, MMA or hockey at firstname.lastname@example.org..