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Stone Kold Stevie

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FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE

Once again, I must apologize for the lateness of this submission. It seems like with my current schedule, I think I might just officially make this column twice a month... it gives enough time for me to watch some wrestling on tape as well as two weeks of televised wrestling. I'd like to have enough time to give y'all a quality column rather than half-ass it for the sake of a weekly column. Please forgive me in advance...

And one random note before we kick off the festivities: I received some e-mail which was critical of my moniker of choice. I do realize "Stone Kold Stevie" is somewhat lame, but there is a backstory behind it. At the local college radio station where I'm from, my friend and I did a show which focused on a combination of very good music mixed with music so bad it becomes funny... well, the show gradually evolved into a pro wrestling talk show with a little music mixed in, which sadly coincided with the recent cancellation of the show. A sad, sad story indeed... but anyway, "Stone Kold Stevie" was my DJ moniker on that show, and so I decided to keep it here. I'll take the criticisms into consideration, though, and see if I can't come up with a better name under which to write.

OH --- and by the way, screw you, William Shatner! You know, we had a great time on the radio making fun of your horrible singing... and then you had to go and turn it into a marketing ploy! Thanks for robbing us of all our fun!

Now, what was it I was doing? Oh yeah... maybe I should start the column already...

ECW: HOUSE SHOW (SCHENECTADY, NY)

I wanted to lead off with this, as a group of friends and I were able to snag front row seats for a house show about two weeks before the Hardcore Heaven PPV... and I have to say that if you are most interested in seeing wrestling action, I'd advise you to catch the ECW house shows if they come to your town. I've caught a number of Raw tapings from the Pepsi Arena in Albany, which were all fine and good, but as you might expect you do have to sit through all the "sports entertainment" being filmed at those times. An ECW house show is a good two hours of uninterrupted wrestling matches with minimal storyline development... just a bunch of good wrestlers doing what they do best!

This was my second ECW house show, and we had a blast! Of course, being front row certainly helps, as you get to interact with a lot of the talent... but the Schenectady venue is so small that there isn't a bad seat in the house, and ECW makes even the cheap seats valuable. You know Tommy Dreamer or Sandman are going to take a match right up into your lap even if there's no one sitting behind you... here are some random thoughts on this show:

  • The first Schenectady house show featured Super Crazy, which was quite cool, but this time around we got Tajiri! Yoshihiro Tajiri is by far my favorite ECW superstar, and we got to catch a dry run of the Rhino/Corino vs. Tajiri/Sandman tag match featured at the Poughkeepsie TNN tapings... in our version, Sandman whipped the crowd into a chant of "Rhino wears a girdle", much to his amusement and Rhino's consternation... and in our version, Tajiri pinned Rhino with the top rope footstomp, though the table they chose to use was in such bad shape that it collapsed as soon as Rhino was put on it. I imagine that's why Corino ended up on the table in the TNN version... my friend (fluent in Japanese) and I (knows a bit of Japanese) took turns chanting encouragement to Tajiri in Japanese, which caught his attention and got us a trademarked evil grin in return.

  • Sorry, Poughkeepsie, but we got to welcome back Jerry Lynn first! That was the coolest moment of the night in my opinion... I've been a fan of Jerry's since I started watching ECW, so it was a nice moment to see him in action live. IIRC, I think he worked against Johnny Swinger at our show...

  • Of course, another great feature of an ECW house show is the RF Video booth selling wrestling tapes from America and Japan... I was able to score four really solid tapes, including a Best of Chris Benoit tape which has been amazing so far and Greatest Matches of the 1990's (Vol. #1) which I'll talk about more in a moment...

    ECW: HARDCORE HEAVEN PPV

    Well, I must say that I was pretty pleased with the latest PPV from ECW... as usual they put on some truly memorable wrestling matches. It seems like this promotion is right on the verge of breaking through into the big time, once they're able to make their production a little more professional. It'll always be those little things which make or break an event, and there were definitely little things abounding wrong with the show... but nothing which could truly detract from the quality of the wrestling involved with the show.

    That opening match between Balls Mahoney and Masato Tanaka was quite incredible, and was a pleasant surprise from this card. This match really illustrated one of the major differences between American and Japanese wrestling, as this match was wrestled under a distinctly Japanese style... a style in which hitting a finishing maneuver doesn't necessarily mean a three count. In Japan, a finisher is just an extremely powerful maneuver in the wrestler's repetoire... it could definitely get a three count off of anybody, but hitting it doesn't mean instant win. Certainly there's been some recent instances in American wrestling where this has happened (Foley's Royal Rumble and No Way Out matches with HHH, with Foley kicking out of the Pedigree), but nine times out of ten the finisher equals the pin and the victory. The Balls/Tanaka match shows how the Japanese style works, where each wrestler has a number of "finishers" which could get three counts, but here they didn't... Balls kicking out of the Diamond Dust and the first Roaring Elbow were awesome, and really popped the crowd! It's when you can convince the crowd that the three count is coming that the near-fall kickout can really get a crowd going...

    I'll skip a lot of stuff here, as the opening match was the biggest surprise of the night for me... some other random thoughts...

  • It was nice to see Tanaka and Kintaro Kanemura at the show, but I was a little disappointed that there weren't many other FMW guys there. I had heard that perhaps 50% of the FMW roster was in the States attending the E3 show promoting the American release of FMW wrestling videos, so I was thinking that we might see some surprise guests at Hardcore Heaven like Jado & Gedo or Hayabusa (a little too much to expect). And wrestling fans out there... if you like the over-the-top hardcore style of wrestling, I'd recommend checking out the FMW tapes when they're released. I've just recently seen a couple of truly memorable hardcore brawls from this promotion on tape... more on this later...

  • As expected, Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn came to fight... there were a lot of expectations for this match, and I think they certainly lived up to the hype coming into this match. The only problem was the overbooking again... I know the "network" has been wrapped up in the returns of both guys, but couldn't you just let them wrestle? It would have been great to see Jerry get a clean win over the returning Van Dam... I mean, since Rob's coming off an injury you can still get Jerry over with a victory without tarnishing the Van Dam legacy... maybe Rob was a little rusty, or maybe Jerry's just that good. Who knows? The Scotty Anton turn didn't help things any, as I think they were too blatant foreshadowing it. But at least this seems like it will set up a rematch which will hopefully be much cleaner...

  • For me, the Tajiri/Corino match stole the show. WOW! Stiff, vicious action and a grotesque bladejob from Mr. Old School... and Tajiri goes over! I hope this signals bigger and better things for Yoshihiro Tajiri... they've certainly been building him up as a major competitor, and I hope the eventual feud over the TV Title will actually revolve around Rhino and Tajiri. I think Van Dam is sorely needed in the World Title picture... there's plenty of good talent which can benefit from the TV Title, while Van Dam has to take the top spotlight in the promotion that he's been built for. There was every indication that an Awesome/RVD feud was being set up before Van Dam's injury and Awesome's departure... so leave the TV Title for Tajiri and Super Crazy and Rhino and Jerry Lynn!

  • It's too bad Lance Storm decided to leave for WCW... he really lent some technical credibility to ECW, something which it sorely needs. RVD and Jerry Lynn will now probably be held as the top technicians in the promotion, but Lance was a true technical wrestling expert... and I don't think WCW is going to be the best place for him, especially if ECW can really get their act together. I'm sure the money will be better for him, and I wish him the best... but if ECW breaks through into the big time, Lance could be poised as one of the big stars of wrestling for the future... and I think ECW is the promotion that would benefit the most from Lance's presence, as I think he'll be lost in the crowd in WCW, and he would definitely be lost in the crowd in WWF. We'll have to wait and see what happens...

  • Somebody get that freakin' belt off of Justin already! Sorry, but I'm not a big Justin fan... so many major wrestlers have given him a rub that I don't think he's proven he deserves. I mean The Great Sasuke put him over, and Sasuke's ten times the wrestler Justin is or will ever be... I hope that very soon someone like RVD will put him in his place. Mind you, I'm not a big fan of RVD and his over-embellished offense, but I find him much more Credible than Justin as a champion...

    TAPE: GREATEST MATCHES OF THE 1990'S (VOL. #1)

    With a title like that, you would have to assume that there'd be some good matches on this tape... and you wouldn't be wrong! I'll talk about some matches from this tape individually, as it's quite possible that there are many other tapes out there available which contain these matches. I apologize, but I haven't written any detailed recaps of these matches, so I'll just be talking more generally... besides, I don't want to ruin anything. The visual spectacle of these matches are amazing, such that no recap could really do the match justice...

    First off, one major drawback of this tape is that they advertise a June 1994 meeting between Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada as the first match... I've seen some wrestling analysts on the Internet rate this as the greatest heavyweight wrestling match of all time. I'd be hard pressed to disagree, but you have to see the WHOLE match... a 30+ minute affair with so many mark-out points that the normally reserved Japanese crowd is jumping up and down in the aisles and the commentator literally loses his voice trying to call all the action! However, on this compilation tape you only get a severely clipped version of the match where you only see about five minutes of the action, with no cohesiveness whatsoever... I own another tape with this match in its entirety, and the clipfest doesn't do this match justice at all.

    OK, enough griping...

    Remember how I was talking about FMW earlier? I had the chance to see a truly amazing match from the FMW promotion on this tape, featuring Atsushi Onita and Hayabusa in an electrified barbed-wire exploding cage match! The more you see of FMW, the more you'll get used to these crazy matches... but this was a classic. See, the cage is made of barbed-wire which has electricity coursing through it... and as if hitting that wasn't bad enough, the first contact with the cage also triggers off a ten minute countdown... if a winner is not decided in that ten minute window, explosives go off all around the ring! Then, of course, the match continues...

    Well this match is chaotic and fun... good psychology to start as both Hayabusa and Onita tease throwing each other into the cage, and they get closer and closer each time before finally they both hit the cage, triggering the timer! The camera gets some nice close-ups to show Onita's arm and Hayabusa's chest bleeding profusely... Onita then goes to work on Hayabusa with DDTs and backdrops before cranking in a Sharpshooter and a wicked Half Boston Crab. He can't get the submission out of Hayabusa though, even after Hayabusa tastes the electrified barbed-wire of the cage again... and a neat bit of psychology is that neither man has the benefit of the rope escape from a submission, as they'd have to grab a live wire to escape, essentially. Onita hits one of his Thunder Fire Powerbomb finishers, but Hayabusa kicks out... Hayabusa finally takes over on offense and gets a Figure Four on Onita, and they work the spot where they just slap and punch each other while in the Figure Four! Meanwhile the clock ticks closer to Armageddon... and Hayabusa nails a TF Powerbomb of his own, netting a two count! A Standing Moonsault Press only gets a two count as well, and as the announcer counts down from ten seconds Hayabusa gets whipped into the cage again, so he is right next to the explosives when they GO OFF!! Immediately the ring is completely obscured by thick grey smoke, and the audience pops in confusion trying to figure out what happened... as it begins to clear, we can see a tremendous piece of match psychology as we see that Onita actually jumped on the ref and covered him to protect him from the explosion. Of course, that ref is still completely unconscious, so another ref arrives and the match continues... with Onita nailing a second TF Powerbomb on Hayabusa, but still only getting a two count! Crowd chants "Hayabusa!" as both men regain their feet... and it should be noted that the ring and the wrestlers are completely covered in soot from the explosion. Onita tries the powerbomb again, but 'busa uses a hurancanrana counter, getting only a two count... I may be remembering incorrectly, but I think Hayabusa nails a backdrop here and then climbs the ten foot high cage and comes off with a moonsault! And Onita rolls out of the way... Hayabusa belly-flops the ring, kicking up a big cloud of soot! Onita hits a third TFPB, but Hayabusa kicks out! A fourth TFPB brings Hayabusa down again, but Onita's so tired he can't hold the pin... but the fifth finally puts Hayabusa away! Basically a tremendous display of guts from both guys, and an amazing spectacle to watch!

    The other major match I saw on this tape so far was a confrontation from the All Japan promotion in 1993 pitting Kenta Kobashi against "Dr. Death" Steve Williams... and this match is a perfect illustration of why JR tried to put over Williams as such a monster when he arrived in the WWF! All Japan has perfected a bizarre style of pro wrestling where the wrestlers essentially try to see how close they can come to breaking their necks taking suplexes and powerbombs in all sorts of painful ways... and at this time "Dr. Death" is the king! Kawada perfected a move called the Dangerous Backdrop (Kawada's nickname is Dangerous K) which is a regular backdrop with a little extra rotation such that his opponent is dropped right on the base of his NECK rather than his back! Trust me, it looks as awful as it sounds... and Williams decided to extrapolate on this move a little farther to create the Backdrop Driver. I had heard about this move, but this was my first opportunity to see it... and they did a fantastic job of building this move up, as the crowd would literally pop in terror every time Williams even got Kobashi in position for a backdrop... the nicer touch being that Kobashi was in such fear of the move that he would make a mad dash for the ropes the moment Williams would get him in the backdrop position. Now, I saw a match between these two from 1994 which was astounding in that it was close to forty minutes of uninterrupted ass-whuppin'... just exchanges of vicious brawling and power moves! This match was no exception, as both men showed just how tough they were... but everyone knew the Backdrop Driver was going to be the deciding factor. As long as Kobashi could avoid that move, he had a chance of winning... and every time Williams tried to set it up Kobashi would either grab the ropes or find some devious way to counter out... until the fateful moment when Kobashi whipped Williams into the ropes and tried to grab a sleeper hold (IIRC). In the span of about three seconds, Williams literally ran completely around Kobashi while holding onto his waist, quickly stuck his head under Kenta's armpit and lifted up in the classic backdrop motion... and the crowd started screaming... and Williams kept lifting, bridging over... and I started screaming as the rotation continued until Kobashi made impact with the mat RIGHT ON THE TOP OF HIS FREAKIN' SKULL!!! I still can't figure out how Kobashi is still alive today (and holding the Triple Crown Title, no less), as he didn't look like he was protecting his head at all... but anyway, the crowd is in complete hysterics as Williams rolls over for the cover... and Kobashi KICKS OUT!!! Well, the crowd loses their collective minds at this point, and on the first watch I've travelled miles into Mark-Out Land... but the damage has been done, and it's only a matter of time before Williams nails ANOTHER Backdrop Driver, equally as nasty as the first, and gets the academic three count... this move has to be seen to be believed, as even after repeated watchings I still can't help but gasp every time I see that move.

    This is the kind of wrestling action that awaits you if you can find the right tapes... if you're a wrestling fan, I can't recommend these matches enough. I'll be talking about more highlights from the tapes I've been watching in future installments, so stay tuned!

    WWF: JUDGMENT DAY PPV

    OK, after all of my talk about Iron Man Matches in my last installment, I have to weigh in with some comments about this PPV. Overall I really liked this event, but this overbooking has to stop. Run-ins and such work just fine for throwaway matches like the Shane/Big Show encounter, but why am I watching tons of run-ins in a match where even the heel is making a major effort to keep things clean? I was rather shocked that Rock and HHH were able to work such a good long match, though it always seems to me that the wrestlers out there know many more moves than they're able to show off in a three minute long match.

    As you can see, they must have watched the Rude/Steamboat Iron Man Match as they worked a very similar style, though with enough differences to make each match special... and the changes were necessary considering the longer time span. It seemed to me very smart to give the Rock the first fall before having the heel establish his lead. The DQ off the chair shot followed by the immediate pin by HHH was a nice touch too... very reminiscent of Rude's top rop knee drop (DQ) followed by the quick cover... and they even worked in the superplex killing both guys spot, with Rock finally rolling over too late to get a three count. You could tell they set up the psychology perfectly because, like the Rude/Steamboat match, the crowd was popping and chanting even during extended sleeper hold spots! In truth, the biggest problem with this match was that they had to end the match with all the interference... and even with the craziness, I wouldn't have had a problem if it had no effect on the match. But the run-ins decided the match, and that ain't right... not after what Rock and HHH achieved here. It would have been perfectly acceptable to say that Undertaker's interference came after the time limit expired (as it looked like it did anyway) and Rock retains on the tie. The WWF can indulge their overbooking appetite, but in the end the match was still decided entirely on the merits of HHH and Rock... that's what I would have changed, but obviously I have different ideas than many wrestling fans.

    I will acknowledge a point that some other Internet wrestling columnists have already brought up. I can see that the ending of the match sets up the Undertaker as a potential opponent for BOTH Rock and HHH, as both of them will now harbor a grudge against the man from the dark side... it certainly makes the title picture much more interesting, as although Jericho and Benoit are well on their way to the eventual contention for the WWF Title, they're still not quite ready yet. With the retirement of Foley and Kane's injury, the WWF needs a new face in the title hunt, and the Undertaker looks like he's ready to take the ball and run with it again!

    Just as a quick mark-out point, didn't the Undertaker look really good out there? WOW! I like this less supernatural, more ass-whuppin' image... it works quite well with him. Now I'm personally hoping Undertaker will resume his quest to turn Paul Wight into the monster he was born to be... if Undertaker gets the belt, I'd like to see him start making Wight's life a living hell until the Big Show snaps and destroys him, thus getting his first real shot at carrying the WWF Title. If Wight could power up his power offense, he could be a very effective champion...

    I thought the rest of the card was solid for what the matches were... it depresses me a little bit that Dean and Perry are still playing to almost no heat from the crowd, though their current attempts to work the mike have been far from successful. Everyone knew Eddy could work the mike quite well, but I'm happy that Benoit has developed a decent intense character based on this "Crippler" gimmick. Now if Dean and Perry can get off the ground with their characters, I think they'll be just fine.

    The one other match which I must comment on is the Submissions match. That was quite a solid match, but I must make one criticism which really doesn't have anything to do with either of the competitors, but with the camera work. If the WWF wanted to run an angle where Benoit knocks out Jericho with the Crossface, they shouldn't have used that close-up shot on Jericho's face... JR and Lawler kept trying to sell the fact that Jericho was unconscious and didn't submit, but the close-up shot very obviously showed Jericho talking. I noticed that Jericho's lips did move right before the ref called for the bell, so he could have said "I quit" very softly but loud enough for the official to hear... if Jericho was signalling for the ref to act as if he was knocked out, again they should NOT have used a camera angle which showed Jericho's lips moving! Use a wider shot, or focus on Benoit's intense face as he cranks the hold... a small criticism, but as is often the case, the "little things" can make or break matches.

    All right, that's all I have for this installment. Next time, I'll probably talk more about some great matches that you should catch on tape. In fact, I think I'll focus on Chris Benoit since many people enjoying his WWF work may not realize what a huge body of tremendous wrestling matches he has had in Japan. There's also a fantastic women's match from FMW I have to talk about, too... so much good wrestling, so little time...

    Stone Kold Stevie
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