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

Kevin’s Blog: Almost Live, Definitely Half Review of @WWE #Raw1000

As Jeremy so eloquently put it, tonight starts my descent into madness. No, not the Aurora variety madness but the kind that makes me want to throw my lap top against a wall kind of madness. Tonight will likely be a very good, packed show. The writing will fall apart after tonight though. As for the poll below, I voted for “It doesn’t matter, the title was rendered meaningless long ago.” I’m not sure it was a long time ago but I had been long harping on the meaninglessness of the IC, US, Tag Team & Women’s Title. For some reason, since main event level guys held the belt, I didn’t think about it being meaningless. It is though. Mostly because as another choice point out “It doesn’t matter, John Cena is basically “the champ” anyway.” So, CM Punk may be merch champ and putting on spectacular matches, but you can tell the WWE doesn’t really favor him. Or even Sheamus. Enough editorial, time to do it during the review.

And just so you know, this is our 1850 post. Beat that WWE! We get a retrospective of Raw. It was a nice enough video package. Vince McMahon comes out first. I didn’t listen to his special email message that he sent out. Why is the chairman introducing Degeneration X? I’m guessing everyone else on the internet asked this question. They’re rebels who don’t, aw, you get it right? Even the video package accompanying their entrance seems lame. Shawn Michaels acts out of breath and really stupid. HHH checks for his underwear too. They introduce Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X Pac. Gunn & Michaels get cutesy with another line. Damien Sandow interrupts the proceedings. You aren’t going to save us. We’re going to get this dreck for the rest of the three hours tonight and in the future. What did I type earlier? This episode would be fine? I’m taking that back already. They still have two words for us. Yuck. Time to get drunk.

I miss Jim Ross coming out because I wanted to get cake for my girl. Wink, wink. Rey Mysterio comes out before he can say a word. He’s teaming with the botch machine Sin Cara. Sheamus is on the team too. We can’t have too many matches tonight so let’s have huge tag team matches! Chris Jericho is still a heel by being on their team. Dolph Ziggler is out the chute next then Alberto Del Rio. Then a commercial.

Ziggler starts off against Sin Cara. Oh, by the way, no animosity between Mitchell Cool and Ross. Stupidity central. My vote is Jericho costing Ziggler and his team the match. Looks like Ziggler is going to cost Jericho the match. Sheamus wins with the Brogue Kick. Not much of a match. What? JR is only calling one match? Fuck off WWE.

Why an I watching these dumb videos? I still don’t care about Tout. Charlie Sheen is hosting from Las Vegas. I’m glad he can Skype so we can plug something else. I buzzed through the replay of AJ & Daniel Bryan from last week. AJ then gets to talk to Layla. Of course dumb shit is happening outside of their locker room door. Kill me. The hand is grown up. Shouldn’t it be half black? Mark Henry was the father.

Sonic gets pimped. Why would wrestling be important during the 1000 Raw? Jack Swagger gets to lose to the Funkasaurus. Another match that doesn’t matter. Shazam app. Clay gets to introduce Dude Love. Splat was an accurate description from Cool. Swagger gets the Mandible Claw with the mandatory gullet use. Trish Stratus gets to talk yoga to HHH. We’re supposed to laugh again. We don’t.

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World Wrestling Bracketainment: 1 vs. 32, 16 vs. 17, 9 vs. 24, 8 vs. 25

As mentioned in the play-in round, we’re bringing the fun and excitement of March Madness tournaments to pro wrestling (without all that winning money or prizes stuff) by asking you to help us choose the greatest WWE Champion in history. We’ve seeded the competitors based on length of title reign (days of all reigns combined, in parentheses), and now we’re putting the voting in your hands. You choose the criteria, and the winners advance. This week we’ll plan to post winners Wednesday and Friday morning, so cast your ballot soon!

Mick Foley, who loves the word “I,” returns to WWE at house show in “I”reland… coincidence?

"Hey Rock, can I piggy-back off your return for a while?"

According to Prowrestling.net, Mick Foley made his triumphant, glorious, grandiose, fit-for-a-major-star return to WWE… at a house show in Ireland yesterday. Follow the link to a video of Foley’s comeback promo, where he goes through his usual schtick of name-dropping someone (in this case, Vince McMahon), alluding to being treated like a god among men (WWE is his “playground,” but I’d wager that a ride on the teeter-totter with him wouldn’t be fair), and then going for the cheap pop by mentioning Dublin by name. It’s like the old saying goes: The more things change, the less Mick Foley changes his clothes. -Eric

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