Over the last 3 1/2 years and change, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) has existed only as a third wheel for World Wrestling Entertainment. With the last of the "original" ECW wrestlers, Tommy Dreamer, having left WWE over the holidays, the next step was inevitable.
On Tuesday's installment of ECW on SyFy, WWE Chairman-CEO Vince McMahon made the announcement that ECW would "go off the air", replaced by something "new & innovative". In truth, while McMahon is retiring the brand name he purchased in 2001, he will continue to produce wrestling for SyFy on Tuesdays. The last ECW on SyFy will air on February 23, with the new program debuting on March 2.
Early reports had WWE trademarking the initials NXT for their new show, showcasing talents called up from their developmental program in Florida, with veterans such as Christian, Goldust, & William Regal possibly being reassigned to either Raw or Smackdown. What prompted the change? What else? Ratings.
SyFy and its corporate parent, NBC-Universal, have not been happy with the numbers for the Tuesday program, unable to get above 1.3 in the Neilsens, making it the lowest of the 3 brands (Superstars, revived last year, airs on WGN America, which isn't available in much of the country). Changing the "call letters", if you will, might not change the ratings, but WWE & SyFy would like to get more people tuning in. Unfortunately, the harshest truth might be that for most folks, Tuesday might not be the best night after all.
You'll notice I posted two sets of birth/death dates for ECW. The original, founded by Tod Gordon & Paul Heyman, was absorbed into WWE in 2001, and revived as an ongoing concern 5 years later after the success of a "class reunion"-style PPV (One Night Stand) in 2005. Heyman didn't stick around too long, as he resigned from WWE in December '06 after a PPV.
The last ECW "original", announcer Joey Styles, now works for WWE.com, forced to retire from broadcasting 2 years ago. That aside, McMahon has finally gotten what he wanted all along, and that was to lay ECW to rest. Where the company goes from here with their new program, though, is anyone's guess.
It turns out that there's an Australian promotion that uses NXT for the same reason that McMahon wanted to. That will create some problems unless McMahon comes up with something else before March 2. I said before that part of ECW's problem may lie in airing on Tuesdays. As with a lot of prime time programs, a wrestling show swims upstream against well-established viewer habits. ESPN found this out more than 20 years ago when they had a deal with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) and aired AWA on Tuesdays, only to bounce it around due to conflicts with live sporting events. To this day, you do have those same conflicts, plus popular prime time network shows like Lost, which returned last night.
So, here's a solution. Since ECW/NXT & Friday Night Smackdown are pre-taped (ECW is same-day tape presently), it would be a better move for SyFy to run ECW on Fridays ahead of Smackdown, with some WWE cross-promotion to keep people interested. It can't hurt, can it?