In the last three parts, I spoke about the Roster, Paul Heyman, and the History of ECW as a whole. I looked what they did within the industry, but we haven’t looked in any great depth at what they did TO the industry.
The Impact of ECW: Part Four
It’s a chant we hear today.
It’s contagious, because it’s so enthusiastic by the hardcore fans, and it’s something everyone chants when something “extreme” happens.
Is it so extraordinary to be associated with something extreme? No, not entirely. It’s a great compliment, but it’s not completely unusual on it’s own.
There are many different types of wrestling fans, many subjective opinions on what makes an expert, and what qualities an expert requires.
Once upon a time, there was a man named “Eric Bischoff”. Eric was a polished man, part Wall-Street Cool, and part Used Car Salesmen. Eric was, within the WCW, an announcer. Prior to that, he had been the head booker of a wrestling company that had just gone out of business. In fairness to Eric, it was pretty much doomed when he took over, but it’s still something that “Easy E” had to some how talk his way past with the folks at Turner.
And Eric had a plan, the kind of plan a guy like Turner, a ruthless businessman, could appreciate. And Turner loved his wrestling; it kept him afloat when he was launching his “super-station”. Eric looked at ECW, he clearly watched it, and he saw what was popular.
What Eric also knew was that ECW had bred a new kind of a fan. This fan was truer to the root of the word, “Fanatic”. This fan traded tapes, and at the advent of the Internet, this fan became one of many in a community of such super-fans, trading stories, rumors and eventually tapes over the Internet to hundreds then thousands then tens of thousands of fans. And these fans longed to see a cross-promotion feud; it was the impossible dream… So Bischoff thought of a way to give it to them, only instead of paying Vince, he paid two of his guys to come work for him, and made it look like they still worked for Vince.
Eric continued to use ideas inspired by ECW, hiring Raven and bringing him over in the same character, giving him the same gimmick and creating for him a whole new Flock, which is something you’d never see in today’s “No Compete” era. Eric stole ideas from ECW, blatantly ripping of the Raven/Sandman feud that involved Raven’s son, using Ric Flair and Ric’s son Reid. Curiously, Vince Russo would recycle the same storyline, using Ric Flair and his eldest son David in an even more blatant rip off of the ECW angle.
Vince, meanwhile, was taking a pounding, and forced to play catch up. At first, he struggled to make his own stars, sticking to the same product that had always worked for him. Big, simple faces, evil, mean heels.
I’m going to go on record here and say that I side with Vince on this one. Ric Flair said it best (in his book) when he said that Bret refusing to lose in Montreal was like Ric refusing to lose in Charlotte, which is something that he’d never do. Traditionally, you leave a company on your back, which is to say you put someone else over, and move on.
Ask yourself how Vince, as a businessman, could let Bret go work for his biggest rival as the undefeated WWF Champion. Eric would be able to say that Bret was never beaten for the belt.
Losing Bret cost Vince, and he needed a way to spin it. He looked like a real asshole, so he decided to run with that. And Vince McMahon, owner/Announcer, turned heel.
A few years earlier, Vince had hired a fired WCW Super-Star who’d gone to work in ECW and proved himself one hell of a talker.
Steve Austin was a redneck, he cursed, he drank, he hit people, and he basically raised hell wherever he went. Vince was the update, Corporate Exec, the kind of guy who could (and would) sell his wife for a little more money.
Gone were the clowns, the cowboys and Canadian Police. No more evil dentists, tax collectors and strange half man, half turkey monstrosities. Now there were madmen, homosexuals, whores, cheats, everymen, giants and cults. Wrestling was darker, more violent, and more adult.
Vince went on to allow ECW style daredevil stunts, putting men through tables, throwing them off of cages, and booked them in brutal, bloody conflicts involved Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
The Impact of ECW has been felt since it’s inception until today. Now, the landscape of wrestling is changing again, moving away from the stagnating trends that ECW set. Many are still eager to see more and upset at the change, but many others are eagerly anticipating the first genuine change in Era’s since the attitude era, now a decade old.
Thus, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my four part series on the Impact of ECW. I hope you have enjoyed it, as I have done my very best to exhaust my own store of trivia. Please check back sooner (or later) in the month for my next column, which is a look at the changes sweeping the WWE and the reasons behind them. Odds are some of the more depressingly stubborn members of the IWC are going to send me hate mail.
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