Approximately one year ago this week, WWE ECW, the former third brand of World Wrestling Entertainment, aired its final episode.
During it's four-year lifespan, WWE ECW was never given the respect it deserved.
Fans of the original ECW promotion viewed the show as an insult, as it was absolutely nothing like the hardcore promotion they had loved during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Casual WWE fans, on the other hand, viewed the show as a joke, mainly because it was only an hour long, suffered from poor storylines, featured a single championship that wasn't even considered a world title, and rarely had established WWE Superstars on it's roster.
Nevertheless, WWE ECW was an underrated success in its own right. Despite being rarely promoted by WWE, the Tuesday night brand managed to draw ratings that were on par with TNA iMPACT! and higher than WWE Superstars. It also retained a faithful following until the very end, a group that I myself was a part of.
The show itself ultimately proved to be the brand where future stars were born. Without the existance of ECW, it is likely that the WWE Universe wouldn't familiar with superstars like John Morrison, The Miz, CM Punk, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston, Sheamus, Ezekiel Jackson, or Evan Bourne.
What started out as a failed attempt to re-create a hardcore rival promotion ended up becoming the stepping stone for WWE's future upper mid-carders and main-eventers.
Of all the WWE Superstars to ever appear on Tuesday nights, both CM Punk and The Miz, currently the top two heels of Monday Night Raw, benefited the most from their time there.
CM Punk will go down as the only professional wrestler in WWE history to debut on ECW and become ECW Champion before becoming World Heavyweight Champion and a main-eventer later on down the road.
While it was his heel turn and feud with Jeff Hardy in 2009 that turned him into the prominent heel that he is today, it was on ECW that Punk made a name for himself in the first place.
The Miz made his debut as the host of Friday Night SmackDown in 2006, but it wasn't until his draft to ECW one year later that people finally began to accept him as more than just a former reality television star.
Then known as "The Chick Magnet," The Miz formed partnership with John Morrison. The duo would go on to win both the WWE Tag Team Championship in 2007 and the World Tag Team Championship in 2008 before finally splitting up in 2009. The Miz arrived on Raw soon afterwards, and the rest is history.
Other veteran superstars who had long since fallen from grace on either the red or blue brands found a new home on Tuesday nights. Christian, Matt Hardy, Kane, Mark Henry, Chavo Guerrero...the list goes on.
What do all of these superstars have in common? All are seen as mid-carders in the eyes of the WWE Universe, but all managed to hold the ECW Championship at one point.
With the exception of Kane, who recieved a "last hurrah" push with the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010, the ECW Championship was also the closest these men would come to becoming a world champion in the company.
For Christian, who returned to WWE in 2009, this would prove to be especially true.
Christian enjoyed two reigns as ECW Champion between 2009 and 2010, and not only became the longest-reigning WWE ECW Champion of all time, but the only man to hold the WWE version of the title twice. It's no wonder that the final year ECW was on the air is sometimes referred to as "The Christian Era."
Many peeps hoped Christian's success as the top face on ECW would lead to main-event success on SmackDown, but alas, it wasn't to be. The most a returning Christian can hope for at this point is a tag team reunion with his best friend Edge, who is nearing retirement.
Perhaps they'll win the tag team championship one more time? We can only hope.
Finally, WWE ECW was a place where underused talent could shine. Superstars like Goldust, Zack Ryder, and Yoshi Tatsu are currently lower mid-card talent that can only be found randomly working matches on Superstars, but on ECW, they were all treated equally and were all given storylines.
Some people wonder if ECW had remained on the air longer, if WWE Superstars like Ryder and Tatsu would have ended up more successful than they are right now.
It's no surprise that with the arrival of WWE NXT, and the quick success of many of the NXT Rookies making it on to the main-roster at a much faster pace, that a majority of ECW's 2009-2010 roster ended up screwed once the show was cancelled.
We'll never know for sure.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: What a difference a year can make.
It seems as though WWE ECW is a distant memory, even though it's only been gone for a year. WWE has obviously made an effort to make the fans forget it ever existed in the first place, as it is rarely, if ever, brought up on television.
But a year is a long time in World Wrestling Entertainment, so maybe it isn't a surprise that the former brand now feels like a lost world, slowly fading and crumbling away into the cracks of professional wrestling history...
But that dosen't matter.
What matters is that WWE ECW did exist, and for the short period of time that it aired, many fans of the WWE Universe enjoyed the show for what it was worth. And while it may be true that with the arrival of each new fan of World Wrestling Entertainment, the more ECW becomes lost in time, for those of us that were around to remember it, we'll never forget.
Woo woo woo. You know it.
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