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June 20, 2005 Observer Newsletter: ECW One Night Stand

From backstage to in-ring, Dave Meltzer looks at the return of ECW for one night.

The name on the video that started the ball rolling was "The Rise and Fall of ECW." It painted an historical picture of an underdog promotion that revolutionized the industry through a genius creator who ultimately destroyed his life's work through being a terrible businessman, despite getting secret help from the man whose company produced the video.

Perhaps a more accurate portrayal was, it was a company that was a financial minnow in a sea with two giant sharks. It went on the belief, because its cult following was more rabid than that of the sharks, that when it finally got national exposure, it would win because the general public would see what its cult fans believed, that it was the better product. In the end, the numbers didn't confirm that belief. The book on the promotion was closed. The history was seemingly written.

This past weekend, the book more than just re-opened. In a phenomenal story that could have never happened at any other time in history, the big picture of the promotion that quietly died in the middle of Arkansas, tangled up in a web of debt and lies, not just the history, but the conclusions, all have a chance to be torn up. Instead, there is both short-term huge money, and long-term huge risk, if the living, bleeding characters in that book are brought back to life. ECW was an important part (not the biggest part, but its significance can't be downplayed) of many things that helped revive a bleeding business headed nowhere, into its most financially successful period in history. 

This time, the business seems to be climbing out of a rut. Economics have changed, and financially, it's stronger structurally than any time in its history. In other ways, such as its ability to build aspects of its future, through destruction of full-time positions making it harder for newcomers to break in and gain the needed experience, lack of variant styles and thought processes, its creative and developmental structure is weak. While the heart, soul, legacy and past of ECW were celebrated without the name on 6/10 in Philadelphia, a whole book of questions about the future of the industry were opened up two days later in New York. It will no doubt go down as one of the biggest PPV events of all-time, and if preliminary indications are true, a success the likes of which nobody saw coming. 

A show, that even with overpriced tickets, had trouble selling out a 2,500 seat arena (it did sellout, but there were about 150 tickets still unsold as late as the day of the show) appear to be doing buy numbers that blow away even the most optimistic predictions. Our response level beat out Wrestlemania, but ECW, as well as wrestling nostalgia, is always going to be strongest to our audience. More importantly, the closed-circuit theaters in Canada have reported Wrestlemania-like attendance. Some theaters beat their Mania numbers. The Canadian closed circuit attendance is as realistic an early indicator as you can get. It's way premature to make a specific number estimate other than it almost surely blew away all predictions. 

The company went in expecting something in the range of 150,000 to 200,000. Anything more than that was going to be considered a success even though they budget the "B" PPV shows at 321,000. Not bad for a company whose PPV numbers ranged from 40,000 on the low end to 99,000 in its actual heyday. It's historical because the number was drawn with no angles building toward a match, although the group vs. group fake interpromotional confrontation is one of the most tried and true drawing concepts of the past 30 years. In fact, on the television building the show, not one match was even announced. It was the ECW reunion, and it was the WWE heels out to stop it.

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