Hardcore Justice

HardCORE Justice

ECW’s history over the past decade has been a tumultuous one, to say the least. Frankly, given its bankruptcy, multiple reunion shows, revival by WWE, and setbacks such as December to Dismember, Vince McMahon’s title win, and the cancellation of ECW on Sci-Fi, ECW has been the subject of more false finishes than a Ring of Honor match.


A small contingent of ECW faithful, however, was not content with cutting their losses and decided that, even though every effort to “revive” the company had ended in disappointment, things would be different a decade after ECW first went under. Thus, Tommy Dreamer, along with Raven, Rhino, Stevie Richards, and Mick Foley, would create the ultimate send-off for ECW. As Dreamer explained in a promo on Impact, ECW One Night Stand had been a dream come true, but WWE proceeded to revive the company in its own image, fire its veteran wrestlers, and tarnish its legacy.


To prove how desperate he really was, Tommy even sweet-talked the Queen of Extreme, Dixie Carter, into giving him a pay-per-view by comparing TNA to ECW (with a straight face, mind you) before breaking into tears.

“This is not about an ECW invasion, this is not about us taking over…. This is [so] that our legacy is not destroyed. I beg of you, for one night, give us one night to show the world what we had, and our legacy can live forever. I beg of you!”


Dixie gave in to Dreamer’s *extreme* grovelling, but with one stipulation.

“No Shane Douglas!”

No, that was just what someone in the crowd yelled. Instead, her caveat was that Tommy and his paunchy posse would set the whole thing up with no input from TNA. “It’s got to be real, and it’s got to be what you want!”

Mark those fateful words, my friends.

So Dixie Carter handed over three hours of pay-per-view time to the hardcore vets to put on the end-all-be-all farewell for ECW, this time with nearly ten years of bitter experience (and many pounds of belly fat) under their belts. Oh, and in the process of creating the rechristened HardCORE Justice pay-per-view, she would bump TNA’s previously scheduled Hard Justice card to Spike TV, where it would air for free.


“Impact Zone — We’re going extreme!” said Tommy, and he meant it. Rather than holding the show in the old ECW Arena in Philly, or the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, this reunion show would take place in the land of extreme, Orlando, Florida (presumably, Salt Lake City and Branson, Missouri didn’t have any venues available that night). Yes, the ultimate tribute to Extreme Championship Wrestling would take place at Universal Studios, the same family theme park that hosted WCW’s WorldWide tapings in the mid-90s.

Of course, with the ECW name belonging to Vince McMahon and WWE, Tommy and company would have to create a new moniker, one that stayed true to their hardcore roots but didn’t make them sound like a band of extreme leftovers or Matt Hardy. Instead, they chose “Extreme Version 2.0,” or “EV 2.0” for short. The name was perhaps just as inaccurate as it was lame, as this would be at least the third iteration of ECW.

The trademark conflicts didn’t end at the name of the organization, either. Thus, fans wouldn’t get to see Tony Mamaluke, Little Guido, Justin Credible, The Dudley Boys, or Balls Mahoney, but they would get to see Tony Luke, Guido Maritato, PJ Polaco, Team 3D, and Kahoneys.

And while we’re discussing the name changes, let’s discuss the roster. The two editions of ECW One Night Stand brought back the most recognizable and popular stars from the original promotion. HardCORE Justice’s card, however, left out many of the former ECW workers who were either under WWE contract (Chris Jericho, Rey Misterio), retired (Lance Storm), deceased (Mike Awesome, Eddie Guerrero, that guy from Edmonton), or abroad (Tajiri, Super Crazy, Psicosis, Masato Tanaka). Many of the wrestlers who did appear on the TNA event had, in fact, been featured on the first One Night Stand pay-per-view, but were not deemed worthy of having their own matches (Kid Kash, Justin Credible, Axl Rotten, Balls Mahoney, and Spike Dudley).

The show’s opening montage prominently featured the ECW Arena. You know, where the show was not taking place.


The Orlando crowd went as wild as humanly possible in a theme park studio, especially when the ring announcer brought out the Human Suplex Machine, Taz. Of course, this was in 2010, so the fans would have to settle for the Human Suplex-Calling Machine as the bloated former ECW champion marched to the announce table in a manner most extreme.


Before TNA’s color man took his seat, however, he cut a short promo addressing the “haters” who called the organization “bush league.” For the record, the company he was talking about wasn’t TNA. With the letters “FTW” on the big screen (no doubt puzzling newer fans who thought that it stood for, “for the win”), he denied that “all’s we were about” was violence. “All’s we did was revolutionize this friggin’ business. “Fans were then treated to three hours of whatever the opposite of revolutionizing this friggin’ business was.


“We were The Little Engine That Could, and we friggin’ did!”


Some generic funk music by Dale Oliver brought out the FBI while hardcore legend Mike Tenay re-christened the Impact Zone, “The Extreme Zone.”


TNA’s production crew wasted no effort in putting on a great presentation for this PPV, as they were followed by opponent Kid Kash, who came to the ring to generic rock music and the same entrance video as FBI. Joining Kid Kash were TNA agent Simon Diamond (to whom, based on his doughy physique, Taz suggested wearing a singlet) and his former partner Johnny Swinger. An ECW reunion without Diamond and Swinger would be like a Four Horsemen reunion without Paul Roma.


For whatever reason, TNA decided to bathe the ring in blue mood lighting for the entire show, perhaps because they couldn’t find a blue ring mat. “This is awesome!” chanted the crowd.


Diamond, best known to TNA fans by his real name, Pat Kenney, grabbed the mic after a few minutes of action to announce a dance-off. The only thing that could saved this segment would have been Art Donovan on commentary, asking Taz and Mike, “Is he one of the wrestlers? He looks like a fatass!”

Also acceptable would have been, “How much does that guy weigh?” “Five hundred pounds, plus, Art.”


The hands-down highlight of the match, though, would have to be Mike Tenay’s legal disclaimer:

“There are certain names, there are certain initials that legally, we aren’t allowed to use. I’m sure most of you at home, you’re so familiar with the ECW talent, the roster that, hell, you can fill in the blanks.”

“I think you just did,” said Taz.


Guido got the pin on Simon with Christian’s Unprettier. Unlike Diamond, James Maritato has stayed in such good shape through the years that in TNA’s Indian affiliate Ring Ka King, he portrayed masked female wrestler Raisha Saeed in a match against Alissa Flash, Saeed’s own alter ego.


Mike Tenay then said that he wasn’t there to imitate Joey Styles, and admitted that he would have given up his chair to the voice of ECW had he been contractually available. And if ECW hadn’t gone out of business so long ago, TNA would have gladly replaced many of the has-beens on the card with younger stars who would have wrestled for the Philly promotion in the 2000s.


The announcers then told the viewers at home, who had already plunked down their $34.95, that the main event had changed due to injury. Later that night, RVD and Bill Alfonso (looking for all the world like the Crypt Keeper) announced that Sabu would replace Jerry Lynn in his match against Van Dam.


Next, we were shown a “Where are they now?” video package that shockingly did not take place at a men’s shelter or Olive Garden. Tod Gordon (the one former ECW owner who was willing to appear on this debacle), “Pitbull No. 1” Gary Wolfe (in his car with a real pit bull, a dog breed not nearly as scary as its reputation), and The Blue Meanie (who would be oh-so-subtly replaced later that night).

Really, this wasn’t so much a “Where are they now?” segment as a “Look who’s still alive!” segment, as the only thing we learned about the men’s current careers or whereabouts was that they weren’t in Orlando that weekend.


Al Snow argued with Head backstage (and upside down) as if to say, “Hey, WWE doesn’t own this particular gimmick.”


The Totally-Not-bWo reunited, complete with Seriously-Not-The-Blue-Meanie, The Blue Tillie, who was one of the Main Event Mafia’s security guards dressed up in the Meanie costume. The only thing sadder than the sight of a fake Meanie is the fact that the real nWo, whom Big Stevie Cool, Hollywood Nova, and Da Blue Guy used to parody, was actually employed in the year 2010 by TNA.


The next match featured CW Anderson.You know what would have been great? If he wrestled as CW Kennedy. Eh, actually that wouldn’t have been great. Ironic, though.His opponent was Too Cold Scorpio, who entered the ring to generic funk music (but not the same generic funk music as FBI) and who also had the distinction of appearing at the Heroes of Wrestling PPV. During the match, Tenay praised the original ECW (though not by name) for featuring lucha libre, puroresu, and MMA-style matches, none of which would be featured on this PPV. Meanwhile, Scorpio and Anderson exchanged punches and headlocks to chants of “This is wrestling!


Though the action was solid, the highlight of the match was again delivered by the commentators when, after a somersault leg drop by Scorpio, Taz recounted the time that Too Cold did that move to him and “basically just sat on my face.” SAT ON MY FACE, he said.

Who knew Taz was a Funkette?

The other highlight was this look on Scorpio’s face:


Throughout the evening, TNA brought in their own wrestlers, such as AJ Styles, Madison Rayne, Jesse Neal, and Matt Morgan to reminisce about moments from “the Philadelphia promotion” that they neither lived through nor could legally show footage of.


PJ Polaco strolled down the ring wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the WWE-trademarked name, “Justin Credible,” perhaps forgetting why exactly he had to call himself “PJ Polaco” tonight.


Stevie Richards, best known to TNA fans as Dr. Stevie, then arrived with the BW 2.0 in tow, at which point the announcers stopped trying to put over all the lame new names for the wrestlers. “I guess that’s a variation on EV 2.0,” said Tenay.


Taz and Tenay noted Richards’s conditioning for (barely) holding Credible in the air for a side slam. “Very tough to do this late in the match… to hold a guy in the air,” said Taz, five minutes into the match.


Polaco hit his rather silly finisher, the spinning tombstone, because it’s not enough to drop your opponent on his head; you must also make him ever-so-slightly dizzy. He then lifted Stevie’s shoulders off the mat to get some extra punishment on his arch-nemesis. They were arch-nemeses in ECW, right? Well, the former X-Factor member did it anyway, then got superkicked and pinned by the former Right to Censor leader to end the match.


After PJ delivered a post-match Singapore-caning, the lights went out and turned back on to reveal Sandman, who was in possibly not the worst shape of his life to punish Polaco. “He is the originator of the Singapore cane!” noted Tenay. Yeah, screw all those Singaporeans who used it before Jim Fullington.


Francine appeared on tape to explain that she couldn’t be in Orlando because she had a one-year-old daughter. Total cop-out – a visibly pregnant Simon Diamond wrestled in the opener.


Next, Taz and Tenay took a moment to honor all of ECW’s deceased stars. Instead of a video package with footage they didn’t own, though, we got this text, which stayed on screen for about ten seconds before the ring announcer introduced an Al Snow match.


TNA agent Al’s opponents in this three-way dance would be “Brother Runt” and Rhino. You know what would have been great? If he wrestled as Hippo. Eh, actually that wouldn’t have been great. Ironic, though. Maybe?

Fun fact: Snow made his TNA debut as a mystery ally of Kurt Angle, who had promised to deliver a former world champion and tag partner of Mick Foley’s. During Angle’s pay-per-view match, Snow showed up to disappoint everyone who had expected Terry Funk and to slap referee Foley before vanishing for two more years. I guess the Hardcore belt counts as a world title.


Taz reminisced during the match about Brother Runt attending the “ECW… wrestling school we had, the House of Hardcore,” prompting Mike to say, “1 to 1,” keeping track of the times each of them had dropped the E-bomb that night.

Vince doesn’t fear ECW, silly! He’s a former ECW champion!
A “We want head” chant breaks out in the Orlando crowd, despite Missy Hyatt’s absence.

A split-screen showed other TNA wrestlers watching the match backstage, no doubt wondering why they lost their PPV bonus for this. Meanwhile, fans once again proved that they knew what sport they were watching by chanting, “This is wrestling!” The competitors then broke out the weapons, but only after the referee was knocked down, lest they be disqualified. Extreme! Runt quickly pinned Jackie Gayda’s trainer before being gored and pinned by Rhino.


No ECW reunion would be complete without the Hulkster, who made a cameo in the form of the autobiography Mick Foley read while explaining the Tommy Dreamer-Raven feud. The feud had ended in 1997 but was abruptly rekindled so that it could be settled again at that month’s pay-per-view.

Explain this one to your friends who aren’t wrestling fans.

The next men out to the ring were Nutley, New Jersey’s Balls Mahoney (wrestling as “Kahoneys”) and Baltimore’s Axl Rotten. Notably absent was Axl’s former partner, Ian Rotten. I say, “notably” because there were probably a few fans in the audience saying to themselves, “Boy am I glad they didn’t bring Ian here. He sucks.”

Kahoneys claimed that the two of them didn’t have opponents for the night, so he issued an open challenge for any team to “get your asses down here right effing now.” Even if the fans hadn’t seen a match, they at least got to find out exactly how effing extreme TNA would let the ECW guys get on the mic.


Answering the challenge were Team 3D, who had their own run-in with Jerry McDevitt years ago when they left WWE. They took the name because it perfectly described their rotund physiques.


Accompanying Brothers Ray and Devon was Joel Gertner, who cut a risqué promo that was the most talked about event of the evening, if only by default. I must say, though, anyone even vaguely familiar with Lady Gaga had already made that “Poker Face” joke years before.


Brother Ray took the mic to say that the last thing the fans wanted to see was those four men having a “wrestling match.” I agree 100%, but for some reason Ray used air-quotes sarcastically. Instead, we got an “Old School South Philadelphia Street Fight” in Orlando. A split-screen was employed to keep the fans abreast of all the action while distracting them from the fact that none of it was very good when you paid attention to it.


Things got so extreme that we got to see Styrofoam heads used as weapons, not to mention the cookie sheets and trash can lids most associated with the WWF Hardcore Division… I mean, ECW.


Next, we watched a light saber battle between Brother Ray and Kahoneys, which was a fun bit that was sure to get thousands of Youtube hits.

Wait, you mean people were expected to pay money to see this?

What did the paying audience have to say about this?


Duelling chants of “We want tables” and “We want fire” broke out in the capacity crowd of 1100 (which was still less than half the audience of the original ECW’s final PPV). It wasn’t long before the Brothers brought out a table and lit it on fire, the most extreme thing yet on this pay-per-view besides the weight gain. Kahoneys got put through the table and pinned.


The Gangstas then came out to confront Team 3D. Usually, it’s a stretch of the imagination to believe that someone making a “surprise” appearance would have their own Titantron video produced and cued up, but in this case, I can totally believe that some guy backstage saw the Gangstas walk by and hastily typed their team name into Windows Movie Maker. Fortunately, neither man ever got anywhere near a WWE ring, so there were no legal issues with their names.


Like his wrestling style or not, you have to respect a guy like New Jack, who has stabbed people in the ring and, from his past career as a bounty hunter, allegedly has several justifiable homicides to his name. Wait, is “respect” the word I’m looking for? After some comical selling by Brother Ray, all six men came into the ring and hugged it out, then raised their hands to show off how great New Jack looked in comparison to the other five.


Raven sulked backstage and recapped the origins of his feud with Dreamer. He said that he was still smarting over Tommy married Beulah and had her kids, which should have been his kids. Raven said that he had waited ten years just for this opportunity to get back at him while planning an ECW reunion. Come on, TNA! You took a perfectly reasonable story about how two grown men started a mortal feud at summer camp, and you made it unrealistic and laughable.


The ECW alumni then took turns praising Joey Styles, who of course was not at the event, nor ever scheduled to be. They talked about wishing Joey could be there and how they could feel his spirit in the arena, as if he were dead and not working at wwe.com.


The “Final Showdown” then commenced, with Mick Foley (the only man so far to have his own entrance video) entering first to be the referee. The announcers lamented the lack of ECW women at the event. Meanwhile, Raven came to the ring looking like an old boot before fraternizing with Beulah and her kids at ringside; Dixie looked on in displeasure.


Tommy put his wife and kids in the front row because he saw Foley’s scenes in Beyond the Mat and thought it would be a fantastic idea. Fans chanted “Uncle Scotty” at Raven because he was so close to Tommy Dreamer’s family (as we were told for the first time just weeks before the match — only TNA can make a feud so old seem so rushed).


Highlights of the match included Tommy bleeding inches away from his kids, Mr. Dixie Carter helping Beulah take her kids backstage, “This is hardcore” and “Holy s**t!” chants by the easily impressed crowd, a bloody Dreamer biting a bloody Raven while Taz tried to explain that ECW wasn’t like that all the time, and Taz recounting the time Dreamer had a ruptured testicle while telling the viewers not to laugh. Tommy even executed a barbed-wire-assisted version of the Benoit’s Crippler Crossface, as if having his kids in the audience hadn’t already clinched him the 2010 Father of the Year Award.


Raven tapped out, but alas, referee Mick Foley was brutally assaulted by… Hollywood Nova and the Blue Tillie? Amish Roadkill and the Musketeer were apparently unavailable to deliver the serious beatdown to the faces. Still, Dreamer managed to fight off the formidable duo before getting caught with an Evenflow DDT. After scoring only a two-count, Raven argued with referee Foley, who took out Mr. Socko (known in TNA only as “the Sock”). Where are the “This is hardcore” chants now?


Raven’s lackey Lupus even interfered, drawing chants of “Who are you?” The announcers didn’t seem to remember him all that well, either (he was featured in the bWo segment early in the evening, but I didn’t mention him because I had no earthly idea who he was).


Raven then handcuffed Dreamer and delivered a series of chair shots to his defenseless opponent, just in case the parallels to Foley’s “I Quit” match with The Rock weren’t painfully obvious enough already. Beulah (called Theresa here) entered the ring to beg Raven off, even hugging the bloody mess of a homeless man before he hit Dreamer square in the head anyway. Foley stopped Raven from hitting Beulah herself with the chair, only to get low-blowed by Raven, who was then low-blowed by Beulah and DDT’ed by Tommy. Foley counted the 1-2-3 to end the match and the feud once and for all…


…except Raven kicked out, DDT’ed Dreamer, and won the match. What did I tell you about these guys not knowing when to quit?


Beulah and Tommy would walk up the ramp as fans chanted the name of that Philly promotion and the segment faded to black… but not before a fan clearly shouted “You still suck, Dreamer!
Again, learn to quit while you’re ahead, Tommy.


Next, we saw a commercial for the next episode of Impact, featuring the (much better) card we could have been watching instead of this stinker.


This was followed up with a segment in which the Gangstas harass Jeremy Borash and SoCal Val, who always sounds like she has a cold.
New Jack and JB had a brief conversation about whether or not Jeremy was, in fact, his bitch.They then exited stage left, presumably to re-enact the Heidenreich-Michael Cole incident.


Next, the ECW alums discussed Paul Heyman, the creative genius who clearly had nothing to do with this show. Al Snow said that Paul E. let the performers “go out and be who they were.” No word from Kahoneys or Brother Runt about what TNA let them be.


Finally, we were presented with the main event, featuring RVD (with the world’s least-inspired entrance music) and Sabu (who showed up bald).


It was not long into the bout that fans began chanting, “This is classic!” And by “not long,” I mean eight seconds into the match, after Sabu dove for Van Dam’s legs and RVD moved out of the way. Later on, in the middle of the action, Bill Alfonso called time out and tossed each of his clients bottles for a short water break.

Hey, Fonzie, this wasn’t an AWF tribute show!

sabu ddt

Other than those peculiarities, this was a fine match, far from the sloppy embarrassment I had expected from 2010 Sabu, so clearly it has no business being discussed on this website. RVD won with a Five-Star Frog Splash after a match that was better than twenty missed leg dives combined.


The show closed with an in-ring celebration by all the performers (except Raven, who hated Tommy Dreamer again). The fans thanked Dixie carter while chanting “F*** you, Vince” at the man who put on a mere two excellent ECW reunion shows compared to Dixie’s zero.


After HardCORE Justice, ECW’s “last stand” event to re-establish its legacy, many of the EV 2.0 contingent stayed in TNA until they were gradually fired one by one, while TNA would retain the name “HardCORE Justice” for their August pay-per-view for years to come, but without any ECW involvement. That doesn’t sound like One Night Stand at all, now does it? RVD didn’t even last the next week; he was shelved and stripped of the world title after TNA used up the last of the 2010 dates stipulated in his contract.

At least the former stars of ECW had learned their lesson and never tried to recapture their glory days… until Shane Douglas’s Extreme Reunion in April 2012, which drew overwhelmingly negative reviews. As for Tommy Dreamer, he has stayed true to his word, except for the time last month when he showed up on Raw wearing a House of Hardcore t-shirt to pimp his new ECW-knockoff promotion.


I guess when it comes to being met with failure after failure in his attempts to revive ECW, Dreamer’s motto is, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?

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