The Tri-Weekly Freakly: Why Did Extreme Championship Wrestling Ultimately Fail?

Well, well, well it’s time once again to take off my scarlet shaded spectacles and look back at a big part of my childhood.

When you look back at ECW you see that it was indeed the Island of Misfit Toys when it came to wrestlers. They didn’t have wrestlers that looked like they were Greek Gods or people with Hollywood good looks: they had wrestlers that looked like you or me. You had the punk rock/grunge looking Raven and the beer drinking cigarette smoking Sandman. ECW was ahead of the curve when it came to how they presented wrestling. They always showed it as gritty and real, so why did they fail? Let’s take a look back at the reasons I think it did.

1. Shane Douglas always in the main event.

Now don’t get me wrong “The Franchise” Shane Douglas was a good wrestler and one hell of a promo. He was always booked as the top level guy in ECW a la Stone Cold or Hulk Hogan. If there was a time when he wasn’t involved in the world title picture I don’t remember it. The reason I put him on this list is because he wasn’t a top level wrestler. Look back at his matches and you will see not a lot of them stood up to the test of time. Was he a top guy? Yes. Was he the Franchise player his nickname implied? Not even close.

2. Stuff like the Flaming Table spot.

The purpose of a wrestling company is so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. ECW always loved to push the envelope, but like anyone this could sometimes go too far. ECW had a lot of risky ideas and controversial decisions. Some of these will be covered later on. While this was great for the hardcore fans, it really hurt any sort of chance they had to get mainstream appeal despite having all the momentum in the world. Just picture a man throwing another man onto a table that has been set on fire. Now imagine yourself as a network executive. Would you want that on your TV station?

3. Raven Crucifies The Sandman.

Yes, this happened. Raven and The Sandman had a very personal rivalry. This feud involved Raven brainwashing Sandman’s ex-wife and son. After one match, Raven and his lackeys beat down The Sandman and tied him to a wooden cross and put a crown of barbed wire on his head. As you can imagine this offended A LOT of people, including a young Kurt Angle who was backstage, and was in talks with signing with ECW.

4. Sex sells, but women wrestlers are more than eye candy.

Ahh the 90’s. Women being used as eye candy in wrestling was at an all time high. Sure WWE’s Attitude Era sold sex appeal by the truckload but ECW, however, took it to another level. All of the women in ECW were oversexualized roles were most of them took their clothes off or barely wore anything in the first place. Kimona Wanalaya, a great pun by the way, literally stripped one night just to kill time on their syndicated show. The difference between how WWE and ECW sold sex was that the WWE was a bit more transparent and actually made female stars, whereas ECW was all about cheap thrills.

5. Paul Heymen

The man that played the biggest role in ECW’s birth and rise also played the biggest role in its fall and death. First things first, Paul Heyman is a creative genius. He made stars out of people who could barely wrestle by covering their weakness and accentuating their strengths. Alas when the company started to lose money from not having any mainstream exposure he didn’t try to make any changes that could have saved the company. Instead he just pushed the sex and violence even harder. There’s many many stories of how Heymen wouldn’t pay talent for months, and if he did the checks were made of rubber. Sadly the man that deserves all the credit also deserves most of the blame.

6. WWE and WCW

The last reasons ECW died was because it was a goldfish trying to fight two sharks. There was a lot more money, exposure, and a chances at a better future in the WWE and at the time the WCW than in the ECW. ECW was always on borrowed time, because all the stars they make would ultimately be lured away by the bigger companies. For all the flaws ECW had, and all the mistakes made backstage, nothing contributed to its death more than WWE and WCW’s stranglehold on the business at the time.

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