Extreme Championship Wrestling
Hardcore TV(episode #163)
June 4th, 1996
Hardcore TV(episode #163)
June 4th, 1996
Alright, so we're finally back on the Hardcore TV shows. The four episodes from 1995 that I reviewed were some of the best ECW shows up to this point. The show was really where ECW was at it's best. A lot of the matches were always clipped to hell, but the angles and characters all lived and died by Hardcore TV. It was a really jamming wrestling show. Some would argue that ECW hasn't aged well. While I would agree that ECW is indeed dated(everything about it just screams 90's), I would argue that it has aged very well considering the fact that there just isn't a wrestling show anything like this around anymore. It was just all about style. These HCTV shows from 95 & 96 wreaked of style and originality. There was just a vibe, a feel. Something that I can't quite put my thumb down on, but it goes beyond anything 'pro wrestling' related. It was the music. The attitude. It's just a wildly entertaining wrestling show to me, and a lot of it has to do with the presentation and atmosphere. The show certainly had it's fair share of flaws, but overall I think Hardcore TV was a tremendous wrestling show, even better than Raw & Nitro in 95(and so far up to this point in 96 as well).
We open up with Joey Styles in the ring with the intro. Most of the footage for these next couple of shows comes from the June 1st 1996 "Fight The Power" show from the ECW Arena. For an update of the storylines running into this show just read my previous post.
Stevie Richards/Raven Interview
Raven and Stevie come out to the ring with Joey. On one of the previous episodes Raven sent Stevie out on a mission to find him the scummiest, nastiest, trashiest, sluttiest whore he could possibly find. Someone that Raven could share his pain with, and someone he could make Beulah & Kimona jealous with. Richards tells Raven that he has found Raven's girl. He brings out Devine Brown. Devine was an infamous prostitute that was busted by police giving a blowjob to Hugh Grant in his BMW in 1995. Stevie presents Devine to Raven, but Raven tells him that she hasn't been with enough people. He doesn't want her. Raven walks off as we cut into the White Zombie "Thunderkiss 65" highlight video.
After the lovely highlight video intro, Joey Styles gives us a rundown of tonight's show. Joey says that we will have a shoot fight, not a wrestling match, a shoot fight with Taz taking on a Muay Thai kickboxer from Arizona named Jason Helton. We will also have a six man elimination tag match between Dreamer & The Pitbulls against Raven's hired guns, Brian Lee & The Bruise Brothers. The last man standing in that match will get a shot at Raven's world title. Could this be Dreamer's chance?
Joey also talks about the Japanese press covering Sabu's recent loss to Rob Van Dam with the scandal of Taz & Bill Alphonso tipping Van Dam off about the details of his neck injury in 1994. Pretty cool pics of some ECW Japanese media coverage. Styles plugs the Hardcore Heaven Sabu vs RVD III match coming up in three weeks.
We cut away to commercials for the new Brian F'N Pillman shirt, but they're not allowed to show it on air. This is a month or two after Pillman had his wreck, and was probably either in negotiations with, or already signed with the WWF by this point. Interesting that they are still selling his merch this late into 1996. I would love to have one of these shirts.
Strength Systems commercial. It's time for a new leading brand! If you watch through ECW Hardcore TV from 96 to 99, you will see this commercial about 6 million times.
We get advertisements for the ECW merchandise catalog, the June 8th show at Reading Pennsylvania(with The Gangstas vs Eliminators). Ads for Hardcore Heaven 96, which was pretty much a pay per view for ECW even though it wasn't on PPV, it was treated as so. As all of these ads are running, a pretty awesome song plays. Tupac and Dr. Dre's "California Love".
Extreme Warfare Volume 1 home video advertisement(set to Filter's "Hey Man, Nice Shot") with a few unreleased matches. I should review this. Most of it is from 1995, but this was one of the first tapes I ever ordered back in the day. I think this had to be one of the better selling commercially released ECW tapes back in the day because they never stopped running this ad. ECW ran this same commercial for this tape on TNN up until they were cancelled in 2000.
Taz vs Jason Helton
Jason Helton walks out and I've never heard of him outside of this appearance. A nice graphic screen pops up that pretty much pushes this as a mixed 'style vs style' UFC fight. It's Extreme Wrestling vs Muay Thai Kickboxing. We're having a fucking UFC fight in ECW.
I can understand the whole keep your peanut butter out of my chocolate logic, but me personally I grew up loving both pro wresting and MMA. Allow me to put on my wire frame glasses and super tight t-shirt for a moment. I hate to play the hipster card, but I've been a pretty big fan of the sport of MMA long before guys started coming out of the woodworks wearing Tapout t-shirts. Long before Chuck Lidell and Forrest Griffen. Long before Spike TV. I grew up going to video stores where WWF and UFC tapes were categorized together. Side by side. I've always found a lot of parallels with the two spectacles, and I've always found them to compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses nicely as far as entertainment.
With that said though, do I like watching UFC fights in my pro wrestling events? No. They usually suck. The thing usually is that the wrestlers will try to sell things in their "shoot" fight, and you don't sell in fights. You grit your teeth, if you even feel anything at all other than pure, unadulterated adrenaline.
There's something about the way they did it here with Taz though. Earlier in this year they had Joey say that classic quote that I carried in my sig for a while about Taz not being a normal pro wrestler, he was one of these new hybrid warriors like you see on these Ultimate Fighting pay per views. Taz is forcing guys to "tap out" due to his choke, which pushes the awesomeness of this character a bit further, especially when you consider this is 1996. Now he's having mixed style shoot fights. This Taz 1996-1997 push is something that I could break out and show to people that don't watch pro wrestling. There's something about this character that was just wildly ahead of his time, and it's one of my favorite things ever done in pro wrestling, let alone ECW. For a bit more info on the MMA scene around this time(in order to fully appreciate why Taz in ECW was so awesome) check out my History of MMA series down in the fight club section of these forums. Believe it or not there was a time when I was clamoring to see Taz in the UFC. Such a mark. I bought that character hook, line, and sinker back in the day.
Another classic Joey Styles quote:
"By my own admission I'm not an expert in shoot fighting, but I will do my best to call the action. I apologize in advance, I'm no Don "The Dragon" Wilson, or Jeff Blatnick."
I love it. Don Wilson and Blatnick were UFC commentators during this time. I would have ABSOLUTELY LOVED to have heard Joey call MMA. My god, he would be perfect. I think he's better than the current UFC commentators Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan, and just about anybody else in MMA right now. He was certainly better than Don Wilson and Blatnick(as much as love both of those guys). Joey Styles commentary in these 1996 tapes has been phenomenal. I've actually learned quite a bit about wrestling terminology though his commentary. As for his voice it does get annoying after about an hour or two. It's just that same high pitch that never changes. The things he says, his humorous wit, and his wrestling knowledge are all money in these tapes though.
Alright, god damn, lets get on to the match. Taz comes out with Kiss' "War Machine" with Fonzie and a whole slew of Team Taz guys. Awesome shot. He just looks like a guy coming out for a fight. Joel Gertner is the announcer here for this show and says that this fight will end with submission or knockout, no pinfalls, and 10 counts are in effect. I can't say I like the 10 count rule. There are no 10 counts in MMA, once you go down and out it's over.
So this is a short little "shoot" fight, but it's actually pretty cool because this Helton guy actuall looks as if he knows a bit of Muay Thai. One thing to note is that the guy immediately goes after Taz's neck with a couple of vicious looking downward elbows.
He catches Taz in a clinch with some good looking knees and elbows that knock him down. Taz beats the 10 count by getting up at 4. Helton lands a pretty good looking combo of knees and leg kicks that knock Taz down again. Helton tries to tie up with Taz in the Thai Clinch, but Taz grabs his arm and Judo tosses him to the mat. Taz stands over him and slams his forearms down across his face. I love it when he does that. Looks pretty awesome here.
Taz locks Helton in a pretty awesome arm bar that looks like it legit hurts. This match is pretty soft, but they've both done a swell job of making it look like a mixed style shoot fight. The grappler vs the striker.
Classic Bill Alphonso speaking into the camera and taunting Helton as the match goes on. Fonzie keeps screaming that Taz is undefeated. Taz throws Helton with a sweet fucking German Suplex. Helton gets up at 7, but Taz tosses him again with a beautiful Head & Arm Suplex. Taz locks on the Tazmission, and it's all over. Helton is choked unconscious and lays down and out in the ring throughout the ensuing mayhem.
Taz gets the mic and talks about how the fans are cheering him. He says that he doesn't want their cheers and doesn't like them before calling out Sabu. He says that Sabu is the only man that he wants.
Taz begs for anyone to step up and fight him. One tought son of a bitch in either wrestling or shoot fighting. Joey Styles comes out for an interview. Pretty classic moment here as Joey gets excited and tells Taz that his challenge has been accepted. Taz gets excited thinking it's Sabu, but Joey reveals a big 6'8" 300 pound UFC fighter in the audience named Paul "The Polar Bear" Varelans.
Paul Varelans made his UFC debut at the UFC VI tournament in the Summer of 95. He won his opening round fight in a classic barn burner with about 50 heymakers thrown in about 40 seconds. He dropped the guy with a vicious elbow to the back of the head. Later that same evening Varelans lost his second round fight to Tank Abbott when the referee stopped the fight(prematurely according to Varelans). Varelans returned to UFC VII in September of 1995 and defeated two guys to advance to the finals of the tournament, where he lost one of my all time favorite MMA fights in a classic 'David vs Goliath' fight against the legendary Marco Ruas. The Polar Bear returned for the December 95 UFC Ultimate Ultimate tournament of champions where he was defeated in the opening round by eventual tournament champion Dan Severn(via submission, keylock iirc). Paul Varelans also fought in the UFC VIII tourney in February of 96 where he looked impressive in an opening round victory over acclaimed Ju Jitsu grappler Joe Morrera(decision). Varelans was injured in the fight and had to back out of the tournament(which was won by Don Frye).
So this guy wasn't a top level UFC fighter by any means, but he was definitely one of the veterans of the early "wild, wild west", "style vs style", tournament days of the UFC. He was definitely an entertaining guy in the early UFC's because of how intense, and massive he was. He was a veteran of 4 UFC's with a record of 4-3 during this time in 1996. It was also around this time that Varelans made it to the finals of an 8 man IFC tournament held in Kiev Ukraine, where he was busted up pretty good by future Pride FC standout(one of the top 3 heavyweights in the world in 99-2000) Igor Vovchanchyn.
Joey goes over to Varelans in the front row and Varelans calls out Taz for a fight. Taz lays down in the ring and begs for him to bring it on. A squad of jobbers and security guards come out and hold Varelans back as he tries to get in the ring. Taz taunts him, telling him that he's not Ken Shamrock, he'll stretch Shamrock out! Taz taunts Varelans for a good while, telling him that he doesn't belong here. It's pretty cool how the this really gets the crowd to turn on Taz here with a bit of heat and some FUCK YOU TAZ chants. Varelans just fights with a mob of jobbers to try to get to the ring as Taz lays down for him and begs him to come to the ring.
Taz is pretty good on the mic here as he screams some interesting things out to Varelans.
"Yeah walk out.
Walk out like the bitch you are.
This is my house.
You big fuck. I'll choke you out. Keep walking.
I'M the Ultimate Fighter!"
I love it.
Taz ends the segment by mocking Sabu's pose, continuing to challenge him. He says that all he cares about is that scarred up freak. Taz orders Heyman to bring Sabu on, he'll eat him up.
I love everything about this. The actual shoot fight itself isn't anything to jump for joy over. It was short at about 2 minutes long give or take, but it looked cool. It's just crazy that there was a wrestling promotion that was doing shit like this in 1996. WCW and the WWF damn sure weren't acknowledging the UFC existence, but a lot of people knew about it and followed it. Especially in 95-96. It was during 1996 that US politicians began cracking down on the sport, killing a lot of it's buzz. Taz's character at this point is absolutely brilliant and a good decade ahead of it's time. An undefeated monster. Keep in mind this is all about a year before Ken Shamrock started wrestling in the WWE, and about a year and a half before Goldberg's streak began.
Also, lets recap this Taz vs Sabu storyline so far in as few words as possible. The two guys debut together in 1993 as 'Heyman Guys'. Sabu injures his neck in late 1994 and it's a big deal in the pro wrestling industry. A few months later Taz injures his neck and it kind of goes under the radar. Taz is out of action for several months in 1995 as Sabu leaves ECW and goes to WCW for a cup of coffee. They both return at the very same show, November to Remember 95. Taz turns heel by aligning himself with one of the greatest heels in ECW history, Bill Alphonso. Taz is a bitter man because he injured his neck and went broke with nobody giving a shit about it. Fonzie took care of Taz and put food on his table while he was out. Taz became a ruthless, unstoppable MMA hybrid warrior with his own Team Taz crew of trainee's. Taz took shots at Heyman for being someone that made his way through life with his rich father paying for everything. Taz and Sabu rolled through ECW undefeated through 96 with Taz constantly mocking and calling out Sabu, who is a 'Heyman Guy', even though they don't officially put him over as that, that's pretty much the root of the storyline. Sabu returned at November to Remember 95 and patched things up with Heyman, while Taz went the opposite direction. The root of the angle is pretty "shooty", but it's done with a subtle style that I really like. It's about Taz vs Heyman. Taz's character has quite a bit of depth to him with a really angry, bitter, jealous side to him that wants to punish Heyman by taking out his baby, Sabu. Meanwhile in the ring he's something new. Something very dangerous. This is a lot of very outside the box thinking with this character, and it's one of my favorite things pro wrestling ever did.
Now Taz has tipped off the young Rob Van Dam about Sabu's injured neck, ending Sabu's undefeated streak(since his return at N2R '95). Taz's streak is about to pick up some major steam. Lets see where they go from here. So far I'd say that this is one of the better storyline arcs in ECW history up to this point.
Sabu T-shirt commercial with Heyman putting him over as the most death defying athlete in the professional wrestling. The most homicidal, suicidal, genocidal athlete in pro wrestling. He has no fears, and no peers. The very essence of the word extreme. One of the most extreme athletes on the face of planet earth. Heyman really puts Sabu over here.
Short promo with Dreamer, Beulah, and Kimona. Dreamer says that there's no such thing as being too hardcore.
More ads for the merch catalog.
Lance Wright ECW t-shirt commercial. Experience the difference.
Joey Styles sells the Taz vs Varelans scene, putting over Taz as one bad ass motherfucker. Styles points out that Taz was put out with a neck injury, but he ate a couple of elbows to the back of his neck during the shoot fight against Helton that we just seen. He then points out that Varelans won his UFC debut with a vicious elbow to the back of Steve Jennum's neck, knocking him out. This is incorrect. It was Cal Worsham that Varelans elbowed in the back of the head/neck. Varelans never fought Steve Jennum(UFC III tourney winner). Pretty good stuff. I really like this angle.
Perhaps Heyman brought in Varelans as a bit of payback for what they did to Sabu? Awesome storyline. God Damn. Heyman brings in a UFC Fighter to deal with Taz, perhaps targeting his neck as payback for RVD/Sabu. I love it.
Whoever said that ECW was just all blood and sleaze with no substance? Madness!
Free yourself from your tunnel vision. Release your grudge, and give ECW a chance.
I'll take this angle over anything Brock Lesnar related that the WWE has done since his return from the UFC in 2012. I have to be 100% honest with you, as much as I like modern day WWE/TNA, I'm finding these old ECW tapes much more interesting and compelling right now.
More ads for the ECW June 8th show. Paul Varelans is advertised to be at the show. Sabu vs Devon Storm. Raven vs Sandman. Gangstas vs Eliminators. Shane Douglas vs Pitbull #2.
#1 Contenders Elimination Match: Tommy Dreamer & The Pitbulls vs Brian Lee & The Bruise Brothers
Before the match we get a recap of the Dreamer vs Brian Lee feud so far. Lee placed a cinder block on Dreamer's groin and busted it with a chair. Dreamer did the same to Lee at the next show. They also show footage of the two brawling outdoors at a house show where Brian Lee picks Dreamer up and slams him head first into a stop sign, revenge for what Dreamer did to Raven at House Party 96.
We join this match in progress with White Zombie's "Thunderkiss '65" playing in the background. This just starts off with a wild, chaotic brawl. Pitbull 1's groin is posted multiple times by the Bruise Brothers, taking him out of the match early on. I think he's still injured or something, just here to make a check. Brian Lee brawls with Dreamer into the crowd. The Bruise Brothers work together to lift Pitbull 2 up high into the air and toss him like a ragdoll out of the ring through a table. SHIT! That was an awesome table spot.
The music stops and the action slows down after the table spot. Pitbull 1 is posted again as Francine, Beulah, and Kimona all standby looking on. Three of the hottest women in ECW history together in one shot. Nice.
Brian Lee pins Pitbull 1 to eliminate him from the match. Tommy and Brian Lee fight in the ring as Pitbull 2 fights the Bruise Bros in the isle. All 5 men take the brawl into the crowd for a bit before taking it over to the stage near the Eagles Nest balcony. Dreamer lands a really nice splash from the balcony down onto Brian Lee on a table.
Dreamer climbs back up to the balcony and strikes his pose. Raven hits him from behind and floors him with a DDT. Raven poses over Dreamer's body with his arms out as the Bruise Bros set up two tables stacked up near the balcony. Brian Lee climbs up to the stage and chokeslams Dreamer through the two tables below.
Dreamer is down and out as the crowd goes wild. The match cuts away to commercials.
Pillman shirt spot again. While this is playing, did you know ECW made Steve Austin t-shirts? They never showed them, but I did see an ad for them on an early 96 HCTV episode saying that they had a bunch of them to get rid of now that he was gone to WWF. I wonder if that's something similar here with the Pillman t-shirts where perhaps the WWF was allowing them to sell merch for these guys, just as long as they don't actually show the likenesses. Throughout ECW's history there were always these small little ways that the WWF allowed them to make some form of profit off of them. Many confuse this as WWF funding ECW, but this income was earned through small things like these t-shirt sales. Another example of this was the deal with 2 Cold Scorpio/Flash Funk in early 97. ECW made 1,000$ a week from Tommy Boy Records for using their music as Scorpio's entrance theme(also in ads). The WWF reimbursed this $1,000 a week to ECW throughout the time they used Flash Funk. WWF was never just outright handing money over. Not until it was time to claim dibs on it's (soon to be) carcass, but that's for a few years later on.
More ads for the June 8th show, Hardcore Heaven, Club ECW, and the home video for A Matter Of Respect. All of this plays as "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies plays in the background.
We return to the show with a replay of the double table spot. Ouch.
The Bruise Bros and Brian Lee fight with Pitbull 2 in the ring as the fans help Tommy Dreamer through the crowd back to the ringside area. Nice.
Dreamer gets back into the ring and drops one of the Bruise Bros with a DDT. Tommy pins him and eliminates him. It's down to Dreamer and Pitbull 2 against Brian Lee and one of the Bruisers. Pitbull 2 shoves a plunger into Brian Lee's face. Sick.
Tommy drops Brian Lee with a DDT before helping Pitbull 2 set up a table. They set up the Bruise Brother on the table for the sacrificial spot with Pitbull 2 superbombing Dreamer from the top. Brian Lee recovers and moves the Bruise Brother out of the way at the last second, sending Dreamer through the table. Brian Lee pins Dreamer and eliminates him from the match. It's two on one. Brian Lee holds Pitbull 2 up for a big boot, but he moves out of the way at the last second. Brian Lee goes down and gets pinned.
Pitbull 2 then quickly rolls up the Bruise Brother for a rollup, winning the match. Pitbull 2 has now earned a shot at Raven's title somewhere down the road. The Bruise Brothers attack Pitbull 2 as Raven comes out. Raven says that down the road is right now, which leads us to our main event....
Awesome before the commercial break, not so much afterward, but still a pretty cool six man hardcore brawl. The crowd was pretty hot throughout as well. Raven and Dreamer's rivalry continues with him being destroyed by Brian Lee's chokeslam from the balcony. I'll save my final thoughts for the end of this overall segment.
ECW World Championship: Raven(C) vs Pitbull #2
Raven beats the shit out of an already beaten Pitbull 2 as the crowd chants and tries to rally him. Pitbull 2 kicks out of a quick cover attempt, and teases a hulk up. Raven tosses him through a piece of the table still propped up before going for another pinfall, but he kicks out again. The crowd is going pretty crazy here. Pitbull 2 hulks up and begins kicking Raven's ass. He lands his spinkick in the corner, which sends him over the top to the outside. He gets a chair and goes up top. Raven flashes back to Scotty Flamingo with perhaps the greatest dropkick I've ever seen him do.
Raven drops Pitbull 2 with a DDT on the chair, loads up his boot(which supposedly has a piece of lead in the toe), and finishes him off with a kick to the side of his head as he tries to get up. Raven keeps his title after about a 4 minute somewhat sloppy match that still had a few interesting moments, especially Raven's dropkick.
This entire segment reminds me a lot of the Terry Funk/Barely Legal series where he wins the title from Raven after a three way. Raven comes out on top here with some brilliant chicken shit heel tactics that keep his heat as a heel. As was the case with Taz, Raven was a character that the crowd loved, and wanted to cheer for because of how bad ass they were booked, but Heyman found clever ways to keep the heat on them as heels, which put the faces over in turn. I think Heyman was a brilliant booker for what he had to work with and the crowd he was working for.
Overall this whole shebang had a lot of awesome moments with some wild hardcore action. A lot of it was a sloppy mess, but overall it was fun. The storyline progression here was what made it fun with some interesting booking going on with Raven. Pitbull 2 also seems to be amidst a pretty decent singles push with something apparently wrong with his tag team partner that is keeping him out of action.
After the match we cut away to Lance Wright(stooge) in "Hype Central"(hate these). Lance says that ECW has made a deal with BMW to offer the fans 15 minute dates with Devine Brown. That is funny.
More ads for the June 8th show, the House of Hardcore ECW training gym, Hardcore Heaven '96, and the dreaded, infamous Strength Systems commercial. "Ah, the leading brand".
Lance Wright's EC F'N W shirt commercial.
Then we see an interesting home video commercial for the February 3rd Big Apple Blizzard Blast show. I briefly discussed this show in one of my reviews, but I never did get my hands on it. This commercial makes me want to see it. This was the second Queens Ny show with The Eliminators winning the tag titles, Raven & Stevie vs Dreamer & Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow's ECW debut, and a match between Rey Mysterio & Juventud Guerrera that I absolutely have to see.
We return to the show with Joey in the booth showing the replay of the double table chokeslam on Dreamer. Brian Lee is shown cutting a really short promo, saying that the chokeslam was born in ECW, and it will be resurrected by him. The Prime Time Slam.
Joey plugs next week's episode with Brian Pillman scheduled to make his return to ECW, Dudleyz vs FBI, Mikey Whipreck vs Rob Van Dam, and an update on the Taz/Paul Varelans situation. That's a pretty stacked show. I can't wait to review it. This show is seriously kicking some ass right now.
The show closes up with basically a bunch of recaps and stuff from Joey to fill out the final few minutes. They show a short promo with The Dudleyz all together in a building. Buh Buh is shown trying to call Big Dick on the phone, but D-Von runs him out of the room. It's like D-Von is trying to take the comedy out of the goofy, slap stick Dudleyz. Not very good promos though.
We get a nice highlight recap of the show to end it. Pretty good stuff.
Overall Show Rating: 9.7/10
Really good show. I think the Taz vs Sabu storyline was a lot better than a lot of people remember/give credit. Pretty interesting with Taz tipping off Van Dam on Sabu's previously injured neck, now Heyman's bringing in shoot fighters to go after Taz's previously injured neck. With that and the Raven/Dreamer angle, and the residual feuds that are on the side(Dreamer vs Lee, Sabu vs RVD, Taz vs Varelans) make for one hell of a wrestling show that I highly advise any young wrestling fans check out. ECW wasn't just good, it was great.