ECW should finally be allowed to die.

Posted: January 17, 2012 by Kick Out At 2! in Shane D

I find it funny that I’m about to write an article that the 15 year old me would freak out about, but I feel that this is something that he needs to hear.  With the famed ECW Arena holding its final wrestling show over the weekend, ECW has been on the names and Twitter feeds of a lot of people.  Now, I have to preface this article with the fact that I do not hate ECW.  I discovered ECW in the fall of 1996 thanks to the fact that I got the MSG Network through Primestar.  This is just a year after I started watching wrestling full time and was really getting into it, which also lead to me venturing outside of the normal WWF and WCW magazine publications and into the world of the ‘Apter Mags’ as well as other non-promotion-oriented wrestling magazines.  These introduced me to the Indies as I started seeing names like Reckless Youth, Mike Quackenbush and Christopher Daniels (although this was a bit later down the road), but they were also what lead me to learn about ECW.

Of course, the first info that I saw about ECW was the violence.  It was stuff I couldn’t see in WCW and WWF and I was at that impressionable age where watching two guys beat the living Hell out of each other with folding chairs and tables was “cool.”  I bought in, wholeheartedly.  I remember finding ECW shirts at Spencers my Junior year of high school and wearing one to school to show that I was willing to “join the revolution.”  It was something new, something different, and it pushed the envelope a lot further than what I was used to.  I fell in love.

I got into it a bit after the full out crazy days of Tai Pai Deathmatches between the Rottens, of course, but there was still a good bit of blood being shed, and I have to say I loved being the guy in my school that knew who these guys were.  Whenever someone from ECW debuted in one of the other promotions, I was always the one that my friends came to so that they could get some background on them.  “Who is this Raven guy in the crowds at Nitro?”  “What the heck is a Dudley Boy?”  I knew, and I loved knowing.  ECW was always like this cool club that not everyone was in; to the point that when I met a new person and we talked wrestling and got around to the “who do you like” question, I’d always throw in an ECW guy like RVD at the very end, as a test, to see if they knew who I was talking to.  If they did, that conversation took on a whole different route at that point.

A lot has happened since then, though; both to me as a wrestling fan and to the landscape of wrestling itself.  ECW is gone now, but then something like this weekend comes along and it’s brought back up and we get a group of wrestling fans who talk about how it was the greatest thing that ever existed.  In 2005, when WWE did the first One Night Stand, I was right there singing its praises.  I had bought the “Rise & Fall of ECW” DVD the year before.  Had anxiously awaited its arrival and devoted a night alone to watching the near three hour documentary.  To this day, some seven and a half years after it came out, it remains one of the best documentaries that they’ve released.  I bought One Night Stand on PPV and thought that it was one of the best shows I had watched in a long time, and still feel it was one of the best shows that WWE has ever produced.  Atmosphere had a lot to do with that.  The wrestling on the card itself, including some amazing matches from Benoit/Guerrero, Jericho/Storm and Tanaka/Awesome, had a tone to do with it.  Heck, even some flaming tables and garbage wrestling in the main event helped, if nothing else because it was something different.

That’s going to come up a lot in this, especially in what made ECW special to begin with.  It was different.  It was counter culture.  It was something for jaded wrestling fans to tune into and find something that they had found lacking in the big two promotions.  Thing is, that’s not how it’s celebrated anymore.  That’s not how we remember it…or, rather, how they remember it for us.

I didn’t attend the EVOLVE show this weekend, but I read a lot reviews and results of it, most importantly Tom Holzerman’s over at The Wrestling Blog.  I say most importantly because his thoughts and sentiments mirrored my own, and gave cause for me to finally get up and write this post, that I’ve been considering for a long time, but that my inner 14 year old wouldn’t let me write.  We’re getting to a point where ECW reunion shows are a dime a dozen.  Heck, I’ve personally ordered two on PPV, ordered two totally different ones on DVD, and those 4 shows encompass at least 3 different wrestling companies.  Everybody and their brother pimps ECW reunion shows anymore, to the point to where it’s getting kind of comical.  To read Tom’s reactions to a show featuring people who will be the future of this industry (if the industry does the right things going forward) and to them read what happened at the end of the show, it made me shake my head and in a lot of ways realize that my love affair with ECW was at an end.

At One Night Stand, we were only 4 years removed from the original ECW going out of business.  The wrestlers were still in shape.  They put on amazing matches.  That show was great and I’ll defend it forever.  Fast forward over five years past that and we get to Hardcore Justice, TNA’s cash-in and bite at the apple of ECW Reunion shows.  Guys weren’t so in shape anymore.  That matches weren’t so good.  Fast forward two years past that and we get Sabu stabbing Justin Credible in the head with a screwdriver.  It’s not a good track record and it makes me shudder to think about the ECW reunion show I’m almost certain is going to take place five years down the line from now.

ECW did a lot of good.  But, I honestly feel that good has been shadowed by the worst parts of it.  The wrestling specialists like Malenko, Guerrero and Jericho who were first brought to the US through ECW are almost an afterthought.  Instead, we get more barbed wire and blood in their place.  Most people argue that the WWF Attitude Era stole heavy handedly from ECW, which I used to say a lot back then, but the more and more I think about it, the more I’ve changed my thoughts.  They used ECW as a way to judge the reactions of the young wrestling world and they went out after that demographic and, honestly, did more to satisfy it than ECW ever could.  WWF came out of that period the biggest thing in wrestling history and ECW was bankrupt a year later.  History doesn’t lie.  ECW introduced us to amazing new talent…almost all of which moved on to bigger and better roles in bigger companies.  The only ones I can think of that arguably had a better career in ECW were Shane Douglas and Tommy Dreamer, and I basically believe that’s mostly because Douglas had burned so many bridges before he made it to ECW that ECW was going to be the only place where everyone working there didn’t hate him.  Tommy…well, that Philly crowd made Tommy.  To him, he was a god.  That just didn’t translate very well outside of that circle.

ECW prided itself on being revolutionary.  One can’t be revolutionary by constantly trying to drudge up the past.  One can’t be revolutionary by dragging a corpse through the streets every year just so people can remember that it was alive once.  Wrestling needs to move on.  Wrestling fans need to evolve as well.  In my humble opinion [and even in my not so humble one, as after all, you’re on my site ;-)], the important thing about ECW was its ideals in putting on a good show that showcased an alternative to the big leagues, not the people in the ring at the time.  They played their role and without them, the ideal couldn’t have taken shape, don’t get me wrong, but the people involved, and in essence, the company involved, was transcended by the ideal.  That ideal is what lead to the rise of the Indies, which is where the best wrestlers in the world today ply their craft, in my eyes.  Take something like Chikara, a family friendly promotion that, at times, looks more like a live action cartoon than a wrestling promotion.  That’s new.  That’s revolutionary, and that’s entertaining.  Take ROH…a company that through 2004-2006 eclipsed ECW as being that “special wrestling thing” in my own life, and look at how it applied that ECW mentality of showcasing the best wrestling and the best alternative to the WWE and TNA at the time.  I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that during the time I just pointed out that this was the best wrestling in America and that ROH was the best company in the country.

That’s what I feel we should be celebrating when it comes to ECW.  That mentality.  That mission statement.  That company died over ten years ago.  New companies have risen and do what ECW did ten times better, in my opinion.  That’s not to say ECW wasn’t something awesome or something special.  It’s just to say that we should be looking to the future and how we can evolve the product instead of looking back and occasionally parading out these older wrestlers so that we can watch them beat the crap out of each other with chairs and bleed for no reason other than so some fans can chant “E-C-Dub” one last time.  I think it’s time we let ECW rest.  It had a good run and burned bright while it burned, but it’s time to put it to bed and move forward, not backwards.

I’ll leave with that, while I go explain to my 14 year old self why the biggest thing that upsets me about the ECW Arena no longer holding wrestling events is the possibility that there’ll be no King of Trios this year…

Shane

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