Story by Chris Graham
DVD and pay-per-view sales – that’s why WWE is relaunching the ECW brand.
“They did pretty well with single shots with ECW last year, and now they’re ready to see what a full-court press will do,” said Steve Johnson, a Virginia-based wrestling journalist and author.
The full-court press includes another pay-per-view, the second annual “One Night Stand,” set for Sunday night, plus the debut of a new weekly series on the Sci-Fi Channel that is set for June 13.
“I think this makes a certain amount of sense,” Johnson told Off the Top Rope. “ECW was probably somewhere between a fad and a cult during its existence – and the two events last summer, the one that was run by the WWE and the one that was not, both were pretty successful. Maybe there’s some money to be made there.”
When it comes to the WWE, this kind of decision implies strongly that there is a feeling on the part of the suits that money can be made there. James Guttman, a wrestling columnist and the author of World Wrestling Insanity, which offers readers a glimpse inside the inner workings of the Stamford, Conn.,-based sports-entertainment company, said he sees the WWE move as being another step in the direction of appealing to its nostalgia fan base.
“Their audience is enamored with the late ’80s and ’90s style of wrestling – so a lot of what they’re going back to now, and you’re seeing this with the Degeneration X angle, too, is that they’re bringing back a lot of things that people liked from the past because, and it might sound pessimistic to say it, but it feels like they haven’t really worked on too many new things to introduce to fans, so the best go-to thing to do is to bring back things that you know that they liked,” Guttman told Off the Top Rope.
The appeal to fans, in Guttman’s eyes, is not as much for the ECW product that Paul Heyman brought to life in the 1990s as for “an alternative.”
“I think it’s one of those situations where absence makes the heart grow fonder – and we’ve gone five years without an alternative. I think it’s not even a situation where the fans miss ECW – I think fans miss an alternative. And I think that might be the misreading that WWE is getting there,” Guttman said.
“It wasn’t just ECW they loved – I think it was they loved the opportunity to change the channels. And I don’t know if bringing back an ECW that exists under a WWE banner is going to have the same effect – because I think one of the drawing points was that it wasn’t WWE, and that’s what people miss. I don’t see it going well,” Guttman said.
Scott E. Williams, the author of Hardcore History: The Extremely Unauthorized Biography of ECW, sees things a little differently – at least as far as the bottom line is concerned.
“I think it’s going to have at least a little bit of staying power in the sense that even if it doesn’t make a ton of money, it serves WWE’s end inasmuch as it’s, among other things, the new developmental territory,” Williams told Off the Top Rope.
“If that thing just breaks even or just scrapes by, but they can cultivate the next Brock Lesnar or Batista out of it, then it’s worth it – because Ohio Valley was never a big moneymaker, but as a developmental territory, it turned out Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista, Lesnar. If they can get a couple of pieces of talent that can make them as much money as Cena, Batista, Orton or Lesnar, then I think they’re worth it,” Williams said.