In a perfect world.......
The wrestling bug hit me when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. My dad was a huge sports fan. Throughout the week, we'd watch the Mets and Yankees play baseball on tv. Sunday afternoons were usually spent watching either the Giants or the Jets. Sunday mornings were usually spent watching WWF All-American Wrestling on the USA Network. It was a cool show that introduced me to a lot of my wrestling favorites.
I caught the business bug just before my freshman year in high school. I was selected from a group of kids in Newark to attend Essex County College in the summer. The program was called the Pre-College Consortium. I ran wild amongst the rest of my other soon-to-be freshman peers. Even still, we learned a lot about college courses and basic business techniques.
It's never strange for me put my two loves together. When I think of the wrestling business, I think of WWE. It has reshaped the entire business in its image. It has taken no prisoners. After Vince McMahon bought Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father, his plan to implement change in his vision began. The long-standing territorial system of professional wrestling would soon be a thing of the past. Countless wrestling organizations were obliterated to make way for what I refer to the original version of pro wrestling's “new world order”. No t-shirts or offshoots defined by a pair of colors. Just a series of events that led to widespread change forever altering the course of history.
One of the final pieces destroyed en route to the machine becoming a global juggernaut was Extreme Championship Wrestling. In the video, My Name Is Paul Heyman, Mr. Heyman mentions a concept that was presented to him before ECW's demise. Among several options proposed in an effort to save the financially-strapped fed, one concept would see Shane McMahon buy ECW and broadcast it entirely in digital form. This - like every other option – was denied by Heyman. Ultimately, ECW was shut down, WWE paid all of its outstanding debts, and became owners of the ECW video library.
Ten years later, the WWE Network was made public to the world. Although it didn't officially launch until 2014, it was yet another chapter of change in the business birthed by WWE. Recently, I have given a lot of thought to the digital programming concept presented to Heyman before ECW ended. Had Heyman said yes to the concept, the revolutionary organization could have become revolutionary once more. This concept could have been the main show on the precursor to the WWE Network, WWE On-Demand. However, I can't think about the WWE version of ECW without thinking about the disastrous relaunch that did the original concept no justice. In WWE's defense, it viewed ECW as a product that played to a niche market. And while WWE's Attitude Era was ECW with more financial resources, the audience that loved ECW still loathed sports-entertainment. There was great divide between the two sides that just could not be filled.
Then, I began thinking some more. Could some of the territories from the 80's actually have been saved if there was a WWE Network 25 years ago? My answer is yes. Now here's the big question: what organization probably would benefit the most from a partnership with the WWE.
World Class? Nope. Fritz Von Erich would have lobbied for all of his surviving sons to be World champion one after the other.
WCW? Billionaire egos would clash on the regular.
My answer would be the good old American Wrestling Alliance. Although it has been reduced to a footnote in pro wrestling history, the AWA housed some of the best wrestling this business has ever seen. The Gagnes ran the place. But unlike the World Class and the Von Erichs, the AWA was defined by so much more than one family name. Nick Bockwinkle's multiple title reigns and one-of-a-kind presence. The bar room brawling style of legendary tag team Crusher and The Bruiser. The first Tag Team championship of The Road Warriors triple crown. Red Bastein and Billy Robinson, Diamond Dallas Page, The Guerreros, the Midnight Rockers, Curt Hennig, Scott Hall, and so many other great wrestlers defined this organization.
Now I know what you are thinking: “Velvet, are you crazy?!”. You've got a right to think so. A long list of wrestlers who defined WWE in the 80's came from the AWA. Hulk Hogan, Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera, Jim Brunzell and so many others immediately come to mind. But in a perfect world, this might actually work. I know that WWE owns the rights to the video libraries of countless feds. I'm not so sure they own the rights to the business names of some of these organizations. But.. ...let's assume WWE did own enough of whatever is necessary to relaunch the AWA. Let's just say it started off as a show on the WWE network. An organization started in the 60's is reborn as a fully-functioning modern-day entertainment brand of WWE. Anything is possible.
So what would it take for this to work: BUILDING A FUTURE WITH RESPECT FOR THE PAST. This was one of the many reasons WWE's version of ECW did not work. WWE has a habit of recreating what has been proven to work in their image with mixed results. It's why Sting waited so long to go there. WWE does this to make things better and gradually develop them. Watching The Zombie on ECW was like kicking Raven in the testicles – painful on all levels. You can't build a new house with old wood. But if the foundation is still good, leave it be. Just continue to build upward.
The WWE may have an ace up its sleeve it probably isn't using. The AWA is one of the few feds whose reputation hasn't truly been tarnished in the wake of WWE's game-changing concept. Then again, WWE has concepts it is trying to establish not only as brands, but as touring, money-making brands. Honestly, it would be kind of cool to see if WWE could resurrect a brand with lessons learned from the ECW debacle to a point a relevance and financial gain.
I'm done rambling, but never done thinking. This brain of mine, I tell ya.......