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What else can ECW improve as a brand? Here's the rundown in 2009,
Christian has returned to the Big Daddy. A new deal with WWE, after re-establishing himself with TNA; he is now a two-time ECW champion.
Christian and younger talents are the new breed of ECW, and make it worthwhile to watch. Better matches, and an emphasis on wrestling make this brand succeed, and even better than RAW. Gritty competition and matches are much enjoyed, even preferred over top story lines and key player dominance in the main event roles.
Yoshi Tatsu and the emergence of new star Shamus add depth to this brand. Newer and younger stars make ECW exciting, and also a brand serving as a launching pad, for such talent to get their start, and make a splash. Tyler Rex and Shelton Benjamin are going to be the two men, which are going to be title threats to Christian. Both are equally talented, and making a fast rise in ECW.
Surprisingly, Vladimir Kozlov has not received a title, or title shot yet in his young career. This is a mistake. A man with his physical talents, and gifts in-ring make him a sure fire star. He has already proven himself a bit on Smackdown, and yet still remains beltless. He is a legitimate tough guy in the ring, oozing credibility. He has the potential, and more than enough to be a main-eventer on ECW, and champion. This will be the money match, and we’ll see this in the next month or so, guaranteed.
Ezekiel Jackson has had a nice rebound, from being just a silent bodyguard on Smackdown. Sure, they were trying to get over Brian Kendrick as a heel solo star; but worked minimally. Most knew though, that the real muscle and brawn was Jackson. Now he gets his time to shine, and deservedly so. Given the type of offensive style and personality he has; Jackson has much potential. With the right push, he could be the next Goldberg, and pick up where guys like Snitsky could not. Jackson needs just a little bit more promo or mic time; but isn’t necessary yet. If Kozlov does not enter the ECW title picture, rest assured; Jackson will- and become the new title holder.
Hurricane, Paul Birchill and Tommy Dreamer are with the brand, and anchor the mid card spots, despite Dreamer being ECW champion earlier this year. However, men like Goldust and William Regal are talented fine technical wrestlers, but don’t exude an edgy persona, or style. Regal is more of a hard-hitting wrestler than Goldust; and see to it that he’ll either thrive as a mid-carder, or float back to Smackdown.
What’s next for ECW is continued progress, and will continue to thrive as well. Keeping the atmosphere based on wrestling, and introducing fresh faces will create new feuds and matches; something that RAW does not. Lastly, if ECW wants to have higher ratings or just sit and stand pat is up to the network. It needs to have an earlier start time, and stay. A 9:00 PM start may be too similar to TNA, but it is competitive with TNA, and will draw more viewers with this change.
I think the biggest point of improvement ECW needs is identity. The "E" in ECW still stands for "Extreme," and with all WWE progamming now PG, you no longer see the hardcore original version that Paul Heyman incarnated (Paul himself made a huge content shift from the original ECW, which stood for "Eastern Championship Wrestling", a rather traditonal wrestling show). ECW's "extreme" movement simply meant violence. Like it or not, it became a standout program, because no other wrestling show took it to that level.
Tommy Dreamer remains the only ECW original, partially because none of the others want to work for THAT version of ECW anymore (and one part because many of them don't measure up to other WWE talent from an ability standpoint, and another because Sandman is a drunk). Extreme-C-W has been phased out -- what they need to do is have the E stand for something else, and find a programming stand-alone that separates them from Raw, Smackdown (tough to do when it's all owned by the same people), and TNA. What that would be, I'm not really sure -- it's tough to make innovative moves at this point.
The current incarnation of ECW will continue to run as the WWE's 3rd rate show until there's some huge distinguishing point that it makes. ECW doesn't even do its own tour -- they piggyback the taping before Raw, so it's barely an original show. The only thing unique about ECW is the TV timeslot. How can a show develop a unique fan base when it's simply blended together with other ones? It's good to have new talent on-board, but I think you'll continue to see the good ones move onto the bigger shows when they start to get a good enough crowd reaction, and continue to not see very many established stars make their "home" in ECW.
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