Extreme Championship Wrestling (or ECW) was the widely popular independent wrestling promotion which was born in 1994 and lasted for seven years. The owner and head booker (match maker), Paul Heyman declared bankruptcy in early 2001 and all of ECW’s assets were sold to the WWE and Vince McMahon. Throughout 2001, ECW joined in on the televised Invasion storyline which also involved fellow defunct wrestling company, WCW. However, that ended to much of fan’s and industry insider’s joy (due to it’s failure) towards the end of 2001.
ECW was then used as a brand name for most of the next 3 years with popular wrestlers such as Rob Van Dam, The Dudley Boys plastered over national television. Last Summer, WWE decided after the critical and financial success of the DVD, “The Rise and Fall of ECW,” to have a ECW-themed pay-per-view titled, One Night Stand. The show was more of a reunion show, another was held, with no WWE connection by former ECW wrestlers, known as the Hardcore Homecoming shows. The show was seen as a huge success in both quality and in the amount of people who purchased the show and it’s eventual DVD.
Fast forwarding to last month, the decision was made by Vince McMahon to bring back ECW as a full-time wrestling promotion. In reality, it is simply going to be a third brand under the World Wrestling Entertainment umbrella, along with RAW (Monday nights on USA Network) and Smackdown! (Friday nights on My 9 or CW this Fall). At first, fans were looking at the decision with a bit of skepticism. How could a wrestling company that had gone out of business five years earlier be a success today? Well, we will likely not know the answer to that for some time.
Paul Heyman has spent the better part of the past year as head of creative for Ohio Valley Wrestling, a developmental territory of WWE’s. He has since been given his own office at the Stamford offices of WWE, Titan Towers. Heyman left OVW about three weeks ago. He has since been planning for the return of the promotion he helped take through extraordinary peaks and valleys a decade ago. At this stage, he will be the booker (match maker and head of creative) for the new ECW, but of course, Vince McMahon will be the top braintrust on matters.
One of the early skepticisms of the decision was questions regarding potential television time. At first, the belief was that without TV time, ECW would air via the internet. However, that debate was thrown out the window when they came to terms with the Sci-Fi Network (associated with the USA Network). The deal with Sci-Fi is for a 13-week series that will begin airing on Tuesday night, June 13th at 10pm eastern. It’s debut episode will air just two nights after their second One Night Stand pay per view. The ppv will eminate from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on June 11th. At this point, the TV deal is only set for the Summer as well as over 25 touring dates for the brand.
As far as wrestlers go, ECW has signed a variety of former wrestlers from the companies prime. Some of the names include Sabu, The Sandman, Francince, C.W. Anderson, Balls Mahoney, Axl Rotten and Tony Mamaluke. Even Terry Funk is back for the PPV show. Rumors have run rampant as far as the youthful amount of wrestlers that may be brought in to even out the roster and help to advance the product into 2006. Such possibilities include Matt Hardy, Super Crazy, Charlie Haas and even the seven foot tall Big Show has been mentioned.
Famed ECW announcer Joey Styles was brought in to do WWE RAW late last year once Jim Ross was kicked from the booth. About a month ago, Styles quit his gig and hasn’t been seen since. It’s expected that he will show up for both ECW’s PPV and debut TV show. Since his appearance on RAW, the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk and Paul Heyman have appeared on RAW to promote the new ECW. Even Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle were drafted from RAW and Smackdown!, respectively, to the new ECW.
Whether or not the new ECW will be a success remains to be seen. However, it has given hope to a lot of otherwise disenchanted wrestling fans. The expectations for Paul Heyman and his new vision to succeed under the WWE umbrella are big and millions of fans will be watching with a keen eye.