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

56 Days of WrestleMania – WrestleMania X-Seven’s Best Matches: Results

http://www.dailymotion.com/us/relevance/search/wrestlemania+x-seven+tlc/1#video=x46nes

http://www.dailymotion.com/us/relevance/search/wrestlemania+x-seven+tlc/1#video=x46nec

http://www.dailymotion.com/us/relevance/search/wrestlemania+x-seven+tlc/1#video=x46nko

Leave it to the Stunt Galaxy: This year’s version of Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boys vs. Dudley Boys made it, as did the Gimmick Battle Royal. You truly are ones-of-a-kind. (And you’re right; as good as Undertaker vs. Triple H and Steve Austin vs. Rock were, tell me you weren’t on the edge of your seat for the entire battle royal. You were.)

56 Days of WrestleMania – WrestleMania 2000’s Best Matches: Results

No shocker here: The follow-up to October 1999’s great ladder match between the Hardy Boys and Edge & Christian would set the stage for incredible triple threat action for the next 12 months, to include the Dudley Boys as well. As for the other winner, you try spending more than 5 minutes at work searching for “terri runnels kat” and see what you find. Use your imagination on that one, weirdos.

Guest Blog: Dan reminisces about ECW in light of recent Extreme Reunion fiasco

"I'm gonna hang a flyer right here and FRANCHISE this light pole's ASS HA HA HAAA!"

Well, the ECW reunion show took place over the weekend and the reports I have read have not been very complementary of the show.  I read the fairly detailed report over at prowrestling.net (http://www.prowrestling.net/artman/publish/miscliveevents/article10024865.shtml) and one or two other reports and it sounds like the fans who made up an impressive crowd for an indy show turned on this show in a big way.  I do think it sounds like the crowd did not have very realistic expectations for the show.  The things I would have hoped that this show would have tried to accomplish they at least attempted.  I feel like for this show to have any chance of repeat success they would have to use some of the established names to get the fans interested in new talent.  With the interference in the Gangstas match and the use of new Raven’s followers it sounds like they tried to set up some things for the next show.

The obvious problem with this show is that the ECW style takes a serious physical toll on the wrestlers and to expect most of these guys to be able to work the types of matches they did well over eleven years ago just isn’t very realistic.  When one starts thinking about the alleged health problems or scares that Sabu and Justin Credible had that prevented them from performing at the show it makes the event a bit more depressing.  Many will write about and talk about how the extreme style has possibly ruined people’s lives and certainly contributed to many premature deaths.  As a fan who discovered ECW on a grainy UHF TV station (yes I had to disconnect my cable to watch ECW, this station was so small it wasn’t on any cable systems but was part of the “America One Network”) and loved watching ECW programming it’s not pleasant to think about the price many of these wrestlers I enjoyed watching so much have paid.

I went to several later day ECW shows in St. Louis but I only made it to the ECW Arena once for “Cyberslam ’98”.  When I first started taking the Torch I was rather frustrated to read about Cyberslam ’96 and ’97 AFTER it had occurred or I might have made one of those shows as well.  I had a great time at this event and met some very interesting folks (maybe that goes without saying).  I was then in grad school so while I did not have a tremendous amount in common with many of these performers I certainly appreciated what they did and enjoyed the question and answer sessions and thought seeing a card at the ECW Arena was one of those things I was able to take off my bucket list.

Because I have great memories about those experiences watching and enjoying ECW I wanted to reflect on those people who were most benefited from working in ECW.  I’m sure it’s not a complete list and this is not to say that these performers would not have done well if ECW did not exist but since many have been focusing on the cost ECW incurred on many of its workers I thought I would reflect on who benefited the most from their ECW experience.  Please feel free to add suggestions to this list.

1.  Taz — Make no mistake about it.  The ECW Taz was as bad as they come (in a good way).  At the show I went to he physically manhandled one of many body builders the WWF wanted to get behind in Brakkus and the fans loved every minute of it.  However, he parlayed his ECW success into a frustrating WWE run followed by many years making what I am guessing is pretty good money as a TV announcer.  As great as Taz was when I saw him wrestle….  well let’s say I don’t think he will be entering the real (Observer) hall of fame or even the WWE version anytime soon.  As far as making a great living based off of what he contributed to ECW I’d say Taz is the #1 choice.  God bless him for making money as far as I am concerned also.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: