Shahid’s Blog: Cracked Glasses of Nostalgia – An Adult’s Walk Down ECW’s Memory Lane

ecw I remembered being depressed after moving from Philadelphia to Atlantic City during my high school years.  Separated from my family, friend and comfortable surroundings for a dump of a coastal city was a jarring experience.  WWF wasn’t helping either – Friar Ferguson and Beverly Bros/Money Inc main event matches would turn any smile upside down.  On a random Thursday evening, I stumbled upon a new wrestling promotion.  Gritty, small, loud and realistic, it instantly drew me in.  Regardless of the fact that I was watching a plodding match featuring Tully Blanchard, I was enchanted by the promos, violence and music of what was known as Eastern Championship Wrestling.  I can vividly recall talking to like minded individuals about how ECW was actually real, instead of that scripted crap of the WWF.  Seeing Sandman, a fat drunkard with a cigarette with Woman or Missy Hyatt on his arm just seemed authentic on some visceral level.  Hearing adult promos from Cactus Jack, Steve Austin and Shane Douglas made WCW and WWF seem quaint and childish.  State of the art matches from Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho,  Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit…..violent brawls from the Public Enemy, the Pitbulls, Terry Funk….Sabu vs Taz…Raven terrorizing Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman…..sexy females with scant clothing and even less decorum.  ECW was a teenager’s dream.  Hearing the Gangstas come out to Natural Born Killers to engage in a blood bath made a Bret Hart match seem boring as can be.  I can remember waking up at 1 am to watch an ECW episode consisting of a pissed off Steve Austin just spitting venom at Eric Bischoff, Dusty Rhodes and WCW.  In a pre screw job, pipe bomb, real name era, it was as if someone had a peephole behind the magic rasslin curtain.  By the time they invaded Monday Night Raw to promote their first PPV, I was a full-fledged ECW acolyte.

Now, I’m sure there are many individuals in my age group that share similar joyous memories of ECW.  Even with One Night Stand and a brief resurgence led by Paul Heyman, it still felt hollow and empty, missing that rebellious fire of the 90s.  So when the WWE Network arrived, ECW was the first area delved into, due to an adolescent fondness. Even though it lacked the music and didn’t have the weekly shows, I was excited to see how well it held up.  So I watched a few ppvs and weekly shows and then watched a few more.  I tried jumping around during various time periods, hoping to shake this nagging sensation.  After a week of watching, I had to admit to myself that ECW, like many teenage passions, didn’t age well.

I won’t use revisionist history and proclaim ECW an overrated vanity project and minor league system.  It was enjoyable and revolutionary, and I will always cherish those teenage memories.  But watching it now is borderline painful.  Seeing the Sandman no longer brings feelings of awe and admiration. Now, I witness a slovenly bum who was a perfect example of smoke and mirrors.  Instead of rooting for the underdog story of Mikey Whipreck, I scoffed at the notion that he could ever beat Steve Austin in a match (side note – him pinning Austin killed any notion that ECW wasn’t predetermined).  I can understand the reasoning and logic behind pushing individuals like Tommy Dreamer and Justin Credible, instead of superior talent such as Chris Benoit and Rob Van Dam.  But as a fan today, I have little tolerance of watching Eddie Guerrero in the midcard, for fear of being snatched away by WCW and WWF.  For all of the wonderful long term angles pulled off by ECW, there were too many instances of inconsistent referees, match stipulations, and haphazard PPV’s.  If WWE tried to pull the ol “Let’s announce two matches, and we’ll work out the rest of the details later” style of booking, they would get crucified. I almost forget, they did try that…it was called December to Dismember, and it was universally panned.

The biggest issue with ECW is the same factor which added to its popularity – the extreme violence.  Seeing someone kick out from a power bomb through a flaming table with thumbtacks, only to get rolled up due to seeing the 34DD’s of Francine seems asinine today.  The constant one-upping of finishing moves led to many negative habits, not only by ECW, but by WCW and WWF. WCW was rightfully mocked for taking the piss out of ECW concepts, featuring hardcore matches with cotton candy used as a weapon.  But as an adult, I prefer that approach more so than WWF, which raised the bar to an extremely dangerous level i.e. Hell in a Cell with Undertaker-Mankind, and the myriad TLC matches.  Classic events, but considering the mark left on many of the individuals, something that is watched with trepidation.  But nothing makes me cringe more than the chair shots to the head.  When I first saw Tommy Dreamer plaster Raven square in his hipster face, I remember screaming like a girl at a Bobby Brown concert.  But after current knowledge of concussions and long term damage, I can’t help but cringe. I won’t even touch upon the menace known as New Jack (that’s a column for another day.)

As far as the adult content, what seemed risqué as a teenager comes off as misogynistic and trashy today.  Shane Douglas cussing every 3rd word makes him come off as an uncouth doofus. For every great promo from Raven or Cactus jack, there was some nonsense from the Pitbulls, or some foul mouthed diatribe from Rhino. And it wasn’t restricted to the wrestlers – hearing an arena full of angry men chanting crack whore or she has herpes doesn’t seem cool anymore.  I’m definitely not a prude, and I specifically remember the eye candy of ECW very fondly.  Between Beulah, Missy Hyatt, Woman, Francine and Dawn Marie, ECW definitely upped the sex appeal factor from the almost quaint days of Missy Hyatt and Sunny.  Today – well, seeing a skinny broad with some silicone enhancements taking a pile driver just seems unclean.  Any doubts to ECW being a mainstream entertainment vehicle vanished with my wife’s utter look of disgust after hearing a Dudley Boys promo.  My “it was a different era, baby”  didn’t hold much weight.

Regardless of my experience, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to traverse down memory lane with a more mature point of view.  ECW will always have a fond place in my heart, and I am grateful and cognizant of its effect on professional wrestling.  However, next time someone complains about Vince’s asinine booking and longs for the halcyon days of Paul Heyman, gently remind them that Steve Corino and Justin Credible were ECW World Champions, but Rob Van Dam and Stunning Steve Austin weren’t. And then tape their expressions for YouTube. -Shahid

Top 10 Vader Times: A Big Van Vader mini retrospective

With the one-night return of Vader to WWE on last night’s Monday Night Raw, I feel the need to dig up 10 of the biggest moments (for one reason or another) in the career of Big Van Vader, one of the best big men in the history of pro wrestling and a wrestler after whom many super-heavyweights should work to model themselves. Vader is at least 50 percent responsible for a number of my favorite matches in pro wrestling, two of which are listed below.

Vader’s eye pops out in a match with Stan Hansen, from All Japan:

Vader wins the WCW World Title from Sting, at the Great American Bash 1992:

More with Sting and Vader: Promos for the Superbrawl III White Castle of Fear match…

… and Part 1 of the good match that followed:

Vader powerbombs Cactus Jack on the cement, April 1993 WCW Saturday Night…

… and the grudge match, a Texas Death Match, from WCW Halloween Havoc 1993 (one of my all-time faves):

Vader vs. Ric Flair, WCW World Title vs. Flair’s career, WCW Starrcade 1993 (another all-time fave):

Vader makes, well, a splash in his WWF Monday Night Raw debut, January 1996:

Vader vs. Shawn Michaels, Summerslam 1996:

Vince Russo is a genius: Vader calls himself a “big piece of shit”:

We didn’t see a whole lot of Vader after that promo, until last night. In the 14 years since that moment, I’ve personally dreamed of pro wrestling seeing another super-heavyweight as monstrous, agile, evil and believable as Big Van Vader, but it’s highly unlikely we ever will. -Eric

Second Annual Akeem Memorial Hall of Fame: Matches

Every year, starting in 2010, we here at Stunt Granny will go through a rigorous, dangerous, possibly illegal set of votes to induct people into our own Akeem Memorial Hall of Fame. The voting is broken up into four categories: Serious Wrestlers, Fun Wrestlers, Angles, and Matches. This post is for the Matches. Here are last year’s inductees:

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker – WrestleMania 25, Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart – WrestleMania 10, Ric Flair vs. Rick Steamboat – WrestleWar 1989, Ric Flair vs. Rick Steamboat – Chi Town Rumble, Cactus Jack vs. Vader – Halloween Havoc 1993, Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin – WrestleMania 13, Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania 7, Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior – WrestleMania 6, Great Sasuke & Gran Hamada & Masato Yakushiji vs. Taka Michinoku & Terry Boy & Dick Togo – ECW Barely Legal

And now, without any further ado, here are this year’s inductees!

Royal Rumble 1992

Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleMania 3

CM Punk vs. John Cena, Money in the Bank 2011

Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, WrestleMania 8

Mick Foley vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998

Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn, ECW Heat Wave 1998

Bret Hart vs. Curt Hennig, Summer Slam 1991

Sting & Nikita Koloff & Rick Steamboat & Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin & Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko, WrestleWar 1992

Dusty’s Blog: Post Monday Night Raw Autopsy

Guess who's back... back again...

I came up with that title at three o’clock this afternoon. See, cause it’s after the show aired? Eh? Ah, forget it.

Kevin is incapacitated this week, so I’m back here doing what I used to do every week – review Monday Night Raw for no pay whatsoever. Last week’s show lit the internet on fire in a blaze of controversy, so it will be interesting to see how this show fares in its aftermath.

We start with the new Raw belt on display, shades of the WrestleMania 4 tournament. All we needed was Robin Leach to read a pretentious proclamation before the match began. I really hate the way Justin Roberts strains some words out like he’s taking a gigantic dump. I’m sure someone in management told him to do it. Cole and Lawler introduce the show and say it’s right to the action as we’re going to start things off with Rey Mysterio vs. The Miz for the Raw Title. They show the entire lockerroom watching backstage. I’m loving this; it’s being treated like a big deal, and they’re guaranteeing a champion by putting the match on first and letting it go as long as it needs to. Cole puts over the tournament and the guys’ backgrounds like he’s good ol’ JR or something. (That’s post-show-watching foreshadowing, folks.) “If Rey Mysterio walked on water, you’d say, ‘Oh look, Mysterio can’t swim!'” – Jerry Lawler to Michael Cole.

We come back from break with Lawler taking a shot at the Obama-Boehner political debate that was going on tonight. They trade nearfalls and Miz becomes frustrated, which culminates in an almost Christian-like temper tantrum after a close two count. Miz blocks a 619 and hits a sitout powerbomb for a two count. “Miz looks like a Greek statue with that flower on his dick.” – Becky, in regards to Miz’s terrible trunks. Mysterio finally hits the 619 and top rope splash to win the match and the title. This was a great TV show match.

Miz attacks during the post-match celebration and lays out Mysterio. Alberto Del Rio’s music hits and he comes out with the briefcase, indicating he’s going to claim his title match right now while Mysterio is down and out. However, he takes too long to get to the ring, and Mysterio catches him with a dive to the outside. Del Rio retreats while vowing Mysterio hasn’t seen the last of him.

They come back from break showing Mysterio receiving a standing ovation from the boys in the back, who then shower him with champagne. Cena gets up in his face, but then shakes his hand and pats him on the back. Josh Mathews interviews Mysterio, who talks about his family and how much this win means to him. They then show clips of last week’s show ending angle with Triple H and Vince McMahon and advertise that Hunter will be doing a State of the WWE Address later on in the show.

We come back from break with clips of Dolph Ziggler beating Kofi Kingston at the Capital Punishment PPV to win the United States Title. This sets up Ziggler (with Vickie Guerrero in his corner) taking on Evan Bourne. I love Zigglers’ “I Am Perfection” shirt. The font is very reminiscent of what they used for the WrestleMania 2 graphics. I’m all full of old WrestleMania references in this review, as you will see. Vickie is a heat machine at ringside. Evan’s selling is top notch. He is absolutely this generation’s Ricky Morton, and I hope WWE understands what a gift they have with him. Bourne hits a frankensteiner off the top for a two count. He misses a 450 splash and Ziggler takes control, locking in a sleeper hold for the victory. “Follow that!” Ziggler challenges. Great charisma. They then show a clip of Kofi beating Del Rio last week to set up this week’s rematch.

Every USA Network show is exactly the same. Have you noticed this? I can’t wait to see Vincent D’Onofrio star in this week’s Burn Notice. Or… wait… uh…

We’re back with a wacky backstage segment featuring some schmuck carrying around a pack of Keystone Light like he’s Buck Zumhofe with the stereo. Oh, it’s Keith Stone. Whatever. In any event, Eve complains to him that the Bella Twins always take advantage of the fact that they are identical to do sneaky switches behind the ref’s back and basically cheat for a living. Stone solves this problem by using magic markers to draw an arm sleeve tattoo on Nikki in a quick cutaway scene. There was no follow up to this whatsoever, so I have no idea what the point of it was, other than to try to get Dusty Giebink to commit suicide.

Maryse and Melina are already in the ring, so you just know this match is going to end up going well for them. They’re taking on Kelly Kelly and Eve tonight. Maryse carries herself like she’s hotness. Lawler again takes a shot at the political speech. They should be careful that these knocks aren’t advertising the thing, you know? Eve is basically dressed like a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader tonight. She also has huge knockers, so there’s that. Maryse actually hits a stinkface at some point in the match. Melina tags in and stinks up one side and down the other. Man, is she terrible. The match devolves into a four way brawl. Kelly hits the fameasser for the win. Everything not involving Melina was decent for women’s fare. They show R-Truth talking *at* (not to) Triple H backstage to hype up the State of the WWE Address.

During the break, Becky points out the genius of Hunter marrying Stephanie. Apparently she doesn’t believe in True Love.

Hunter comes out for his State of the Union address as Cole points out last week it was announced he’s taking over for Vince as the head of day to day operations of the company. Beck points out it’s like when Michael took over for Don Corleone in the Godfather. Hunter is even dressed like a mob boss here. Hunter gives dap to Vince to start things off. He says he’s here to talk about the future of the company, and congratulates Mysterio on his title win. He says Rey has agreed to defend the belt in a second title match here tonight against John Cena, since Cena was cheated out of the rematch he deserved by Vince.

Hunter then switches gears and says he’s re-hired someone the fans have been clamoring for for some time now. Everybody thinks it’s CM Punk, but it ends up being Jim Ross, I’m sure much to Eric Nelson’s glee. Lawler embraces Ross as Cole looks like Hunter just ran over his new kitty 37 times with a Hummer. Cole throws down his headset and grabs a microphone. He says Hunter said this was supposed to be about the future, but Jim Ross is the walking dead. He says he’s been a company man since WrestleMania, doing everything they asked him to do, but he will not commentate along with Ross. Hunter looks nonplussed in the ring during this rant. Cole gets in Ross’ face, saying he’s spent his entire WWE career kissing Vince McMahon’s ass, so it makes sense that now that Hunter is in charge, Ross would kiss his ass. “The only thing bigger than your ego is your gut!” Hunter politely asks if Cole is finished, and then says his first inclination was to outright fire Cole and replace him with Ross. He said that was a logistical impossibility, however, due to the terms in Cole’s contract. Therefore, he is giving Cole the rest of the show off, and he has until Friday Night Smackdown to make up his mind on what his future holds. If he no shows the Smackdown taping, it will be considered a breach of contract and Cole will be future endeavored. If he shows up, everything will be as normal, just with Ross calling Raw from now on. Cole changes his tune immediately, saying he wants to keep his job and sits back down at the announce booth. Hunter says Cole must have misunderstood him, because he said he’s given Cole the night off from announcing. However, he better get to the back and get changed, because he’s got a match coming up next. He says if Cole refuses to do the match, it will again be considered a breach of contract and he will be fired. He said he left Cole some wrestling gear in the back, so he has no excuses.

As Cole is storming out of the scene angrily, R-Truth appears to confront Hunter. He says it’s out with the old and in with the new and he digs that. He starts talking to himself. This is a great gimmick. He tells Hunter that Little Jimmy cost him his match at Capital Punishment, and spiders and heights cost him his match at the Money in the Bank PPV. He asks Hunter what he’s going to do to end the vast conspiracy that exists against him. Hunter starts talking to himself as a way of mocking Truth. This is the type of stuff Hunter is still funny at. “Man, you crazy!” “I know, it’s like I’m insane!” “You might be a game, but I ain’t playing!” As Truth is walking off, Hunter stops him and announces that he has re-signed another guy, and this guy wants a piece of Truth. Cue John Morrison. Morrison and Truth brawl all over ringside and Morrison hits the Starship Pain to end the segment. Good stuff, because it wasn’t just 20 minutes of Hunter talking about himself. They accomplished a bunch of stuff in this segment and none of it was “get over Hunter,” really.

Back from break with Cole coming out dressed like Triple H and spitting the water for cheap comedy. I guess they can’t get that completely out of their systems yet. “I forgot about those ugly tattoos,” Jim Ross truths. Zack Ryder is announced as his opponent. Fans are actually chanting Ryder’s name. The match is over so quick I still had my head down writing the above couple sentences. I hope this is the start of some type of TV push for Ryder.

They show clips from last week’s Kofi vs. ADR match to set up this week’s rematch. Ricardo Rodriguez is out there to introduce Del Rio. All is right with the world. Kofi hits a sloppy non-fruit rollup (oh yeah). Del Rio retreats as they cut to a quick break.

Back from break and Del Rio has taken control of the match. Kofi hits a high crossbody for a two count. He then hits the boom drop or whatever the piss they’re calling it. He takes too long to hit a kick of some description and Del Rio hits the old Cactus Jack double arm DDT. Kofi counters a roll through with one of his own (shades of Bret vs. Owen from WrestleMania 10 – see, I told you!), but Del Rio grabs the ropes. Del Rio finally locks on the cross armbreaker for the submission victory. Not a bad match.

Back from break, they advertise Rey vs. Cena for the belt, but first Josh Mathews interviews the Miz backstage. Miz says he can’t believe Cena has a title match after almost being fired last week. He said Vince had the right idea, but Hunter came in and ruined things. He says Cena caused this whole mess to begin with by losing the title to He Who Shall Not Be Mentioned. He says it’s a shame that the face of the company now is a man who does not even show his face, but rather hides it behind a mask. He gets in a cheap plug for his appearance on the George Lopez Show, coming up Wednesday. So did I, just there. He says Hunter’s reign thus far has been a huge mistake.

All my neighbors mowed their lawns today. I mean, I’m unemployed, so days of the week mean absolutely nothing to me, but I still mow my lawn on the weekend, just because it seems like a very weekendy thing to do. You know, you just have more time on the weekend to do things like that. I wonder why everyone in this neighborhood chose Monday afternoon as designated lawn mowing time. Seems bizarre to me.

We come back from break and learn that ugly chicks dig Cena. He really is the new Shawn Michaels. Cena and Mysterio fist bump before the match as Ross points out they are not allowed to refer to CM Punk by name on the air. (He did it without saying his name, of course. Although, it would have been funny if he was like, “I’m not allowed to say CM Punk. Oh shit!”) Back and forth action to start. Lawler points out that Cena might have the advantage here since Mysterio has had to wrestle once already tonight. Nice touch. Mysterio gets a DDT in for a two count. Cena locks in an STF but Rey gets to the ropes. Cena counters a 619 with a powerslam for two. Cena hits the five knuckle shuffle and goes for the F-U but Rey counters it.

Bunch of counters time! Rey locks in the STF. Cena powers out of it with one leg, which looks awesome. Rey hits the 619 but takes too long to attempt the top rope splash and Cena gets his knees up. Rey tries for the frankensteiner but Cena counters it with a powerbomb. Cena gets a near fall with a top rope fameasser that I think fooled the crowd. Rey counters the F-U, Cena counters the 619, and hits the F-U to win the title. Rey looked good in losing there. Cena and Rey embrace and then Cena celebrates with the title. Wait a minute, though. What’s that music?

Cue CM Punk coming to the ring! Punk gets into the ring for a face-off with Cena. The crowd gave Punk a huge reaction when he came out. Sort of like, “YAY! I’m so glad he’s back… wait a minute, I’m supposed to hate him! BOO!” Cena holds up his belt to a big reaction. Punk holds up his belt to an even bigger reaction. This is where the show ends. We’re left to ponder whether Punk is the third guy Hunter re-signed since taking control of the company, or if he just showed up on his own accord. And if he is back in the fold, will this set up a title-for-title match with Cena? If so, when? SummerSlam? This is exactly what a good wrestling television show should do. Another strong thumbs up from me here.

Mick Foley shares YouTube video of ear loss incident

Mick Foley made a pro wrestling career out of getting beaten up, beating himself up, never being in shape (oh, I’m sorry, “looking different than everyone else”) and generally being a garbage wrestler before, during and after the term “garbage wrestling” was cool. And he wears the whole concept as a badge of honor. Or, in some cases, he wears it no longer: Foley Tweeted a link to a YouTube video, taken March 16, 1994, from a WCW house in Germany, of the match where he lost his ear while wrestling Big Van Vader. If you’re not familiar with the story (and if Foley ever found out that you aren’t familiar, I’m sure he’d offer to sell you a copy of his New York Times best-selling book, “Have a Nice Day”), Foley, as Cactus Jack, used to love to tie his head up between the top and middle ropes; one night in Germany while wrestling Vader, he couldn’t get his fat head out from between the ropes without, well, his ear tearing right off of his head. (Kinda like how he hasn’t learned that if you’re still holding a cookie while you’re hand is in the jar, it’s way harder to pull out. Speaking of which, I wish Mr. Foley would have pulled out 46 years ago.)

Start watching at about the 50-second mark and you’ll see his ear totally fall off while he throws a punch, followed by the referee picking it up and showing it to folks at ringside. It’s a historic moment and a turning point in the career of a man who prides himself on sustaining great deals of physical punishment and always working through the pain to finish his job and perform for the fans.

The real takeaway from this Tweet, though, is that Mick Foley spends a great deal of time at home googling “mick foley.” -Eric

Stunt Granny Hall of Fame Inductees: Matches

Duh.

The best matches.  The matches that mean the most to you. The matches you have fond recollections of. The matches you want to see over and over and over again. You know the drill.

Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 25

Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, WrestleMania 10

Ric Flair vs. Rick Steamboat, WrestleWar 1989

Ric Flair vs. Rick Steamboat, Chi Town Rumble

Cactus Jack vs. Vader, Halloween Havoc 1993

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, WrestleMania 13

Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania 7

Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior, WrestleMania 6

Great Sasuke & Gran Hamada & Masato Yakushiji vs. Taka Michinoku & Terry Boy & Dick Togo, ECW Barely Legal

Stunt Granny Audio: ECW Nostalgia Special (Part 1)

Dusty and Eric join forces with Stunt Granny nostalgia expert Dan “Zourah” Kuester to discuss the glory days of the once-great ECW. This two-part audio, which comprises part one of a two-part audio (yep, that made about as much sense as Tommy Dreamer and TNA bringing back the ECW originals for one last one-last-stand PPV), focuses on the guys’ top 20 original ECW wrestlers. What were their criteria? How similar or different were their top fives? Tens? Who did Dusty vehemently hate enough to keep off his list entirely? Who did Eric love that the other two could have done without? All this and a hell of a lot more in this excellent nostalgic discussion. (Part two, if you’ll bear with me, will feature talk on ECW’s history as a whole: the company, its booking, its angles, its matches, etc.)

Stunt Granny Audio: ECW Nostalgia (Part 1, 78 min)

Stunt Granny Audio: ECW Nostalgia (Part 2, 41 min)

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