Category Archives: Professional Wrestling

Say It Like You Mean It: The Impact Wrestling Preview, 12/12

Like every other wrestling company, TNA creates a weekly preview of its flagship show, Impact Wrestling. And, like every other wrestling company, they don’t always tell the truth when hyping their product. Thankfully, Dave is here to try to figure what TNA is trying to say, and tell you what he thinks, so you don’t have to do either.

TNA Says:

The annual “Feast Or Fired” match returns to IMPACT on Thursday night – featuring Samoa Joe, James Storm, Mr. Anderson, Gunner, Chavo Guerrero, Zema Ion and more superstars! Four briefcases will hang in the ring – three will contain shots at TNA World Titles, while the fourth will cost one unlucky superstar their spot on the TNA roster! Who will earn title shots – and who will be FIRED?! Don’t miss the Feast Or Fired match this Thursday on SpikeTV!

What This Probably Should Mean: Samoa Joe wins the World Title shot, reasserting himself as a true main event player. Zema Ion gets the X Division Title shot, receiving an opportunity to put his new DJ character in the ring. Either Gunner or Storm wins the Tag Team Title shot, adding additional drama to what feels like a slow burn breakup, and Chavo Guerrero gets fired.

What This Probably Shouldn’t Mean: Chavo Guerrero gets anything good.

Dave Thinks: This match is interesting (and sad) in that it features six wrestlers that have been utterly misused and incorrectly pushed over the last year. Mr. Anderson seems like the hottest character by far going into this match, given the success of the Aces & Eights funeral segment he led, but he doesn’t feel like a good choice to be TNA’s version of “Mr. Money in the Bank” (remember how that worked out in the WWE?).

***

TNA Says:

Who will be the next TNA World Heavyweight Champion? The Finals of the World Title Tournament is set for December 19 during “Final Resolution” on SpikeTV as Jeff Hardy will battle Magnus to crown the new titleholder! Tune into Thursday’s IMPACT for the latest on Hardy and Magnus as they prepare for their showdown for the gold!

What This Should Mean: Individual promos from both men throughout the show followed by a man-to-man, show-closing faceoff between the two. Magnus asserts himself as a clear heel to oppose the super-over Hardy, but does so verbally without the two men touching.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: TNA doesn’t use a healthy chunk of their valuable TV time (at least thirty minutes combined) to hype the match that will effectively redefine TNA’s identity heading into 2014.

Dave Thinks: It’s a great move by TNA to take a week off from the title tournament to hype the final. With that said, if they don’t make good use of this show promotionally to build that match as something really special, well then they might as well have not produced a show for this week at all.

***

TNA Says:

Speaking of the World Title, this past week AJ Styles told TNA President Dixie Carter that if she wanted the belt, she would have to come to his home in Georgia to get it! How far will Carter go to get back her intellectual property? Tune in and find out on Thursday night!

What This Should Mean: A blend of actually-funny comedy from Rockstar Spud and dead-serious intensity from A.J. Styles. Styles refuses to give Dixie the belt back, but instead offers to defend it against the winner of the ongoing TNA title tournament.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: Four segments worth of Dixie Carter’s terrible, self-congratulatory acting.

Dave Thinks: TNA deserves a lot of credit for building up a huge title match (Hardy vs. Magnus) while also hinting at the next huge title match (New Champ vs. A.J. Styles) and the huge title match after that (New Champ vs. Feast or Fired Winner). Unfortunately, all this strong long-term booking will still result in me being a sad panda if A.J. is one and done with TNA in 2014.

***

TNA Says:

Also on Thursday: The X Division Championship will be on the line as Chris Sabin will defend against Austin Aries, plus who will step up to battle TNA Knockouts Champion Gail Kim in her ongoing open challenge?

What This Should Mean: Aries and Sabin have a long, strong match that reestablishes the prestige of the X Division Title. Sabin goes over with a pull of the trunks or his feet on the ropes to continue his development as a heel. Gail Kim’s next opponent continues the upward trend in quality.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: A short match that ends with Velvet Sky distracting Aries while Sabin gets a quick, cheap win. Gail Kim’s next opponent does not continue the upward trend in quality.

Dave Thinks: TNA is at its worst promotionally when they’re lumping the X Division and the Knockouts together like this. It’s basically an indicator that the creative team is only interested in the top one or two storylines and everything else is a desperate attempt to fill out a card.

Final Thoughts

This show will be a good indicator as to whether the new, post-Hogan/Bischoff braintrust in TNA has any idea how to tell compelling stories. Feast or Fired should provide some insight into who will be pushed in the early months of 2014, while the Hardy/Magnus build will demonstrate whether TNA has learned how to make their televised “super Impacts” seem any more like pay per views than they did in 2013.

#ECWWeek: The Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List – ECW Mainstream Crossovers

Because we’re wrestling journalists — and Buzzfeed contributors —  we’ve decided that we needed to start creating a top ten list based on each Wrestler, or in this case, Promotion of the Week. We’ve decided to not include any criteria for the list, because we’ve been told by experts in the list-making field that it would just muddy our ability to explain why we’re right. You should understand, because you read us, that we know more about wrestling than you and what we think is best IS best. We promise. If you want, you can guess what why we’ve chosen these people the way we have in the comments. Where you belong.

So, without further ado, we give you the definitive list of the Top 10 ECW Mainstream Crossovers.

10. Balls Mahoney

balls mahoney

9. Mikey Whipwreck

Mikey Whipwreck

8. Nicole Bass

nicole bass

7. Cyrus

cyrus

6. Chris Candido

candido

5. Tazz

taz

4. Justin Credible

justin credible

3. Shane Douglas

Shane Douglas

2. Public Enemy

public enemy

1. Mike Awesome

mike awesome

#ECWWeek: This Fan’s Treasure

Yesterday, Nick spoke about why he, and others, have rather strong feelings about ECW and its legacy that are less than positive. Today, we have a special guest, Gregg Gethard to talk about people who loved  ECW and, more  importantly, why.

For a person who lived it in person, ECW was completely insane live. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience – we were college dorks who got to be part of something sleazy and dangerous and exciting. I didn’t think anything bad would happen but something terrible could happen. It was what I’d imagine seeing Black Flag or Minor Threat in the 80s was like.

I discovered ECW on a small cable access channel. As a part of the then-burgeoning online hardcore wrestling fan community, I heard of ECW but hadn’t seen it yet. The WWF and WCW mostly sucked at the time – we had to endure things like King Mabel and Isaac Yankem and Hulk Hogan taking on Kevin Sullivan and his neverending string of goobers. But this? Seeing Shane Douglass throw down a title and talking all sorts of shit on Ric Flair? Sabu doing moonsaults off the ropes onto tables in the crowd? The Public Enemy chasing Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck all over the arena? While actual music – not cartoony campy shit like “A Man Called Sting” but actual songs you’d hear on the radio – was playing? This shit was the best.

I made my friends watch some early ECW. 9-1-1 chokeslammed “Jungle” Jim Steele 10 times. Joey Styles said at one point, “I think ‘Jungle’ Jim Steele is dead.” At least four of my friends believed it.

Stevie Richards frequented the hardcore wrestling message board community. I went to college in Philly, so I jokingly send him an e-mail telling him he should come to my college and hang out. To my surprise, he did. We went to some lame ass party and then hung out in the dorm lounge. These mooks were watching god knows what and I asked if we could turn the channel. When one of them saw it was wrestling, he started talking about how dumb it was, how it was all fake, etc. Then came a clip in the beginning of Stevie – literally sitting five feet away from him – being thrown through a table.

The dude turned around and turned a whiter shade of pale, apologized, and left. Stevie dropped some knowledge on me when we watched the episode and revealed how the interviews were all done in Paul E’s mom’s house. The highlight of the episode was the first of the Cactus Jack Anti-Hardcore interviews that still hold up as the best shit ever to this day. Stevie sent me a message the next day telling me he left his gym ID in the security booth and begged me to just let it sit there and to not put his real name out there. Kayfabe lives.

I went to my first live ECW show a few weeks later. I was living in Philly for maybe three weeks, a 17-year-old doofus taking mass transit and walking to the ECW Arena, located underneath an interstate in a virtually abandoned part of the city. By myself. I got down early and sat against the building doing my Economics 101 homework. I hear someone screaming obscenities. I look up. There is a man with an eye patch. He is shirtless and has a swastika tattoo on his chest. He is drinking a 40, carrying another in the waistband of his sweatpants.

I went to about 20 live shows at the Arena (the rest with friends). Their crowd control left a lot to be desired. I always got tickets ahead of time. However, not everyone did. There was one entrance/exit. When the steel gates lifted up, it was a free-for-all to get inside, especially since there were stories of people who owned tickets not actually getting inside. There were never any barricades. There was never any organization. It was a free-for-all.

The Arena was brutally hot. During one summer show, the cattle chute opened and there was a stampede to get in. There was only one tiny door where people could get in if they had tickets or were paying to get in. It became a horrible crowd crush. I am not a big person. I was off my feet at one point and lost control over which direction my body was going to. My friend Mike D. is a lot bigger than me. He, too, was off his feet. He had a forearm placed in the back of his neck, forcing his face to get buried in a man’s dyed blonde mullet. Somehow we both survived.

One time, a woman was leaving the cattle chute. She was carrying a near empty bottle of vodka. She was stumbling. She was being propped up by a 10-year-old child. Who called her Mom. I will let you guess what happened next. And needless to say, I probably shouldn’t have taken that girl from my dorm I had a crush on to see ECW in person.

Some Japanese wrestler I don’t remember (not anyone any good like Sasuke or Taka) was in the ring once. The crowd started a “U! S! A!” chant. I thought it would be funny to say “SUCKS!” after this. I immediately stopped when someone threw something at me from behind and told me to love it or leave it. Then same person threw more garbage at me when I applauded Justin Credible for telling Tommy Dreamer he wished he died instead of his grandfather.

We were giving Kronus some shit on the way out after his match. The same garbage throwing person said to us, “Why don’t you say that to his wife’s face? She’s right there!” He pointed to her. We didn’t say it to her face. Instead, we admired the jewelry she was selling – it was a gold pendant of The Eliminators logo, going for a mere $400.

And if you ever wanted to fight a wrestler, you could have just waited for Bam Bam Bigelow to throw Mikey Whipwreck into the crowd a few rows in front of you and watch what happens when a man starts fighting Mikey Whipwreck for no reason! Security will jump en masse into your section and start randomly shoving fans. Wrestlers from the back will pour out into the section and will do the same. It’s a great way to almost cause fans who understand social norms to get hurt!

Want to make your girlfriend degrade herself, overly tanned bodybuilder with a dripping wet ponytail? Have her stand up and order her to take off her top in front of hundreds of sexual predators! Stand there proudly as the crowd chants things about her breasts and her sexual tendencies and preferences! It’s great!

I was at a show in Asbury Park. I had to run to the bathroom. It was largely empty. Then all of a sudden I hear someone say, “It’s cool, there’s no one in here.” The man who said this was Referee Bill Alfonso. In walks Rob Van Dam in his singlet. He goes to the urinal next to mine. He turns to the side and lifts up the spandex of his right pant leg. He then pees down the side of his leg.

Every time we went to a show, we knew were paying to watch entertainment created solely in reaction to the bullshit corporate nonsense shoved down the nation’s throat, but along with it came a chance that you could get hurt along the way. And a chance to meet the performers on a human level, even if it was in the bathroom. It was the start of something and that’s why ECW was important and vital. Wrestling will never feel that way again. Maybe nothing will.

NXT Scouting Report, 12/11: Sami Zayn Needs A Hug

While NXT is often the second (and sometimes THE) best show WWE produces, its primary goal is to make future superstars with Raw getting the cream of the crop, SmackDown nabs the leftovers and those who would probably better off staying on NXT than finding themselves on Main Event, or worse, Superstars .

Each week we’ll scout the “minor league” talent in each segment from the hourlong show (AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON HULU, SO WATCH IT) and decide if they’re ready for the big leagues. This week: How much more of the Kassius Ohno farewell tour can we take? 

The Ascension vs. Hunico y Camacho – NXT Tag-Team Title Match

The WWE likes to trumpet how interactive the product is, mentioning Facebook likes, app downloads, and unique impressions statistics every chance they get. If you watched any of the WrestleMania 31 press conferences from a few days ago you’d swear the main event was already booked as John Cena vs A Hashtag.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting an interactive experience, if it gives fans more chances to consume, enjoy, and spend money on your product then it’s a success.  My problem lies when you use that interactive nature to get lazy with storytelling on screen, and let the extended universe fill in the blanks.

Case in point: The Ascension. I’ve complained for months now that these guys badly need to cut some promos or do something wacky related to their fledging gimmick to make things interesting. Instead, on this week’s NXT, announcer Tom Phillips talks up an article on WWE.com where the team reveals their “power and control over the perception of reality.” I have no idea what the fuck that means, but I like it! Why can’t they just say that on the air? Hardcore fans will surely seek out the article and learn more about these cats, but isn’t the idea to get them over with everyone watching? It’s not so bad on NXT, but the amount that this practice on Raw bums me out.

Okay, on to the match. Nothing terribly great about the action this week, as The Ascension’s title reign hasn’t really produced much excitement beyo-

WAIT I CHANGE MY MIND – LOOK AT THIS PICTURE:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.12.05 PM

How have I never noticed Viktor’s Danzig tattoo? Must’ve been ‘cause I blacked out during all those Corey Graves rest-hold marathons. I demand they change their entrance music to “Dirty Black Summer” immediately.

This belongs on… Main Event.

Alexander Rusev vs. Kassius Ohno

Instead of trying to type with all the tears hitting my keyboard, I’ll just link to David and Thomas‘ pieces about Ohno and Indie wrestling.

Oh, and I went to Raw on Monday (here’s my live report if you missed it) and Alexander Rusev beat the shit out of Zack Ryder in a dark match before the show. Not necessarily a sign he’ll be up any time soon, but they’re giving him a look. I think he’s ready.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Bayley and Natalya Backstage Segment

Bayley is cute enough to make me care about Natalya for 30 seconds. Not bad.

This belongs on… Raw.

William Regal/Antonio Cesaro Match Build

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.25.26 PM

This belongs on… Raw.

Summer Rae & Sasha Banks vs. Bayley & Natalya

Crisp, fast, and stiff looking action from all four women made this my favorite match of the show. I really like how fired up and pissed off Bayley was throughout – she’s getting close to being on the Paige/Emma  level in the ring – and I like her character even more than those two. Sasha Banks seemingly improves every week – her kicks straight to the gut and “Bankrupt” finisher looked outstanding. Bonus points for when Banks hits the finisher, Bayley’s hair braid went flying off screen – a serendipitous storyline moment for those who pay too much attention. When it’s going right, it’s going right.

If NXT keeps producing superior women’s talent that’s better than anyone on the main roster,  we might actually see a Nexus-style invasion to bring them all up at once and wipe out all the dead weight.

This belongs on… Raw.

Leo Kruger Promo

Kruger pitches himself to Zeb Colter for a coveted spot on the Real American Team. There are rumors that Cesaro might turn face because of how over the Cesaro Swing is with the live crowds. Might be a kill two birds with one stone scenario here, where Kruger can take Cesaro’s spot and The Real Americans unorthodox but somehow effective gimmick can continue.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Mojo Rawley vs. Scott Dawson

I know that wrestling shows need dudes like Scott Dawson. Solid performers than can make guys look credible in the ring and keep the show moving. Not quite a jobber, not a comedy performer, just a good average grappler. Sorta like Curtis Axel  or Darren Young do every week on the my t.v. Guys don’t set out to be links in the cog – it just kind of happens. No shame in that, it’s a necessary part of the show.

But instead of Dawson settling for that role now, why not take a chance?  This is NXT, where we can get a little nutty with gimmicks and try some shit out. I guess it’s goofy that he has a Frechman for a manager, but that’s not getting him to Raw. If his destiny is a homeless man’s Arn Anderson, I don’t think that’ll fly unless you’ve got the next Ric Flair hiding somewhere. Time to get creative and see if something can spice things up. He’s good enough to at least get a shot.

This week, Dawson was served up to Mojo Rawley and his ass-first offense. Rawley is going to be a huge star with his infectious deadlifts meets Pixie Sticks persona, and his size and speed combo might be the best in WWE next to Big E. Langston (although Bray Wyatt may have something to say about that.) I’m super HYPED (sorry) that these ex-football players and amateur wrestlers have this wonderful developmental system to go through. Getting the time and training to really hone their craft and characters before being tossed onto Raw is already paying off – the aforementioned Langston and Roman Reigns are already capable Hosses after only a year in the bigs. Rawley should be next.

This belongs on… NXT.

Leo Kruger vs. Sami Zayn

Much like Bayley earlier in the show, Sami Zayn wrestled pissed off and he probably lost because of it. Much of the joy we get from watching Zayn in the ring is how much fun he’s having performing for us – it’s obvious he loves to do this for a living. Having him get away from that could be give him character some added depth – as long as it’s actual explained on air via some promos.  Since this is NXT, I’m sure we will. I just hope I don’t have to watch it on the app.

This match was a bit shorter than I’d like – of course I’m happy if every Zayn match was ten minutes long, so I’m biased. I’m fine with an encounter between two top stars going short if the ending is something brutal and unexpected for storyline purposes. But in this case I’m not sure Zayn going balls first onto the ring ropes to set up Kruger’s finisher was that. Plus with the unnecessary extra-curricular activities, there could have been two more minutes of match time, which it probably needed. This one felt a little flat too me. I’ve given a Raw worthy rating to every Sami Zayn match so far… but this one didn’t really help either man. So it goes.

This belongs on… Smackdown!

Matthew Timmons runs the stat-centric WWE website Kayfabermetrics, and can be harassed on Twitter@matthewtimmons.

Headlock’d Presents: The Script for the 2013 Supplementary Slammys

Just like the Oscars, sometimes certain Slammys aren’t deemed important enough to make it to television.  Unlike the Oscars, sometimes certain awards aren’t deemed important enough to make it onto WWE.com.  Because we leave no stone unturned, we have decided to bring to light the unsung heroes of the WWE.  These are the Supplementary Slammys!

The Slammy for “overuse of a pop culture phrase”of the year goes to:

Zeb-twerks

Twerkin’

Presented by: Michael Cole

Of course Michael Cole would present this.  It has been very easy to get sick of the phrase “Twerkin”, as it did not take long at all for this to make it into news broadcasts and parent-teacher programs that try to relate to kids.  Like “Word Up”, “Crunk” and “Old School” before it, this word had the coolness sucked dry from it faster than Fandango-ing.  Unlike “Word Up”, “Crunk” and “Old School”, this is an awful, awful, awful thing and deserves to be shot dead.  “Twerkin” is not something new and existed long before Miley was a twinkle in her dad’s achey-breaky eye.  The only difference between what strippers do at work and “Twerkin” is that the twelve year old from the YouTube video posted on your Facebook wall didn’t generate enough hits to monetize their content.  Keep fighting the good fight WWE.

Accepted by:  Anyone member of the roster over the age of forty-five. Seriously, anyone will do.

The Slammy for “WWE staff member of the year” goes to:

1672140-docsamson01

Dr. Michael J. Sampson

Presented by: Zack Ryder with a plate full of food from catering

When I first heard his name I was really disappointed he wasn’t a muscular superhero psychologist with long green hair.  Truth be told, a year ago I barely knew who he was.  If I saw him walking down the street, I wouldn’t recognize him.  One year later and I wouldn’t recognize him unless he was wearing a WWE black polo. I see him retweeted on twitter, being briefly featured in angles, referred to by name and even getting a line of dialogue.  The fact that he has had more screen time on RAW than Yoshi Tatsu means he has truly earned his Slammy….that and saving Jerry’s life.

Accepted by: Sandra the Seamstress, who steals the Slammy saying it is rightfully hers.  This starts a four month feud that culminates at Wrestlemania, bumping the mixed gender tag match off the card.

The Slammy for “The Milford School of Refereeing WWE Official of the year” goes to:

Marc-Harris-Layla

Not Marc Harris

Presented by: Natalya

I don’t care who gets it.  Break it into pieces so that every referee not named Marc Harris gets some (shouldn’t be too hard, it’s probably chocolate on the inside.)  Remember that awkward Natalya/AJ Lee finish a while back?  Where Natalya had to force Marc Harris to raise her hand in victory when the match wasn’t over yet? Maybe Harris made the right call that night, maybe not.  That’s not the issue.  It’s the response of “a Great ref would pick that up & I did” and “A lot of ‘know it alls’ think they know the rules, but they don’t.  That’s why I’m professional cause I’m the best”.  When the world thinks you royally screwed up on TV, being a pompous, super defensive prick may not be the way to go.  Just saying.

Accepted by: Scott Armstrong with a hacksaw

The Slammy for “Meme-Face of the year” goes to:

big-show-aaahhh

Big Show’s “I’ve had it” angry-sad face

Presented by: Sin Cara

Big Show looks like a kabuki performer with no makeup.  Come to think of it, Knucklehead would have been amazing if it was adapted for Kabuki theater.

Accepted by: Big Show. He’s crying.

The Slammy for “Underused performer of the year” goes to:

16538930

JTG

Presented by: Triple H

I defy you to find someone who was used less than this man.  I really like JTG.  He did most of the heavy lifting when it came to in ring work with Cryme Tyme and his work as a singles competitor on NXT Redemption was surprisingly fun.  Hell, I saw the man in the ring with ol’ Michael McGillicutty at Wrestlemania Axxess and he worked the (minimal) crowd to be one of the most over guys in there.  Was he ever going to be a main event player? Probably not, but he at least could’ve had a chance at the mid card in the Zack Ryder position.  However, once the WWE decided they had nothing for him, they stripped him of his street wear and kept him off TV.  They didn’t change his character, they just took it away.  Now seeing JTG wrestle is like seeing the Loch Ness Monster, I know it happens, but it’s near impossible to prove.  At least Yoshi Tatsu shows up backstage now and then.

Accepted by: Triple H, cause they told JTG to stay home that night. Hunter unwraps and eats the chocolate

The Slammy for “Mike Adamle Memorial Commentator/Backstage Interviewer of the Year” goes to:

Renee

Renee Young

Presented by: Alex Riley

Oh, Renee. She is the best interviewer they have, and has quickly put herself right below the Gene Okerlunds of the world as an actual character with value,  AND she’s the first female commentator in WWE history with her work in NXT. All while not trying to be “one of the boys”, which is to say pleasing to listen to and genuinely interested in the product.  She didn’t come off the model assembly line and get randomly stuck in WWE until a better deal comes along, she knows the product from her being a lifelong fan, and her work with Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas on Aftermath makes us appreciate her all the more.  She was robbed by not being nominated for Diva of the Year, but her career is still young and still has to go through the Sami Zayn love story angle that millions of fans have already written about in fan fiction.  In five years time she will have joined the Smackdown Commentary team.

Accepted by: Renee Young.  Alex Riley congratulates and hugs her just a little bit too long to be comfortable

Hometown Hero: Raw Regurgitated … LIVE!, 12/09

 

I bought my tickets back on October 9th.  Daniel Bryan had just failed to capture the WWE title at Battleground, but I knew he’d have another shot at the upcoming Hell in a Cell PPV.  By the time Raw rolled up to Seattle on December 9th, I was confident we’d get a championship celebration for our home state wrestling god.  After all the screwjobs and false starts, surely we’d get to greet Aberdeen’s favorite son with championship gold around his waist?  Right?  Riiiiight?

Oh.

Well, since that happened, last night didn’t go down exactly like I envisioned.  What happened might have been even better.

I’m not going to sit here and claim that Seattle just willed Daniel Bryan back into the title picture.  WWE can go ahead and ignore all of this, pass it off as hometown cooking, and keep Bryan fighting the Wyatts until they need him somewhere else on the card.  They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

But if anything, just for one raucous evening, I got to be a part of something truly organic and special.  My ears are still ringing.  I’ve been to Seahawks home games, seen Metallica live in San Francisco at the Fillmore.  This absolutely destroyed any other live event I’ve ever been to.  It was another classic moment in the journey of Daniel Bryan, and I got to be a tiny part of it.

And that’s really the point right?  We can talk about bad booking, and burying and pushes and all that jazz.  We want it all to make sense and look great in a promo package and tie up nice and neatly.  Rarely does that happen  But if we get moments like this, where Daniel Bryan is the best in the world and we let him know as loud as we can go, it sure makes up for it.  If after months and months of wheel spinning, a 90 second all out brawl thrusts Bryan and CM Punk right back into an angle they never should’ve been left out of in the first place, and suddenly creative look like geniuses.  And when John Cena cuts a killer promo, destroying Randy Orton and making everyone else look great, well that completes a trifecta and everybody wins.  I don’t know how it played on television, but it was bliss in the arena.  I’m still a bit woozy.

Woozy, but not delusional.  I’m not confident that WWE can pull this off, or even that they want to.  We’ve been teased and kicked in the dick so many times.  But part of me wants to believe that this is all a wonderful grand plan, that they knew the Seattle crowd would give Bryan the ovation he needed to restart his Authority angle and planned it accordingly.  Daniel Bryan’s hero’s journey to the WWE Championship relaunches, and everyone is happy.

And the entire point of doing the hero’s journey is, well, the journey itself.  Making the man a legend.  I argued that it was the right call to keep Bryan away from the belt because it didn’t add up who he’d feud with.  He still needs a bit more seasoning before he can sell a title feud all by himself yet.  The journey wasn’t over.  The training, the stumbles, the discovery, all the bits and pieces that add up before the victory and resolution.  More to go.

I haven’t been super happy with how things have gone, despite agreeing that Bryan shouldn’t be champ.  The feud with the Wyatts has been great, but it doesn’t make any sense that after chasing the WWE title for months, suddenly Bryan wouldn’t mention a thing about it and just move on.  Cena acknowledging that he should be fighting Bryan instead, and Shawn Michaels getting a running knee both went a long way in erasing months of storyline frustration.  Maybe we’ll make to WrestleMania XXX and finish the journey after all.

And maybe we had a bit more road to travel because once it ends, it ends for good.  Once he’s the man, we don’t get to cheer him like we did tonight anymore.  Sure, he’ll get cheered, but it won’t be, “Daniel Bryan is a guy we love because wrestling is awesome and he’s awesome and why don’t you get it?!?”

Cheers like that come from a special place, a potent mixture of love, anger, spite, and, well, hope.  I have no idea if they’ll ever pull the trigger and acknowledge Bryan is the best wrestler in the WWE.  But while we wait, maybe forever in vain, there’s no harm in telling them what we already know – as loud as we can.  In this world of the scripted spectacle, that’s the realest thing we got.

#ECWWeek: Essential Viewing

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. This week we have Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. This is Day Two of #ECWWeek, the fifteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. As (almost) always, we started by making ECW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. Today, we give you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing AND a Highlight Reel . Tomorrow, we discuss the idea of ECW and Another Fan’s Treasure before quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List on Thursday. Finally we’ll sum everything up on Friday with a “Difference of Opinion” that will likely be closer to a “Difference in Levels of Disdain”. Let’s get Extreme?

In 1994, Jim Crockett Jr. himself approached Tri-State Wrestling Alliance/Eastern Championship Wrestling promoter Todd Gordon about carrying the standard for the NWA. Based on nearly 50 years of NWA tradition, the move should have been an honor for the relatively small territory.

But Gordon and new booker Paul Heyman understood that following the death of Jim Crockett Promotions, the appearance of the title on WWF television, and the belt shuffling at WCW’s Disney tapings, the NWA Title had been devalued past the point of no return.

So, they — along with “The Franchise” Shane Douglas — did this:

Douglas’ promo isn’t great, with a “substitute news anchor reading off the prompter” feel to it, but he hits the right bullet points, successfully creating the sense of rebellion and anti-authority sentiment that made this dimly-lit moment the spark from which ECW’s “revolution” was ignited.

ECW had the attitude from that moment forward, but what really made the company work was that they offered an in-ring product that neither WWF nor WCW could even approach. The ECW-style was rooted in the super hard-hitting, fast-paced style of early 1990s Japanese wrestling. Matches like this one — between Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko — is a perfect showcase of what ECW brought to the United States. Both men are nearly subatomic by the standards of height and bulk required in big-time operations of the day, but their work is so simultaneously smooth and physical that it seems like a well-choreographed dance performance compared to the awkward, herky-jerky main event style of the day.

If ECW was built on unapologetic, in-your-face attitude and high-level in-ring work, then Steve Austin was the perfect ECW star. He had only a short stint in the territory between his exit from WCW and debut into the WWF, but Steve Austin made the most of the time he had there. With the encouragement of Paul Heyman, Austin began developing the promo style that would make him one of the most successful wrestlers of all time.

Fifteen years before CM Punk, Steve Austin helped establish himself as one of the great characters in wrestling with this scathing shoot promo. Austin vented his frustration with the inner politics of wrestling, using impressions of Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff that were as scathing and dead-on as Punk calling Triple H a doofus during his “Pipe Bomb” promo. Even if you were oblivious to the history of the Attitude Era, if you saw this promo from ECW in 1995, you would look at Steve Austin and say, “That’s a huge star.”

Austin put it well when he said that ECW was mostly “a bunch of violent crap.” The territory saw many great workers and historically significant moments, but everything was reduced in prestige and respectability by the fact that the company’s wrestlers treated each other like kidnapping victims in a snuff film. The unofficial motto of ECW was “more is more.” More spots. More risk. More violence.

When wrestling was at its white-hottest in 1997, both the WWF and WCW were borrowing heavily from the ECW playbook: outrageous injury angles, scantily clad women “spontaneously” bursting out of tight dresses, and a near-constant barrage of weapon shots and juice. Rather than reinvent themselves in the face of imitators, though, ECW decided to stick to the same tricks and turn them up to eleven.

The following match from Hardcore TV features three of the greatest tag teams in ECW history: The Dudleys, The Gangstas and The Eliminators. All three teams were crazy over, and fans loved their matches, but two of the three groups had the same gimmick: “guys who brutally beat up other guys” (The Gangstas had been involved in the notorious “Mass Transit Incident” less than six months earlier — I won’t link you to it, but you can look it up…). The result is a match that engages the crowd, but exposes the unsustainable nature of ECW’s booking for all to see. You could take this match “around the circuit” once, but how many times will fans pay to watch a six men sloppily beat the crap out of each other?

The escalating violence of ECW reached its crescendo at 1997’s Born to Be Wired in an ECW Title match between Sabu and Terry Funk. This match is possibly one of the worst ideas ever. It pits a then-53-year-old Funk against a then-seemingly-indestructible Sabu in a match that makes Funk look very old and Sabu look very destructible. The match, straight out of FMW, is every bit as gruesome as you would expect a match with barbed wire ring ropes to be.

The match’s signature moment occurs at the ten minute mark, with Sabu tearing open his bicep by flying into the barbed wire. Few moments embody the legacy and philosophy of ECW better. The match should have stopped for the sake of safety, but in the name of the religion of ECW (created in equal parts by Paul Heyman in order to control talent and stereotypical Philadelphians in order to feed their bloodlust), Sabu tapes his arm up with white athletic tape and finishes the match.

For all its fame, this match contains the most abysmal clean finish of all time. The two men become inextricably tangled in the barbed wire, with their clothes torn to the point that they seem in danger of being stripped naked. A terrified-looking Bill Alfonzo tries to interject, cutting the wire in hopes of freeing the men to the point where they can actually wrestle, but it doesn’t work. Ultimately, Fonzie and a referee have to gingerly lift and roll Sabu and Funk back in the ring in order to go home on the worst pin ever executed. You know what would have prevented all that? One iota of restraint.

***

ECW finally got a national television deal just as they were finding themselves unable to deal with the constant brain drain of talent leaving for WCW and the WWF. By early 2000, Taz(z), Raven, the Dudley Boys, and The Radicalz were all in the WWE and Lance Storm and Mike Awesome were in WCW. The result was a mixture of wrestlers with blind faith in ECW (Tommy Dreamer) and wrestlers that nobody wanted (Balls Mahoney). ECW, the company where wrestlers tore their bodies to shreds to make their home team relevant had failed supremely: they weren’t relevant, and the wrestlers’ bodies were still torn to shreds.

The dying days of ECW were hard to watch on many levels, but one redeeming feature was that ECW on TNN gave many talented, hungry workers a place to ply their craft on TV. This match between Taijiri and Psicosis is a gem in the coal dust, a wonderful, albeit feeble beat in the fading pulse of ECW.