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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

Well, I'm back. Long story.

I suppose that my nine-month absence from this fine site probably requires a bit of exposition. All in all, it's a fairly straightforward tale: Boy- meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-has-college-accreditation-wrested-from-his- grips-and-via-lack-of-ethical-and-financial-support-from-his-parental-units- ends-up-disowning-his-entire-family-finding-himself-jobless-and- simaltaneously-homeless-before-regaining-sufficient-funds-vital-to-academic- sojourns-through-an-unorthodox-benefactory-deal-that-also-instigates-a- confounding-career-twist-thus-leading-into-a-nigh-year-long-tail-spin-in- which-his-future-aspirations-pertinent-to-his-collegiate-and-occupational- plans-find-themselves-crashing-headlong-into-his-unwavering-conflicting- nature-of-pursuing-his-own-scholastic-and-career-goals-in-addendum-to-the- youthful-sense-of-idealism-and-romanticism-he-likewise-wishes-to-maintain- while-transitioning-into-a-corporate-entity. In other words, it's as if I handed a pen and notepad to Vince Russo and told him "do your worst" to my life back in January. I certainly appreciate the lack of reverse-battle- royals and not having to change my name to "J. Rockefeller Swyft", however. But seriously, though, I hope Vince Russo gets AIDS.

Thusly, such a meandering string of run-on sentences and mockery of a global- killer-of-innocent-impoverished-children for the sake of an "insider" joke means but one thing: Ladies and.ah, who the hell am I kidding, just gentlemen.James freaking Swift is back. And much like a certain Olympic-gold sporting Soma-addict, I wish to be your hero. And unlike a certain Olympic- gold sporting Soma-addict, you can feel safe on the sidewalks when I drive.

Let us cut to the argument at hand, shan't we? There are no bones about it: Wrestling in this day and age sucks. I will not even pretend to admit that I follow it, care about it, or am willing to write about it. We all know how my stint recapping the ECW show went: with me lying in the fetal position in a gas station bathroom with my pants about my ankles screaming for death's sweet embrace. Or maybe that was the last Monster Magnet show I attended. Either way, it's a sensation that no non-TNA employee should have to suffer through.

Erstwhile, the industry at this current juncture may be in an undeniable state of suck, but thankfully, the past is an entirely different animal. In a thick extemporaneous outer covering, that is the rationale behind my latest somewhat-reoccurring column, The Rocktagon. Nostalgia is big bucks, man: Look at all the retards you see waltzing around the mall wearing Nintendo shirts and sporting Kimmy Gibbler-era fashion giblets. When I see an opportunity to capitalize on people's wayward sentiments of bygone youth, then by golly, I capitalize on said people's wayward sentiments of bygone youth.

For what it's worth, this column isn't intended to be a straight-up evaluation of wrestling's long forgotten years of mildly being worth a hoot. Rather, this column is a celebration of a far simpler time in our existences, back when Internet connections were lousy, gasoline was three nickels a gallon and one couldn't cross reference the terms "Benoit, Chris" with "family slayer". Also, this column is intended to be far more pop- culture centric than most of the other "industry-focused" pieces you'll find on the Intra-Web. If that isn't your cup of Code Red Mountain Dew, I simply state this: Your mother.

OK, let's jump straight into my first assignment. When I signed up for this here site, I was officially handed the reins to the doomed voyager that was ECW on Sci-Fi. After a month of viewing said program, I went into a feral state and lost control of my bladder. I suppose it's one thing to view a horrible television program solely for the sake of dissecting it in a negative verbal light later on, but when that same program is the ill-gotten bastardization of your teen year's most glaring cultural contributor.well, it's kind of like asking Cindy Sheehan to join your Counter Strike clan.

I really can't state how important ECW was to me during my formative years. In a timeframe in which I was devoid of things like "decent parents", "religious instilment", and "proper education", I had no choice but to align myself with Paul E.'s unique band of miscreants and ne'er-do- wells. While all the other kids at lunch talked about how great Goldberg and The Rock were, I knew very well just how much fanny Taz, New Jack and Rob Van Dam truly kicked. These were characters I could relate to, and the camaraderie of the promotion's faithful.oh, goodness. It altered the very essence of my character. I grew my hair long, started listening to metal and bought a bajillion black T-shirts because of that little Philly promotion, and to this day, the us-against-the-world "extremist" mentality is an ethos that I still abide by. Seriously.

Auto Insurance Lady: Oh, Mr. Swift. I see that your policy is up for renewal. Also, your discount for this period is the amount of $16.42.

James Swift: Really?

Auto Insurance Lady: Uh-huh.

James Swift: E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub!

Auto Insurance Lady: .

James Swift: Sorry.

(But to be fair, if I were truly exemplifying that ECW mentality, the check I gave her would have bounced.)

So, yeah, ECW, kind of important to me. And for my first sojourn into the eight-sided vestibule of nostalgia, it's only fitting that my first article would be a gander at the ECW of our forefathers.

I submit, for your viewing pleasure, the VERY first episode of ECW on TNN.

The date was August 27th, 1999. The WTC was still standing, people were reveling in the bliss that was the recently released Sega Dreamcast and half of the WCW locker room was still alive. It was a different time, indeed.

When ECW scored a cable television deal with the-then-Nashville-Network, I wasn't suspicious one iota, although from day one, the fate of the show was earmarked for a big, fat, case of doom. Moreover, I was just ecstatic that I could see ECW on television without having to stay up until 2 in the morning on Fridays. ECW programming.during daylight hours? Insanity! Insanity that I was very much in favor of, that is.

I suppose we all had our favorite moments of ECW in syndicated purgatory. I guess my favorite anecdote is that in my area, ECW was broadcast on, of all things, one of those UHF local affiliates that routinely played nothing but religious programming. That being said, it was somewhat amusing to have two preaching sermons dispersed by an hour of chair shots, vulgarities, and an ad infinitum string of 900 number spots. I guess that hour a week of debauchery was the station's literal representation of giving Satan his just compensation.

But now, ECW had gone big time. I anxiously counted down the days until that glorious debut episode on national TV, waiting with bated breath as my promotion had its coming-out party.

Time to hit play on the old Video Cassette Recorder.

The show opens. We've got the Dudley Boys. We've got Balls Mahoney. We have tables. We have fire. =IF b2+b3+b4+b5, 0.

Joey Style introduces us with the legendary "This isn't the WWF. This isn't WCW. This is ECW on TNN!" line.

An absolutely amazing opening salvo, and the best way to introduce the nationwide audience to the product/alienate potential advertisers possible.

Cue the world's least discrete rip-off of "More Human Than Human". What's really neat here is that the ECW graphics utilized actually look as if someone spent more than five minutes designing them. Granted, it isn't Shrek caliber CGI, but it's far classier than the company's tried and true formula of scrawling on shit with black markers and calling it good. Wow, did I just mention ECW and the term "classier" in the same paragraph? I SOLD OUT! I SOLD OUT!

The video package displays some of ECW's finer attributes, mainly, lots of chair shots and spot match footage, in addition to some of the company's greatest moments, like Taz going through the ring, Dreamer waffling Raven in the steel cage and that time Paul Heyman gave Tommy Dreamer Red Hots and told him they were painkillers. Just kidding. They didn't show Raven in the footage.

Joey Styles is coming to us Live (TAPED) from Toledo, Ohio. Behind him is the massive ECW throw blanket that I always thought resembled a National Socialist banner. Joey runs over the ECW World Television Title lineage before putting over Rob Van Dam as the greatest TV champ EVAR~~.

OK, here's where the tomfoolery kicks in. We're supposedly in Toledo, Ohio, correct? Why is it that we're now going back in time to view a match that occurred months earlier, at a venue that is decisively incompatible with the purported arena, with banners and other miscellaneous apparel that signifies that, yes, we are indeed not within continuity?

Well, blame that on The Nashville Network. Reportedly, Paul H. and crew had their initial episode clawed and butchered so much by the network censoring committee that they said "to hell with it" and threw in a match from earlier that year to cover up their tracks.

You have to give it up for the ECW creative committee. They did a phenomenal job of getting RVD over as one of the best in the industry. Hell, even I thought he was a top-tier athlete that could easily out-manuever legit grapplers in the big two. In conclusion, at thirteen, I was a retard.

This is the Hardcore Heaven '99 bout, AKA, the beach ball bout, AKA, the birth of the modern day American spot fest. Sure, we can all sit around like a bunch of elitists and thumb our noses at such archaic displays of non- selling and kayfabe-murdering impossi-spots, but I say view this for what it is: proof that weed-vision seriously hampers one's ability to land summersaults.

Of course, RVD's opponent is Jerry Lynn.and sticky-green induced hunger pangs.

We start off with the establishing collar-and-elbow-tie-up. I assure you that is about as scientific as we're going to get in this bout. Initiate highly improbable leapfrog sequence! Now, Initiate absolutely impossible feigned kicking-elbow-escape sequence! Seriously, someone would require ESP to avoid some of these escape spots. RVD showboats or else he's distracted by something shiny in the audience. Erstwhile, Lynn seethes in the corner. You know, not like a rest spot, or anything.

Actually, the ECW higher-ups (boy, what an oxymoron there) did a commendable job of getting Lynn over. I suppose now would be a good time to iterate the point that this match is severely truncated, so the bout jumps from spot to spot without little exposition or transition betwixt maneuvers. So, yeah, it's basically like any other Lynn / RVD match-up.

RVD is giving Lynn some pretty rad kicks. Lynn answers with a springboard drop kick of his own to the outside.and to the EXTREME! Plancha to the outside by Lynn. For future reference, hearing Styles say "plancha" is really, really funny. Another dropkick from Lynn, followed up with a guillotine leg drop. Styles states that RVD's eyes are a little glassy. (Insert effortless marijuana reference). Lynn continues to dominate, landing a top-rope bulldog on Van Dam. Alfonso crotches Lynn on the top turnbuckle. SHENANIGANS! Lynn makes Rob Van Dam EAT CHAIR in retaliation. Well, I hear that the munchies make you crave all sorts of esoteric comestibles, so.

Lynn gets crotched again, which means RVD gets to hit yet ANOTHER dropkick. Lynn flies to the concrete floor, and it's time for our first commercial break.

Promo for Anarchy Rulz '99, one of the best ECW PPVS ever, and an equally awesome spot with Paul Heyman whisper-growling the basic ECW platitudes over a harmonic choir. Man, I miss those ads.

Oh yeah, the ECW Hardcore Hotline! Combining my love of insider information and fiery stock footage since 1996. Bonus points to any readers out there than can name the song being played in the background. The first person to answer correctly wins.something. So.The Warrior.in ECW? Really? There's actually a story there, believe it or not. As the Ultimate Republican was finagling his way out of his WCW contract, the Warrior purportedly contacted ECW about doing a one-time appearance. Paul E. said he would take him up on his offer if and only if he would job out to Taz in under a minute. You don't have to call 1-900-RUN-4-ECW to figure out how that turned out.

Oddities are afoot. We have a commercial for Monster Truck Madness 64, a lackluster-seeming Nintendo title. What makes this intriguing is that the ad features none other than Kevin Nash, and one of the game's selling points is the in-game inclusion of an N.W.O. branded truck that, for some reasons, fires missiles. The hell?

I'm happy, because we have a spot for Stigmata. Granted, the film sucked beyond suck, but wow, is it nice to see Patricia Arquette back when her face didn't look like a peach sack of doorknobs.

A dumb Pep Boys spot featuring a talking moose is shown. I really wish there was something elk on. Sorry, but I yak too much about these things sometime. Still, I really don't caribou this.

Aqua Velva spot. Yeah, like ECW fans cared about their body odors. I've been to the ECW Arena, and in some circles, a rank scent was considered a badge of honor.

Castrol GTX protects against both Viscosity and Thermal breakdown. Finally!

Not all nostalgia is good, folks. Case in point: those 1-800-Call-ATT spots featuring David Arquette acting like a goofball. Oh well, I'm sure his legacy in the world of professional wrestling will be that of utmost insignificance.

Back to the action! Jerry Lynn has magically been transported into the third row, and RVD does his best impersonation of Rivers Cuomo by hurting his fans. Styles actually maintains some semblance of continuity as he attempts to fill in the blanks betwixt the commercial break, but trying to fill in plot holes within an RVD match is like watching the drummer from Def Leppard play Wack-A-Mole. Somehow, we're back in the ring, and RVD hits a Northern Lights Suplex. Lynn responds with a sunset flip from the top rope. Lynn lands a short-arm clothesline, and not the kind used for midgets' laundry, either. Lynn goes for a table. Hey, maybe they'll play poker or set up a snack tray. More crowd fighting, with RVD landing a chair-assisted sidekick.

Out of nowhere, it's time for a commercial break. For a minute there, I was wondering why Joey Styles was asking whether or not I was satisfied with my truck's current bedding liner.

There's that damn Kevin Nash commercial again. He has MONSTER TRUCK MADNESS! I guess that's a medical condition that disallows the ability to walk more than three feet without having one's leg muscles sound like a grindcore act.

Another collect call spot, this time starring Christopher Lloyd and a monkey. That talks.

A Wendy's spot mimicking French Noueva Cinema. It sure brings back memories seeing Dave Thomas as anything other than a corpse.

YRMA EHT NIOJ.

TNN proudly presents NASCAR Rocks America, featuring the Allman Brothers and country music's top acts. It was better than five Woodstocks, I tell you!

OK, back to the show. RVD uses some fancy (read: pointless) flips before kicking Lynn right in the FACE with a chair simulacrum. Table spot feigned, Lynn gets clotheslined for his efforts. Weird (read: blown) leg drop attempt thingy on behalf of Van Dam. Time for an extended strikes exchange. Sunset flip by Lynn has Jerry's feet breaking the table followed shortly thereafter with Rob Van Dam's body breaking the table even more so. Joey acknowledges his creator.

RVD and Lynn utilize their time travel capabilities to fast forward to in- ring action. RVD sets up the Van-Daminator, Lynn ducks, another chair exchange; Bill Alfonso gets CLOBBERED by Lynn. You know, you just don't get that kind of impressive ping out of today's furniture wares. Lynn Germans RVD. Top rope spot gets blown big time. I have no clue what they were even attempting there. The crowd politely acknowledges this faux pas. Lynn gives RVD a taste of his medicine.no, not GHB, but a Van-Daminator variation of his own. 2 Count. Time for the ridiculous near-fall exchange, now with 25 percent more botching! You got to give it up to RVD.it takes a special brand of wrestler to fowl up a pinning spot. No Cradle Piledriver makes me a sad panda. Split-legged moonsault from Van Dam.that he doesn't mess up? I've seen everything now. Snapmare + Leg drop combo from he that reeks of patchouli. Five Star Frog Splash. Lynn no-sells into a quick pin attempt. No dice. A fugly Van-Daminator from Rob. Another Five Star Frog Splash. That's the clincher.

Winner: Joey Styles

That's right, I'm giving the award to the guy doing play-by-play, as his input and selling made just as much of an impact on the match as the performers themselves.

Post bout, Joey hocks merchandise, continues to put over Lynn/RVD, and teases something about a particular beer drinking mega star of the late 90s from a rival promotion. Man, I can't wait to see what Tank Abbot is doing in ECW!

Let's pay some bills real quick.

Marlon Wayans wants you to use 1-800-CALL-ATT to reinforce negative black stereotypes.

Another Stigmata ad. Like I said earlier, in her heyday, Patricia was one hot piece of tail. Imagine my umbrage upon viewing Medium for the first time and seeing my former object of desire in all her flabby faced glory. It's as if Father Time and Mother Nature tag teamed her with crowbars and ring-dings after Little Nicky.

ECW fans sure do require a lot of motor oil. And gas additives.

If you ever get sucked into a black hole, just remember that on September 5th, 1999, at 3:30 e / p, you can view Darrell Waltrip's Racers. And who wouldn't?

Back to ECW. Joey Styles hocks the Friday Night Thrillzone lineup. We all die a little on the inside as Joey shills for RollerJam. Joey runs down the gamut of guys that never won the ECW title. Including some guy named Sean Austin or something. Joey informs us that we'll return in "A Stone Cold Minute" [\patent infringement.]

There's that damned Monster Truck Madness advert. How many Kevin Nash jokes can I cram into one article? Have a made fun about his immobility? OK. Well. did I bring up the fact that he played Super Shredder in the second Ninja Turtles movie? (Please, God, don't inform TNA of that information)

Buy tires at Pep Boys. Oddly enough, I suppose tires are the only items in the American fabric that have yet to succumb to inflation. That's funny on a whole lot of levels, so you might want to read that one over a couple of times.

If you use Aqua Velva, you'll feel like a naked guy in a tundra. Sold!

Oh, Dave Thomas. How the world weeps at your loss.

Join the army, and you'll get to play basketball and go to college. And maybe get killed. But that's a pretty big if. Unless you get sent to Iraq. Which you probably will. But dude, basketball!

You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that TNN has a pretty big hard-on for automotive racing. Call it a hunch.

Friday night is Thrillzone night. It still is, in my heart, at least.

Boy, that NASCAR Rocks America tour was the show of a lifetime. The jug solo alone was worth the price of admission.

Back to ECW, and we're reliving the immortal moment in which Shane Douglas threw down the NWA title and declared the ECW belt "Extreme". A good time to rundown the past ECW World Champs, isn't it? This brings us to the then current titleholder, Taz.

We've got Taz defending his belt against Rhino. Right off the bat, Taz no sells a pretty stiff looking powerbomb and flips off Rhino for his efforts. Taz hits a clothesline, and we've got some outside brawling. Another continuity change here, as Styles says we are now in Chicago. So, in addition to time travel, ECW has the ability to teleport. Awesome. Tazplex! It is astonishing just how over Taz was at this time. As good as a job ECW did in making you drink the Kool-Aid about RVD and Lynn, the stuff that worked with Taz is positively incomparable. For the longest time, I thought Taz really was the baddest man on the planet. No jokes here, it's just that ECW knew how to effing book its product. More obscene gestures from Taz. Killer top rope belly to belly for Rhino. Taz goes for a table, and this crowd is absolutely electric. Taz no sells everything Rhino throws at him. Taz responds with a Three Stooges Eye Poke, No, seriously. Tazplex through the table. Hooray for alliterations! Kata-Ha-Jime, cue the "War Machine" knock-off.

Winner: Taz

Without question, my all time favorite "monster push" in wrestling history. Post-fight, Taz throws Rhino through the remnants of the already shattered table. Folks, that's just plain badass.

Next-up, we have a video package for "Banned from competing in America" Sabu. Nobody does hype jobs quite like EC-Dubya.

The awesome Anarchy Rulz promo is replayed. Great PPV, one that might just make an appearance in The Rocktagon at a latter date (SPOILER).

Hardcore Hotline update: Somebody in WCW wants to work in ECW? Well, if they can get over the whole "not getting paid" deal, I think they might like it!

That's it, I HAVE to play Monster Truck Madness now. Reach out and CRUSH someone! ~~~ /sarcasm

Christopher Lloyd is still playing with his monkey.

My two favorite television shows circa 1999? Why, ECW on TNN and The Real McCoys, of course! Pappy was more hardcore than New Jack, I say.

A TNN bumper is shown, as the most bucolic music in the pantheon of recorded sound rolls over the quip "Your country home". Well, that certainly gels with ECW's mentality.

And we're back! Spike Dudley vs. Big Sal Graziano is unfurling before our very eyes. I've seen the" littlest guy on the roster vs. the biggest guy on the roster" ploy used dozens of times now, and it never ceases to amuse me. (PROTIP: do not utilize if you employ midgets). Kick, Acid Drop, and Spike wins in mere seconds. The ECW faithful hoot and holler in agreement.

Winner: Spike Dudley

God, do I love ECW booking. They legitimately made you feel as if Spike Dudley even had a chance against Mike Awesome, and you couldn't help but root for the guy. All in all, Spike Dudley may very well be the greatest hype job in ECW history.

Backstage, we're introduced to the Impact Players, consisting of Justin Credible, Lance Storm, and their handlers Jason and Dawn Marie.and Cyrus. Jason claims Joey Styles wanted to be rubbed, Dawn Marie hoes it up for the camera and Cyrus wants more screen time.

Justin and Lance: "We're tough, but we can't act, so (growl)"

Yeah, not exactly the high point of the program. At one point, Justin (tries to) intimidate Rob Van Dam into a fight. Huh. I wonder what happened to that angle?

Joey displays the company's touring schedule, which acts as a segue into a Kid Rock video. Funny, Paul did this because the TNN executives distinctly told him to not "run music videos" on ECW programming. Also, I suppose it was a filtering agent to mask the inherent crapiness of the initial ECW on TNN taping. You know, I bet somewhere in a Philly vault, the master tape of that god forsaken show must exist in its entirety. It's tenth anniversary is quickly approaching, you know.

The show ends with Taz cutting a killer promo in which he buries his former challengers. Trust me, it is awesome, and well worth trekking down if you haven't already heard it.

"Beat me if you can.survive if I let you!"

And fade to black.

Looking back on what is almost a ten year old show, it's amazing how well the initial program holds up. It actually does feel a lot less archaic than most shows from the time frame, and considering the fact that the show was "mostly" a rush-job to salvage a god-awful initial shoot, the ECW conglomeration did a pretty bang-up job on making a decent nationwide debut. I've said it one, I'll say it again: there hasn't been booking of such a caliber since the death of ECW. Each and every guy on the roster seemed prominent and at any given time, any figure on the roster could breakout in stardom. The hype jobs pretty much go without further statements, because they're that damned impressive. All in all, it's everything that made wrestling fun.

It's definitely a show worth dusting off the VCR for. Now excuse me, I have to hook up this damned Nintendo 64 real quick.

Your friendly neighborhood James Swift,
(XxjswxX)

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).