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ECW on TNN

ECW on TNN was a weekly professional wrestling TV show that aired on The Nashville Network (now Spike TV) on Friday nights. It was the first national broadcast of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).

History

Rationale

ECW's owner, Paul Heyman, signed a three year contract with TNN in the hopes of expanding national awareness of the company. Prior to ECW on TNN, ECW was only televised via cable syndication. For its part, TNN added ECW to its "Friday Night Thrill Zone" lineup in an attempt to help build on the teenager/young male increase that the Rollerjam program had brought to the network. Into 2000, the network claimed a vast improvement in the young male demographic on Friday nights due to ECW's addition.

ECW-TNN differences

Early signs of a rocky relationship between ECW and TNN came when TNN president David Hall implied that the program would be "toned down" from the usual ECW fare – which stressed more violent matches (and more explicit language) than the two leading professional wrestling companies, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, or the WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). On WWE's Rise and Fall of ECW DVD, Heyman alleged that the requests from TNN to tone down ECW's content were excessive, including instructions to remove references to hatred as well as objections to the ECW theme song on the grounds that it sounded "demonic."

The first episode of ECW on TNN also became a source of contention, since it did not consist of original programming. Unsatisfied with the first TNN shoot, Heyman instead chose to air a compilation of promos and old ECW matches designed to act as an introduction to the company for those who had never before heard of it or seen it. ECW commentator Joey Styles said that "the network crapped on" this episode and Tommy Dreamer's recollection supported this assertion.

The network also had reportedly placed a great deal of importance on ECW retaining top star Taz, and initial publicity indicated that this helped him sign a significant money deal with ECW. Instead, the deal fell through and Taz signed with the WWF shortly after the show's premiere. His departure, coupled with that of the Dudley Boys (who also joined the WWF), forced the company to build storylines around new champions only weeks after starting their first (and only) national cable television show.

Heyman and former ECW producer Ron Buffone have since complained that TNN's production expectations were unreasonable. On Rise and Fall, Buffone stated that TNN provided ECW with a very small budget to produce the program while simultaneously asking for high-quality production on par with WCW Monday Nitro and WWF Monday Night RAW. This irritated Heyman, due not only to the difficulty of meeting the standards, but also because he felt the more barebones ECW "look" was part of its appeal. Heyman also took umbrage with what he felt was a lack of promotion of the show from the network specifically and its parent company Viacom in general. Many wrestlers echoed this point on both the Rise and Fall DVD as well as the independently produced Forever Hardcore documentary.

Heyman's dissatisfaction with TNN culminated in an on-air promo in which he made known his disdain for the network, as well as a running storyline in which manager/commentator Don Callis (Cyrus) portrayed a TNN representative that continually interrupted ECW proceedings that he felt were inappropriate. TNN muted the audio during Heyman's promo and ran a crawl across the bottom of the screen that poked fun at Heyman's sanity. The full promo, with audio and without the news crawl, was featured on ECW's syndicated programming.

Cancellation and aftermath

ECW on TNN's run would only last thirteen-and-a-half months. As part of its effort to rebrand itself The National Network, TNN acquired WWF programming as part of an extensive WWF-Viacom agreement. The WWF's RAW debuted on TNN on September 25, 2000. Despite brief rumors that the two shows might co-exist on TNN for an extended period of time, ECW on TNN was cancelled shortly thereafter.

Having lost a significant part of its national exposure and left with various contracts to fulfill, ECW ran its final pay-per-view event (the third Guilty as Charged) in January 2001. Heyman appeared in the WWF shortly thereafter and the WWF incorporated the ECW brand into its Invasion storyline later that year. Heyman has speculated that a new television deal would have left ECW a strong #2 in North American wrestling due to the sale of WCW only weeks after ECW collapsed.

TNN eventually rebranded itself again as Spike TV and featured WWF/E programming until late September 2005. Immediately thereafter, it began airing TNA's Impact! program , as it still does today on Thursday nights. Since ECW on TNN's debut, the network has continuously featured professional wrestling on its schedule.

References

External links

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