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

Friday, July 13, 2001

ECW breathes life into WWF

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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A friend of mine recently redecorated her apartment. In doing so, she forced herself to justify the presence of each and every piece her of furniture and decor. She added new elements to the mix and ditched the ugly stuff, pieces that have been around for ages simply out of habit. As a certified analogy addict, that's how I see the infusion of ECW into the WCW-WWF war.

The WCW invasion, prior to the addition of ECW, was playing out more like a small angle than anything else. A few matches here and there, some feuding, maybe even a themed pay-per-view or two. It didn't have the feel of the nWo invasion from half a decade ago because it was nothing like it. Now, the addition of ECW into the mix, especially combined with the swerve played on Vince McMahon, has an nWo-esque feel to it. The WWF was barely treating WCW as a threat before, but that look of shock on Vince McMahon's face from Raw this week says it all. It's a serious matter now, which means that it will get a serious push.

Back to my redecoration analogy, one of the best things about doing a good clean-up is that it gives you the opportunity to reevaluate exactly how much you like your furniture and which items you really want to keep.

Whenever you move, or redecorate, there are always some pieces of furniture you get rid of. Either they're not worth dragging along to your new home or you no longer have room for them in your current residence. The WWF has a full enough roster to not bother wasting their time with untalented specimens of Buff Bagwell's caliber. They flexed that muscle this past week, and I could think it's a good move.

Redecorating also gives you a chance to finally repair those broken or ailing pieces that litter your home. A few months off for some of the WWF's top names could do a whole world of good, and the sudden depth that their roster has gained would enable them to do just that. It's not like Triple H or Chris Benoit could come back from their injuries prematurely were this angle not in place, and they will still be missed, but the WWF won't seem as empty, which is good.

Some pieces of furniture, you may realize as you're moving, would look much better in the living room than they did in your bedroom. A minor change like this can breathe new life into older WWF superstars. The APA have gained new purpose thanks to this feud. The Dudley Boys may have found an actual reason to be heels. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle can now incorporate some real edge into what has turned into the WWF comedy hour. Don't get me wrong, they're a funny duo, but comedy won't carry your pay-per-view main events.

Finally, moving or redecorating gives you the perfect time and excuse to shop for new furniture, as you're moving everything around anyway so the hassle would be minimal. This gives current indy residents like Sandman or Steve Corino or Shane Douglas a possible open door if they play their cards right.

To top all that off, and there's no extension of the analogy that covers this, there's one more huge benefit to the major shakeup that ECW will add to WWFE. Hopefully, we can all finally stop talking about how the WWF should (or should not) sell off all of their assets so that they can afford to bring in the very overpriced and undercapable Goldberg.

Almost everyone in the WWF will have an opportunity to redefine themselves in this time of change and opportunity. Those who make the best of it will benefit, and those who don't, won't. For the wrestlers, this situation is not a monopoly so much as a monopsony, where there are many sellers (the wrestlers) and only one buyer (of their services, the WWF). In that respect, from a talent standpoint, I think that the fans stand to gain in the end, just as do the guests who attend the post-move housewarming party.

Okay, fine, no more analogies. Here's the mailbag.

Onyeka Onochie, from, writes:
"When's The Rock coming back? With Triple H injured, and the Austin-McMahon plot wearing thin, the WWF is in dire need of an influx of serious star power.

And star power they'll get, after Invasion and heading into Summerslam, which is around when The Rock is slated to return. He's been busy filming his movie, The Scorping King, you know.

Terry, from, writes:
"I apologize in advance since I think I have bothered you at least 2 times about the whole WWF monopoly thing but you made a comment in your recent article I just had to reply to.

You said "The WWF still has plenty of competition, competition from rock concerts and sporting events, competition from Ally McBeal and Friends, and competition from everything else where would-be wrestling fans might otherwise put their money.

Even though the Microsoft case was recently sent back to the lower courts (not to due possible monopoly but because of the judge's behavior in the case) my point here is you or I could spend our cash on anything we want. I would guess a CPU could be deemed a form of entertainment, so could a Playstation 2, your column or even a bag of marbles. So then why is Microsoft being sued? Also I think LINUX has an operating system for computers too.

In other words I just think defining the WWF as entertainment is too vague. I do agree with you on the excellent point on how it is the WWF who will suffer if they slack off and make a poor product and jack up ticket prices. Also, you are right about the workers who have NO leverage and can be released at a moments notice. Perhaps a union is now in order for the workers?

Finally, I can think of many times in US history where the government helped fund/bail out companies (Chrysler for example) then again comparing a car company to a wrestling company is not on the same level. Personally I spend my cash at the minor league baseball game in town on Mondays instead of watching wrestling and buying wrestling merchandise.

Don't worry you wont hear me rant about the whole monopoly thing anymore."

Alright, I see where you're coming from, but you are mistaken. When I said the WWF was not a monopoly, I meant that in two ways:

One, they're not a monopoly under the law -- at least, not a monopoly in need of regulation.

Two, they're not a monopoly with respect to how their behaviour in the future will affect us wrestling fans.

See, WCW went out of business because of their own silly business practices. ECW went out of business for other reasons. Neither federation really suffered to predatory practices by the WWF, which would include signing up all of the nation's arenas to exclusive contracts and stuff like that. Fortunately, there are enough arenas for everyone, and there was room on cable for everyone.

Microsoft actually went out of its way to destroy their competition by forcing their customers to use their products. They used the popularity of their Windows operating system to demand that anyone (and by customer here, I mean the wholesaler who buys from them and sells to the retail stores) who wants to use it has to use it exclusively. The WWF has no such power, and while I'm not saying they wouldn't use such practices if they could, they simply aren't and haven't been in a position to. With enough money, I could start up a federation today, but I don't have enough money. I'd have a much harder time, for example, starting up a league to compete with the NFL, which is much more of a monopoly. So I'd barely call the WWF a monopoly under the law.

On the other side of the coin, which is how their status as the only big wrestling company in the country will affect us, well, I don't think it will that much. This is where I say their competition counts. People only spend so much money on live events. So if all of your favourite bands are playing in a given month, you might possibly pass up the next WWF show to be able to afford them. People are attending less concerts and live events this year because of higher prices, and that is a fact. Attending a WWF event or purchasing their products is a luxury that few people will feel so compelled to do that they'll do it above all else.

Meanwhile, I don't think a whole lot of people will forgo buying a computer (and thus Windows, since that's all you can really get) in favour of a Playstation 2, or my column, or a bag of marbles. And certainly businesses, which depend on PCs, have no choice in the matter. No one is in this position vis a vis the WWF, and that's the critical difference which makes Microsoft a monopoly and the WWF, not.

Thanks for your time. That's all for this week. Thanks for writing in and have a great weekend.

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