Pro Wrestling In The Fall of 1995
So we are getting closer and closer to the end of 1995, and I wanted to take a closer look at what else was going on in pro wrestling during this period of time. 1995 was a really bad year for the WWF, but by the fall things started to get a little better. Due to the competition from WCW's Nitro, Raw at least started to see some decent matchups every week. Jim Cornette's "Camp Cornette" heel faction was ruling the roost with Owen Hart, British Bulldog, and Yokozuna feuding with the top faces in Diesel, HBK, and the Undertaker. The six men squared off in a six man tag on the October 9th episode of Monday Night Raw. Still, the characters were beyond cartoonish, and the booking was atrocious. Nearly every match ended in some kind of DQ, count out, or schmozz. Each show was still riddled with wrestlers with terrible gimmicks such as hog farmers, trash men, and race car drivers. Chris Candido was brought in from Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and given a personal trainer/fitness guru gimmick. Bret Hart was still busy feuding with dentists and pirates. The Hitman blew his freakshow feuds off when he defeated Jean Pierre Laffitte(The Pirate) by submission on October 2nd episode of Raw, and he took out Isaac Yankem(Glen "Kane" Jacobs as a Dentist) in a steel cage match on the October 16th episode of Raw.
One of these cartoon gimmicks that was prominently featured on WWF Raw during the fall of 95 was "Dean" Douglas. Former ECW World Champion Shane Douglas was getting a pretty good little push with plenty of TV time as the evil school teacher with the "Board of Education" wooden paddle he would use in matches.
Douglas would go on to capture the WWF Intercontinental Championship at the In Your House 4: The Great White North pay per view. Shawn Michaels was attacked by a group of Marines prior to the pay per view, and could not compete in a scheduled match against Douglas. Douglas won the title by forfeit, and turned around and lost it a few minutes later in a match against Razor Ramon. Also at the October 22nd Great White North pay per view, Diesel defended the WWF championship against the British Bulldog(DQ).
Meanwhile, over in WCW, they were really putting up a nice competition for the WWF right from the start with the first 8 episodes of Monday Nitro. WWF Raw was full of squash matches and DQ finishes while Nitro was putting on matches like Ric Flair vs Brian Pillman on September 8th, Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko on October 2nd, Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair steel cage match on October 9th, Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit on October 16th, and Eddie Guerrero & Jerry Lynn(Mr. JL) vs Benoit & Malenko on October 23rd. Also prominently featured in WCW during this time was ECW's most loved figure at the time, Sabu. Sabu had a series of matches in WCW against a masked Jerry Lynn leading up to the October 29th Halloween Havoc pay per view where they wrestled each other for 5 minutes. The launch of Nitro was like the beginning of a new era for WCW. It's interesting to note that what was the end of an era for ECW was the beginning of one for WCW, with numerous wrestlers from ECW filling out the undercard of Nitro(Sabu, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and soon, Public Enemy).
While the undercards of Nitro were where the action was, the main even scene was still cluttered with the terrible Dungeon of Doom storyline. The Dungeon of Doom was a strait up blast from the past, and chocked full of the older WWF transplanted superstars. The Dungeon of Doom feuded with Hogan and Savage, with Lex Luger pulling a double cross to join the Dungeon. The Dungeon of Doom storyline rolled on as WCW made their way to the October 29th Halloween Havoc pay per view. Hogan headlined the show by facing off with The Giant. Hogan's match against the Giant at Halloween Havoc was an eventful contest to say the least.
Not only did Hogan and The Gaint hook up in the ring at Halloween Havoc, they hooked it up Monster Truck style!
In traditional WCW tomfoolery, Halloween Havoc 95 took the wrestlecrap to a new level with an epic sumo style battle between two monster trucks that represented Hogan and The Giant. Not all of Halloween Havoc was bad though. The Four Horseman were reborn when Ric Flair turned on Sting in a tag match against Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman. Flair, Anderson, Pillman, and later Chris Benoit brought the legendary heel stable back to life to show the Dungeon how it was done.
While all of this malarkey was going down in the WWF and WCW Rey Mysterio and Psicosis were tearing it up in ECW. The two men made their ECW debut's at Gangsta's Paradise, and would go on to wrestle one of the match of the year candidates on the October 7th "South Philly Jam" show in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match. The 2 out of 3 falls match is one of the best matches in ECW history, and is included in the bonus features of the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD. Also going on in ECW was the ongoing blood feud between Tommy Dreamer and Raven. The feud had exploded by now to include multiple different storylines going at once. The primary storyline involved was the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commissioner Bill Alphonso's attempt to take the extreme out of ECW. Alphonso sided with Raven in an attempt to eliminate the ECW fans favorite wrestler Tommy Dreamer. Cactus Jack turned on Dreamer to align himself with Alphonso during the Summer. Cactus sided with Raven, and would cut some of the best promos in wrestling history in a pretty deep little storyline where he blames the fans for pushing wrestlers like Ray Stevens
and Dynamite Kid
too far. Cactus told the fans that he was through with the hardcore wrestling, and that he was going to punish them by not giving them their money's worth. Not only that, but Cactus was trying to convince Tommy Dreamer to do the same, and to go to WCW with him.
Also sided with Raven, Stevie Richards, and Beulah Mcgillicutty was the goofball slap stick lackey family, the Dudley Brothers. Buh Buh Ray and D-Von weren't the Dudley's just yet, rather a hodge podge motley crew of guys named Dudley Dudley, Dances with Dudley, Big Dick Dudley, and Sign Guy Dudley. Raven and his "Flock" would make life miserable for Tommy Dreamer and The Pit Bulls. Raven and Richards would win the ECW Tag Team titles back from The Pit Bulls on the October 7th show, only to turn around and lose them that same evening to Public Enemy in a three way dance that also included The Gangstas. Tommy Dreamer would end up bringing Terry Funk back to ECW to help him fight Cactus and Raven during the month of October in ECW.
Also going on in ECW during this time Taz was still nursing a neck injury. Taz was still working, but it was an angle with non-wrestler Jason, who brought in the Eliminators(Perry Saturn and John Kronus) at Gangstas Paradise. Mikey Whipreck became the number one contender to The Sandman(and Woman)'s ECW World Championship when he won a battle royal in September. Mikey got a pinfall over The Sandman at Gangstas Paradise during the tag team cage match. Mikey and Sandman's feud over the ECW World Championship would become interesting when WCW fired "Stunning" Steve Austin.
Steve Austin made his ECW debut with his classic Hulk Hogan parody at Gangstas Paradise. The skit did not make the home video of Gangstas Paradise, but it did air on Hardcore TV during the fall. During the skit, Austin talked about how he never got the chance to rise above mid-card status in the WCW.
Austin made his first in ring appearance in ECW on September 28th in Middleton, NY. Austin came out before a match between Sandman and Mikey Whipreck, and cut a foul mouthed promo talking about how much of a shithole ECW was, and bad mouthing the Sandman for being a fat, out of shape, beer drinking champion. Austin called Mikey a sorry piece of shit that didn't deserve to be in the ring. Right from his very first night in ECW, Austin was "Stone Cold". His promos in ECW resembled nothing at all the "Ringmaster" or "Stunning Steve" stuff. Heyman gave Austin the freedom to go out there, and develop this character, and a legend was born. Austin would cut another promo on Hardcore TV going into details about how he was mishandled in WCW, even talking about ideas he had mentioned to Eric Bischoff & Dusty Rhodes that were shot down. Austin talked about how much of a shithole ECW was, and how it was "Just a bunch of Violent CRAP!" in the promo. The "Just a bunch of violent crap" promo reminds me a lot of the Shane Douglas "Evolution of a Franchise" promo that I took a look at earlier in this project where Shane pretty much just did a shoot on his beef with Ric Flair. So much of what I've looked at from ECW in 1995 has been very "Shooty". From Terry Funk and Cactus Jack's "Charlatan" feud earlier in the year, to Shane's shooting on Flair, to Cactus' heel turn and the "Cane Dewey" promos, to this Steve Austin stuff. It was all shooty, but it had a distinct style to it that was different from(and much better than) the Vince Russo WCW train wreck shit.
The next four shows I will be taking a look at are the Oct. 24th, Oct. 31st, Nov. 7th, and Nov. 14th episodes of Hardcore TV from 1995. It's the build up to the November To Remember show, which is probably one of the best ECW shows of all time. Lets take a look at ECW's weekly show, and see how it compares to Nitro and Raw from this time.