I don't know why anyone would say it was too smarky. WWE audiences chanted ECW on a weekly basis during the Attitude era, they were looking for reasons to chant for it. It was the hip, underground alternative to WWE/WCW. And it was a true alternative in every way, the content was much different until WWE adopted a good portion of it.
It's not so much that it was "killed", it was never going to be a long-term thing. I think the nail was hit on the head about how WWE/WCW lured away most of their top talents. And ECW was working tiny venues with loud drunken audiences with no real advertising for PPV or anything. Their revenue couldn't of been great, so it's not surprising Paul had the financial troubles that he did.
It never grew, but it was better because it never grew.
I do not recall hearing ECW chants during the Attitude Era. I remember hearing it alot in 95 and 96 whenever they were in Philly. Once the WWE picked up with it's new, edgier, business model, those chants died down alot.
I think ECW died because of Paul Heyman. He was pretty much it's biggest strength and weakness. I remember when watching the Rise and Fall of ECW when both Mcmahon and Bischoff said that in order to become mainstream you are going to have to sell yourself out to a certain extent, and Paul unlike those two, refused to do it. When Paul got his deal with TNN, he decided to still act like the "cool", underground, little engine that could promotion. Problem is, you are now working with a national television channel, you have to work with them and give them what they want, they know their audience. Paul should have tried to find a balance because a rising network like TNN was pissed that they ended up working with a niche product and not a mainstream one. Paul acting like a pissed of teenager and shitting on the network during his shows didn't help either. He was mad that TNN was getting ready to move on to Vince (you know, the man who helped Paul financially for YEARS, man gave Paul a big ass loan to keep ECW afloat in it's dying days).
Another problem was the fact that ECW built itself up as the "hardcore" promotion. They now was pigeon holed into being that kind of promotion or their niche audience would have turned on them. They needed those fans until they at least found a new audience, but they couldn't afford to make a long term move like that. Plus, Jim Cornette brought up the fact that ECW couldn't top itself anymore. Like the Attitude Era, ECW was nothing more than a fad because it was a "can you top this" era of wrestling. It got so bad to the point that everything fell flat after a few years. Vince had to take a step backwards after Attitude because of the same thing. I remember one of the shareholders asking Vince why he moved backwards to his 80's product after the Attitude Era. Vince being the smart man that he is said that sometimes you have to move backward in order to move forward. He said that he pushed the envelope so much during Attitude that there was nowhere else to go.