Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paul Heyman Doing The Hustle

Paul Heyman is indisputably one of the best booking minds and wrestling personalities of his generation. After the fall of the original ECW, Heyman took his considerable talents to the WWE where he went through a volatile few years butting heads with the McMahons and playing a key part in the revival of ECW. Heyman never seemed to be able to get the kind of creative control to have the kind of impact he might have wished for, and that relationship came to an unsurprising end.

Since then, Heyman has moved on to a project called "The Heyman Hustle" - a series of web based mini-shows produced under the auspices of the London-based Sun newspaper that feature Heyman hanging around New York interviewing all sorts of major and minor celebrities all examining whatever their particular "hustle" is. It's Paul Heyman's creative mind turned loose beyond a ring and set of ropes, and with that much personality power behind it, it's enormously engaging stuff.

Heyman is now a father of two and trying to move on to other dreams and aspirations outside of wrestling. Pro wrestling is touched on here and there in the series, but this is Paul Heyman proving that wrestling needs Heyman more than Heyman needs wrestling. I tip my hat to Paul, because his kind of ability deserves an outlet that is suitably rewarding.

There are all sorts of opinions about Paul Heyman. Most of them are something like "creative genius, but a lousy businessman."

I had some personal experience with Paul while he was running ECW. Through a chain of events that is well covered in Scott E. Williams' book, Hardcore History, in 1997 I ended up being the middle man between ECW and Michinoku Pro Wrestling, facilitating their appearance on the first ECW pay-per-view, Barely Legal. Even while being "hustled" by Heyman, I still liked the man immensely and liked and respected Tazz and Tommy Dreamer, along with the rest of the ECW crew. I was put in a position of being able to do something positive for people who were earnestly trying to overcome long odds and was glad I did.

The experience gave me a bit of an insight into Heyman. I disagree with anyone who says that Paul Heyman was a lousy businessman. Anyone who could have done what Paul did is one hell of a businessman. Paul's problem, ironically, was similar to the problems that plagued many of old time promoters he criticized.

For example, Paul would talk about Verne Gagne not being able to adapt to the times. In the world of territorial wrestling, Verne Gagne thrived. But when that world was altered by the expansion of the World Wrestling Federation and Vincent K. McMahon, Gagne couldn't adjust in order to compete. Ironically, the same thing happened to Paul Heyman.

When ECW was a touring East Coast promotion with syndicated TV, Paul Heyman could control his universe. But after Barely Legal, when pay per view entered the picture and suddenly this little fly-by-the-seat-of-its pants company had to deal with things big corporations and due diligence and a level of scrutiny and responsibility to something other than itself, then ECW's universe changed and Paul Heyman did not adapt to those changes and become a real corporation with a staff and management team that could efficiently handle its business.

A hustler can only hustle you if he controls the environment at hand. In my opinion, all Paul was guilty of was losing that control. Yes, a lot of people got hurt in that process, but most of them achieved something they could never have achieved without him.

So watch "The Heyman Hustle" and enjoy Paul Heyman - free to create and in control of his universe.

Best wishes Paul!

Friday, April 11, 2008

NECW Home Video Update: BIRTHDAY BASH 7 Ready Next Week

We have been making a real effort at getting more DVD releases into the marketplace. It's hard to do with limited staff and difficult schedules. But demand has been encouraging and they are a great calling card for our company.

I mentioned in my last blog that the BIRTHDAY BASH 7 DVD is almost ready to ship. BIRTHDAY BASH is our annual anniversary show and the biggest night of our year. I really enjoyed putting this one together, because it showcases more of the "storytelling" strengths of NECW. Every match on the show was part of a feud that was many months, and in some cases, over a year, in the making.

The DVD contains never-before-seen footage shot specifically for the DVD, as well as promos and a few great extras. Check out this preview:

The recently released DVD called The IRON 8 Championship is a 2 disc effort, also well worth your time. The annual IRON 8 tournament is an NECW creation and one of the few truly original events in our business. It's an 8 man tournament with a unique twist. Instead of the standard single elimination format all the way through, the event has a first round where the 8 men pair off into singles bouts and a final round where the 4 winners compete in a 4 way, 45 minute iron man match - most pinfalls or submissions wins.

The result is an athletic showcase like no other. All the action is covered, along with over an hour of bonus features and interviews.

Check out this preview:

We have more great releases planned for the next few months. They include:

NECW Best of 2007, WWW Best of 2007, WWW 2nd Annniversary, Genesis 7: Battle of the Giants and The Toxic Waltz.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

So Much to Blog About, So Little Time: An Attempt to Catch Up

Life has a funny way of keeping you from the things you really want to do - one of them, in my case, is updating this blog. So much has been happening in the world of pro wrestling, both in and out of NECW, and I have a ton of comments to share with you:

WrestleMania 24:

While I enjoyed the show and marveled at the spectacle that only WWE can deliver, apart from Flair-Michaels, Show-Mayweather and Edge-Undertaker, I found the rest of the card lacking from an emotion standpoint. Of course, absolutely nothing could compare to the three matches I just mentioned. I look forward to the DVD to see the Hall of Fame, which I missed.

Ric Flair's in ring swan song was done beautifully. A match and a finish for the ages. I was crying right along with Flair when Michaels hit the sweet chin music. More on Flair below.

Show-Mayweather had one of the most creative finishes I think I've ever seen. I'd bet money Pat Patterson had something to do with it. A fantastic piece of business.

Edge-Undertaker was a phenomenal match. Edge is at his athletic prime and one of the greatest workers on the major league level of this business. Undertaker truly deserves the moniker "phenom." Taker has had one of the most amazing careers in modern wrestling history.

C.M. Punk winning "Money In The Bank" was nice to see. Punk is a good guy and a great worker who is a franchise player waiting to happen.

Gordon Solie Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame:

Gordon Solie was the greatest wrestling announcer of all time and you can ask Jim Ross if you don't believe me. (J.R. comes in second in my book. One of these days I'll do a whole blog on wrestling announcers.) Hats off to the WWE for acknowledging "The Dean."

I was extremely fortunate to have met Gordon through the Cauliflower Alley Club and, later through my work with the late Hiro Matsuda and Howard Brody on "Ring Warriors."

While our encounters were brief, they are nonetheless memorable. I first met Gordon at a Cauliflower Alley Club banquet in Springfield, MA. If you know Gordon, appropriately enough, we first met in the Marriott hotel bar. I will never forget this as long as I live, because about four words into our conversation, Gordon uttered an expletive. When asked about different people he encountered over his career, the expletives continued to fly. Not everything was negative mind you, but it struck me so funny that this articulate gentleman that I had watched on TV for so many years and so respected was using language that would make a sailor blush. Imagine, if you will, Walter Cronkite bidding his audience farewell by saying, "And that's the $#@!%-ing news, and if you don't like it, &*$#@! @#$!&!!!!! I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

Gordon is a person I wish I had gotten closer to when I had the chance, but the encounters we had were warm and friendly. Gordon was a truly good man and a person I feel fortunate to have encountered on a professional level.

In my role as a wrestling announcer for the NECW TV shows and DVD's, I study old tapes of Gordon religiously, as I do Jim Ross and Lance Russell.

Sadly, there will never be another Gordon Solie - a truly deserving Hall of Famer.

Ric Flair's Retirement:

Like Gordon Solie, there will never be another Ric Flair. Flair said himself on Raw the day after WrestleMania that he had the greatest career in the history of pro wrestling. Boy, he sure did.

Flair is the last of the great touring NWA World Champions and a real bridge between the territory era and the national era. He and Sting are the last two major stars of any long standing that Vince McMahon did not create. In many ways, Flair's true greatness can be measured in the fact that Vince McMahon and the WWE allowed his to be himself and allowed his considerable legacy to be acknowledged and celebrated.

An interesting fact: The WWE Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD grossed more than it cost WWE to buy the intellectual property and trademarks of WCW.

People talk about Hulk Hogan as being the greatest star in the history of wrestling, and on some levels he is. But the greatest wrestler, the greatest worker, the most emotionally enduring figure in pro wrestling in my lifetime has been Ric Flair.

The farewell celebration on Raw has been called one of the greatest televised moments in wrestling history. It was as sweet and as perfect as a farewell could be.

In thinking back on this, it's too bad that Flair couldn't have been sent off by a younger guy - not that there was anything wrong with Michaels in that role. But it would have been nice to have seen Flair "pass the torch" to an Orton or a Cena, someone with more years ahead of them in the business than behind them. Then again, the business that Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels came to prominence in is at an end too. For those of us who grew up on Ric Flair, there has to be that tinge of sadness that we are all growing older and our heroes fade with time.

While new history will be written and new stars will be born, the brightest of them all was Ric Flair and the memories of his exploits have been largely preserved on video. Thus the old adage is really true: Diamonds are forever, and so is Ric Flair.

NECW Notes:

We had a terrific event in Quincy a couple of weeks ago with MARCH BADNESS. The title situation in NECW is really heating up with Big Rick Fuller being hotly pursued by Antonio Thomas and Max Bauer.

It has yet to be determined how the ankle injury to Handsome Johnny will affect his reign as NECW Television Champion, but the Handsome One is blue chip material and will come into his own in NECW.

We have a very unique event talking place on Friday night, April 18. It's a benefit show for the South Middle School in Brockton, MA. The event is only open to students, faculty and staff at the school and their families, but a large crowd is expected and we look forward to a great night in Brockton on the 18th.

We have a great DVD our right now called The IRON 8 Championship. It's last June's tournament along with over an hour's worth of bonus features. If you like hard hitting athletic wrestling at it's finest, you will love the IRON 8 DVD. The 2008 IRON 8 Tournament is scheduled for Saturday night, May 31 in Quincy, MA, so circle that date on your calendars.

Speaking of DVD's, next week we will be releasing last summer's BIRTHDAY BASH 7: CAGED FURY on DVD, complete with never-before-seen segments and bonus features. This and the IRON 8 DVD are the best DVD's we've done to date. I am really proud of the way they came out and the way they represent NECW.

I often think that our company is a well kept secret among the major wrestling web sites. They will announce our shows and publish our results, but unless you watch the TV's and get the DVD's, you don't know how really good this company is.

I will have more soon!