Category Archives: Wrestler of the Week

#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.

#ECWWeek: Another Fan’s Treasure

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 Three 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. Yesterday, we gave you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewings and today, along with a Highlight Reel, we’re here discussing the idea of ECW and Another Fan’s Treasure. After Hump Day we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List, before summing everything with a “Difference of Opinion” that will likely be closer to a “Difference in Levels of Disdain”. Let’s get Extreme?

There was some concern at JMS HQ as we were planning out #ECWWeek. For the first time ever, we were highlighting something that we didn’t actually like all that much, and we were concerned that instead of coming off like people who genuinely enjoy professional wrestling, we’d come off as the kind of snobby wrestling fans that have decided that there are right and wrong ways to watch wrestling, and that more importantly, we’d figured out what they were and were going to be as rude as possible explaining it to you.

Even when we’ve had legitimate Differences of Opinion, it was only ever one of us who had any particularly strong negative feelings towards the weekly subject.  As a collective, we’d genuinely liked, or at least tolerated, every single thing we’ve covered. But, as Andy — who is at least on the side of “ECW isn’t terrible” among the lot of us — said:

There’s no such thing as indifference when it comes to Extreme Championship Wrestling.  It’s a promotion that many fans choose to look back on through rose-colored glasses, as the company that changed the face of wrestling.  Nearly as many consider it the group that ruined it.  They’re both probably right.

For those of us on the “group that ruined  it” side, ECW has a significantly more complicated legacy for us than our opposition, who seem to mostly see ECW in the same light they do the Attitude it helped spawn, as totally the best thing ever in the history of wrestling.

And, on some level, they are right. In a very specific way, ECW was transcendent and historically important:  it’s the first and only professional wrestling company marketed entirely to adults. If WWE is Pixar in underpants and baby oil, the early and genuinely revolutionary ECW of Tommy Dreamer asking “please sir may I have another” while being beaten with a Singapore cane or  Sandman pretending to be blinded was every bit as earth–shattering as Æon Flux had been to audiences on MTV just a few years before.

But, unlike Æon, pro wrestling found itself constrained significantly in terms of physicality, the entirely linear storytelling methods available to the performers of the time and, most importantly for ECW, a budget that even the word “miniscule” would be offended by association with.

More importantly, unlike other mediums, the story being told was part of a significantly larger tapestry of other stories simultaneously entirely reliant and wholly separate  from one another, things got recycled  or dressed up in different names much more rapidly than they would in a cartoon. Which meant that, after the third time a performer pretended to be injured only to reveal that their cast was actually a “‘clever’ ruse”  as a subversion of the time-honored trope made famous by men like “Cowboy” Bob Orton, the crowd began to grow tired of the twist and turns that weren’t immediately followed by acts of nearly unspeakable violence, gratuitous nudity and almost irredeemably blatant provocations.

So, in order keep eyeballs glued to the screen, Paul Heyman and company upped  the unspeakable violence, gratuitous nudity and almost irredeemably blatant provocations. In the past few days, Dave and Andy have highlighted many of these acts,  from barbed wire ring ropes to on-air crucifixions, ECW tried it all, even if most almost all of it failed. Which is why, for all the cultural significance — and while “significant”, it was unarguably less than great for the “culture” of wrestling or the well-being of its performers — the promotion was never a real success, at least in terms of competing with the organizations that would eventually put them out of business, WCW and the ultimate victors in ECW’s “revolution”, the WWE.

And because we’ve seen the history of ECW through the WWE’s lens, it’s so easy to remember how many missteps, missed opportunities and near catastrophic mishaps almost singlehandedly took the company down  before Heyman’s lack of business acumen and TNN’s desire to obtain the rights to WWF programming would almost be the death knell for the company.

Even people who found the whole enterprise overwhelmingly gross and distasteful, such as myself, acknowledge what ECW did for the business, however. We’re very aware of what it meant, as storylines no longer had to be simple, even if simplistic storytelling had been the lifeblood of the industry for nearly 100 years because the narrative for whatever was going on in the squared circle has to be easy enough to follow that a wrestling fan can understand it.

What ECW did was show that while it would take considerably more care than Heyman, who of course had to deal with near constant defections and a thousand other  things completely  out of his control as a storyteller, there were parts of the modern and advanced storytelling techniques — taking into account nuances in the fabric of good and evil, meta-narratives and the role of the fan in the performance — that could be interjected into the product to make it more interesting. And, most importantly, it showed how frequently (or infrequently) to use these tools, lessons that WWE would learn long before it was too late.

One only need to look at the end of WCW to see what happened when the unadulterated id of wrestling that Paul Heyman’s ECW could lead to was allowed to roam free, though. While he may not have ever thought of the idea himself, the booking style of Heyman lead to the Pinata on a Pole match that would eventually become synonymous with the demise of ECW and WWE’s greatest rival.

And that’s enough to make a wrestling fan hate anyone.

#ECWWeek: Highlight Reel

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 Three 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. Yesterday, we gave you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing . Today, we’ll talk about the idea of the ECW Highlight Reel 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?

There’s something almost all ECW fans have in common. It’s not a violence fetish. It’s not an overinflated sense of self-worth and “smart-mark” attitude. It’s not even Paul Heyman.

It’s their highlight reel. Now, you’re probably saying, but didn’t you just write about this yesterday?

And yes, yesterday, Dave wrote about the Essential Viewing for ECW, but that’s just different than the “highlights” of ECW. Unlike WCW and WWE, ECW doesn’t have decades of rich history. It had a few good years, which were used to justify more than a decade of knockoffs and reunions. So the bright spots of ECW’s legacy stick out like a Red Sox fan at Yankee Stadium.

One of the first things that comes to mind is a mostly-inconsequential tag team match from the 1994 Heat Wave pay-per-view. Cactus Jack and Terry Funk are teaming up against Public Enemy, the team that proved Paul Heyman can make fans cheer even the steamiest pile of dog crap.

And then, magic happened. Mick Foley calls for a chair from the crowd. That’s when the crowd at Philadelphia’s ECW Arena became part of the show…by showering the ring with dozens of chairs. The iconic moment was ripped off several times, in several companies, but it was never the same. This organic moment was one-of-a-kind is classic ECW. And it’s a moment that lives on to this day in countless highlight reels and retrospectives.

ECW was home to a lot of fun, crazy brawls. One that all ECW fans remember was between TV Champion Taz, and Bam Bam Bigelow. The match took place in Bigelow’s hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey. And the hometown crowd was there to witness one of the most memorable bumps in ECW history. This one explains itself.

It wasn’t all about the violence in ECW. Well, it was. But, if you looked close enough, there was more. It was never more evident than when Paul Heyman called up Konnan, and introduced American wrestling fans to Lucha Libre.

Before WCW decided to bogart the style (and the best practitioners thereof), ECW was THE place to find fast-paced, athletic pro wrestling.

And you can’t mention a ECW Highlight Reel without bringing up RVD and Sabu. In their prime, these two guys put on some incredible, if sloppy, spotfests.

And then there were the promos… A bunch of guys who had been denied a chance to shine in the “big time,” given a live mic and a chance to speak their mind? ECW was full of them. And New Jack. But since this is a family-friendly wrestling blog, I’ll leave New Jack out of this. You’re welcome.

Now, a lot of people choose to ignore WWECW, and that’s their choice. But the One Night Stand pay-per-views did give us some special moments…

As Nick will talk about later today, it’s not for everyone. And even those who are fans, It’s not all perfect. In fact, most of it’s pretty far from it. But it’s all pretty memorable.

#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.

A Promotion You Should Probably Know Better: ECW

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 the First Day of #ECWWeek, the fifteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. As (almost) always, we’ll start by making ECW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. Tomorrow, we’ll give you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewings. On Wednesday, we’ll discussing the idea of ECW and Another Fan’s Treasure. After Hump Day we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List, before summing everything with a “Difference of Opinion” that will likely be closer to a “Difference in Levels of Disdain”. Let’s get Extreme?

There’s no such thing as indifference when it comes to Extreme Championship Wrestling.  It’s a promotion that many fans choose to look back on through rose-colored glasses, as the company that changed the face of wrestling.  Nearly as many consider it the group that ruined it.  They’re both probably right.

ECW started generating buzz with wrestling fans far before it went extreme.  Eastern Championship Wrestling had a reputation for strong shows, amazing athleticism, and of course, some wild brawls.  And where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Enter Paul Heyman—with a giant can of gasoline.

Paul Heyman and his group of circus freaks did everything they could to turn the volume up to 11, and get the attention of the wrestling world.  It worked.  Violent, bloody brawls.  Colorful but (mostly) believable  — or in the case of Amish Roadkill, so completely non-sequitur that it didn’t matter — gimmicks.  Logical storylines.

The company grew to amazing heights, despite ultimately appealing to an incredible small niche — fans of “hardcore” or “garbage” wrestling. Some will say that ECW was more than that, and it was for a short period, but make no mistake: ECW’s shadow did as much damage to the careers of people like Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko as ECW the company helped the careers of people like Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko by bringing them into the American spotlight in the first place.

But it wasn’t all bad, and ECW’s unique (to American audiences, anyways) style helped save American wrestling.  The then-WWF was having extreme difficulty finding its identity in post-Hulk Hogan world in 1995 and 1996,  struggling to catch up to WCW in the wrestling war.  WWF couldn’t touch the nWo.  The rough style and risque promos it stole from a little promotion in Philadelphia helped turn business around.

Less-than-PG matches and promos made legends of a million promos in WWE.  Triple H went from midcard to main event thanks to the crude antics of D-Generation X and Mick Foley will never escape the clip of him being thrown from the Hell in a Cell through a table no matter how many New York Times best sellers he writes.  Forget Austin 3:16—Austin passing out to the Sharpshooter, while wearing a crimson mask, made him a star.  The list goes on.

Without ECW’s influence, WWF might not have survived.  Considering WCW’s awful business practices bankrupted the company a few years later, pro wrestling as we know it now could have died more than a decade ago.  Instead, ECW gave WWF an identity to call its own, and to grow upon.  In a way, ECW saved WWF.  ECW saved pro wrestling, at least when it wasn’t trying to destroy it.

While the land of extreme may have provided an unintentional safe haven for the pro wrestling industry, it was anything but for pro wrestlers.  Extreme Championship Wrestling introduced a lot of dangerous trends to American pro wrestling, pro wrestlers, and pro wrestling fans.  Crazy bumps and “extreme” violence stopped being special, and became commonplace.  A Muta-level blade job became just another spot.  Proper selling went out the window, in exchange for rapid-fire spot exchanges (still the norm on the indies).  And in a post-Benoit world, we don’t need to go too far in depth on the consequences of too many unprotected chair shots and undiagnosed head injuries.

ECW made all of this commonplace, to a dangerous degree. To quote JMS Internet Technician Daron “Action” Jackson, those unprotected chair shots became the equivalent of dropkicks, and fans forgot how to appreciate good, technical wrestling.  They started refusing rest holds, or any slowdown in the action whatsoever.  It familiarized the crowd with three of the most offensive chants in all of professional wrestling: “you can’t wrestle,” “you fucked up,” and “boring.” ECW ruined pro wrestling – and its fans.  It’s taken nearly a decade (and a lot of PG programming) to reverse the damage done at the ECW Arena.

ECW had its pros and cons, ups and downs, stars and flops.  And despite catering to a very niche audience, the company’s impact on pro wrestling was vast and pervasive.  While that impact helped to revive a mainstream love of pro wrestling, it also did irreparable damage to the industry, the workers and the fans.

It’s why fans look back on the company with, pardon the pun, such extreme feelings.  It’s easy to love the group that changed the face of pro wrestling and brought genuine excitement to the product. And it’s  just as easy to loathe the promotion that helped teach pro wrestling fans to hate professional wrestling.

#JCPWCWWeek: Difference of Opinion (Ish?)

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. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is the Final Day of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by giving you a crash course in JCP and WCW and asked you to Essentially View a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. We exposed some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us and quenched your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List. Now, we end everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ actually doesn’t erupt into a civil war. But if we did, it would take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

Nick: This was a weird week for us. I’ve written extensively about WCW and you are a pretty big JCP fan: Although our press times wouldn’t tell you it, this was actually a pretty easy week for us.

Dave: Well, I’m not old enough to be a real JCP fan, but I appreciate the hell out of what I’ve seen. And I feel like this week and last we had a lot of good stuff to say, so times be damned, I felt like it was important to unload both barrels.

Nick: So, the opposite of next week’s promotion, ECW?

Dave: I love several ECW stars (Sabu is one of my all-time favorites), but the promotion as its story lines are the most overrated body of work ever.

Nick: Yeah, and I feel like WCW and JCP especially are “underrated”, inasmuch as that kind of thing exists.

Dave: Agreed! You took the words out of my mouth. Bagging on WCW is so en vogue that people forget the good years JCP/WCW put together.

Nick: Like, “Roy Hibbert” underrated And even when they were “crap”, it was still good. The FPOD wasn’t “bad” in and of itself, at least for me. It’s that it was indicative of a real sickness in the company itself, but it’s not the first time somebody’s thrown a match for a buddy.

Dave: As I wrote in my comment on your FPOD post, I think it was outrageously unnecessary… but not the dump on the chest of wrestling that a lot of people make it out to be.

Nick: And I’ve seen those late-period WCW PPVs. There are some REALLY good matches. 3 Count is REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Dave: Yeah, the quality of in-ring work was always insanely high outside of the main event in WCW. But most of their main eventers were either miles past their prime or larger than life characters who couldn’t deliver physically.

Nick: What’s weird is that almost all of the WCW fans I know NEVER gave a shit about the main event. At least in the sense that it being good was more of a bonus.

Dave: I feel like most of the WCW fans I know were in it for the match quality. Unlike WWF/E fans who love to engage in the top story lines.

Nick: As a life-long WWE mark I can attest to that. And I think that’s where WCW got into trouble. It wasn’t when they decided to get in the Hulk Hogan business, it was when they let him try to tell them to be like WWF. Where he ran roughshod over everyone with the idea that “the fans will love it, brother.”

Dave: Hey, look! It’s the same mistake TNA has been making the last decade!

Nick: That’s the most notable thing about JCP. It’s SO MUCH DIFFERENT than WWE.

Dave: Oh yeah. It’s SO sports-like.

Nick: Like, if you’re TNA, why aren’t you just recreating JCP now?

Dave: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Nick: And, I get it, WCW was primarily a television show first and a wrestling company second, but I totally agree with the guys on the Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, if JCP had stayed in the mid-Atlantic, they’d still be in business, probably national at this point. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if Magnum TA didn’t get into that car accident.

Dave: Magnum could definitely have been their Hulk Hogan. And, as you said, the Crockett name was so beloved in the Carolinas that their business could have stayed viable, but they got greedy, especially when they got the Road Warriors, and wanted to promote Chicago. JCP turned a great profit until they overextended themselves, whereas WCW intentionally operated at a loss in order to make money for TNN/Turner. People bag on Bischoff and Turner for handing out huge contracts, but the fact of the matter is that the expectation of WCW never to make money on its own. Which makes it unique in the history of big time wrestling.

Nick: Yeah, the difference between the WWF and WCW was always that WWF’s business, as I alluded to earlier, was the WWF and WCW’s business was “the wrestling show of a television network.” Whether or not they made any money was irrelevant. Things didn’t have to be sustainable, they just had to move the needle. And for a while, it worked. They were better at being “televised wrestling” than the WWF was at being the WWF. And it’s because they only had to be concerned about getting people to watch.

Dave: Right, they didn’t have to deal with nearly the same budgetary constraints.

Nick: Like, Bash at the Beach 1996 is the Platonic ideal of what a wrestling PPV is supposed to be. It’s almost a perfectly constructed wrestling show, and a singular moment in the history of wrestling. Purely in terms of “spectacle for which you would pay to see”, WrestleMania III is the only other one in the discussion. And that’s a TERRIBLE show, with one good match and one palpably important match, but that match is what made Hogan (spoiler alert) being the Third Man in ‘96.

Dave: This may be an unpopular opinion, but Hogan was much less of a piece of shit in WCW than he was in WWF. There were things he refused to do and guys he refused to put over, but it wasn’t like WWF where he wanted to be the only big star.

Nick: WrestleMania IX is 100X worse than the FPOD: It shits on his successor while making himself look like a million bucks, at least he just looked like an asshole after the Fingerpoke.

Dave: Yes, because WMIX actually involved undermining the five-year future of the company, whereas FPOD was done against another well-established top star with that guy’s consent (in fact, I think Nash had a hand in booking it.)

Nick: But, like I said, the FPOD of doom IS super important, because it is them blatantly giving up. They were literally saying “we can’t come up with something more interesting than Foley winning, so let’s just see how much heat we can get for something”.

Dave: The sad part is, the majority of wrestling writers still think that way: “How can we get the most heat on the heels?”

Nick: Which is the least WWE thing ever. The WWE is OBSESSED with “giving the people what they want”.

Dave: Rather than “How can we get heat on the heels to make the baby faces look good” And then when a company actually takes care of a top face (Cena), “smart” fans resent the hell out of it (as you and Andy have covered many times).

Nick: Exactly, people say “John Cena is Superman” because he never loses, but what they don’t get is that he never loses, because he’s Superman.

Dave: Yeah, you want to see Speed Racer in danger of losing the race, but he shouldn’t actually lose.

Nick: Daniel Bryan, Spiderman, is going to have to let Gwen Stacy die every once in a while. And CM Punk is always be angry, just like Batman.

Dave: It’s almost like these are time-tested archetypes…

Nick: And while I love that style, I think the real tragedy of WCW’s demise is that there will never be a truly viable alternative to that style in North America. There’s never going to be a professional wrestling organization that feels like a sports league again.

Dave: Absolutely. WWE has redefined the business in a way that has forever changed the discussion in a way that favors them.

Nick: Because they are Wrestling. When people say wrestling, they don’t mean TNA.

Dave: Right. Or ROH. Or Chikara. Or PWG…

Nick: You would be hardpressed to find someone who isn’t friends with a wrestling fan that has even heard of TNA. Most people in the country knew what WCW was.

Dave: Yeah, it’s pretty sad, but it’s a problem that seems impossible to solve.

Nick: So, to be clear, you don’t see TNA signing John Cena after they get bought by TNT when they lose the rights to the NBA, then get Punk and finally have Daniel Bryan/Big E. Langston to “invade” a few years later?

Dave: …Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. They’re still miles more successful than Pro Wrestling U.S.A., though.