Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Top 10 ECW Moments

Every so often, WWE goes through a wave of ECW nostalgia. Extreme Championship Wrestling was the small group that started as a small independent promotion in 1993 with a lot of buzz behind it and ultimately grew into a legit promotion with video games, a cable tv show, pay per views, merchandise. Above all else, they had a lot of influence on the wrestling industry. The famed "WWE Attitude Era" would not have happened had they not looked at ECW's "Extreme Revolution" and thought "why don't we do that?"

WWE recently aired a discussion of ECW on the WWE Network with Paul Heyman, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer, and the Dudleys. That was fun. Lots of neat stories, then some emotion at the end where they describe what ECW meant to them. Tommy Dreamer especially had an emotional moment. 

It coincided with the release of "The Top 50 Incidents in ECW History." This was originally supposed to be a DVD release, the third in the "OMG: Top 50 Moments" sets, after a WWE and WCW release. The problem with those sets was that they were played more for comedy. I watched the WWE set and didn't care for it. I saw the trailer for WCW's version and didn't care to check it out. So, I didn't have a lot of high hopes for this ECW one.

But, they have actually changed the format. It's not the happy-go-lucky version of the other two. It has a different title. And instead of releasing it on DVD it's a special feature on the WWE Network.

What we're going to do in this space is look over the Top 10 moments and see how we feel about them.

10) Sabu vs Terry Funk, Born To Be Wired ... This is honestly one of the grossest matches in wrestling history. There are bloodier matches. There are more violent matches. But this is the only match where I've seen one of the competitors rip his arm open on a piece of barbed wire, tape the wound shut while the match is still going on, then continue like no big deal. The ropes are replaced with barbed wire, and 50-year-old Terry Funk and Sabu proceed to rip each other to shreds during the match, culminating in the two of them having to be cut out of the barbed wire by the ring crew.

9) ECW invasion of WWE ... The wrestling world was a much different place in 1997. WWE was not at the top of the world like they had been through the 1980s and like they would be by the end of the 90s. They were the number two promotion behind WCW. And at one of their Philadelphia shows, where ECW is based out of, the WWE heard several loud "ECW" chants throughout the night. Vince McMahon got curious, and a brief working relationship was formed. It saw several ECW matches on WWE Monday Night Raw, as well as a great in-ring debate between Paul Heyman and Jerry Lawler. Lawler wound up making a few ECW appearances, dropping a match to Tommy Dreamer.

8) Brian Lee vs Tommy Dreamer Scaffold Match ... As a match, it was a cool brawl. Brian Lee is famous mostly for being the "Fake Undertaker" in the SummerSlam 1994. He was also in the nWo for a spell. But he had a small run in ECW. As a match, this was nothing special. But, as a moment to live on in highlight reels, it is crazy and amazing. The idea of a scaffold match is to fight atop the scaffold and throw your opponent off of it. This one is different in that there are like 15 tables stacked on top of each other in the entire ring. They're around 20 feet above the ring, and Lee winds up falling through four tables. Awesome visual, and a genuinely shocking moment.

7) Sandman canes Tommy Dreamer ... In the early 90s, there was a media storm over an American tourist who got in trouble in Singapore and his punishment was a public caning; the get smacked by a cane. Paul Heyman fed off that and created the "Singapore Caning Match" between Dreamer and Sandman, with the loser having to receive 10 smacks with the cane. Dreamer ultimately wound up being the heart and soul of ECW; the hero on the white horse who always did the right thing. But, in the beginning he wasn't respected by the hardcore ECW crowd. This match, and Dreamer taking his caning like a man, helped him earn that respect that is still there over 20 years later.

6) Ring collapses ... This was always a fun moment that made all of the early highlight reels. There was a tag team called Public Enemy. They liked to have fun and dance. At the end of their matches, they would bring some audience members into the ring to dance and it was always a fun moment. In this instance, the ring entirely filled with fans and they are all jumping around and dancing. The ring kind of moves for a second, then after another moment it entirely collapses and the probably 50-ish people all crash to the ground. There's a brief moment where everybody all looks around confused, then realizing that nobody is hurt they all start dancing again. Just a fun moment that is a great visual demonstration of how much the crowd enjoyed themselves in ECW.

5) Tazz vs Mike Awesome ... This is interesting from a historical perspective. Tazz had been a former, dominant ECW superstar; a world champion and beloved by the audience. In the fall of 1999, Tazz left and signed with WWE, ultimately debuting in early 2000. Mike Awesome had been a journeyman wrestler who had made a name for himself in Japan, but was getting his chance to be a star in America, on his second reign as ECW Champion. WCW came calling and convinced Awesome to leave while still ECW Champion, through a loophole in his contract. He showed up on WCW television and they acknowledged that he was the ECW champ. ECW and WCW worked out an agreement to let Awesome go back and lose the title. Paul Heyman called in a favor to WWE and they loaned him Tazz. So, in an ECW ring there was a WCW wrestler losing the ECW title to a WWE wrestler.

4) Sandman crucifixion ... Raven and Sandman had been in the middle of an intense feud. Raven decided that the next step would be for him to crucify Sandman publicly. The irony is that Sandman had been a carpenter before getting into wrestling and he actually constructed the cross. The two had a brawl, then Sandman's lifeless body was tied to a cross, with a "crown of thorns" aka pieces of barbed wire placed on his head. In interviews, everybody involved has basically said this was the one time ECW went too far. They didn't expect the backlash against using religion to further a wrestling program. Paul Heyman sent Raven back out to the ring to apologize, and he did. He has since remarked that his apology was insincere.

3) Shane Douglas throws down NWA title ... The National Wrestling Alliance is a governing body that looks over several regional promotions. The most popular in the 80s was the Mid-Atlantic promotion, whose top star was Ric Flair. The short story is that Mid-Atlantic became WCW. They initially used the NWA title, but eventually split with that group. They regrouped and in 1994 were looking to crown a champion in Shane Douglas, star of Eastern Championship Wrestling. He won the tournament final and with the NWA title in his hands, Douglas mentioned the prestige of the title and what it represented, then he named several famous NWA champions - Kerry Von Erich, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ric Flair, Rick Steamboat... "And they can all kiss my ass!" as he threw down the NWA title and grabbed his ECW championship. The promotion then changed its name to Extreme Championship Wrestling.

2) Lesbian kiss ... ECW wasn't just extreme in its in-ring action. The stories were extreme too. Part of the Raven vs Tommy Dreamer feud involved a lady named Beulah. It's multi-layered and went on for years, and was just very well told. Beulah started with Raven and ultimately ended up with Dreamer. Life imitating art, they actually got married and have twin daughters. It came out that Beulah had been cheating on Dreamer. He was crestfallen and asked "Who is he?" Shane Douglas, who had been egging it on, replied "Oh, it's not a 'he' at all!" to which a lady cleverly named Kimona Wanalaya yelled "It's me!" Beulah and Kimona then proceeded to make out in the ring. Dreamer then got on the microphone and said "I'll take 'em both, I'm hardcore," then left with both, implying... well, you know. In 1995 this was a very controversial moment and ECW got in a lot of trouble, getting dropped by several of their syndication partners.

1) The chairs ... This has gone down in history as one of the most famous moments in ECW history. What's the difference between ECW and WWE? Watch this clip. In 1994, Terry Funk and Cactus Jack (aka Mick Foley) were having a brawl with the Public Enemy. All four were in the ring and Cactus asks an audience member to throw him a chair. One does, then another follows suit, then within moments, there are literally over a hundred chairs being thrown into the ring. It's absolute insanity; such a dangerous moment in hindsight, but so cool to watch.

It's a fun 2.5 hour list with a lot of new interviews from the former ECW stars who lived through it. Do I agree with the list? It's all subjective. I would say Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA Championship should probably be at the top. That was shocking and had long-reaching ramifications. In terms of just *hushed gasp* shocking moment, maybe the crucifixion should be at the top.

There were a lot of moments that didn't make it, and I think that is mostly because WWE is a PG company trying to look at this TV-MA group. The special was rated TV-MA and a lot of language and blood and scantily-clad ladies made it onto the show. 

But, there's no mention of the Mass Transit incident. A 17-year-old dressed like a bus driver and going by Mass Transit lied about his age and got on the show, then was purposely cut by wrestler New Jack and created one of the most gruesome moments ever. Blood was shooting out of his forehead and it was insanity. Lawsuits were filed, and ultimately New Jack and ECW got off the hook, since Mass Transit allowed himself to be cut and knew of the dangers of doing that.

The fire incident isn't included. Cactus Jack wrapped a towel around a chair, doused it in kerosene, then lit it on fire and went to the ring. He swung the chair at Terry Funk, but the towel flew off and onto Funk. As they tried to get the towel off of him, it got thrown into the audience and around a couple audience members. Lawsuits were filed over that one.

The Bubba Ray Dudley in-ring interview from summer 1999 in Ohio isn't included. It was absolutely shocking in terms of what he said to audience members and how close a couple came to jumping the rail and trying to attack him. It was an awkward, uncomfortable moment that he really took too far.

All in all, it's a good list. A couple things missing. A few things out of place, in terms of ranking. But, if you love ECW, or just want to learn more about it, check out the list.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Norm Ruins The View



This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" looks at Norm's disastrous late-2000 appearance on "The View." It's a disaster in the sense that Norm sabotages it on purpose. He's since said that was his intent; he just made up stuff to make them angry. And, it works.

This was during the contested Bush-Gore election, and Norm immediately talks about how much he likes Bush, noting that he wants to get the murderers out of the White House. The hosts are confused, prompting Norm to say "You know Bill Clinton killed a man, right?" Barbara Walters is shocked and immediately tries to change the subject, with Norm continuing to pressure her. "You mean, you never heard about that?"

While they're talking, a phone begins to ring. The hosts seem confused and ask if Norm has his phone with him. Norm suddenly realizes the ringing, pulls his phone out and asks if he should answer it. He mumbles "Hello?" before admitting "The producer thought it would be funny if I brought a phone out and pretended to talk." They cannot believe that he just admitted that they staged a prank during the interview. 

It's so awesome to see him just make them hate him.

One ironic note: they bring up Bill Cosby, and ask Norm for his story. It's likely the same hilarious story he once told on David Letterman's show, but Norm starts it by saying "Bill Cosby, now that's a man who has no accusations against him," referencing his Bill Clinton stunt from earlier. 

Comedy doesn't always have to feature laughs. Norm isn't telling jokes or playing along with any stunts, but he's hilarious here.

Check out Norm's new book. It's hilarious.