SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: What's next for WWF & ECW?
By CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling
What's the most intriguing angle in wrestling today? Is it whether or not
the immortal and immobile Hulk/Hollywood/Terry Hogan will finally be
retired at WCW's Bash at the Beach? Is it the human highlight reel Mick
(Mankind/Dude Love/Cactus Jack) Foley becoming commissioner of the WWF
and finally putting to bed the Faction, the endless Triple H tirades and
the very played-out, evil heel promoter gimmick Vince drove into the
grave, buried, dug-up and buried again? Is it whether or not Steven
Richards has finally found a gimmick that works, or maybe Kurt Angle
versus, well, whomever he's supposed to feud with next will be your
thing. No my friends, the most intriguing angle in the "biz" today, the
most speculated on and the most eagerly anticipated is simply: What
happens next? With what you ask? With ECW, TNN, USA and the WWF I answer.
Unless you've been living on a barren desert island, eating bugs,
foraging for grubs and one by one being voted off said island by the
surlier members of your contingent for the last two months, you now know
that come this fall, changes they are a brewing. First came the earth
shattering courtroom drama between the World Wrestling Federation and the
USA network, a saga so powerful, a drama so provocative that it made
Judge Judy weep with remorse that she turned down the opportunity to cash
in on it (think of the buyrates Vince, think of the buyrates).
the WWF believed their contract with the USA network was going to expire
in September and started negotiating with Viacom (which owns CBS, MTV,
TNN among other properties) about moving to one of their networks. The USA network believed it
had the legal right to keep the WWF for five more years after September,
because they (The USA Network) exercised a clause in their contract with
the WWF. That clause gave the USA network first refusal rights and the
opportunity to match any offer made by a competitor. Think of it as the
equivalent of NHL restricted Free Agency. Viacom (CBS, TNN, etc.) offered
the WWF a deal The USA Network couldn't match (not just money, a network
for the XFL, movies, specials, etc.), or even come close to equalling.
The WWF contended that The USA Network was unable to match Viacom's
offer, The USA Network claimed it matched Viacom's offer, at least
financially, and it was unreasonable to expect them to match Viacom's
extras. It went to court, the WWF won, The USA Network lost. End of act
one, fade to black.
Next, less than a week ago TNN announced that they were exercising an
escape clause in their contract with Extreme Championship Wrestling. Come
September 22nd, TNN will no longer air ECW television, co-incidentally the
same time as when the WWF's deal with The USA Network also expires. The
official reason given by CBS (TNN's parent company) was that ECW had not
met their projected ratings and due to stipulations in their contract CBS
could therefore terminate their deal. Legally, CBS is well within their
rights to drop ECW and considering the increasing tension between ECW and
CBS, this isn't that surprising. However, the real reason isn't the
ratings that ECW on TNN is generating -- ECW is currently TNN's highest
rated show -- it's the fact that Viacom and subsequently TNN wil soon
be airing WWF's programs.
So, to return to question at hand, what comes next? The answer? No one
knows. Calls by CANOE/SLAM! Wrestling On-line editor John Powell to both
CBS and the WWF have been met with answers of, "We don't know what will
happen [come September]."
No one knows how this Viacom/WWF deal will
affect Canadian viewers, or more specifically, TSN's coverage of
Raw/Warzone. However, what we do know is that all of the WWF's
programming (save Smackdown!, which will continue to air on UPN) will now
be moving to TNN/MTV. The USA Network, having lost their top-rated cable
program, has publicly stated that they will not actively pursue replacing
the WWF with another wrestling program, to the chagrin of ECW fans
everywhere, and will instead air movies during Raw/Warzone's time slot.
And ECW, well, The USA Network would seem like a perfect fit for the
tumultuous wrestling company that could, that's if The USA Network
reconsiders their decision and does go after a wrestling show. And let's
not forget the past rumours about the Fox network being interested in
acquiring a wrestling promotion, more specifically ECW.
Still, with ECW's future availability in Canada becoming an issue, one can only hope
Viewer's Choice continues to air ECW's pay-per-views, even if the worst
happens and Canada is once again without ECW's weekly television show.
And let us not forget WCW in all of this, they are not exempt from
uncertainty, as they are currently mired in rumours of mergers,
bankruptcies and outright sales.
While no one is quite sure what is in store for wrestling fans with the
current television landscape revisions, and even less sure when it comes
to the Canada, one constant remains. It's going to be interesting, to
say the least.
June 29:Five angles to ditch
Just wanted to make a couple of points with you as I completely disagree
with your article. To borrow a line from the movie BILLY MADISON "I and
everyone else that sat here are dumber for having read it."
1) Gerald Brisco vs. Pat Patterson
I did not see this match as "harming the WWF", that was one of the
funniest matches I have ever seen. As for Crash I can't tell if you were
dissing him in your column, but his mic skills are up there and the
Crash vs Angle match at the KOTR was maybe the first or second best match
of the tournament.
2) Misfits In Action
You tried to make a point about impact players in a group by referring
to DX in the Faction. Well riddle me this: After Michaels left WWF what
was DX? Answer: A bunch of MIDCARDERS. Proof: HHH was feuding with the
Rock for the Intercontinental title or otherwise known as the midcarder
belt. I think you have it backwards the point of a group or faction is
not for the players to make the group get "over" but for the group to
help the players get "over". What happens when a group breaks up? The
players go their separate ways and hopefully the group made the player
3) Dale Torborg vs. Vampiro
I don't watch WCW enough to comment on the problem you have with this angle.
I saw the Sting vs. Vamp but not this one.
4) ECW vs. TNN
I personally don't care.
5) The status of the WWF's women's title
I have to agree with you on this one. It was cool for a little while but
what ever happen to the "champion will defend their title at least once
every 30 days." I seem to recall HHH (Steph's Husband) getting stripped
of the IC Belt that way.
Stephanie McMahon however I think is a talent, she can draw heat and
makes people tune in and admit it, you may not like violence against
women, but you know you wouldn't mind seeing her go through a table.
Though I do deplore violence against women, I do understand that this is
acting and not reality.
Your mentioning of the meaninglessness of the mid-carders going up
against the top talents and everybody knowing who's going to win made me
remember a match out of the old mid-south.
The challenger's to (I think) the North American tag team title were
Wendell Cooley and Al Perez. By the way, whatever happened to Perez, he
was very good? Anyway, the champs, I think, were the Assassins, or was
it the original Midnight Express, heck, I can't remember for sure.
Anyway, Cooley had had just a little pump and Perez was certainly the
bigger name of the two, although he still hadn't had big-time success.
It was one of those matches where the lesser-known challengers got a
bunch of two-counts, but of course you knew the champs would win.
Well, this time, the challengers won. One of the two-counts went to
three. A huge upset. Even better, it was clean. I remember totally
getting lost in the match and the outcome. like I'd just seen something
great -- comparable even to Flair beating Race in the first (or was it
the second) Starrcade.
Why can't we have an angle like that?
I'm afraid I know the reasons, but I still think it could work. It would
also be a bone to throw at fans like me who miss the days when who won
actually mattered, rather than what it did to some bigger angle. The
title was the angle.
Generally I agree with your assessment over the five worst angles in
wrestling today. Though personally the sight of Patterson and Brisco
fighting in drag had me in stitches, it's time the WWF restored some
dignity and normalcy to the hardcore division (yes, I just used
"dignity" and "normal" in the same sentence as hardcore wrestling).
But as a longtime wrestling fan I can say without a doubt the absolute
unequivocal WORST angle in wrestling has largely gone unscathed by the
oh-so vocal community of on-line wrestling columnists. And that would be
the love triangle between Daffney, Ms Hancock and David Flair.
Now the WCW has been doing some interesting things lately, and that's
saying something as a lifetime WWF mark myself. And granted the general
storyline of the Love Triangle is sound, of an ultra-cool riot babe and
ultra-hot vixen babe fighting over an ugly loser who ain't worth squat,
but here's the rub: NONE OF THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED ARE ACTUALLY
I mean, excuse me but did I miss something here? It's World Championship
WRESTLING right? Outlandish plotlines are great, and Russo is the
industry standard at that, but as a writer myself I feel I'm on pretty
firm ground here saying that you can't build an angle in wrestling
without a wrestler involved (yes I know Daffney and David have some
ability in that area, but common sense should tell you that's not good
I agreed with half of your column but I think you need to remember one
thing: all wrestling fans don't feel the same why. I am a high school
student and mornings after Raw the Patterson and Brisco segments are
discussed because some people find them funny.
The WWF uses comedy to try and bring in more fans with more of a
something for everyone.
Next ECW/TNN angle is the longest running angle on TV without a major
plot twist. The McMahon/Top Heel feud has changed so it cannot be
counted. It is also their top angle. Your reasoning also isn't relevant
because WCW is using shoot angles as well. Really what it sounds like
you're saying is companies believe everything on Wrestling TV is true? I
find that very hard to believe.
I do enjoy reading your column though but in this case I think you're wrong
on two of the five angles to ditch.