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ECW gambles its future by blasting TNN

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By Mark Nulty

I give Paul Heyman a lot of credit for being a smart man. Hell, even Jim Cornette has publicly admitted that Heyman is a bright guy and Cornette would rather have a root canal than compliment Heyman.

Which makes what I saw last night (Friday, June 2) even more bizarre.

On the ECW show on TNN, Heyman blasted his own national television outlet. Iíd love to tell you exactly what Heyman said, but TNN muted it out and ran a crawl across the bottom saying, ďPlease ignore this gentlemanís temper tantrum.Ē Later, a second anti-TNN rant by Joel Gertner and Paul Heyman was also muted out under the pretext of ďtechnical difficulties.Ē  I know that ECW is working an angle where they play baby face and portray TNN as heels, but I donít know if Network Officials understand the concept of working. And if they do, they want to be Hulk Hogan-style baby faces. In other words, itís doubtful if they want to take bumps for Paul E.

It doesnít take a rocket scientist to see whatís going on here. Heyman is trying to get TNN to release the show from the network. He wants to be free to go pursue a deal with another network, especially if WWF gets out if its deal with USA Network this fall. Ironically, WWF is trying to get out its USA deal to accept an offer to move to Viacom, which owns TNN.

If ECW feels like it is under appreciated and under promoted by TNN now, wait until TNN gets its hand on the WWF.

But wasnít it about this time last year that TNN was being heralded as the savior of ECW? The national cable deal gave ECW the exposure for more PPV buys and revenues, the opportunities to promote live shows in new markets and more.

A little over a year later, Heyman is trying to end the relationship as acrimoniously as possible.

But is Heyman assuming facts not in evidence?

The rating for ECW has hovered around 0.8 for most the run. There have been few spikes to 1.1 and I think I recall a 1.3. But for the most part, an average Friday night is usually worth a 0.8. Itís not a bad rating, especially considering it is usually the highest rated show on TNN in terms of both rating and share on Friday night. It routinely clobbers Roller Jams, which is promoted as one of TNNís flagship shows. In fact, Roller Jams is to TNN what Mike Von Erich was to the old Dallas promotion.

Still, a 0.8 doesnít exactly make network executives have fistfights in your lobby trying to get first chance to sign you up. ECW will argue that it was hampered by the lack of promotion and support from TNN. Still, there hasnít been a real case that ECWís audience has grown since itís been in the time slot.

Now look at the track record Heyman is establishing. If I were USA or another major cable network, Heymanís rant would concern me. If he caused trouble at TNN because he didnít like his treatment, why wouldnít he do the same thing here? If I preempt ECW for the dog show and Paul E. doesnít agree, am I going to have to hear my network and my other properties vilified on television next week?

And is it worth this kind of risk for a 0.8?

ECW has worked tirelessly to get to this level. It has national television, promotes Pay Per Views and has risen to the level where it is considered a major promotion. Most people refer to the Big Three in this country when not too long ago they referred to the Big Two.

Thatís why Iím having a hard time understanding the gamble.

It would be a huge step back if ECW loses its national TV outlet. What if ECW gets its wish and gets canceled by TNN and doesnít get picked up by USA? What if USA wins its court case and retains the rights to the WWF and doesnít have a time slot for ECW?

And if USA doesnít pick them up, any other network would at best be considered a lateral move, and thatís assuming they land somewhere with the penetration of TNN. Even if they do, they have to start all over in establishing its time slot to current fans and introducing its talent to a new audience.

And in the worst-case scenario, what if TNN drops them and no other national network picks them up?

That would be a big step back.

As I said earlier, I believe Paul Heyman is a smart man. I canít imagine him trying to force TNNís hand like this unless he already had a deal in place. No intelligent man would gamble his companyís future this recklessly.

At least for ECWís sake, this better be a move of calculation over ego and temper.

If not, ECWís future may be as muted as Heymanís tirade Friday.

Mark Nulty is a professional journalist that has been in the professional wrestling industry since the mid-80s as an announcer, referee and promoter.

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