Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: A Few Words on Hardcore Justice

TNA put on “The Last Stand” last Sunday, a pay-per-view designed to be the final ECW-oriented pay-per-view ever. And unlike all the ECW inspired events of a few years back, I personally feel like they succeeded.

Both WWE and Shane Douglas tried their own versions of these events in past years with One Night Stand and Hardcore Homecoming respectively. While both had a step up in location, neither captured the feel of the previous era in the way TNA’s Hardcore Justice did. I attribute the show’s success to two factors the previous shows just could not match: the availability of many of ECW’s biggest names and the booking of former ECW co-booker Tommy Dreamer.

Both of the previous shows seriously suffered from a lack of available talent. Hardcore Homecoming missed out on any talent contracted to WWE (which included tons of stars, but most notably Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam) while One Night Stand missed out on talents signed to TNA, most specifically Raven. An ECW show without Raven misses out on one of the key players that helped really innovate the promotion, while Tommy Dreamer was the heart and soul of the promotion with Rob Van Dam probably being its biggest star ever. The first time in a decade, Hardcore Justice gives us a match between Raven and Tommy Dreamer, a match that is key to any show truly interested in bringing back the old ECW. With almost everyone involved with the original ECW now gone from WWE (only Joey Styles and Joey Mercury are left), the roster pool was far stronger for this show than it was for any previous attempts at recreating the old school feel of ECW. Dreamer clearly knew this, and embraced it wholeheartedly in his booking decisions.

At the same time, booker Tommy Dreamer made every effort to channel old storylines straight through to the pay-per-view over nine years after ECW’s collapse. The opening bout ties in to Simon Diamond & Johnny Swinger’s hatred of the FBI for a lost tag shot a decade before. Stevie Richards came in with the goal of proving he could stand on his own away from Raven and did so against PJ “Justin Creible” Polaco. The Sandman made an appearance just to make sure Polaco knew he wasn’t a fan of his gimmick being stolen. Al Snow, Rhino, and Brother Runt were thrown together, but they did it in a traditional ECW elimination three way dance. Team 3D (with classic pitchman Joel Gertner) battled Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney (renamed Kahoneys because of the loss of his name to WWE) in a street fight, followed by an attack by the reteamed Gangstas, all of which celebrated the crazy over-weaponed matches that all three teams were known for. Tommy Dreamer and Raven reignited a classic feud and put on the match of the night in a brutal bloody battle. And even without Jerry Lynn’s presence, Sabu and Rob Van Dam put on an epic encounter in the main event.

The stars were definitely older (and balder, at least in the case of Sabu), and some were definitely worse for wear. Arguably, it seemed only Too Cold Scorpio (who faced C.W. Anderson early on the card) hadn’t lost a step. If anything he seemed faster and more innovative then in his classic days. He really surprised me in his match, reminding me of classic battles with the likes of Chris Jericho and Taz. Just to digress, his performance at Hardcore Justice just made me question his quick hiring and firing from WWE a few years back.

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t classic ECW, and it never could hope to be. Too many classic ECW stars have passed on (way too many some might argue), and a few still alive were noticeably absent, most notably Shane Douglas and Terry Funk. (I know a few people might also include Lance Storm and Mikey Whipwreck in that list, but I do not see them as essential figures the way Douglas and Funk were.) And “The Blue Tilly” and fake “Lupus” were a just plain bad idea. (Thankfully, the fans made sure that TNA knew how bad an idea it reallyw as.) Overall, these proved to be minor problems, as unlike previous attempts, Tommy Dreamer put together a card that was entertaining from top to bottom. It succeeded in one key feature: it made me want more from the likes of the FBI, Richards, Scorpio, Raven, and even PJ Polaco. Now it is a waiting game to see how TNA plays out any continued presence of EV2.0 in upcoming program.

If this truly was “The Last Stand”, then TNA succeeded at giving the world one last great farewell to ECW. And can any ECW fan ask for any more than that?

Next week, we will have an update on my first two wrestling Wednesdays, and look how the events of WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view Summer Slam affect Kane and the Nexus.

No comments: