While the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) were locked in a fight for national supremacy for much of 1995, a renegade promotion based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania built a cult-like following. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) relished challenging wrestling’s norms and conventions. When Jim Crockett sought to revive the prestige of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1994, ECW star Shane Douglas threw the title on the canvas in disgust after winning it in a tournament final against 2 Cold Scorpio. While the WWF tried to tone down violence in its product by not allowing the use of chairs or ladders as weapons, ECW encouraged its brawlers to put each other through tables and use weapons liberally. And whereas WCW sought to take wrestling back to the 1980s with a revival of Hulkamania, ECW’s owner and booker Paul Heyman – known at this time by his television name Paul E. Dangerously – tapped into the 1990s Jerry Springer-like zeitgeist with risqué storylines and promos that featured colorful language.
However, saying ECW was solely a haven for cursing, chair swinging characters would be incorrect. During 1995 the company would introduce American fans to the work of technical stars such as Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko. Mexican superstars like Rey Misterio, Jr. and Psicosis also got play on ECW TV, amazing fans who stayed up to watch the late-night episodes of Hardcore TV or on the pages of Bill Apter’s wrestling magazines. These talents would later be signed by WCW, underscoring ECW’s ability to showcase talent as well as its inability to hold onto the stars it created.
For this column, which will be released each Monday, all major ECW shows in 1995 will be reviewed. This includes episodes of Hardcore TV as well as major ECW Arena shows since it would take ECW two more years to air its big shows on pay-per-view. Wrestlers win/loss totals will also be provided for their matches, noteworthy house shows will be broken down, and at the end of each week a review will be provided of major backstage news that affected ECW booking and business. Readers should note that many matches on Hardcore TV came from ECW Arena shows, so pains will be taken to avoid double counting results.
Here were ECW’s champions to begin the year:
World Champion: Shane Douglas (defeated Terry Funk in an Ultimate Jeopardy match on March 26, 1994 at Ultimate Jeopardy)
Tag Team Champions: The Public Enemy (defeated Cactus Jack & Mikey Whipwreck on November 5, 1994 at November to Remember)
Television Champion: Dean Malenko (defeated 2 Cold Scorpio on November 4, 1994 at a house show in Hamburg, Pennsylvania)
The first episode of Hardcore TV for 1995 aired on January 3. All the matches were from the 1994 Holiday Hell ECW Arena show, but they will be recapped here to introduce some of the promotion’s top stars. The matches will not count for win-loss totals or any other statistics because the matches took place on a major show in 1994.
Opening Contest: Mikey Whipwreck pins Don E. Allen after a flying bulldog at 1:23 shown:
Whipwreck, who had a cruiserweight build, was a Mick Foley trainee that started as a member of ECW’s ring crew. He had a healthy 1994 campaign, winning the television title from Pitbull #1 and the tag team titles with Foley from the Public Enemy. Allen was a local talent that was used in an enhancement capacity by the promotion. The camera focuses more on Joey Styles than the match, with Styles talking about how Ron Simmons is not allowed to compete against Shane Douglas tonight because Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit injured his shoulder. Allen’s blind charge eats boot and Whipwreck finishes him with a flying bulldog.
A video package recaps Whipwreck’s year in 1994, with Whipwreck getting annihilated by various stars in most of the footage.
Styles interviews Whipwreck, congratulating him on a good 1994. Paul Lauria, Whipwreck’s former tag team partner, appears in the crowd next to a superfan known as “Hat Guy” John Bailey. The segment has horrible audio, but the gist is that when Whipwreck offers a handshake to his old pal he is sucker punched and attacked. Lauria then announces that his new manager is Jason, who beat Whipwreck for the television title in 1994. Jason bills Lauria as “the Giant,” a great piece of heeling because Lauria is smaller than Whipwreck. Styles helps Whipwreck to the locker room.
In a promo, Jason tells Styles that Whipwreck’s glory belongs to him and that he will not succeed in ECW without paying some dues. Styles says that Whipwreck and Lauria will face each other at the ECW Arena on January 7.
Woman and the Sandman warn Cactus Jack that they are going to “show their stuff” when the Sandman faces Jack in Florida on January 14 and 16.
Styles hypes the January 7 ECW card’s match that features Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and the Public Enemy against Sabu, Taz, and 911 by recapping what these men did in 1994. Last week’s episode also featured a wild brawl between these combatants.
ECW Tag Team Champions the Public Enemy say that Christmas was good for them. They make fun of Taz’s weight before hyping the January 7 match against Taz, Sabu, and 911. Rocco Rock does a small rap about how people need to leave him alone.
No Disqualification Match for the ECW Tag Team Championship Match: The Public Enemy (Champions) defeat Taz & Sabu (w/Paul E. Dangerously) at 6:13 shown:
All of the participants in this match came into ECW in late 1993. The Enemy, who took their name from a 1931 film with the same title and wrestled under a hip hop gimmick. By 1995 they had been tag team champions twice. Taz was a Johnny Rodz trainee who cut his teeth in Carlon Colon’s World Wrestling Council (WWC). He was a former tag team champion with Kevin Sullivan and television champion, wrestling as a savage from Tasmania. And Sabu was the nephew of the famous Sheik, amazing fans with daredevil spots with chairs and tables. He is who many fans immediately thought of when they heard of ECW. Sabu and Taz hit their big spots in this clipped encounter, with the referee out of constantly out of position to count the falls he needs to. Johnny Grunge gets busted open during a brawling sequence and Rocco Rock smashes his foes over the head with a frying pan. The Enemy keep getting dominated by Tazplexes and Arabian facebusters, but Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit come to their rescue and beat up the challengers. The finish of the match is not shown, but thehistoryofwwe.com says that the Enemy prevail when they pinned Taz. Rating: *½
After the bell, 911 comes to the ring to help Taz and Sabu and they force the heels to flee.
Dangerously, cell phone in hand, says that Taz and Sabu did not give fans their money’s worth at Holiday Hell because they did not demolish the Public Enemy. He promises that the January 7 show will feature the best wrestling in the world.
Styles puts over an ECW gathering at Club Expo in New York City to celebrate the opening of new television markets and fans can call the ECW office to get into the event.
Styles recaps Stevie Richards mimicking of Scotty Flamingo/Johnny Polo. He says he does not believe the real Scotty Flamingo will ever come to ECW.
ECW Championship Match: Shane Douglas (Champion) beats Ron Simmons after a schoolboy roll up at 4:21:
Douglas had wrestled in the big time before coming to ECW, getting a nice run in the 1991 Royal Rumble and winning the WCW tag team titles with Ricky Steamboat in 1992. He called himself “the Franchise” upon arriving in ECW in the summer of 1993 and his decision to reject the NWA World title the next year is what led to the promotion changing its name from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling. Simmons was trying to rebuild his career after WCW depushed him after Bill Watts was fired and he had won WCW’s world title from Vader, becoming the first African American to hold that championship. Simmons had suffered a legitimate shoulder injury before he could wrestle Douglas at Holiday Hell, so ECW booked an angle where Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit beat him up. Douglas goads Simmons into wrestling by questioning his manhood, with Simmons beating up Douglas even though his arm is in a sling. As fans work up the Florida State tomahawk chop and chant, Simmons whips Douglas with his belt and hits him with his boot. A blind charge opens the door to Douglas working the shoulder and although Simmons tries one last rally, another blind charge leads to Douglas schoolboying his challenger and retaining. Rating: **
Styles opens a sealed envelope to announce the Douglas’ challenger on January 7 is going to be Tully Blanchard.
The Last Word: This broadcast did a good job building to the January 7 ECW show, giving ample time for the big matches and angles, especially the four-on-three match between Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and the Public Enemy against Sabu, Taz, and 911. The main event was entertaining, with Douglas and Simmons doing a good job working around Simmons injury.
Backstage News*: The reason for bringing Tully Blanchard in to wrestle Shane Douglas is to keep Douglas’ proxy feud with Ric Flair going. Douglas has attacked Flair in past promos, so ECW is casting Blanchard as a defender of the Four Horsemen’s honor.
*Backstage news is courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for January 9.
Up Next: ECW Hardcore TV for January 10!
Note: For this new series we will be following three promotions at once. ECW gets Monday, Smoky Mountain Wednesday, and the USWA on Friday. So Wednesday will feature Smoky Mountain Wrestling for January 7, 1995.