andrew’s ecw(lite): what’s NXT?

Every week I sit down to write an ECW recap, and every week real life gets in the way and I let Ray down. It’s getting to the point where I am seriously considering just channelling Jeffrey Bernard and posting “Andrew Southern is unwell” each week.

Part of the issue is that as ECW is such a short show there is rarely chance for more than two or so concurrent storylines to actually get any airtime. And as this blog is never going to be a play-by-play account of the matches (despite the undoubted quality of some of the ECW wrestlers) this doesn’t leave much to write about.  However, this week on ECW something different happened that, despite not quite matching up to the hype leading to the announcement, has apparently annoyed certain members of the wrestling community beyond all reason.

For those of you who may not have seen the episode, throughout the show Vince McMahon’s address on the future of ECW was trailed between almost every match or segment, leading to an announcement that in three weeks time ECW will be off the air, to be replace by a brand new WWE show (later revealed to be titled NXT – as in Next Generation.) At the time of writing, nobody outside of the WWE actually knows what NXT will consist of. There have been rumours that it will be incorporating more Sci-Fi (or SyFy) elements – remember the ECW Yeti? Or that it be more reality TV-like, featuring audience interactivity (a bit like the failed Taboo Tuesday/Cyber Sunday PPVs.) The general consensus seems to be that NXT will feature new wrestlers, and perhaps not even have anybody on the show that is already a member of the WWE roster. What this would mean for WWE’s current developmental company FCW is unknown, but it could hopefully involve people like Bryan Danielson, Kaval (formerly Low Ki) and possibly some random Welsh bloke called Barri might get a call up to national television.

All pretty good yeah? Well, apparently not, if some are to be believed. The most outspoken complainant this week has been ex-ECW star and WWE commentator Taz(z) – who posted a blog on his Facebook account complaining that, while Vince took the time the thank the backstage staff in his address, there was no mention of Paul Heyman or the wrestlers of the “original” ECW. Taz went on to complain that Vince had made “a lot of $$$” from the letters ECW over the years, and therefore should be more respectful of the “original” ECW history and be prepared to give it a proper send off.

Bearing in mind that ECW is still on the air for the next two weeks, and we don’t have any idea what will be happening in those last shows, it does seem slightly premature of Taz to complain about the way ECW will end.  The almost cultlike way in which people talk about the “original” ECW is frustrating in many ways, not least of which being the fact that Extreme Championship Wrestling was hardly the “original” ECW, being an evolution of the older Eastern Championship Wrestling (where the initials originally came from.) Hence the mildly annoying inverted commas around the word “original” throughout this paragraph, a conceit which I shall stop now.

Taz complaining that Vince McMahon and the WWE made money from ECW also seems quite hypocritical, especially when you read a later paragraph from that blog. ‘Can some say that, “hey Taz… you sold out and left ECW to go to the WWE”…..well yes. Unfortunately, this is a business and I did what I needed to do (at the time) for my family and have ZERO regrets!’ The reason Taz needed to “sell out” was because, visionary as Paul Heyman may be, it is widely acknowledged by even his staunchest supporters that he was a terrible business man, so paying wrestlers wasn’t always top of his priorities. Taz therefore moved to the WWE, where he had a pretty successful showing as a wrestler, taking the Hardcore Title and Tag Team Titles before he moved to a commentary position (mainly due to injuries from his pre-WWE career.) While working commentary, Taz had a “shoot” blog on, in which he said that “WWE deserves credit for what it’s done for ECW,” something which it’s apparently easy to disagree with when you now work for the competition.

ECW had it’s good elements, I wouldn’t try and deny that. But in today’s business there are only two major companies in the US, and once you move to one it seems that you can’t say anything nice about the other. The wrestlers that were actually talented and successful in ECW went on to make much more money working for the WWE, in a much safer style. Think of the biggest names in ECW; Taz, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk, Rhino, Cactus Jack, Steve Austin, The Dudleys, Sabu, Sandman, even Joey Styles and Paul Heyman himself – they all went on to work for the WWE (and most had pretty successful runs with the company.) Other guys like Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guererro, Chris Jericho etc. all worked for a while in ECW before moving over to WCW – but there is a reason that they made that move, and as Taz said earlier “this is a business.”  Vince McMahon and the WWE gave Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling an amazing send-off with the original ECW: One Night Stand PPV, before creating a new brand: Vince McMahon’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. The problems arose from people assuming that the two companies would be the same, when it should have been obvious that this would never be the case.

Over the last couple of years this new ECW has proven itself to be a very successful show, especially when it comes to bringing in developmental wrestlers via the New Superstar Initiative. Admittedly, for every Sheamus or Yoshi Tatsu we’ve had to put up with a Tyler Reks or DJ Gabriel, but ECW has given valuable TV and development time to people like CM Punk, Zack Ryder, Sheamus, Evan Bourne, William Regal, Christian, Shelton Benjamin, Jack Swagger and current break-out stars Trent Baretta and Caylen Croft. In my opinion this shows the true succession of the old ECW brand – bringing new wrestlers to the attention of fans bored with the domination of the top stars like Triple H and John Cena. And for that I will always be happy to watch ECW, regardless of what it is called; and it’s why I’m really excited for NXT (even if it is a stupid name.)

I’ll leave you with a quote from my favourite new twitter account (@THETOMMYDREAMER) from last Tuesday: “Many people have asked me why I left WWE. If you watched ECW tonight, a piece of the puzzle was revealed for my actions. Stay tuned.”