1995: Final Thoughts
I'm going to go ahead and make what may be somewhat of a controversial, unpopular declaration that ECW was the best pro wrestling promotion in North America in 1995. That's not so much because ECW was just kicking so much more ass than WCW & WWF. A big part of it was just how terrible WCW & WWF was in 1995. WCW and WWF were both at all time lows as far as quality. Quick, list me 20 great WCW matches from 1995.......
I didn't think so.
Pro Wrestling was in a weird state in 1995. I'll be completely honest with you and admit that I'm actually quite partial to this era, both WWF & WCW. Mostly due to the nostalgia. I grew up during this time, and I don't think I ever missed an episode of Raw, Nitro, Saturday Night, Superstars, or Action Zone during 1995. I loved everything they did with the Undertaker in the WWF(except for jobbing him out to Mabel). Loved all of the goofy cartoon characters, Hakushi, 1-2-3 Kid, Smoking Gunns, Adam Bomb, hell I even loved Diesel. I thought he was cool. I still enjoy looking back at those tapes as bad as they were. Same for WCW. Absolutely loved watching Saturday Night during 1995 for some ungodly reason. I was a huge Harlem Heat mark, and I loved Flair and Savage as well.
I didn't catch on to ECW until late 1996, so the nostalgia isn't there for these tapes like some of the later ECW stuff is(Anarchy Rulz 99 for example). I watched Gangstas Paradise and one of the Extreme Warfare tapes back in the day, but that was all I had seen of 1995 ECW. I had always heard about Foley's legendary promos and the birth of Stone Cold, but I had never seen it. I never really sat down and watched through 1995 ECW until this year, and I've come to the conclusion that ECW was the best wrestling show of 1995. ECW had it's fair share of shit in 1995, and it's real, real hard to find ECW matches that stand up to the best WCW/WWF matches of 1995, but everything altogether, "The Product" in ECW was just better. It was shooty and down to earth, but it was done in a very clever style. The characters and the storylines were years ahead of what was going on in WCW/WWF. You can see this style in ECW in 1995 that was heavily imitated by WCW in 1996. That shooty down to earth realistic "Product" was what gave the entire NWO angle so much appeal. While WWF was still pushing thick kayfabe, WCW was putting out a product that was heavily inspired by ECW as far as the overall down to earth tone of everything.
The ECW influence on the WWF usually doesn't get talked about much until you bring up the Attitude Era, but as early as the last half of 1995 you could start to see that someone was paying attention. After the booming ECW chants at King of the Ring 95, all of a sudden WWF threw together a last minute, face vs face ladder match for Summerslam(with no real storyline attached to it), then a full on ECW style brawl for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series(with a table spot that was admittedly inspired by ECW), and then a bloodbath main event between Bret and Bulldog in late 95. We weren't really seeing this level of violence in the WWF on such a frequent basis until after the infamous E! C! DUB! chants at King of the Ring 95.
Characters and storylines notwithstanding, the actual wrestling in the ring was much better on average in ECW than it was in either WCW or the WWF in my humble opinion. WCW brought in all of those talented guys like Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero before WWF could, and as a result they put together a Monday night show that could go toe to toe with Raw due to the better product in the ring from bell to bell. Without a doubt in my mind the best promos, storylines, and matches in pro wrestling in 1995 took place in ECW. I mean who was cutting better promos in WCW & WWF in 1995 than Mic Foley and Steve Austin were in ECW? What storyline was better than the Bill Alphonso State Athletic Commissioner storyline that ECW ran through the year? What rivalry in pro wrestling was as intense and emotional as Raven vs Dreamer? Best of all what pro wrestling pay per view was better than either Hostile City Showdown or November to Remember in 1995?
It was a real pleasure to watch through these ECW 1995 shows in chronological order over the past couple of months. I hear the "Hasn't aged well" argument a lot for ECW, and that is more true about the '95 tapes than any other year in ECW history, but I will still say that 1995 was ECW's best year. The Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko series of matches(9 singles altogether) was fantastic. The automatic assumption is that their WCW matches were better, but they rarely ever got more than 10 minutes in WCW. The commentary and the crowds were always terrible, and during the later years there was usually an NWO run in/segment involved more often than not. Their chemistry with each other improved for sure, but for my money they never topped their ECW series of matches in WCW.
On top of Guerrero vs Malenko, ECW also had a fantastic heel turn by Cactus Jack with truly some of the best promos in the history of the game. Then they had Steve Austin come in for 3 months where he cut about a dozen promos and wrestled a grand total of 2 matches, but he still really found that Stone Cold character that would help push pro wrestling into the mainstream over the course of the next 4 years. Austin found his trademark style in ECW, not only on the microphone, but also in the ring.
In closing, I really believe ECW had a real small little window here in 1995 where they could have been even bigger than WWF or WCW had the right people came in and bought it out ala Zuffa/UFC. With the right financial management, you can't tell me they didn't have that chance with guys like Austin and Foley right there in their laps. The thing about this time is that this is just before the shit hit the fan with their finances. By mid 1995 ECW's debt was still pretty small. By October of 95 the first of the check bouncing started to happen. Through 96 ECW's finances spiraled so far out of control that they needed to go to PPV in order to make it past the spring of 1997 without filing for bankruptcy. The reason why ECW's debt got so out of control from late 95 through 96 was the kind of cards they were putting together. For example take a look at the November To Remember 95 show. The gate for the 1,200 seat ECW Arena was somewhere around $15-20,000 depending on what they were charging for tickets($16,000+ for Ultraclash in 93). For the November to Remember show they probably paid half of that just for the Dreamer/Funk vs Raven/Cactus main event. Then you had Steve Austin, the luchadores from Mexico(Rey, Psicosis, Konnan), Sabu back from WCW, I mean that's a lot of hands in the pie. There couldn't have been much left over after paying the performers for that show. You got to think about all the matches on the undercard, referees, ring announcers, the "Damage Control" "EMT"'s they had, I mean they probably lost money on November to Remember 95. I don't know for sure, but I do know they couldn't have made much profit. The house shows ECW was running at this time were barely making anything, and on top of that they had to pay to keep their Hardcore TV show airing on the syndicated networks that it was airing on.
1996 is a fun year for ECW, and perhaps even a bit better than 95 was in some aspects. I'm going to enjoy taking a closer look at the 10 shows that I will be reviewing for this thread. Before we do move on lets take a look at the awards that ECW won from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter end of the year awards for 1995.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter End of the year awards for ECW in 1995:
Feud of the Year: Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko(Also wrestled in WCW)
Best on Interviews: Cactus Jack
Best Technical Wrestler: Chris Benoit(Also wrestled in WCW)
Best Brawler: Cactus Jack
Best High Flyer: Rey Mysterio
Best Weekly Television Show: Hardcore TV
Best Television Announcer: Joey Styles
Best Move: Rey Mysterio: West Coast Pop
Best Booker: Paul Heyman
And my pick for the MVP of ECW for 1995:
Cactus had a hell of a year in ECW in 1995, and seriously came a long way as an entertainer. He started out in ECW feuding with The Sandman in a brutal series of matches. He fought with his arch rival Terry Funk in a little feud that produced a little glimmer of his excellent mic work to come later on in the year. Funk and Foley's match at Hostile City Showdown is essential ECW. I'd say their promos leading up to the match are equally as essential. People throw the "Glorified Stuntman" argument out there with Foley because of his ECW hardcore style that he kept throughout his career, and be that as it may, there is no denying that Foley was one of the finest actors in the history of pro wrestling. Foley developed a lot of confidence on the microphone in ECW, and by March of 1996 he would be ready for the big time. Foley's early promos as Mankind in the WWF in 96 are my personal favorite Foley promos. I think he was the best actor on television during that time. He should have been given an Emmy.
Second place would be Bill Alphonso. His performances are excellent, and the heat he was drawing was ridiculous. That storyline in general was just fantastic.
ShinobiMusashi's Top 25 Matches of 1995
1. Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon WWF Summerslam 95: Ladder Match II
2. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko ECW Hostile City Showdown
3. Bret Hart vs Diesel WWF Survivor Series 95
4. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko 2/3 Falls ECW 8/26/95
5. Bret Hart vs British Bulldog WWF IYH 5
6. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Psicosis 2/3 Falls Match ECW 10/28/95
7. Steve Austin vs The Sandman vs Mikey Whipreck ECW December to Dismember
8. Eddie Guerrero & The Stiener Brothers vs Dean Malenko, 2 Cold Scorpio, & Cactus Jack ECW Wrestlepalooza
9. Brian Pillman vs Johnny B. Badd WCW Fall Brawl
10. Diesel vs Shawn Michaels WWF Wrestlemania XI
11. Chris Benoit vs Jushin Liger WCW Starrcade 95
12. Rey Mysterio vs Psicosis ECW November to Remember 95
13. Shawn Michaels vs Jeff Jerrett WWF IYH 2
14. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko ECW 7/21/95 Tampa Fl.
15. Eddie Guerrero vs Shinjaro Otani WCW Starrcade 95
16. Rey Mysterio vs Psicosis ECW Gangstas Paradise
17. Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit WCW Nitro 10/16/95
18. Eddie Guerrero vs 2 Cold Scorpio ECW Three Way Dance
19. Chris Benoit vs Al Snow ECW Double Tables
20. Razor Ramon vs Dean Douglas WWF IYH 3
21. Rey Mysterio vs Mikey Whipreck ECW 11/17/95
22. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko WCW Nitro 10/7/95
23. Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko ECW 5/20/95, Langhorne, PA
24. Sandman vs Mikey Whipreck Ladder Match ECW 10/28/95
25. Sabu vs Mikey Whipreck ECW 3/28/95
This will be edited into the OP. A table of contents with links and this match/event rating system:
10: Giving a show/match/segment a 10 doesn't make it perfect in this thread. The perfect show doesn't exist, but I'll still be handing out the occassional 10 in this thread. This score means that this is the best of the best that ECW has to offer, and worthy of a spot in your collection. Track this down and buy it. Show it to all of your wrestling friends, maybe even some of your non wrestling friends depending on the occassion.
9-9.9: This was so good that you need to find it and watch it. Look it up on youtube or something, but you need to see it. Essential viewing for wrestling nerds.
8-8.9: This was really good. It had a flaw or two that kept it from being great, but overall this rating is reserved for the higher quality stuff. Worthy of checking into perhaps, based on your tastes and interests.
7-7.9: This was good. It wasn't great, it wasn't really good, but there wasn't really anything majorly wrong with it. Perhaps a few minor flaws holding it down, but still good. Could have perhaps been a bit better, but still pretty decent.
6-6.9: Slightly above mediocre. Maybe it just had one awesome little moment in it, or something interesting, but it just didn't have enough going for it. Nothing special.
5-5.9: Average, mediocre, run of the mill, not good, but nothing really to make it bad either. No real big major criticisms, but still nothing real good either.
4-4.9: This was bad, but it had something in it that at least kept me from wanting to change the channell or fast forward. Maybe it was so bad that it was good, like Total Recall.
3-3.9: This score is getting into waste of time territory. Maybe it had a few things going for it, but altogether this was time wasted.
2-2.9: We're getting into bad bad wrestlecrap territory here.
1-1.9: Downright terrible even though there was one aspect that they maybe did half ass. Something that saves it from not getting a rating at all. Maybe it had a really funny botch that made me laugh, or maybe somebody did some decent selling, or performed a nice move or two, so I'll give it a point.
0: Completely wasted my fucking time.
Best of ECW Vol. 1(1992) 3/10
Sports Channel America Pilot(Spring 1993) 4/10
ECW TV(6-15-93) 4/10
Heatwave 94(7-16-94) 4.8/10
Double Tables(2-4-95) 6.2/10
Return of the Funker(2-25-95) 6.8/10
Three Way Dance(4-8-95) 6.6/10
Hostile City Showdown 95(4-15-95) 10/10
Enter Sandman(5-13-95) 7/10
Barbed Wire, Hoodies, and Chokeslams(6-17-95) 6/10
Hardcore Heaven 95(7-1-95) 7.7/10
Heatwave 95(7-15-95) 6/10
Gangstas Paradise(9-16-95) 8/10
Hardcore TV #131(10-24-95) 9/10
Hardcore TV #132(10-31-95) 9.3/10
Hardcore TV #133(11-7-95) 6.8/10
Hardcore TV #134(11-14-95) 9.5/10
November To Remember 95(11-18-95) 10/10
Hardcore TV #138(12-12-95) 8.8/10
Holiday Hell(12-29-95) 7/10