In 1999 a rivalry began that many still believe today was the greatest rivalry in the history of ECW. That year the reigning Television Champion, Rob Van Dam, began a series of title defenses against Jerry Lynn. The feud would consume both men’s careers for much of 1999, then resume very briefly in mid 2000, then they would meet again in the main event of ECW’s last pay per view in 2001. Every match was about these two learning each other more and more, countering each and every move. The series captivated the ECW audience and had some hailing as the next generation’s version of Flair-Steamboat. Ten years later, with ECW long gone, TNA has been trying to put together one more match between RVD and Lynn for the upcoming Hardcore Justice pay per view.
I must say I loved the RVD-Lynn matches when I first saw them. As a matter of fact, the first pay per view I ever purchased was the Hardcore Heaven pay per view in 1999 when I was a high school sophomore. I bought it just for the RVD-Lynn match. The next day my brother called me to ask how it was. I said Lynn-RVD was the best match I had seen that year. At the end of 1999 and even beyond I felt the same way. That was then, this is now. Repeated viewing of the RVD-Lynn series has proved their matches to be incredible displays of athleticism, but little else.
The Hardcore Heaven bout in 1999 had some great spots. Lynn continuing the match despite what could have been a serious injury was admirable. However, as a whole, the match is marred by a number of sloppy spots and botches. When looking back at the entire series, their Living Dangerously match is definitely the most presentable, which may be part of the reason it was chosen above the Hardcore Heaven match to be on RVD’s WWE DVD. How their matches look today to those who watched then as well as new viewers reveals something very telling about the series. It took place in ECW and not in WCW or WWE. ECW had the atmosphere that could host a match like RVD-Lynn and it could look like a good match even if it wasn’t.
This gets to the whole problem with the ECW storyline in TNA. So many people talk about how ECW had a way of making guys look so good in the ring, better than anywhere else they went. Some say it was Paul Heyman and how he let these guys go out and do their thing. Maybe that was part of it, but the most significant reason for this was the ECW atmosphere. What exactly it was within the ECW world that made things the way they were is up for debate and I would love to know what readers think it may have been. The fact is RVD-Lynn would not look as good or captivate audiences the same way they did in ECW.
It’s easy to rip on TNA. I guess it is easy to rip on most things in wrestling, but TNA is doing something nothing short of pointless with the ECW angle. ECW was a promotion that may have had an international appeal to some, but was stronger in the northeast. What is an organization with no direction based out of Orlando trying to do by running a pay per view featuring stars from a small promotion that went out of business almost ten years ago? Can you imagine if WCW or WWE tried to run a pay per view with a UWF or World Class theme back in the Attitude Era? Wrestling was way too different in the late ’90s to try anything from the ’80s. Just look at WCW in 1994-1995. It was nothing but a rehash of the Hulk Hogan era in WWF and the promotion sucked at the time. It was not until WCW took a different direction and completely reinvented the Hulk Hogan character that he actually began to strive again. Wrestling is different now than it was when ECW was around. Trying to recreate it out of its time just doesn’t work.
Everything TNA has been doing lately has been trying to reinvent the wheel and here they are doing it again with an ECW-themed show. I understand that WWE was able to sort of recreate the atmosphere of ECW back in 2005 and 2006 for the One Night Stand pay per views, but that was because WWE was able to market ECW the right way for those shows. Once it became an actual brand, ECW loyalists turned on it. Luckily, TNA is not going that far. They are merely doing one show. Perhaps it is not such a bad idea to try a theme such as this considering they have way too many pay per views throughout the year that mean very little, but there are other ways to go about it. As talented as he is, Jerry Lynn is almost fifty years old. Sure, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are much older, as was Terry Funk, but not even Funk was going out there and putting on a thirty minute gymnastics display. Also, TNA needs to build up Lynn as a legit main event talent in the next couple of weeks. Right now, nobody from ECW that is in TNA, with the exception of RVD, could garner enough interest as a main eventer. Judging from the latest buy rates, RVD may not even be there. WWE was able to sell the ONS shows by building the ECW guys up as legit contenders that you wanted to see. Also, that was four and five years ago. ECW was a little more relevant then than now. If TNA can’t sell pay per views with their own stars, how can they sell one using ECW?
My apologies to any ECW loyalists reading this that want to see the pay per view or object to this column. I just worry that those of us who cared for ECW when it was around are only seeing its legacy tarnished by those who build it up more than it was and are constantly trying to relive its glory days after they have long passed. ECW had its niche when it was around, and that’s about it. It’s time to let it go.