If you weren’t a wrestling fan in the late 1980’s, I don’t know you can appreciate just what a revolutionary force Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling truly was. I say the 1980’s, not the 1990’s, because to really understand ECW, you need to know what ECW was in its heyday, but rather what the landscape was in the WWF (now WWE) and WCW before it hit. For those of us who lived it…I mean, we all knew what a clown show pro wrestling was.
Boy did I HATE Dink. Ruined a great heel act.
But I digress, and I don’t need to recap that all again – in less than two weeks it’ll be 18 years I’ve been telling the world about how horrible the early 1990s were. In many ways, wrestling as a whole was absolutely horrible, and pretty much every week, there’d be some new stupid character that had us all questioning why we were still watching this junk. Then, out of the blue, this happened:
It was ECW. And it was completely different than anything wrestling fans had ever seen. While many skeptics today would tell you ECW was nothing but a hardcore promotion built around guys hitting each other in the head, that couldn’t be further from the truth. ECW was unique because it was so…well…unique. Heyman brought in folks from all over the world, be they luchadores from Mexico or top talent from Japan, and they gave us matches the likes of which no one in the USA had seen unless they were die hard tape traders. We got adult oriented storylines that made sense, we got smoking hot women (Beulah!), we got comedy that actually worked. We got something different, and while sometimes it definitely crossed the line, it was awesome.
Of course, it didn’t last. Paul ran out of money, and the company was forced to fold. And here’s an RD Reynolds FUNFACT: when I originally was asked to do a sequel to the first WrestleCrap book, my publisher pitched me to do The Death of ECW, feeling it was a great story I could tackle (and I think they thought it was funny that their company was in fact ECW Press). I passed on it, and went with The Death of WCW instead. Long-time Crappers know this story, and also know the reason for the change. This site was designed from day one for one purpose: to make people laugh. (Really, sometimes it actually even happens.) The story of WCW I knew would be rife with comedy. ECW? That was a company with folks who stayed far past the bitter end, people who were owed a LOT of money, and stuck around solely to try to help the company succeed.
The fact that folks still chant those three initials to this day, seventeen years after the company went under, should tell you just how much this company meant to so many people.
So in 2001, ECW dies. The scraps are picked up by the very man who Hawaiian shirt guy and the guy with the hat and all the rest of the ECW front row hated the most: Vince McMahon. To those fans, it had to have been the ultimate insult.
Or so they thought.
Before we get there, though, I give you another bizarre segue, featuring the current president of the United States, Donald Trump. This man decided a good use of his time would be hanging out in WWE during the build toward WrestleMania 23. Not as a fan, mind you, but as an active participant, in a match in which he could lose his hair. It was the Battle of the Billionaires, and featured Umaga, championed by Vince McMahon, taking on Trump’s charge, Bobby Lashley. During said promotion, our now commander in chief called his protege, “Lindsey, a black gentleman who happens to be the strongest man I have ever seen.”
Screw wrestling – this WORLD sure is weird sometimes.
The match ended the only way it possibly could: with Lashley winning, Trump standing proud, and Vince shaved bald. All we were missing was David Crockett jumping up and down yelling about how he was a BALD HEADED GEEK. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Not to worry, however, as while Vince was now follicle challenged, he had plans.
Plans that involved wacky hats at every turn!
I’ve said a lot of bad things about Vince over the years, but by golly, that hat makes me want to retract every last one of them.
Better yet, Vince told us these were in fact “surgically cemented” to his noggin.
Beyond his newfound love for bonnets, he had other plans as well – he was going to take down the man who had caused his life to go into shambles. Sadly, not Donald Trump, but rather Bobby Lindsey.
I mean Lashley.
So on the Raw following Mania, McMahon explained that he was going to make sure that Lashley would no longer be called ECW Champion. McMahon, completely furious that folks backstage were laughing at him, decided he would take out his frustrations on Lashley, taking the most ludicrous swing ever at him…
…and then paid the price, having his chrome dome displayed to all the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever wanted to see Vince McMahon acting like a complete over the top idiot, this was the show for you. It may have been Vince’s finest hour, and yes, that includes his legendary battles with Steve Austin. You see, so ashamed was Vince of his baldness that he hid everywhere – under towels, under Jerry Lawler’s crown, Jim Ross’ cowboy hat, and eventually even Lillian Garcia’s skirt.
It was the ultimate in humiliation, but again, Vince had a PLAN.
He was going to steal Big Bully Busick’s derby!
Or maybe he knocked over Mr. Fuji. Take your pick.
Regardless, we got more fantastically goofy hats, but sadly it wasn’t just time for a fashion show – we had to have matches as well. Sigh. So Vince partnered up with son Shane as well as Umaga once more.
And this time he had a clearly defined end game: he was going to win the ECW title himself! To do so, he booked his terrible trio into a 3 on 1 handicap match against Lashley with the ECW championship on the line.
Just how legendary was this match, you may ask?
Does the fact that the WWE Network synopsis doesn’t even mention it tell you anything?
If not, I will. It was a far too long, far too dull encounter wherein Vince, Shane, and Umaga beat down Lashley over and over, finally culminating in a belt shot to Bobby’s head, with Vince falling on top for the win.
The fact that I am sparing you from additional screenshots should tell you I shared WWE Network’s enthusiasm for the match. Consider yourselves lucky.
So yes, Vince not only bought the remnants of ECW, he was now its champion as well.
In so many ways, when Vince bought ECW he effectively killed it.
This? This was him literally pissing on its grave.
(Did I ever tell you I learned how to use the term “literally” from Gorilla Monsoon? God bless that man, I still love to think back about how he would tell me folks were “literally hanging from the rafters in the Boston Garden!”)
Our new ECW champion also went through a makeover of sorts, as the new Doo Rag Vince was now a jive talkin’ neer do good, showing off his title to everyone he could find, including John Cena as pictured above here. Sadly we never got a RAP BATTLE between the two. That would have rocked. Or at least been further induction material.
But while there was fun to be had trolling Cena and his fellow WWE co-horts, you know where the real joy was to be found?
Going nose to nose with ECW originals!
So we got Vince talking down Rob Van Dam…
…and Sabu (“And you,” Vince growled, “well, maybe we’ll get your comments later on!”)…
…the Sandman (“What’s the smell?” Vince bellowed in a No Holds Barred flashback)…
…and Tommy Dreamer (“Your shoes are FLY, Tommy! That’s FLY RIGHT THERE!”).
So yeah. Vince had all these men now under his employ and could do anything he wanted, and thus he shoved his ECW title belt in their faces. To be fair, this was a pretty great way of generating serious heat with fans who remembered just what each of these men meant to the original ECW. And truly, what a tremendous payoff it was going to be.
One could just imagine Rob Van Dam springing to the top rope, clobbering Vince with that five star frog splash to bring the title back home once and for all!
So of course that didn’t happen.
Instead, we got Vince in a STREET FIGHT once more with Lashley.
And once more, it turned into a three on one battle with Vince directing traffic and Umaga doing all his dirty work. Which was probably a good idea, since Vince’s stuff looked…
…well, kinda how Vince’s stuff always looks.
For a guy who arguably knows the business almost better than anyone who has ever lived, his actual wrestling was atrocious beyond belief.
Skippy also got into the act, and in this match, he missed his Van Terminator by a good 24 inches. Despite this, Umaga somehow got hit in the head with the trash can targeted for Lashley. I’d note how this also looked horrible, but pretty much everything on display this night was equally bad.
Ok, maybe not EQUALLY bad.
Regardless, the screw up by his son and Umaga allowed Lashley to grab a chair and go to work on McMahon, eventually hitting his own spear and ending the final title reign of Vince’s legendary career.
As for Lashley, he left the WWE roughly a year later following a blow up backstage between WWE management and his wife. Do you remember his wife?
Her name was Kristal Marshall, and she was literally a smoke show.
(Did I do you proud there, Gorilla?)
Anyhoo, rumor has it at the time of this writing Lashley is set for an imminent return to WWE. Apparently, folks are excited about this. I mean, other folks, I’m not. Unless he brings Kristal with him, which I am guessing he won’t, since they are now divorced.
But you know whose return would have me interested?
Yep, Vince McMahon’s wacky hats.
Admit it – you want that too.
Listen to the people Vince!
Bring them back!