October 22, 2007
Mike Abitabile

The Devilís Advocate:
Letís Hope This One Doesnít End Like Time Warner and AOL

Earlier this week, it was announced on WWE.com that ECW and Smackdown! entered into a working agreement to share performers. While technically not a merger, the prevailing result seems to resemble one. It all started when Kane appeared on ECW Tuesday night to partner with CM Punk against John Morrison, Big Daddy V and The Miz. It continued on Smackdown! Friday night, when Big Daddy V came in to get revenge on The Big Red Machine.

Already, everyone is abuzz with their opinions on the matter. Obviously, the move was made to try and help ECW, but for what reason, no one is completely certain. The first conclusion that fans have come to is that this means ECW is not going to be picked up when their contract with Sci-Fi ends in December. No one knows that for sure (well, no one outside of the WWE anyway), but that hasnít stopped them from entertaining the thought.

Unfortunately, however, that seems to me like the most logical explanation. One could argue that that isnít necessarily the reason, but even if it theoretically isnít, it still probably has something to do with the move. Thatís because the other conclusion that people are coming to is that the ďworking agreementĒ was made to try and get ECWís rating up so that Sci-Fi will renew the show. If that is the case, at least it doesnít signal the end of ECW just yet.

Rumors were abound the past few months that WWE would be using ECW to allow Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) standouts a chance to perform on national television and prepare themselves for the move to Raw or Smackdown. I actually thought that was a good idea, but under the circumstances, now is not the time. They need to focus on getting the show renewed before they do something like that.

Using the Smackdown! stars to get attention towards ECW is a pretty smart idea. The rosters travel together and tape television at the same time, in the same arena, so the move is very cost efficient. And, Smackdown! is popular in itís own right. Some people donít understand the ratings system (which I explained in detail in a past column here, that focused on the cable ratings). Broadcast television ratings points must be converted as more people are represented through one Nielsen point because more people have the broadcast channels than have cable stations. So, when you hear Raw had a 3.3 ratings and Smackdown! had a 2.6, in actuality, the total number of viewers is about the same once the two numbers are normalized. If WWE could get some of those Smackdown! viewers to tune to Sci-Fi on Tuesday nightís at 10pm, it could help.

Of course, if you want to be cynical on the whole matter (which we all know many internet fans and writers love to do), you can start looking into the possibilities for the future. If ECW was to lose its television deal, they could join Smackdown! and then really merge the two shows. The stars could either become part of the roster, or they could exist as an ECW stable.

All we know is that the move probably wasnít made for a good reason. Hopefully, the worst-case scenario doesnít occur because, as much as people pick on ECW, itís still an outlet for some wrestlers who wouldnít get a chance on Raw or Smackdown. It allows the young guys to hone their skills, which is why I would enjoy seeing the OWV guys get a shot to do the same. But, as I mentioned above, first they have to get renewed. Hopefully Batista, Kane, Matt Hardy Rey Mysterio, Finlay and MVP can help them do just that.

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