Tag Archives: Eddie Guerrero

#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.

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#TheShieldWeek: Watch and Learn – Dean Ambrose

DeanAmbrose

It’s #TheShieldWeek at Juice Make Sugar, and we’re talking all things Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose.  But like so many young stables that have come and gone before them, each of these guys has something to learn, and room to grow. For Ambrose, it could be the difference between being memorable and legendary. Thankfully, we’re here to help them same way we would any other athlete: give him tape He Should Watch. And loving our readers like we do, we have some tape You Should Watch of the work that reminds us of his because what’s more fun than old wrestling videos? 

He Should Watch

When you think of Dean Ambrose, you likely tend to think about him in broad gestures, over-the-top selling and exaggerated mannerisms. Whether or not he makes what he does believable is of less concern to him than making it look good and dramatic, which while not the preferred style of everyone, definitely seems to be the favorite amongst successful WWE superstars.

And when you combine that with Ambrose’s surprising size — at 6’4”, he’s billed as the tallest member of The Shield — you get a combination that is essentially the prototype for what a professional wrestler should be.

So who better for him to learn from than the man JBL likes to refer to as “what you would get if you built a sports entertainer from ground up”: Randy Orton. Not on the mic, of course, or even his in-ring work. What Ambrose should be taking notes on is how to use his size, strength and agility to his advantage when it comes to playing “crazy”.

Orton, more so than perhaps any other main eventer in history, goes on what fans of GTA V would call “Rampages”. Like Trevor with a fully loaded automatic rifle, Randy has been known to annihilate potential threats through a series of brutal attacks more often than not escalating to a punt, which has become the ultimate way to write someone off television for as long as necessary. Sometimes, they even come back as different people entirely.

Much of this comes from Orton deceiving size. Anyone who has seen Orton in person knows he’s much closer to the size of a Goldust than they make him out to be — but like Ambrose, this is infrequently for any number of reasons. But it also comes from the complete focus Orton seems to have once he reaches his boiling point. He doesn’t control his frenzy as much as let him control him, and when it works, it creates brilliant programs like the one he had with Triple H in the lead up to the (ultimately disappointing) WrestleMania 25 main event.

And it’s more than just the big explosive things, like DDTing Stephanie. It’s the moments before he does whatever unspeakable thing that came to his mind. Like this moment with John Cena’s father:

He simply acts, swiftly, directly and obviously. While there may be larger, big-picture plans involved, it is the deliberateness of his actions that make Randy Orton who he is, and if Ambrose can learn to harness that, he may end up having as much success as Orton has.

You Should Watch

Ambrose’s ne’er-do-well persona gives him a lot of appeal among a certain portion of the fandom, and the palpable swagger — along with his considerable indy credentials — he infuses into everything he does also seems to help keep him lush in black tanktops for the time being, but what’s allowed Dean to connect most with fans is how entirely unique he is as a total package. Gifted workers with a clear MO and an identifiable characters that they “wrestle to” exceptionally well, with (albeit somewhat derivative of pop culture) top-notch mic work and Master’s degrees in selling don’t come around that often, but when they do, they often end up being among the most beloved characters and performers in the entire industry.

And there is perhaps no greater example of that than Eddie Guerrero. Born and raised in El Paso, TX as part of the illustrious Guerrero wrestling family, Eddie run as a lying, cheating and stealing raspscallion helped sell out arenas throughout the country. He manage to to bring a Cabana-esque enthusiasm to the theatrics of wrestling, an infectious joie de vivre which eventually lead him to one of the more inspiring title wins of his era, defeating Brock Lesnar in one of the more celebrated title matches of the era.

This is just the beginning of Eddie’s considerable catalog — which we will obviously probe more in-depth for an eventual Wrestler of the Week — but shows best how much the crowd truly loved watching Eddie perform. (And, how much Michael Cole loved calling his matches.)

For all the talk — by us, mostly — of wrestling to a character, no one has ever done it better than Eddie, and it’s not likely anyone ever will.