Dr. Joey Styles, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ECW

Kevin McElvaney

Hey Shenanifans! Thank you reader, Chris Webber (who is probably not the former 76er), for that one. And itâ<80><99>s good to be back here on this chilly December afternoon, writing to you all again. Thanks to those of you who wrote in last week sharing their opinions on the TNA tag division. Hereâ<80><99>s an excerpt from one of those emails:

â<80><9c>TNA should sign the Briscoe Brothers just think of the matches they could have with L.A.X. or the Motor City Machine Guns. They would be fantastic in an Ultimate X.

Harlem Heat could return Booker T and Stevie Ray for special appearence nostalgia Match or even better the return of the BLADERUNNERS (Sting and the Ultimate Warrior!!!)

well what do you think?â<80>

– Shaun Dean, Newcastle, UK

Shaun also gave me his opinions on the TNA tag division, which, with a few exceptions, were very similar to mine. But Iâ<80><99>ll be focusing on this section of the email, as it was my favorite part. With WWEâ<80><99>s and TNAâ<80><99>s tag divisions in near hibernation, The Briscoe Brothers are arguably the most popular tag team in wrestling. ROH fans are real diehards, and they love almost no one better than The Briscoes. Iâ<80><99>d love to see them in TNA, if the company would use them the way you suggest here.

I think, Shaun, that we probably will see a Harlem Heat reunion in TNA, at some point. Iâ<80><99>m pretty sure Stevie Ray is at least semi-retired, though, so it may not be an actual match. Nonetheless, Iâ<80><99>d definitely like to see it.

As for The Blade Runners, well, I think we have a better chance of seeing The Ramones play a reunion concert, with the original lineup. Maybe if The Warrior can stop reading Ayn Rand long enough. I donâ<80><99>t know if you were trying to make me laugh with the Bladerunners reunion, but you definitely succeeded if you were. Thanks for writing, either way!

Okay, now that Iâ<80><99>ve given this weekâ<80><99>s column an intro that would render Pink Floyd impatient, letâ<80><99>s get on to the meat and potatoes of our Shenanigans feast.

â<80><9c>Dr. Joey Styles, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ECWâ<80>

Okay, I think Iâ<80><99>ve reached my pop culture limit for one article. But this title fits the theme of todayâ<80><99>s topic to a T. After all, if Joey Styles can be excited about a Mark Henry vs. Kane match, then why canâ<80><99>t I?

To quote Mick Foley paraphrasing The Rock, I think you detect the aroma of my culinary efforts. Or, to put it another way, smell what Iâ<80><99>m cooking. The ECW of today is, despite a few tiny similarities, patently NOT the ECW of old. Call it WWECW, call it OVW Part II, or whatever you want. The fact is, the brand is not the ragtag gaggle of misfits who steel chair swung their way into the hearts of wrestling fans in the 1990’s. And it never will be. Sad, but true. Does this mean we shouldnâ<80><99>t try to at least enjoy it?

ECW is the third brand of WWE. Does it tarnish the legacy of the original simply by existing? Thatâ<80><99>s up to the individual, but I donâ<80><99>t think so. I look at it as a unique flavor to satisfy the palate of wrestling fans. Some people donâ<80><99>t agree with me. In fact, Iâ<80><99>ve gotten emails both in reaction to this column and my weekly â<80><9c>takeâ<80> on ECW, telling me that the brand is worthless and should be shelved. Ouch!

Now, Iâ<80><99>ll admit resenting the ECW brand at first – especially as it pulled further and further away from the ethos of the original. Disqualifications and count-outs? Zombies and vampires? ECW heavyweight champion, The Big Show? â<80><9c>Wow,â<80> I thought. â<80><9c>WWE has some serious huevos.â<80> Week after week, I was borderline offended by what WWE had done to the brand which came to prominence in my own hometown. I was embarrassed to tell former ECW fans what WWE had done to the good name of the company.

Looking back, this all seems a little silly. For one, itâ<80><99>s just television…which is a truth that angry wrestling fans often lose hold of. Second, refusing to let go of the past can sometimes keep one from enjoying the future. Sure, we should honor the legacy of the now-legendary promotion but, at the same time, WWE has chosen to revive the name to promote a mostly different product. Okay. Iâ<80><99>ve accepted it. Begrudgingly, Iâ<80><99>ll admit, but Iâ<80><99>ve finally come to terms with this. Now, I watch the ECW brand and judge it by its own merits.

The new ECW certainly does have its own merits. For one, take a look at the other three major, national wrestling programs. Raw, Smackdown, and Impact each have far less wrestling per hour than ECW does. ECW, typically, has three to four matches during one hour of programming. By comparison, the Raw Anniversary Special (while I immensely enjoyed it) had six matches spread out over three hours. Count it, thatâ<80><99>s 50% less wrestling on Raw.

It can be argued that TNA has almost as many and better matches than ECW. Thatâ<80><99>s fine. But ECW uses its time more wisely. ECW manages to, for the most part, promote every angle theyâ<80><99>re running every single week – with only half the time TNA has. Meanwhile, Smackdown – which features plenty of wrestling in its own right – devotes a lot of its time to interview segments and the like. Again, ECWâ<80><99>s segments are short and to the point, with the majority of each show devoted to wrestling. Itâ<80><99>s a great balance.

ECWâ<80><99>s matches are also a different style than most of those seen on Raw and Smackdown. True, many of WWEâ<80><99>s most talented athletes are on the two bigger brands. Still, I, personally, find excitement in watching some of the companyâ<80><99>s younger stars develop in the ring. ECW upstarts are several leaps above those in the WWE farm system but, at the same time, theyâ<80><99>re trying out new things and wrestling different kinds of matches. Take Elijah Burke, for example. Burke has a truly unique style in the ring, and his matches with CM Punk have been a fresh alternative to the same ol-same ol style we see from some of the companyâ<80><99>s more â<80><9c>establishedâ<80> stars. Iâ<80><99>m not talking high spots or anything like that. We just, quite simply, see some different slams, strikes, and holds from these guys.

Iâ<80><99>m not saying ECW is better than Raw, Smackdown, or Impact. Itâ<80><99>s just different. Personally, Iâ<80><99>ve really enjoyed watching it over the past few months. Itâ<80><99>s not what ECW used to be, but Iâ<80><99>m over that. It is what it is – an alternative to Raw and Smackdown – and it really FEELS like it. So, in summation, some people will still want this third brand to go away. Donâ<80><99>t count me among them.

Kevin McElvaney is also a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling. Send questions or comments to kjmcelvaney@yahoo.com.

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