What if ECW didn't close? Insiders tell all

Page 2 of 7
May 15, 2013

WWECLASSICS.COM: What stalled the discussions with USA Network?

HEYMAN: The president of USA Network at the time was Stephen Chao. We were in daily conversations about content, calendar and budget with Stephen Chao. As a matter of fact, here’s a story that’s never been told. Stephen Chao reported directly to Barry Diller, who was the chairman. WWE had won the right to pursue their programming options with Viacom and move to TNN in fall 2000. Vince McMahon, unbeknownst to anyone, called Stephen Chao and told him that he would be doing his network a great service if they picked up the ECW brand and did business with Paul Heyman.

WWECLASSICS.COM: Why do you think Mr. McMahon would say that?

HEYMAN: There was a lot happening as WCW was collapsing, and Vince was realizing his dream of becoming THE most dominant promoter on a global basis. But Vince was also facing the hard reality that he was about to become the curator of the industry as well. Vince held a personal fondness for the concept of the independently owned company that built its way up from scratch. Vince never had an affinity for WCW because they were owned by a billionaire and funded by a multi-national corporation that didn’t have to ever worry about profits and loss and surviving another day. For Vince to see someone come along with such a passion for the industry that they would dedicate their lives to the pursuit of building a brand with their own money and their own independent efforts, that’s something Vince could not only relate to, but also identify with.

Read about ECW’s doomed relaunch in WWE | Watch highlights

WWECLASSICS.COM: And what did USA Network do after Mr. McMahon made that recommendation?

HEYMAN: We had discussions of a one-hour, a two-hour and a 90-minute program. Here’s something else that has never been discussed publicly. One of the assets that we were going to be able to exploit was a relationship with [production company] Bunim/Murray, who were on top as producers of “The Real World.” Through a relationship with [talent agency] William Morris and Bunim/Murray’s development deal with USA Network, we were going to be able to use them to produce reality-style vignettes to introduce our stars to the far greater national audience. A 90-minute show would have been perfect for us.

WWECLASSICS.COM: Why didn’t it happen?

HEYMAN: At the end of the day, Barry Diller changed his mind and was going to take USA Network in a different direction. Also, the feeling was that they had the No. 1 brand on their network in WWE and if they went with anything but the No. 1 brand, it would be perceived by their viewers as a step back. Barry Diller did not want to have greater programming rights with a smaller brand like ECW and fill the niche. If he couldn’t have the A-list top brand, he’d rather promote something completely different.

Visit Paul Heyman’s Superstar profile | 10 “Paul Heyman Guys”

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