Last night on Syfy, Vince McMahon announced that ECW would be canceled in three weeks to make way for the “next evolution of WWE.”
Reaction ran rampant from good to bad, and those who still hold the notion that the new incarnation would never be any good because it wasn’t “ECW” are probably jumping for joy.
That said, the question remains to be answered whether or not this new venture will be a good or a bad thing.
But if rumors (and trademarks) hold true and the next evolution is more of a developmental showcase, that can only be a good thing. While it may hurt the feelings of some of those involved in the ECW side of WWE over the last four years – many of whom I was personally fond of working with during my time in Stamford – it is, unfortunately, the truth.
For instance, look at the ECW roster on WWE.com. Seven of the 21 “official” ECW Superstars are peripheral players; besides GM Tiffany, you have three announcers (four depending on how you would classify Abraham Washington) and two hangers-on in Rosa Mendes and Tony Atlas.
So that leaves 14 guys to build storylines and/or shows around. Looking at the group, it’s a combination of upper mid-card talent with no real direction (Christian, Regal, Kozlov, Benjamin), nostalgia acts like Goldust and The Hurricane and developmental talent looking for a break.
While the former group will be fine and there’s always a place for those like Dustin Rhodes and Shane Helms, the problem lies in the latter half of the roster – specifically that they’re virtually indistinguishable amongst each other.
Unless you’ve seen FCW – which most of the WWE audience hasn’t – you’d have no idea who these guys are or what their motives are. So as a WWE fan, what is there to help me separate Caylen Croft from Tyler Reks from Vance Archer?
Realistically, outside of those who have personality traits or established gimmicks that separate them from the pack (namely Yoshi Tatsu, Zack Ryder and perhaps Ezekiel Jackson), there’s no reason to have any emotional attachment to any newcomers in ECW.
But giving that developmental group their own national showcase – sort of what baseball fans would consider a “4A” league between the minors of FCW/independents and the majors of Raw/SmackDown – would be just the thing to cure that.
Instead of guys like Reks coming up with the same generic look and a goofy gimmick, beating a handful of local talents and never really going anywhere, they’ll have a chance to actually develop.
The entire WWE Universe – not just those in Florida – will be able to see these guys as they develop and grow into their gimmicks. Guys like Archer, Reks and Croft will be in a position where they’re not presumed to be “over their heads,” while those in FCW still waiting for a chance – whether they be second-generation stars like Joe Hennig, Brett DiBiase or the Rotundos or up-and-comers like Heath Slater and Michael Tarver – will have one more step to progress before they make it to the “big time.”
Those who succeed will move on and maintain the natural progression of the industry as a whole (Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne and numerous others who cut their teeth in the new ECW are a testament to that), while others will simply have a national showcase to ply their trade.
In reality, the future has to be now for WWE. While they’re all still top stars, guys like Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and even Triple-H won’t be around forever – and while it may seem that those like Sheamus, CM Punk, The Miz, Drew McIntyre et al are in a good position to ostensibly replace them, there must be a wave ready to take the spots those men must vacate.
This is a good first step. And besides, no matter how the letters, trademarks or brands may be used, “ECW” as in Extreme Championship Wrestling died in March of 2001. But the next generation of WWE? That has to carry the company into 2011 and beyond.