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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, July 21, 2000

Heat Wave invasion bush league

Eric Benner
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It's one of those weeks -- lots of stuff to talk about, none of it really standing out. It's with that in mind that I begin another rant column. All the stuff that's fit to print that's been pissing me off over the past weeks and months. In no particular order.

First, let's start with that bush league wrestling federation out in Los Angeles.

No, I don't mean the one that put on the Heat Wave pay-per-view. ECW is primarily based out of Philadelphia. I'm talking about this other so-called hardcore federation, the name of which I refuse to publicize.

They were at Heat Wave, too, only as 'fans'. They bought their tickets, then did their best to disrupt the show. First by wearing all sorts of t-shirts and other promotional materials for their federation, a competitor of ECW's, and then through more direct efforts later in the show. They openly defied security when trying to steal the spotlight during ECW's own main event, then made a huge fuss when security tried to eject them. There was even apparently a brawl outside (ECW won cleanly). All this beside the fact that they were disrupting the enjoyment of the show for the fans around them.

Trying my best to think of non-vulgar things to say about these people, the most tasteful I can think of is something like 'de-evolved cro-magnons'. It's bull like this that gives wrestling a bad name to begin with. You don't go to a competitor's show looking for free advertising, then starting fights. They had the money to advertise -- they do so semi-regularly on RAW locally. Advertisers pay to have their products and logos displayed, they don't get it for free. Neither should this two-bit organization.

Then they have the gall to defend their actions in the most poorly-written press release I have ever, ever read. They claimed to have no other way to advertise -- duh, what about television, which seems to be doing you fine up to now?

They've got pornography money backing them, including one of the biggest guys in the business as owner. I don't know much about that business, but either it's even less moral than wrestling or this fed is just despicable for other reasons. Either way, I would never go see a show of theirs. That's even if I didn't live thousands of miles away.

Other stuff on the rant list this week:

The WWF. I'm not sure and I can't prove it, but I suspect they're setting Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho up for a fall. See, these three are the up-and-coming youngsters in the WWF, and in no uncertain terms are the WWF's future. Now, the WWF has given them a chance to run with the ball by having all three young guns wrestle in a triple-main event against established WWF stars Undertaker, The Rock, and Triple H.

Problem is -- I think this is one of the worst-promoted WWF pay-per-views in recent memory. Every other pay-per-view this year had something special going for it. The Mick Foley-Triple H series, including a Hell in the Cell retirement match, was one of the best feuds in the past ten years and it ate up two pay-per-views. Then Wrestlemania and King of the Ring are basically self-promoting, the former more than the latter. Finally, we had the Iron Man match at Judgment Day and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Backlash. All big drawing cards.

Meanwhile, at Fully Loaded, you've got a championship match that I can't imagine surprising me (as much as I'd like it to), Chris Jericho versus his higher-on-the-card nemesis Triple H part five, and Undertaker squashing -- er, I mean versus -- Kurt Angle. And maybe some other matches.

Granted, I think this card could produce a few stellar matches, get the most out of our aging-but-not-elderly main eventers, and really rock the house, but I don't think the folks not connected to the online wrestling world care the same way we do. They're in it for the Sports Entertainment, and I don't think Fully Loaded has enough bait.

Getting to my point, I think Fully Loaded will somewhat tank at the box office, doing even worse than King of the Ring, and that will 'prove' that Benoit, Jericho, and Angle aren't draws. Their pushes will soon evaporate.

My evidence is only that apparently a lot of pressure is being placed on the three newbies, and that a lot of attention is being paid to their results here. Plus, it's such a shift. Not a transition, as is normal, but a shift. We've gone from the same-old bunch from King of the Ring, which featured Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, Triple H, Kane, The Rock, and Undertaker in the main event, to this. Worlds apart. Granted, the stars are still there in the main matches, but no match has that main event marquee feeling.

Time will tell, I guess, and I hope I'm wrong on all counts.

Meanwhile, in WCW, I applaud their decision to elevate Lance Storm right out of the starting gates. The mistake they've kept making up to now is to let the new guys try to get over by themselves (minus the cool music, gimmick, and push they'd get in the WWF) before bothering to push them. In many cases, that absolutely kills their heat, and there's no turning back. Lance Storm has been given the ball, I hope he can run with it.

Same thing for Booker T, though in his case, so much will depend on how the story goes. He hasn't done much this week, and I don't think association with Stevie Ray is going to help anybody.

That's it. Here's the mail. writes:
"ECW is not a second rate promotion you halfwit. Most of the WWF and WCW's roster is filled with former ECW stars, and the WWF is a higher rated version of ECW. ECW has wrestling, not a bunch of five-minute skits and hokey cartoon charters. ECW changed the sport of wrestling. Vince stole the idea from Heyman, ECW is in fact the second biggest promotion in wrestling. They don't give their tickets away, plus they sell better at house shows and merchandising, so get your facts strait before writing an article. ECW is where the true talent is, just ask Vince and Ripoff and Russo."

Get my facts straight? ECW does not do better house show numbers nor better merchandising (maybe per capita, but not overall) than WCW. Not by a long-shot. WCW isn't selling out, but they're 'not selling out' big arenas. They've moved to smaller venues in some cities, and those are selling better. Not to mention, that's WCW at its worst. ECW at its best may arguably compete with it, in some cities and in certain respects, but not overall. And Nitro's rating, bad as it is, is three or four times as high as ECW's, and that's opposite Monday Night Raw.

Let's just say that when ECW comes to Toronto later this year, they'll be using the Hershey Arena instead of the Air Canada Centre or SkyDome.

I'm not suggesting that Paul Heyman isn't a genius and an innovator -- he is, and he's been copied. But, let me use an analogy here.

The Montreal Expos are, as of this writing, 43-48, winning just under half their games. Believe it or not, that's about the best we've done since the strike-ridden season of 1994, when we had a really great ballclub. The Expos won the division, went 74-40, and had a great ballclub under one of the greatest managers in the game, Felipe Alou. Alou brought the best out of this time, which included future MVP Larry Walker and future Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. Problem was, Montreal is a poor baseball team, and they basically couldn't compete with other teams' salaries the following year. So they ended up losing most of that winning team, and they haven't been the same ever since.

Now let me ask you -- does the fact that we have a brilliant manager whose arms are tied -- and the fact that we had a great team in 1994 -- make us a good team in 2000? No, we're still just a losing team with poor attendance. That's all there is to it. Paul Heyman's heyday is over, at least for now. writes:
"Has The Undertaker always been Mark Callaway? Somehow he looks different to me than the original..."

Yep. Except the fake Undertaker, but then, that's why they called him fake (he feuded briefly with Undertaker).

Frank Belluardo, from, writes:
"ECW is a second-rate promotion? You are crazy man! The best wrestlers are in ECW. Sure, they have no money. But who cares? Look at RVD, Corino, Rhino, Sandman, Lynn, Nova and the list goes on and on. They do not have too many wrestlers, but ECW brings out the best even in their jobbers man! C'mon, WCW and WWF ruin their wrestlers. I feel sorry for Lance Storm who jobbed to Kidman on Thunder. I feel sorry for Tazz, Awesome, and Douglas. Look, ECW picked up Scotty Riggs -- a super jobber I never cared about. Now, I actually like his CLAP gimmick and I enjoy watching when he is on... Later. Oh, by the way, I cannot wait for September 9th [When ECW hits Toronto.]."

Okay, first of all, that list doesn't exactly read like a who's who of wrestling talent. I think Rob Van Dam, Steve Corino, Rhino, and Jerry Lynn are all or can all be world class wrestlers. But Nova and Sandman barely qualify, at this point, and then you're left with four guys. Meanwhile, off the top of my head, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Saturn, The Hardyz, The Dudleyz, Edge, Christian, Kurt Angle, and I'll stop now because this is getting excessive. Or, if you prefer, Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Kanyon, Booker T, Shane Douglas, Kidman, Disco Inferno, Three Count, Jung Dragons, and so on. And that's just the young and talented wrestlers, not the older, more marketable stars.

I also feel sorry for all the other former ECW guys that the WWF and WCW have wasted, which pretty much fill up the lists above. You know, Benoit, Dudleyz, and so on. And yeah, I feel pretty sorry for Lance Storm, too. I'm sure he was hoping for better than the U.S. Title a month into his WCW career. Not every ECW wrestler on the roster can go on to be the WCW or WWF heavyweight champion. Not without having five title matches a night or something. Some guys are going to do better than others.

Hey, at least they'll get paid.

If what you're thinking right now is 'but all those guys started in ECW, that's where they made their names,' then I refer you to the above example of the pitiful baseball team.

Finally, to Bob Kapur [ECW is a major league player]: Strong arguments. I still stand by my opinions, but I respect yours. Except the parts where you're wrong.

Thanks, everyone. This was one of the most fun bags of email I've ever read. Granted, though, once I got past the personal insults and constant profanity, there were few actual arguments, but it was fun nonetheless. To be fair, some people defended ECW admirably, but I ain't budging. Have a great week.

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