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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

Sometimes, inspiration strikes from the darndest of places. A few weeks ago, I was partaking of my usual commute when I noted an one-hour photo developing edifice. For some reason, that banal observation made me ponder the element of time, and thusly, an afternoon of Heidegger-esque brooding of the semblance of chronological order was initialized. Unlike Marty, however, I didn't join in-league with the S.S., so that's something to be thankful for.

So, what exactly can you do in one hour? Promotions fight and bitch and moan to get two hour time slots, because, as a certain shitty Orlando-based company is quite fond of iterating, "one hour is simply not enough time to exhibit a promotion's full quality", to which I respond, "shit" of a most bullish order.

The fact of the matter is, one hour is more than enough time to put on a demonstrative offering that exemplifies the absolute zeitgeist of a company's scope. Is this just conjecture on my part, or do I have tangible proof of my loud-mouth rabble-rousing?

To answer, I've got two words for you: "Guerrero, Malenko".

By now, you should be aware that the legendary Dean and Eddy rivalry of 1995 was among the best things that have ever happened, ever. Better than the discovery of zinc, in my humble assertions. Over the course of six months, those two absolutely tore it up across venues of literally tens of people, putting on perhaps the best straight up wrestling bouts the country had envisioned since the collapse of the N.W.A. (The wrestling one, not the "Straight Out Of Compton" one, although those newfangled Dr. Pepper commercials starring Dr. Mother Fucking Dre are likewise disheartening. How long until we hear "Fuck Tha' Pepsi", eh?)

Anyhoo, the matches ruled something fierce, and it was only a matter of time until they desired actual, authentic payment in paper money. Under the keen lordship of Eric B., Eddy and Dean were quickly snapped up by WCW, and on 8- 26-95, ECW dedicated an entire television show to their final bout in the promotion. It was decided that a two out of three falls finale should be in order, and the entire crux of the program would be centric to that one bout. The end result?

For my money, the single greatest hour of professional wrestling television in the HISTORY of the pseudo-sport.

Without further delay, I present unto thee. . . ECW Hardcore Television, 08- 26-95!

Eschewing the typical White Zombie-ish opening salvo, we begin tonight's show sans the gut-bucket rock and roll as an on-screen graphic labeled merely "The Showdown" is plastered across the introductory video montage.

As Joey Styles narrates, a brief history of Dean Malenko's ECW tenure is recounted, glossing over "The Shooter's" miniature feud with Taz and his subsequent Television title victory over Too Cold Scorpio. As Styles informs us, Malenko then goes on to win the Tag titles alongside Chris Benoit, but ends up dropping the TV strap back to Scorpio shortly thereafter.

A fan-freaking-tastic clip is shown next, in which Joey Styles "interviews" the stoic Dean Malenko, whom ripostes to Styles' inquiries by cracking his knuckles with incredible volubility. In all sincerity, Malenko's finger snapping sounds louder than Tajiri's kicks.

Noting the death of Art Barr, Styles than analyzes Eddie Guerrero's ECW tenancy, beginning with his TV championship win over Too Cold. As Guerrero rocks the stars and stripes long Johns, Styles states that Eddy came to America and "Lived Art's Dream".

The 30 minute Time Limit Draw (Hostile City Showdown '95) is briefly dissected, as the Malenko / Guerrero feud is officially "on". Recap of Malenko winning the TV title (which we covered a couple months back here at The Rocktagon), and Guerrero winning the strap back in Middleton, New York. A week before tonight's show, Dean pins Eddy in a six man tag match that includes (listen to THIS line-up) The Steiner Brothers, Too Cold, AND Cactus Jack. Sans Rick, that's nary a shitty card in the hand.

Crank up the Deep Purple, mother fucker. It's 2 out of 3 falls time.

Guerrero cuts a promo in which he says he thinks he's the better man, but doesn't know if he's the better man, but he thinks he is, but he doesn't know for sure. So, basically, long story short, don't mix tequila with painkillers, kids.

Joey Styles is in the ring, as we get a good, long gander at the ECW fan base circa August 1995 which includes, among other things, a guy wearing a generic football jersey and an old school UFC cap and a shirtless guy that looks like an anorexic Jimmy Snuka. So yeah, the audience is essentially interchangeable with the patrons of a Dokken concert from the same epoch.

Too Cold dances to the ring accompanied by the strings of Tag Team as the crowd chants "Whoomp! You Suck!" and Scorpio berates a scrawny Gallagher facsimile clad head to toe in Los Angeles Rams regalia.

In ring, Joey makes a Shane Douglas joke and reminds Too Cold that Taz will soon be gunning for him. Scorpio responds by giving his prediction for tonight's victor, which is, "Who cares? I'm the champ!" before he exits the venue.

LANCE WRIGHT! Emotionlessly, he informs the television crowd that two guys from Mexico named Ray Mysterious and Side Co-Sis will be making their ECW debuts on September 16th, and Raven and Stevie Richards will defend the ECW tag belts against the Pit Bulls in a dog-collar match. Well, that sounds like a totally-not-at-all-significant card, huh? ENCOURAGED to take it to the extreme? Eh, sad but true.

Time for our Orwellian Moment of Hate; due to that DASTARDLY Ted Turner and his business finagling with New Japan Pro Wrestling, this will be Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko's final night in ECW before applying their respective trades in WCW. "Bischoff sucks! à "Dick!" chants run wild throughout the crowd at the revelation. Damn you, free market economy, damn you straight to hell!

Dean rocks it to "Perfect Strangers" (no, not the one with Balkie), as Eddy struts to the ring to "Animal" by Pearl Jam. Wait, so you mean to tell me that these two DIDN'T come out to generic keyboard music like on the WWE DVD releases? My mind, it is blown. Both guys get absolutely DEAFENING ovations, as each athlete claps for the other's introduction. Awesome? You god damn right it is.

Call (800) 357-8393 if you want the here the hot stepper come.

Handshake, and excellent stand up wrestling as the crowd chants "Please don't go!" at the top of their lungs. Stalemate, a thunderous cacophony of applause, and Joey Styles reminds the two competitors that they will always have a home in ECW. Knuckle lock, sweep, pin attempt, Guerrero escapes. AWESOME pin fall attempt in which Guerrero feigns amateur technique, sinking his muscles into the lock like an Olympian to secure a quick, realistic victory. Malenko fights his way out of the hold, his face aloof like an Ultimate Fighter caught in a ground submission that he knows he can get out of as long as he plays it cool. Dean manages to finally escape with a knee bar, as the ECW faithful roars for ACTUAL wrestling. Wait, so you mean all ECW fans we're a bunch of slovenly, homophobic, bloodthirsty ne'er-do-wells? The Internet lies again!

As soon as I type that, up blooms the "Bischoff takes it up the ass" take- off of Camptown Races. Sigh.

Guerrero slaps on an armbar, as Dean slowly begins to maneuver himself out of his concomitant plight. Malenko, sensing a pin attempt, lowers himself upon Guerrero's shoulders as Eddy clutches for a rope break.

HOLY SHIT. If you've ever wanted to see about thirty moves performed in a time span of 45 seconds, then you're in luck during this bout. An amazing exchange culminates with Eddy locking Dean in a face lock. Armbar, top rope walk, bicep cinch and a tornado wrist twist? Fuck, yes.

"Please don't go! Please don't go!"

Eddy squelches Dean with a Rock Bottom precursor. Fisherman's suplex for only a two. Malenko with the bow and arrow, and the crowd laps it up like a pup enjoying a puddle of anti-freeze. STF? No dice. Snapmare, Eddy pops back up and uses Dean's face as a doormat. European uppercut (from Mexico), and Malenko gets tossed out of the ring like a metaphor for something being excised from something else.

Dean takes a breather, rolls back into the ring, and eats a belly to belly. I hear those things have lots of carbohydrates. Enziguri-o. Un dos solemento. Superplex? Two. Tilt-a-whirl back breaker? 2. Killer near fall exchange, and Eddy scores an out-of-nowhere pin fall to take the 1-0 lead.

Holy shit, a bumper for UFC 7, headlined by Ken Shamrock and Oleg Taktarov. Funny that the Ultimate Fighting Championship marketed the bout as the reheating of the Cold War. Huh, who'd thunk that all it took to fuck up perestroika was a bunch of chubby shirtless dudes wailing on each other in a dog cage?

Back to it, and Malenko instantly tries to hot shot Eddy's knee. Eddy avoids disaster, lifts up Malenko, and gives him an all-you-can-eat German buffet. Der Jude still isn't allowed patronage, I hear. Malenko continues to work the leg, and lands an Alabama Slam. . . From Tampa. In no mood for bullshit, Malenko locks in the Texas Cloverleaf almost instantaneously, torques back on that mother of fuckers and gets Eddy to tap.

It's 1-1. Next fall or submission seals it.

Eddy G. walks it off, as the black version of that fat dude from Blues Traveler stands vigilant over the entranceway.

It's balls-out action from here-on out, as Dean lands a brain buster that came this close to turning Guerrero into a stem cell recipient. "Shooter" chants from the crowd as Dean feeds Eddy a dropkick sandwich with extra boot polish. Dean smacks Eddy with a running forearm club that most likely would've done in most baby seals. TIGER BOMB, MOTHER FUCKER! Two. Guerrero battles back with the swinging DDT. E.G. drops his own brain buster, frog splash and. . . Just a two!

Picture perfect hurrancanrana, only a dos. Did Joey Styles really just correlate the Frankensteiner with a Shakespeare quote? I guess he did. Sunset flip power bomb, and the best Eddy can scrounge up is a two. PATENTED DEAN MALENKO FRISBEE TOSS TIME! And what greatest hits compilation would be complete without the Malenko gut buster? Still an awesome song to this day.

Near fall exchange, a double roll up, one, two and three! Your winner. . .

Uh. . .

They pinned each other simultaneously! I guess it's sister kissing time, because this one is ending in a draw.

If this were any other night, in any other promotion, with any other performers, it would have been a cop-out. But sensing the magnitude of the bout, and the repercussions, and pretty much the entire cosmos surrounding the match. . . It couldn't have ended any other way.

LANCE WRIGHT! JIM THORPE, PENNSYLVANIA! (Howard Dean Scream!)

Wow, Middleton sure did get a lot of extremeness in the mid-90s, although I'm not sure how "hardcore" having a card inside a café truly is.

Post bout, Eddy stands up for the fans First Amendment Rights, and judging from Guerrero's gaudy neon green tights, the right to wear tacky apparel, to boot.

What's this? Is Malenko asking for mic time? The formerly solemn Shooter puts over the fans, and states that from here on out, he will always be an ECW Wrestling fan.

Malenko exits the ring, lifts his arm up, and shouts "Stay cool everybody!" as I almost piss myself in laughter. If you're looking for a hilariously awkward moment that will ensure a chuckle, that one right there should be at the top of your queue pile.

Handshake, hug, arm raise, and out come the faces to celebrate. Eddy then makes his exit from the confines of Extreme-Sylvania, hugging up fat dudes on his way out and totally blowing off this one kid with Down's Syndrome in the front row.

And like that, it's a fade to black.

There are a lot of adjectives that have been used to describe ECW, and one of the terms that I use that isn't floated about by the general public all that often is "heartwarming".

Now, did I really label the promotion of fiery tables, pregnancy angles and Chilly Willy as something that can be construed as life-affirming soup for the soul? For all of the company's decadent, well-deserved stereotypes, the most persistent, and significant of traits the company exhibited was the tinge of "passion" the promotion exuded from seemingly ever pore. Yeah, the fans chanted "you fucked up", but at the same time, if the guys put on an awesome performance, they let them know, and vociferously. After watching tonight's show, it's apparent just how much the fans cared about the in-ring product, and the in-ring performers themselves. I'm picking up my dead horse beating stick here, but that's a notion that I feel as if is just lost on the industry these days. For my money, this is the second most emotional bout of the 90s, second only to the Nitro is Owen bout in terms of heart- tugging superlatives, and in that, I really can't envision a more ringing endorsement.

You simply most see this one, uncut, as it was meant to be seen. Believe me, it's well worth going out of your way to hunt down a second-hand tape. And lastly, for a very special message, http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9opkhO5kH5Q 

Keep on a rocking,
Your friendly neighborhood J. Swift.

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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.).