Torch Flashbacks KELLER FLASHBACK: Who was ranked #1 on the ECW brand five years ago this week?, where did C.M. Punk land?
May 9, 2013 - 10:35:13 AM
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Five years ago this week, PWTorch editor Wade Keller presented his Annual Roster Rankings of the ECW brand housed by WWE in the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter.
At the time, Kane was positioned as the #1 star on the ECW brand, followed by C.M. Punk, Chavo Guerrero, Shelton Benjamin, and John Morrison.
Just below the Top 5 were Kofi Kingston and The Miz, both who eventually broke out as singles wrestlers to varying success and are still on WWE's main roster.
This Week with Wade Keller Flashback
Headline: ECW Roster Evaluation
Originally Published: May 10, 2008 PWTorch Newsletter #1024
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The last two weeks we ranked the Raw and Smackdown rosters. This week we tackle the third brand, ECW. This annual ranking is based on my analysis of how the WWF perceives and uses the wrestlers today. The rankings are not cumulative from the entirely of the last year, but rather reflect wrestlers' current standing. The rankings do not necessarily reflect whether I believe they deserve their ranking, although editorial comments convey my thoughts in many cases on whether they're overpushed or underutilized. The previous Roster Evaluations were in September 2006.
(1) Kane: Kane has the designated spot of a "star" from one of the other brands holding the title and anchoring the brand. ECW has lost much of what its original identity was, but Kane's persona feels a little more "extreme" in a general sense than Chavo Guerrero or C.M. Punk, the previous champions. He grew stale enough without any character advancements or compelling feuds in recent years that he was lost in the shuffle over at Smackdown. So a move to ECW has given him a new sense of purpose and cashed in on the value of his legacy in WWE. He gives ECW some "established star" credibility. The question is, though, whether that benefits ECW. The third brand may have the best chance to stand out if it features a fresh, emerging star instead of a relatively played-out character whose best days are behind him. The ratings since Kane became the centerpiece have been in the same ballpark. ECW may be a brand that no single character can change dramatically, since it is clearly the third brand out of three, and any star that showed signs of being a ratings draw would almost surely instantly be shifted to one of the top two brands.
FORECAST: Kane is probably best off sticking around ECW for a while if for no other reason than to keep him away from Raw or Smackdown. Being stuck in the mid-card is worse than headlining the third brand, at least for Kane at this point in his career. He can again be positioned as a big fish in a smaller pond as ECW Champion, get flattering TV time in the ring and on the mic, and dominate as his character must in order to be effective. At any point, he could end up dealt back to Smackdown or moved to Raw if either brand were in need of a fill-in main eventer if someone else went down with an injury. At this stage of his career, Kane isn't going to be having four-star, must-see matches or likely delivering anything new on his promos, but as a top level utility player, he's got value and is earning his keep given how ECW is positioned by Vince McMahon within WWE.
(2) C.M. Punk: Punk is the biggest winner of the mere existence of ECW. His career is at the opposite stage as Kane. but he benefits much the same. If he were on Raw or Smackdown, he'd likely be lost in the shuffle. He's not big enough, flashy enough, established enough, or charismatic enough to jump off the page based on what McMahon looks for in an emerging star. In ECW, Punk is able to also be a big fish in a small pond and stand out. It gives him a chance to be portrayed on a smaller show as a rising star. If fans perceive him as a main eventer, even if he's competing with a thin roster for that slot, it can pay dividends for years. Punk is carrying his end of the deal with strong performances. He carries himself like he believes he's a star, which is half the battle sometimes.
FORECAST: The fact that McMahon allowed the Money in the Bank briefcase to be carried around by an ECW wrestler shows his belief in Punk (and perhaps his disinterest in the MITB briefcase, to a certain degree). If McMahon didn't see a potential bright future in Punk, he would not have given him the showcase victory at WrestleMania. Punk is best off remaining in ECW, with the occasional (or frequent) Smackdown appearances as part of the brand-affiliation, rather than moving to Raw or Smackdown anytime soon. Perhaps next year at this time, he'll have established himself long enough and run through the ECW options where it'll make sense to test him on one of the bigger shows as a featured act.
(3) Chavo Guerrero: As a recent ECW Champion and continued ECW main eventer, he gets this top tier ranking. He is undersized compared to most other pushed wrestlers on this roster, but has the experience and marquee last name to move him up higher than otherwise might seem likely. He's serviceable to good on the mic, depending on the circumstances. In the ring, he's not as exciting as he should be given his peak era as a worker during Nitro's peak years, but again he's consistently serviceable to good. He's not someone who as the centerpiece of a show is going to draw record ratings or generate a buzz, but he's arguably passable as a top heel on a third-level brand based mainly on his veteran status. It'd just be nice if he was a little more charismatic on the mic and a little more intense and exciting in the ring.
FORECAST: It's a young roster, and WWE management clearly feels better about having him around as a calming, stabalizing force. He does just well enough to earn his keep, but a top tier spot isn't a guarantee if others show any signs of potential as they continue to develop.
(4) Shelton Benjamin: It's a bit arbitrary when getting too specific as the opinions management has toward ECW's mid-card wrestlers changes seemingly week to week, but Shelton seems to be ahead of some of the other mid-carders on the roster lately. The "Gold Standard" gimmick gives him something to talk about and gives his character a little more depth than when he was just one-half of the former WGTT. He's coming along on the mic, and he's always been a special athlete in the ring. Having a drive to be great and combining that with a more realistic fighting style has held him back a bit over the years.
FORECAST: He's someone with all of the tools to be a centerpiece headline heel for this brand for a year or two if management got behind him and he showed the management the "proper" desire to be a top tier player. If he takes the right steps, he could end up in three years headlining PPVs and making seven figures a year, just by hanging around long enough as someone fans like, the so-called Bret Hart path to the top.
(5) John Morrison: Tied up in the tag division with The Miz, his singles career isn't at the same level if was last year. As a former ECW Champion and emerging personality on the mic, he's definitely a top five wrestler on this brand. If he splits off from The Miz tag team anytime this year, he can quickly return to a top singles slot in this promotion.
FORECAST: He doesn't have the height of a typical top tier WWE wrestler, but he's got everything else to be a long-term second tier singles wrestler with an outside chance at some top tier stretches. He also has a future as a color commentator based on his stints next to Tazz in recent weeks on ECW.
(6) Kofi Kingston: There are one-liners available regarding Kofi quickly "leapfrogging" his ECW colleagues, but my goal is to avoid any Mike Adamle comparisons at this point, so I'll stay away. Nevertheless, Kofi has quickly become one of the reasons to tune in to ECW. Whether he has potential to move up the card and stay there is very premature, but this is why ECW is nice to have around as a third brand, basically a AA developmental zone for people like him. His athleticism and charisma is unique.
FORECAST: If he develops into a well-rounded worker, he could be a mainstay roster member in the second-tier for a long time.
(7) The Miz: A featured act on ECW right now, but in a tag team with John Morrison, so that slots him out of the title picture. He's probably not seen as a title-level wrestler at this point, even on the ECW brand, as he moved up the ranks in an odd way as a reality star, Tough Enough runner-up, obnoxious and miscast Smackdown host, and then a joke of a wrestler and virtual jobber for a while. With Morrison, though, he's settled into a good rhythm.
FORECAST: He is showing some signs of being another worthy mid-card wrestler with some upside potential on the mic and in the ring.
(8) Tommy Dreamer: What can you say about Tommy, really? He's got less grace than almost anyone in wrestling. He's never really been given a series role or character development in ECW. He's just a guy who's hung around and carries himself effectively as a lower-mid-card "ECW Original" who can use weapons, brawl a bit, and most often do a job and then come back next week for more. He's one of only a few symbols of the original ECW era, which surprisingly hasn't worked against him as much as it could have in a more hostile political environment.
FORECAST: If he got cut, it'd be a big shock and big news as he just comes across as one of those "employee for life" types like Val Venis. It'd be nice to see him get one run with the ECW Title, even if just for a few weeks.
(9) Mike Knox: Management can't decide whether he's a lug to just sorta keep around or a big guy worthy of a push. He's not dynamic and has yet to probably sell even one ticket, but he's not necessarily worthless in the Kenzo Suzuki/Heidenreich category. He's tough to get a read on, but worth keeping around to see what develops. He looks more like a bouncer in a biker bar or lumberjack at a fair attraction than a money-drawing top heel wrestler. Usually those aren't mutually exclusive, but with Knox, he seems to be missing that "it" factor.
(10) Elijah Burke: Had a semblance of a push over the past couple of years, but at other times seems off the radar. He's got a lot going for him as he's solid in the ring and on the mic, but Creative doesn't seem enthralled with his character.
(11) Matt Striker: Recast as a manager of Big Daddy V, now back as a wrestler during Daddy V's "weight loss hiatus," he is a borderline second tier heel. If it weren't for management's apparent lack of faith in him as a wrestler, he'd be a couple slots higher. He can talk on the mic, but his ceiling does seem to be mid-second-tier.
(12) Colin Delaney: Yeah, he's a jobber, but he's got one of the bigger pushes of anyone in the promotion. He doesn't seem to have the overall package to be much more than a novelty act for a while, but he could stick around for a while as they've really invested in his character, and watching him go through various stages including an eventual heel turn could be a lot of fun. He won't ever headline WrestleMania, but he could earn a steady paycheck indefinitely as an endearing role player.
(13) Bam Neely: Very new, but could quickly move up into the second tier or even first tier over the next year, but it's too early to tell what his potential is.
(14) Stevie Richards: On the verge of a push that could have been fun for a few months, then yanked away. Too bad, as his "comeback" storyline had more potential than played out.
(15) Big Daddy V: Currently injured, he'll move up if he comes back healthy and mobile.
(16) Nunzio: Just hanging around taking nice bumps for whomever is getting pushed this week.
(17) Boogeyman: Still listed on the roster, but even if he returns to action, he's such a limited novelty act, he's not worthy of much consideration. Once you've seen it a dozen times, the shock value of the worm thing doesn't have much legs to it (couldn't resist).
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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