Thursday, March 7, 2019

Paul Heyman, Shane McMahon And Others On Why WWE's ECW Didn't Work, Original Brand Plans, More

Paul Heyman
As seen below, WWE has released the second episode of the new WWE Untold series on YouTube. The episode focuses on WWE's relaunch of the ECW brand, and features comments from Paul Heyman, Shane McMahon, Big Show, Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, John Cone, The Miz, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder.



Heyman said the entire relaunch of ECW was doomed from the beginning. He said, "I think the entire relaunch of ECW was doomed from the start. My mistake was taking on the project to begin with. I remember talking to Dreamer and telling him, 'I want to let you know that within 1 year this is going to be an absolute nightmare and it's going to collapse on our heads.'"

Dreamer added, "It was crap and it was a horrible work place."

WWE started talking about doing an ECW reunion show in 2005 after the success of the "Rise and Fall of ECW" DVD set. Dreamer revealed that Rob Van Dam went to Vince McMahon with the idea.

"I worked Talent Relations," Dreamer said. "It was Rob Van Dam who went to Vince and went, 'Hey, all these players are here.' And it came from the success of the DVD release, the rise and fall of ECW."

"ECW One Night Stand in 2005 was really you last chance to experience each other and by that, I mean the audience and ECW, and ECW along with its audience," Heyman said.

Ryder revealed that he was at the ECW One Night Stand 2005 event on June 12 from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, as a fan. He called it one of the best wrestling shows he'd ever seen live.

Heyman said if they would have stopped right there with the 2005 One Night Stand event, there would have been an ending to ECW that was closure and one that none of them could have ever prayed for. Due to the success of that first One Night Stand event, WWE started to talk about bringing ECW back as a third brand alongside RAW and SmackDown.

Dreamer blamed what would soon happen to ECW on Shane McMahon. He said, "I got two words for you - Shane McMahon. Shane McMahon was the guy, who I guess kept on being in Vince's ear, saying we can do this, we can do this."

Heyman said Shane approached him with a new concept at the end of 2005. He said, "At the end of 2005, it was Shane McMahon that came to me. And Shane had the concept of an online-only presentation, which is pretty forward-thinking now that you think about it because that's what streaming is."

Shane added, "ECW was always a very interesting place. They had a lot of talent, it was different, they were more niche. The thinking behind it was, it's a place where talent can be developed and can come up, and also as talent needs to be refreshed or more veterans need to help younger guys..."

Heyman revealed that as the idea evolved, the TV networks came calling and that's when Vince really got involved.

"As this evolved, there had become interest from networks to actually carry this product," Heyman revealed. "Which of course took it out of Shane's hands and placed it on Vince's desk. And since Vince understood that there was serious profit to be made, it was completely taken out of Shane's hands, and Vince wanted to maximize this new, third brand of WWE's as much as he could. And in order to maximize that concept, it h ad to stop bring the authentic ECW. It had to become a third brand under the umbrella of World Wrestling Entertainment."

Shane said they wanted to take the project digital because they would have had more freedom than they had with the networks. He said, "The reason we wanted to go digital was because you're allowed far more freedoms from a digital standpoint than you are from a network standpoint. And it would've done two things. One - it would've kept the ECW moniker and brand a little more edge, and from a business standpoint, you're also getting into where people want to watch it on their own time."

The 2006 One Night Stand event took place on June 11 at the Hammerstein Ballroom and was headlined by Rob Van Dam defeating John Cena in an Extreme Rules match to capture the WWE Title. Heyman said that match was the only time on the show where they had any authentic ECW feel. He said, "The second ECW One Night Stand was built around Rob Van Dam pursuing the WWE Title from John Cena. And that match was the only time on the show that you had that authentic ECW feel."

Dreamer added, "As soon as that show ended, I knew it wasn't gonna be the same."

WWE decided to resurrect ECW as an hour-long weekly TV show, beginning after the second One Night Stand event in 2006. ECW returned to network TV on the Syfy channel, beginning just a few days after One Night Stand, on June 13. Dreamer soon realized that this would be nothing like the real ECW. He said, "It was all kinds of rumors and all that stuff, and then all of a sudden I was brought into John Laurinaitis' office, and hey, we're going to go full boost with this. I had about two months of really, really cool hopes and expectations, and then all of a sudden it's, we're going to have more of a WWE influence. We had different writers involved. From that moment, there were just things that weren't ECW."

Referee John Cone talked about how WWE wanted to establish that there would be rules on this new ECW brand, and how the fans didn't like that at all.

"The company wanted to establish that there were rules in this ECW," Cone revealed. "I think it was one of the first TV tapings that I was on. We were in Minneapolis, I think it was Justin Credible vs. Sabu and during the match, Sabu put Justin Credible through a table, and I had to call for the disqualification because we wanted to establish that there were rules now. And fans didn't really like that new thing. On live events, I'd get heckled all the time because I'm calling for hair breaks and different things. I was hearing all the time, 'This is ECW, there are no rules, why are you counting?'"

Shane said ECW became more of a cookie-cutter product. He said, "It became much more locked down, much more cookie cutter, if you will. Because it fit more into the mold of our distribution partner. That's why it changed, in my view, and started not to work because you're getting rid of the specialty of what ECW was."

Heyman said the product was just damned. He added, "The attempt to resuscitate the product as it was could not work in 2006, but to present a different product would only cause the fanbase that had come to create a myth that was larger than life, to feel alienated. So, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. It's just damned."

RVD and Sabu were pulled over by police on July 2, 2006, while RVD was holding the WWE Title and the ECW Title. They were both arrested on drug possession charges and released from jail after posting bail. WWE would force RVD to drop both titles and serve a 30-day suspension. Big Show ended up with the ECW Title. Cone said this is where things started to take another turn for the worse.

"I remember RVD and Sabu getting pulled over, and there were suspensions after that," Cone recalled. "Rob had to drop the title right away and now it's on Big Show. And thing started to turn right around then, for this brand that had so much hope, it seemed to kind of turn a sharp corner and it didn't take long to get there, to be honest."

The Sandman agreed and said things would have been better if RVD and Sabu didn't get arrested. Big Show acknowledged that the ECW fans didn't want to see him with the title.

"I know the ECW fans weren't happy about me taking the ECW Championship from RVD," Big Show admitted. "As things happen, fans cycle out. ... And I just think after a while, the ECW loyal fan kind of faded out."

The August 1, 2006 ECW TV episode aired from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City and the legendary venue was packed with fans of the original ECW. The main event saw Batista defeat ECW Champion Big Show by disqualification. They were met with various chants like "you both suck!" and "change the channel!"

"I remember that night really, really. That was a... we got the old school loyal fans," Show said. "You really didn't have two original ECW guys in their house. And that's the worst feeling in the world, when people start s--tting on your match, because you lost them somewhere in your match. Back then I didn't know how to get them back, I didn't know how to get them then. I was just like, 'Oh crap, here we go. How much time do we have left, can we just go home now?' You're embarrassed. I didn't say, 'Hey, put me in this match or hey, book me in the main event of this. I'm doing the best I can, why is it boring?' It was boring because they're not interested, they're not emotionally invested. The two guys they want to see in that match is not Dave Batista, and it's not me."

WWE would soon bring back the December to Dismember pay-per-view from the original ECW, announcing it for December 3, 2006 from Augusta, Georgia. The seven-match card was headlined by an Elimination Chamber match for Big Show's ECW Title. Bobby Lashley became champion by winning the Chamber, which also featured Show, CM Punk, RVD, Test and Hardcore Holly.

Dreamer said the pay-per-view was crap. He said, "December to Dismember happened and it was crap. I actually had asked for my release from WWE after that. There was a lot of turmoil."

Cone said everyone was excited for the pay-per-view because their jobs were on the line and they were fighting to make everything work. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the event because only one match was announced, the Chamber, but everyone was still optimistic and hoping that if this event did well, it could turn things around for them. Ryder was at the pay-per-view, as a member of WWE developmental, and said this event "sucked" compared to the ECW event he previously attended as a fan, because it didn't feel like ECW. Ryder said the fans knew it and the pay-per-view buyrate was proof.

Heyman elaborated on the backstage turmoil and said he tried to resign as the head ECW writer twice within two and a half weeks before the pay-per-view. He said, "I had actually resigned as the lead writer of ECW twice within two and a half weeks before December to Dismember, and Stephanie McMahon would not accept my resignation. So, by the time we got to December to Dismember, it was... I had to go. When we got to the actual event, and Vince and I were on completely different pages, I think the choice was very easy - Paul Heyman had to leave."

WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes was soon brought in to try and save the brand. Dreamer said, "Everything changes. We have new writers. Thankfully, 'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes comes in."

Cone said Dusty kind of said ECW will become a fresh start for a lot of guys, and that a lot of guys would get second chances. They then had the Superstar Initiative that brought on guys like Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, The Miz and Ryder, giving them a spotlight. Ryder said his career would not have taken off if it weren't for ECW.

"Without ECW, I don't think I would have taken off," Ryder said. "I started my new character, The Broski, on ECW. When Hawkins and Ryder split up, I got drafted to ECW. I would've never got that shot and that opportunity, and that time to talk and have long matches on RAW or SmackDown at that time. So, I owe it all to my time on ECW. You look at ECW, yeah it was just like this one-hour show but for me, I was becoming a star, and I was building confidence. I was having matches against guys like Christian. You know, like ECW Title matches in the main event of the show, against Christian. I would've never been in the main event of Monday Night RAW at that time."

The Miz, Kofi and Sheamus all gave credit to ECW for helping them early on in their WWE careers.

"As time progressed, I think right away, John Morrison and I were put into a tag team," Miz said. "And I'll never forget, one of the producers saying this is your last chance, it's either go now and become something or you're going to get fired. It was never going to be the original ECW and going into it, you knew it wasn't going to be that. But what it was going to be was our own niche, our own thing."

Kofi added, "We didn't have WWE NXT back in the day, we didn't really have that platform. Being on the roster of ECW, I was definitely grateful for it because we were actually highlighted."

"So, the point of ECW was, it was a great place, like Kofi said, to cut your teeth, to get comfortable in that ring, to know where the cameras were, and how to relate with the audience. It was crazy too, Kofi actually spoke with a Jamaican accent in ECW, which is amazing," Sheamus joked.

Vince McMahon, keeping with the current storyline, would eventually "proudly announce" that ECW was going off the air on February 16, 2010. This came after 193 episodes of the WWE ECW TV show.

The Miz added, "I think that was a lot of people that had a chip on their shoulders. That said, you know what, even though you've put us here on the third show, on the C Show if you will, we're going to fight as hard as we possibly can, to give you the best product that we can possibly give you."

Regarding ECW getting the credit for launching the careers of guys like CM Punk, Heyman said those talents were going to be launched within the system no matter what. He said, "I don't know if ECW deserves the credit for launching the careers of CM Punk and The Miz, and Sheamus, etc. etc., because those were talents that were going to be launched within the system no matter what. It just so happens that they were launched within this abomination of a product called the new ECW. If a legacy has to be attached to the new ECW, there is the one bright light the project offers, besides the first One Night Stand and Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena in 2006, but these talents were extraordinary. They were going to become stars no matter where you launched them. It just so happened the breeding ground was the diseased product that needed to be put out of its own misery, and certainly put out of my misery as well."

Shane compared the brand with what Triple H has built with NXT. He said, "Now we've recreated the brand that we tried to do a long time ago with ECW, and the business model where it's now a developmental system under Paul Levesque. Triple H's leadership has now turned into NXT, so now we create our own."

Dreamer said ECW will be talked about until the end of time because people love the brand. He said, "It's going to be talked about until the end of time and I feel that's because people love ECW so much. There were some good things about it, there were some bad things about it, but everything happens for a reason and I was happy to be a part of it. I'm happy to be a historical note in the sense that I'm the only person to hold the original ECW Title and WWE's ECW Title. I was happy that I got to be on WrestleMania with my friends and it's almost like people forgot the new ECW happened. It's just because they want to remember the best of times as opposed to the worst of times."

Heyman ended the episode by talking about how ECW, the rebel, became the establishment. He said, "The big thinker mindset attached to ECW doesn't work. ECW was a revolution, indeed an evolution of the industry. But when the rebel becomes the establishment, it's no longer the rebel, it's the thing you rebel against. Had we called this new promotion anything but ECW, it would've succeeded. Look at the talent roster, look at the new stars that were being introduced on this show. But because it had the cache and the stigma of being ECW, there was no way it was ever going to work."


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