Well, the ECW reunion show took place over the weekend and the reports I have read have not been very complementary of the show. I read the fairly detailed report over at prowrestling.net (http://www.prowrestling.net/artman/publish/miscliveevents/article10024865.shtml) and one or two other reports and it sounds like the fans who made up an impressive crowd for an indy show turned on this show in a big way. I do think it sounds like the crowd did not have very realistic expectations for the show. The things I would have hoped that this show would have tried to accomplish they at least attempted. I feel like for this show to have any chance of repeat success they would have to use some of the established names to get the fans interested in new talent. With the interference in the Gangstas match and the use of new Raven’s followers it sounds like they tried to set up some things for the next show.
The obvious problem with this show is that the ECW style takes a serious physical toll on the wrestlers and to expect most of these guys to be able to work the types of matches they did well over eleven years ago just isn’t very realistic. When one starts thinking about the alleged health problems or scares that Sabu and Justin Credible had that prevented them from performing at the show it makes the event a bit more depressing. Many will write about and talk about how the extreme style has possibly ruined people’s lives and certainly contributed to many premature deaths. As a fan who discovered ECW on a grainy UHF TV station (yes I had to disconnect my cable to watch ECW, this station was so small it wasn’t on any cable systems but was part of the “America One Network”) and loved watching ECW programming it’s not pleasant to think about the price many of these wrestlers I enjoyed watching so much have paid.
I went to several later day ECW shows in St. Louis but I only made it to the ECW Arena once for “Cyberslam ’98″. When I first started taking the Torch I was rather frustrated to read about Cyberslam ’96 and ’97 AFTER it had occurred or I might have made one of those shows as well. I had a great time at this event and met some very interesting folks (maybe that goes without saying). I was then in grad school so while I did not have a tremendous amount in common with many of these performers I certainly appreciated what they did and enjoyed the question and answer sessions and thought seeing a card at the ECW Arena was one of those things I was able to take off my bucket list.
Because I have great memories about those experiences watching and enjoying ECW I wanted to reflect on those people who were most benefited from working in ECW. I’m sure it’s not a complete list and this is not to say that these performers would not have done well if ECW did not exist but since many have been focusing on the cost ECW incurred on many of its workers I thought I would reflect on who benefited the most from their ECW experience. Please feel free to add suggestions to this list.
1. Taz — Make no mistake about it. The ECW Taz was as bad as they come (in a good way). At the show I went to he physically manhandled one of many body builders the WWF wanted to get behind in Brakkus and the fans loved every minute of it. However, he parlayed his ECW success into a frustrating WWE run followed by many years making what I am guessing is pretty good money as a TV announcer. As great as Taz was when I saw him wrestle…. well let’s say I don’t think he will be entering the real (Observer) hall of fame or even the WWE version anytime soon. As far as making a great living based off of what he contributed to ECW I’d say Taz is the #1 choice. God bless him for making money as far as I am concerned also.
2. Joey Styles — I am hesitant to put Joey on the list. It’s not that I don’t think he was and could be a hell of an announcer because I think he certainly can fill that role. At his peak I voted for Joey for announcer of the year over Jim Ross and given the way he added to my enjoyment of wrestling I am not embarrassed about that vote in retrospect.
Again he is a guy that if WWE could claim they discovered he might be the #1 guy as a TV announcer for them. I certainly think he could out perform Michael Cole and he certainly would have worked hard to get his opportunity with WWE. However, as long as Vince McMahon is in charge he is going to want an announcer who parrots what he would like to be saying on TV. I’m not sure that would be Joey’s forte. I think he could do a great job announcing for TNA but again he’d have to overlook the same nonsense Taz is forced to overlook in the booking which is not an easy job. By all accounts Joey has a very good job with WWE.com. Again, good for him. He deserves plenty of success in my opinion.
3. Rob Van Dam – Hell of a talent. A great guy to build a company around but in the absence of ECW I’m not sure he ever gets that chance. This is another guy that WWE resented for his desire not to do everything the WWE way. For the amount of years RVD has been wrestling he still puts on an entertaining show and I have to think he is being well compensated by TNA. Again, this is a guy who deserves all the success he has had but if not for ECW one wonders what would have happened to him. I understand why he did all he could to stick with ECW even when they weren’t paying him as they should. ECW’s success was certainly going to add to his success. I am very happy he got part of the run he deserved in 2006 and his work at both One Night Stand events was great.
4. The Dudley Boyz – I mentioned in our ECW audio I was more of a Public Enemy fan but here are guys who have by my estimation made a pretty good living for a long time in the wrestling business. I am certainly not alone in my appreciation for the Bully Ray character from the last year or so. There was certainly a time where their matches got a bit stale but overall they have had more than their share of good interviews and matches.
5. Tommy Dreamer and Beulah – Out of all the people that did all they could to keep ECW going while being underpaid, Tommy Dreamer deserves extra credit according to every report I have ever read. Again here is a guy who was able to work fairly often for WWE and TNA in a management role where I have to assume he was fairly well compensated. If I recall correctly he actually chose to leave the WWE which seemed like a bit of an odd decision. Beulah basically got out of ECW well before it closed up shop but as far as I know they are still together, doing fairly well and one certainly hopes are happy.
Other performers who could have made this list include Mick Foley (the interviews Cactus Jack gave in ECW helped give Jim Ross more ammunition to bring him into the then WWF and give Mankind a try), Steve Austin (this is a tough one as he really made his own push go in the WWF but he honed that Stone Cold Character to a large degree in ECW), Jerry Lynn (I know he has only had limited runs in TNA but again by the accounts I have heard he seems to be doing pretty well and by all accounts he put on another very strong match at the show last weekend. I could be wrong but I think he really enjoys wrestling and is still very good at it. Also ECW pushed him as a big time opponent for RVD and he held up his end of those matches), Lance Storm (another guy who apparently has made good decisions in life and at least got the push he deserved in ECW) and Too Cold Scorpio (who probably got another run or two with the WWE based on his ECW work). Even Shane Douglas is being heavily criticized for this show not going off all that well (and I guess he never did go to medical school like he once claimed he would) but I am guessing he made a decent amount of money promoting this show, he does have a full time job, and he looks to be doing fairly well physically for his age. (Late edit: Dan admits he may stand corrected about Douglas doing physically well, as reports have Douglas showing up fat and getting winded as he came down the aisle.)
The point of this is that while many former ECW stars have passed on or are struggling there are some folks who benefited greatly from the exposure ECW gave them. Wrestling is a tough business and as a fan it is nice to see people you enjoy watching perform do well and I feel those stories are out there.