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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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