Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Showing posts with label ECW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ECW. Show all posts

Wednesday, 3 May 2017


WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Event Poster
September 22, 1996
CoreStates Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For most fans and wrestling experts, the WWF Attitude Era didn't truly begin until sometime between late 1997 and early 1998. 

Yet if you look far back enough, what becomes apparent is that this change in the company's direction was not a dramatic, overnight overhaul.

Rather, the Attitude Era began subtly -very, very subtly- with the first, tinest shifts towards an edgier product beginning all the way back in April 1996 at In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies.

Back then, Shawn Michaels had made his first valiant title defense in a brutal no-holds barred match against his on-again/off-again buddy, Big Daddy Cool Diesel.

Tonight, The Heartbreak Kid would continue to lead the World Wrestling Federation towards a more violent, risque approach to sports entertainment by battling the deranged Mankind in what was sure to be the kind of brutal, all-out war usually reserved for renegade promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling.

So, where better to do just that than in the home of ECW itself, Philadelphia, PA.

Here, it wasn't just the champion and his psychopathic challenger who were channeling the spirit of Paul Heyman's hardcore outfit. No, tonight, the entire company seemed to be not only pushing the boundaries, but also pushing themselves one step further away from the cartoon campness of the New Generation and one step closer to the sexed-up, blood-filled orgy of OTT entertainment that was the Attitude Era.

Would that actually make for a good show? Let's head down to the Corestates Centre to find out.

The World Wrestling Federation, for over fifty years, the revolutionary sports entertainment. 

That still gives me chills.

When I heard that as a kid, it meant one thing: Wrestling time. It was time to get excited. Time to come alive.

Whether or not tonight's show is worth getting excited over remains to be seen, let's get straight on with the Free For All and find out, shall we?

Marty Jannetty (w/ Leif Cassidy) vs. Savio Vega 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Marty Jannetty faced Savio Vega in the Free for All
Our Free For All tonight skips all the formalities and gets us right down to ringside for our opening contest as Savio Vega looked to get the better of Marty Jannetty, all whilst avoiding the distraction of Jannetty's New Rockers partner, Leif Cassidy.

Whilst the action itself was fairly enjoyable, it only really served as a background to the commentators' last minute shill for the show itself.

After hyping up tonight's epic Mankind/Michaels main event, Vince McMahon, Mr. Perfect, and Jim Ross next took us to a split-screen interview with one Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw.

As Uncle Zebekiah stood by, Bradshaw ranted and raved about being left off every single Pay Per View since his WWF debut nine months ago. That wasn't all, Bradshaw also complained about how his long-time rival Savio Vega continued to get PPV opportunities, even though it was quite clear that Vega was only on the mid-90s equivilent of today's Kick Off shows.

If Bradshaw was pissed about mising out on a Free for All match, he only had to jog his memory back a few months ago to WWF In Your House: International Incident, when he and Vega did inded lock up in the opening contest.

Cutting back tot he ring, the fans were just as uninterested in watching Vega/Janetty, opting instead to start an ECW chant as Tommy Dreamer, Paul Heyman, and The Sandman made their way to the front row and took seats.

Surprisingly (for the time at least), McMahon actually aknowledged the chants, saying:

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw (JBL) was unhappy about not being on the PPV
"By the way, if you do hear some unusual chants here from this extraordinary crowd gathered for In Your House: Mind Games, bare in mind that there is a local wrestling franchise -so to speak- here in town, [and their fans are] very vocal."

"Oh yeah, they have a small, vocal contingent, and this is their home base, and we're just glad they bought tickets!" added Jim Ross.

Back to the in-ring action, this was a relatively decent match that Savio won with a roll-up.

The crowd were only mildly pleased.
Your Winner: Savio Vega 

In a repeat of last month's Summerslam 1996 (and what felt like just about every PPV of that year), Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw ran down after the match and beat up on his adversary, whipping him with his patented bull rope before skulking to the back.

The Face of Fear

Would Shawn Michaels continue to live the boyhood dream or would he find himself trapped in Mankind's diabolical nightmare?

Would The Undertaker finally be able to settle the score with rival Goldust, even after Paul Bearer so deviously turned his back on The Dead Man at last month's Summerslam 1996?

These were the main questions presented in our opening video package this evening, a dark, dramatic affair voiced by Todd Pettingill which set the stage well for the show's two biggest matches.

Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Mr. Perfect, Vince McMahon, and Jim Ross did commentary
With that video over, Vince McMahon welcomed us to Philadelphia, PA and to the CoreStates Center, which at the time was still basically a brand new venue.

Joining McMahon on commentary for In Your House 10: Mind Games was none other than Mr. Perfect, and the one and only Jim Ross.

The trio briefly hyped tonight's big two matches before getting down to ring side for our opening contest.

Caribbean Strap Match
Savio Vega vs. Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw (w/ Uncle Zebekiah) 

Following Bradshaw's attack during the Free For All, Savio had apparently challenged him to a Carribean Strap Match, something I suspect the future JBL accepted as much to finally get his in-ring PPV debut as it was to settle his long-running rivalry with Vega.

In some respects, you'd have to imagine Bradshaw would have preferred to wait a little long for his big match if he knew it was going to be as terrible as this one.

Duller than the proverbial dishwater, literally the only exciting moment occurred when the two brawled to the outside.

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - ECW's Sandman and Tommy Dreamer got involved in the opening Savio/JBL match
There, The Sandman, Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer could be seen on camera watching the show.

A second later, Sandman spat beer at Savio Vega, causing a commotion which Vega and Bradshaw cleverly sold as a legit shoot.

We would see more from the company that Vince McMahon would only refer to as "a local promotion here in Philadelphia" in the coming weeks, but for now, it was back to one of the most mind-numbingly tedious bouts your writer has ever had this displeasure to watch.

Making things worse here was the fact that they copied the exact finish from Savio's earlier strap match against Steve Austin from In Your House 8: Beware of Dog.

I don't mean it was similar, I mean it was exactly the same, right down to Bradshaw playing the Austin role and dragging Vega into the final corner to give him the win.

If this was a redo of a match from many years ago, nobody would have cared. The fact that they repeated a finish from just five months prior made this whole thing look dumb.
Your Winner: Savio Vega. 

As Savio celebrated his big win and hopefully put this never-ending feud to bed once and for all, we were taken to a video package highlighting the -ahem- epic rivalry between James E. Cornette and Jose Lothario.

That match, if you could call it such a thing, was next.

'Razor and Diesel' Attack Savio Vega 

As Jim Cornette made his way to the ring for what was sure to be a thrilling contest, we were taken to backstage in one of those "OMG, something is happening in the back! We'll get you exclusive news on what's happening RIGHT NOW!' segments that were such big part of mid-late '90s American pro wrestling. 

As it happened, the 'something' that was happening was the first glimpse of Fake Diesel and Razor Ramon in a blurry, from-a-distance shot as they beat up Savio Vega.

Battle of the Managers
James E. Cornette vs. 'Super Sock' Jose Lothario

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Jose Lothario faced Jim Cornette
As as 12 year-old mark such as I was at the time that this show went out live, I swallowed just about anything and everything the World Wrestling Federation wanted to shove down my throat. 

I ate it all up happily, and enjoyed almost every match I saw with none of the cynicism or pessimism that inevitably crept in once I grew up into an adult and continued to watch pro wrestling. 

I saw almost, because I remember quite clearly that, even as a wide-eyed, 12 year-old kid who lapped up everything the WWF put out, I just couldn't see the appeal in watching a flabby non-wrestler like Jim Cornette lock up against a retired old man who looked older than my granddad. 

To this day, I can't quite get my head around the idea that Vince and his booking crew thought anybody wanted to see this match. 

But hey, clearly that's what they thought, and here we were. 

Thankfully, this was mercifully short. 

Cornette did the usual heel shtick of berating his opponent and the live audience on the microphone, then Lothario came down, whipped him from corner to corner and pinned him in about a minute flat. 

I'd call this one a dud, but it was barely a match at all, just a short angle that neither served to further a long-term story nor as a short-term spot of entertainment.
Your Winner: Jose Lothario 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Savio Vega was interviewed after being beaten up by Fake Razor and Diesel
Afterwards, we were taken to the back for a Coliseum Home Video Exclusive, in which Doc Hendrix caught up with Savio Vega following the latter's beat down at the hands of the men who may or may not have been Razor Ramon and Diesel.

Selling the attack for all it was worth (or else just doing a really bad promo), Vega admitted that despite once being the absolute best of friends with Razor Ramon and rescuing him from an attack at the first ever In Your House ppv, he could not actually tell if The Bad Guy and his buddy Big Daddy Cool were indeed the men who had beaten him up earlier.

This, he attributed to the fact that both men attacked from behind after he'd already had his ass kicked by Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw.

The segment -which like many of this time period was simple yet effective- ended with Vega swearing revenge on whoever it was that had attacked him the very first chance he got.

A Hollywood Blondes Reunion featuring The Slammy Award Winning Owen Hart 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Bret Hart refuted Brian Pillman's claims that he was going to be there
Back in the arena, Brian Pillman came down to continue the slow, slow build up to the return of Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

In recent weekends, The Loose Cannon had been claiming that he had personally been in touch with The Hitman, and that he would deliver him to the Philly audience here at In Your House: Mind Games. 

Not too surprisingly, it transpired that the devious heel Pillman had been lying this whole time, with Bret issuing a firm rebuttal in a pre-recorded segment live from South Africa. 

Pillman, it appeared, was here to address said rebuttal, and in doing so, managed to orchestrate one of the most entertainment segments of this entire pay per view.

Pushing the envelope in a way that no other promo in recent memory had, The Loose Cannon asked his former Hollywood Blondes partner Austin whether he thought Bret Hart was chicken. 

The response from Stone Cold?

Bret Hart doesn't even qualify as being a chicken, he's the slimy substance that runs out of the south end of a chicken.
Let me make myself clear, if you put the letter 'S' in front of Hitman, you get my exact opinion of Bret Hart.

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, and Owen Hart cut a promo on Bret Hart
Considering what was to come just a short time down the line in the Attitude Era, such remarks may seem quite tame, but when you consider that this was still New Generation time, a time when babyfaces smiled, little kids supposedly looked up to their heroes, and nobody made even the vaguest of references to chickenshit on a live pay per view.

The fact that this took place in the home of  ECW was not an accident. The fact that it may have just been the next inevitable step towards the no-holds-barred, x-rated approach of the Attitude Era, may have been.

Mark Henry Explores Philly 

As entertaining as that last segment may have been, it did feel as though the WWF were stalling here, as if for some reason they just didn't have enough in-ring content to make their show worth watching and were filling up on as much added stuff as possible. 

More filler came next with a short clip of Mark Henry walking around Philadelphia, visiting the Liberty Bell and generally having a nice time. 

Quite what the point of this was is anybody's guess, but it did at least kill at minute of time before our next match.

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Clarence Mason tricked Jim Cornette into signing over Owen Hart and British Bulldog's contractsClarence Mason Swindles Jim Cornette 

Next, we went to the back where Jim Cornette was being tended to by a doctor after his -ahem- punishing contest with Jose Lothario. Taking advantage of Cornette's dazed and confused state, Clarence Mason arrived and had him sign his signature to a document, telling the distraught manager that it was a legal document needed to sue Lothario. 

In recent weeks however, it would be revealed that Mason had actually tricked Cornette into handing over the managerial rights to Owen Hart and the British Bulldog. 

Speaking of those two, they were up next.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn)  vs. Owen Hart & British Bulldog

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the beginning of the end of The Smoking Gunns.

Making their pay per view debut at WWF King of the Ring 1993, the team's three year reign would ultimately come to an end here, all thanks to the self-obsessed seductress known as Sunny. 

This was at the point when the former Body Donna was doing her full Yoko Ono on the one team that had been a consistent part of the company's tag division for several years. 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Sunny fired The Smoking Gunns after they lost the WWF tag team titles
Billy had become so enamored with the blonde bombshell that he was frequently distracted in his matches, and it would cost him dearly here in an entertaining match against Owen and Bulldog. 

To be fair to them, the now-former Camp Cornette members had the Gunns' number right from the start, revealing that they had defaced a huge drop-down poster of Sunny, similar to the one she revealed at last month's Summerslam 1996. 

From there, the two teams engaged in what was so far the best match on the card. Though I appreciate that isn't saying much, it was nonetheless a good effort which ended when Sunny's distraction allowed the British Bulldog to get the cover, the count, and the tag team titles.
Your Winners and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Owen Hart & British Bulldog beat The Smoking Gunns for the WWF Tag Team Titles
Post match, Sunny got mad at her charges, claiming that she had given them her time, she had given them her money, and she had given them Everything, implying, you know, everything that you could probably get from Sunny today if you had enough money.

Much as she had done with The Body Donnas and The Godwins previously, Sunny promptly fired The Smoking Gunns. 

In the weeks that would follow, this would cause Billy and Bart Gunn to turn on each other, bringing the team to an end, but not before they had one last match at the following month's In Your House: Buried Alive. More of that later this month..

The Challenger Speaks...

Cutting to the back of the building, Paul Bearer and Mankind gave a so-so promo about the latter's upcoming title match against Shawn Michaels. 

Bearer claimed that just as it was The Undertaker's Creatures of The Night that had forced him to turn on The Phenom, it would HBK's Kliq (the fans, not the backstage group), that were to blame for what Mankind was about to do to the champion. 

For his part, Mankind gave an eerie and gruesome account of himself, claiming that it was his destiny to hear Michaels' liver rupture, and to become the WWF champion.

Jerry 'The King' Lawler vs. Mark Henry 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Mark Henry beat Jerry 'The King' Lawler
Going into this one, I did wonder why the WWF would invest so much in hyping the debut of Olympic athlete Mark Henry only to have his first match be against Jerry 'The King' Lawler, a man who had mostly been used for comic relief over the course of 1996.

Then the story was revealed, and suddenly this became close to perfect.

You see, this was about Jerry Lawler, the wiley veteran and celebrated pro wrestling star mocking newcomer Henry for not having the skills to back up his overly-hyped debut. 

Lawler was going to "take Mark Henry to school" and show him that wrestling wasn't as easy as it looked.

What followed was a very basic, text-book pro wrestling match that somehow proved to be a whole lot of fun. 

All credit here has to go to The King, who basically wrestled himself for the duration of this short but enjoyable bout. Lawler through himself around and worked the crowd to perfection before finally succumbing to a backbreaker and giving Henry the win in his first WWF wrestling match.
Your Winner: Mark Henry 

Afterwards, a weird contingent of heels, including The New Rockers and Hunter Hearst Helmsley ran in one after the other in attempt to attack The World's Strongest Man.

Henry fought back, cleaned house, and then celebrated as fireworks exploded from the rafters. 

I'm sure the reason for the post-match beat down was explained on Raw or something, but for now, I'll have to imagine that the story line was perhaps that the baddies were jealous and upset about this huge superstar non-wrestler coming in and trying to compete on their turf.

Coliseum Home Video Exclusive Interview with the New World Tag Team Champions

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Coliseum Home Video Exclusive
Backstage, Doc Hendrix caught up with Clarence Mason, Owen Hart, and the British Bulldog.

In an entertaining promo, the new WWF tag team champions gloated about their victory, insisting that The Smoking Gunns -even with "that hosebag" Sunny in their corner- just didn't have what it took to beat the two.

Just when it looked like this interview was all wrapped up, Doc asked about the absence of James E. Cornette. Still enthralled with his big win, Owen claimed that Cornette had been "throwing some confusion into [his and Bulldog's] strategy" but that he didn't really care anyway, and was glad that Clarence Mason was in their corner as their "lucky leprechaun."

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Owen Hart & British Bulldog gloated about their big win
It was at this point that Mason revealed he had indeed tricked Jim Cornette into signing over the management contracts of the new champs.

Though of course, being the cowardly bad guy, he made it seem like it had all been a big mistake.

Not that it mattered, Owen and Bulldog seemed perfectly Ok with the situation, smiling and nodding happily as we cut back to the arena.

Hype for Undertaker vs. Goldust 

For most of 1996, The Undertaker had been at war with both Goldust and Mankind, alternating between the two on most pay per view bouts since the spring. 

This one began at the aforementioned Beware of Dog back in May. It continued just two months ago at In Your House: International Incident, but tonight -so Todd Pettengill informed us via this generic 90s video package- it would all come to an end. 

There would be a winner, and this rivalry would be settled tonight.

Final Curtain Match
Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. The Undertaker 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Undertaker beat Goldust in a Final Curtain match
If the rules of a Final Curtain match were ever fully defined, they certainly were not explained to either of the two combatants, nor to referee Tim White. 

In the aforementioned video package, Pettengill had informed us that the only way to win this one was by pinfall. 

This, you would assume, would make this a no disqualification, no count out match, right?

Yeah, I thought so too, but even as Vince McMahon was telling us on commentary that there was no dq, White was there calling a ten count.

Even when 'Taker and Goldie were on the outside, nothing happened that wouldn't happen within the confines of your standard match. 

In this writer's opinion, this means that both men squandered a perfect opportunity to really do something different and make their match stand out. 

Instead, we got a decent, run-of-the-mill match which ended when The Undertaker tombstoned Goldust to win the match and end this rivalry once and for all. 
Your Winner: The Undertaker 

Afterwards, The Undertaker celebrated his big victory by posing in the ring, doing the now famous pose without the urn for the first time on WWF PPV. 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Shawn Michaels admitted to being nervous in his pre-match promo

Shawn Michaels Is Nervous 

Backstage, Kevin Kelly asked the World Wrestling Federation champion about his thoughts going into tonight's main event. 

Playing down his usual charisma and jovial nature, The Heartbreak Kid admitted that for the first time since winning the gold, he was nervous about defending it. 

Sure, he could out-wrestle anybody in the WWF, but would he even get the chance to straight up wrestle with someone as deranged and -as HBK put it- "whacked out" as Mankind?

Shawn himself wasn't exactly sure, and told us that he was about to go to the ring with no idea about how to deal with the number one contender and his manager, Paul Bearer. 

That match, ladies and gentlemen, was next. 

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer)

Mick Foley has often referred to this as his favourite match, though to be honest, some 21 years down the line, I still haven't seen the whole contest in its entirety. 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Mankind challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWF title
So, was this one really as good as Foley, and countless fans have claimed it to be?

In a word, yes.

A riotous back-and-forth battle that only got better the longer it went on, this nigh-on 30 minute classic had literally everything. 

You wanted wild, out-of-control brawling? You got it. 

You wanted actual, honest-to-goodness wrestling holds? They were here in abundance, even from Foley. 

You wanted high spots like Michaels and Mankind crashing from the top turnbuckle through the Spanish announce table? That happened and looked awesome. 

There was even some wonderful storytelling going on, with Shawn Michaels destroying the Mandible Claw and forcing Mankind to actually use wrestling holds to try and make a pinfall. 

The end, which I really want to describe as beautiful, came when the challenger -who at this point was firmly in control of the match- looked to leap off the top turnbuckle and smash the champ's head open with a steel chair. 

WWF / WWE IN YOUR HOUSE 10: Mind Games - Mankind locks the mandible claw on Shawn Michaels in the WWF title match
Michaels ran up, used a second chair (this one fully set up) as a springboard, and hit a flying Sweet Chin Music, smashing the chair into Foley's head and causing him to crash down. 

Just when it looked like Michaels would get the pin however, Vader ran down to the ring, disqualifying Mankind. 
Your Winner by disqualification and still WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels

Post match, Michaels disposed of Vader, only for Paul Bearer to knock him out cold with the urn. 

Vader looked to strike again, but this time Sid came out and saw him off. 

This gave Mankind time to recover and shove his bare fingers into Michaels throat. The deranged one then called for the casket (which he had traveled to the ring in) to be opened, assumedly to dispose of HBK's body in it. 

Instead, The Undertaker popped out and saw off Mankind, leaving the ring clear for HBK to celebrate another hard fought victory, and one of the best matches of his 1996 title run. 

Coliseum Home Video Exclusive: Mankind Swears Revenge on The Undertaker 

Wrapping things up, another Coliseum Home Video Exclusive took us to the back, where Paul Bearer tried in vein to console a visibly distraught Mankind.

Raging away somewhere deep in the bowels of the building, Mankind promised to get revenge on The Dead Man when they met next month at In Your House: Buried Alive. 
But that, my friends, is another review for another time.

For now, let's get on with the usual summing up, shall we? 

From an in-ring stand point, WWF In Your House 10: Mind Games was a reasonable effort, though with only the Michaels/Mankind match really worth repeat viewing, it has to be said that this one was memorable not for the matches, but for the shift in tone that was a little less subtle than the companies previous steps towards an edgier product.
From the ECW invasion at the start of the show to to the dramatic and violent main event, via Stone Cold Steve Austin's 'off-colour' comments and the occasional use of suggestive language, this was a milestone in the World Wrestling Federation's gradual transformation into the Attitude Era. 

On a personal note, I'd like to apologise for the poor quality images on this review. Wherever possible, I try to use my original copies of shows. Whilst that does mean I review shows closer to how they were presented at the time rather than the heavily edited versions that can appear on the WWE Network, it also means that sometimes I end up with a shitty-quality video, such as this one. 

And finally, thanks once again for reading. To keep up with the latest from RPW, come join me on Twitter, or hit Like on the brand new Retro Pro Wrestling Facebook page.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day - A Tale of Blood and SweatsocksAs you may have noticed by some of my more recent posts, I've been on a bit of a reading kick lately, ploughing my way through wrestling autobiographies, so it made perfect sense to me to go back to the original and -arguably- the best of the bunch. 

Sure, Foley's best-selling tome may not have been the first wrestling autobiography out there (of all things, I remember reading You Grunt, I'll Groan by British World of Sport star Jackie Pallo back when I was a kid), but it was the one that kick-started the trend of major US stars chronicling their career in book form.

Released at the peak of the Attitude Era, Have a Nice Day was perhaps like nothing else that had come along before it, and deserves every ounce of the praise that was heaped upon it at the time. 17 years later (wow, do I feel old!), the book remains a fascinating insight into not only pro wrestling's most popular and profitable period, but also the life, career, and thought-process of one it's -dare I say it- unique performers.

That said, this book is more than just a bloody and brutal trip down memory lane, it's a dramatic, captivating, and thoroughly engrossing story all of its own. It's the story of a man who, for all intents and purposes, never looked set to become one of the biggest stars yet did anyway thanks to a lot of hard work, determination, and sacrifice.

It's the story of a somewhat weird guy with one ear, multiple scars, and missing teeth who thrived in an industry where chiseled, picture-perfect looks were often lauded as factors critical to a star's success, a story of a man who enjoyed success anyway by bringing his strengths to the fore and being as creative as he was courageous in taking every physical and political obstacle hurled in his path and turning it to his advantage.

Physical injuries, ears and teeth missing? Foley made them part of his character. Screwed over by WCW? Foley turned that into one of the hottest angles ECW had going in the mid-1990s. Lumbered with the Lost in Cleveland sketches this fan still vividly remembers watching on Saturday afternoons as a kid? Yeah well, I suppose there's obstacles so bad even the Hardcore Legend couldn't make work for him.

What I found just as fascinating about reading this book two decades after it was published was just how popular wrestling used to be back in the late 90s. Though I was glued to my TV screen for every hardcore match, every crotch-chop, every Steve Austin Beer Bash and every ass whooping Mick Foley was served, the passing of time has naturally made me forget that I was watching all this at a time when wrestling wasn't just popular, but was as mainstream and globally famous as the industry has ever been.

So, though he'll likely never read this review, I guess I should say thank you to Mick Foley, for reminding me of the days when I was perhaps at my happiest as a fan at a time when I just can't seem to care about the WWE's current product, for entertaining me through those years, and the years before it, and for providing me with one hell of a read, seventeen years after Have a Nice Day was first published.

One more thing: If you want some more Foley, check out my review of the legendary IWA: King of Death Match Tournament from 1995.

Other Mick Foley book reviews: 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Chris Jericho - A Lion's Tale - Around the World in Spandex

This past Christmas, good ol' Santa Claus brought me a copy of The Best in the World (at what I have no idea), the third memoir from WWE Superstar, Fozzy frontman, and one-time Goldberg-goader, Chris Jericho. Before I got into reading it however, I wanted to go right back to the beginning of Y2J's journey, and picked up my old copy of A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex. 

Though I'll often claim that A Lion's Tale is up there in my top three all-time favourite wrestling book's (Foley's original bestseller and Bret Hart's epic autobiography being the other two), it's been a good few years since I last sat down to recount Jericho's journey from body slamming his buddy in their high school Big Time Wrestling Federation to his memorable WWF debut in the summer of 1999.

Going back through it over the past week, I've remembered quite clearly why I fell in love with this book in the first place. Jericho's remarkable attention to detail, coupled with a level of humility that's pretty rare in the pro wrestling industry, make him a captivating storyteller as he pulls you along the proverbial rollercoaster of emotions.

One minute you're laughing out loud at some of the more awkward interactions a young Chris Irvine has with his heroes (My name's Chris, too), the next you're rooting for the plucky young Lion Heart as he scratches and claws his way through an industry littered with over-inflated egos and backstage politics. In between, Jericho tugs at the heartstrings when talking about his mother and her tragic accident and his genuine love for his wrestling brothers, provides fascinating insights into the less-than-glamorous side of working his way up in the industry and then returns to the trademark Y2J humour.

I have no shame in admitting that the former Undisputed Champion is something of a personal hero of mine, as much -if not more- for his work ethic and unwavering commitment to pursuing his dreams as anything he's ever done on television to keep me and millions of other fans entertained. As such, though I doubt the man will ever read this review, I do need to say thank you to Chris for documenting his journey in A Lion's Tale. 

The story is nothing short of inspiring, and having been unable to put this book down over the last couple of days, I feel more motivated having just finished this book at 8.30 on a Tuesday morning than I have in a long while. 

The book has also rekindled my love for pro wrestling, something that I've found severely lacking in the last couple of months since I last wrote anything here on Retro Pro Wrestling. Though I'm pretty sure I'll never be as passionate about the current product as I was about the stuff I grew up with, Around the World in Spandex was the perfect reminder of why I fell in love with this unique sport in the first place, and for that, if nothing else, I consider this book not just one of my top three, but quite possibly the best pro wrestling memoir ever written. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

DVD Extras: ECW One Night Stand 2005

I covered the fantastic ECW One Night Stand 2005 pay per view last week, so this week I thought I'd run through some of the extras on the UK DVD release.

There's nothing particularly overwhelming on this disc, but let's take a look anyway, shall we?

Alternative Commentary with JBL
This isn't so much full-on alternative commentary as it is a series of off-the-cuff remarks and conversations with other wrestlers as JBL and his henchmen watch the show from a balcony. The audio quality isn't good, sounding like JBL's mic is some feet away, and this really adds nothing to the presentation.

Unless you really can't stand listening to Joey Styles and Mick Foley and would prefer to watch the rest of the show from after the Rey/Psicosis match onwards without them, you've really nothing to gain by listening to this audio track

TV spots
Nothing much to see here, these are just two brief TV spots used to promote the show. Despite being very short, they do nonetheless show the original Extreme Championship Wrestling in all their insane glory and should have been more than enough to convince anyone that this pay per view would be well worth the money.

ECW vignettes
Four short video montages of Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, Rob Van Dam and The Sandman, each containing some pretty cool clips of the men in action, are followed by a short promo from The Dudley Boyz who, in a sign of things to come on the PPV, set a table on fire.

Fun stuff, though hardly outstanding.

The ECW Funeral
A nice video package replaying Eric Bischoff's 'ECW Funeral' from WWE Raw, this provides some background into the invasion angle that played out on the show, with Paul Heyman declaring 'gang warfare' on Bischoff. Again, nothing amazing, but a nice little extra

ECW Fans at the show
A WWE Home Video Exclusive, this short clips gives us brief interviews with fans outside the Hammerstein Ball Room, each one paying tribute to the heart, spirit and, yes, violence, that made ECW what it was.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

PPV Review: ECW One Night Stand 2005

Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, NY
June 12th, 2005

Even after the original Philly-based outfit's demise, the name Extreme Championship Wrestling still resonated fondly in the hearts of die-hard wrestling fans. Looking to captalize on this unwavering popularity for the hardcore favourite, World Wrestling Entertainment revived the brand for, well, a One Night Stand.

Here's what went down.

Receiving the kind of ovation that sends chills down your spine, a clearly emotional Joey Styles welcomed fans to the show before introducing his broadcast colleague for the evening, a man no stranger to ECW, Mick Foley.

Then, with the introductions out of the way, it was on with the action

Match 1: Lance Storm (w/ Dawn Marie) vs. Chris Jericho 

Having begun his career in a match against Jericho back in 1990, Lance Storm looked to bookend his career by facing his long-time friend in what was then to be his final match.

Eschewing the idea that ECW was a promotion focused solely on ultra violence, the two seasoned stars gave a fine account of themselves as technical wrestlers in a stellar opening contest.

Jericho received a thunderous ovation from the New York faithful as he took it to his former Thrillseekers partner, but ultimately it was Storm who got the upper-hand, picking up the win thanks to interference from a kendo-stick wielding Justin Credible.

Your Winner: Lance Storm

Having stolen a victory from his best friend, Storm made a hasty exit from the ring, leaving Jericho to soak up the adulation from a crowd following as a good an opening contest as anyone could have asked for.

Then, after Joey Styles teased the impending arrival of a host of invading WWE stars, Pitbul Garry Wolfe introduced a video to those members of ECW sadly no longer with us, a video featuring more names than many would have liked.

Match 2: Three-way Dance - Tajiri (w/ The Sinister Minister & Mikey Whipreck) vs. Little Guido (w/ The FBI) vs. Super Crazy

Billed as an 'International Three-way dance' this fast-paced contest soon spilled to the outside, allowing Super Crazy to give us our first real 'extreme' moment of the evening by taking out The FBI with a moonsault from the balcony, much to the delight, and 'ECW! ECW!' chants, from the masses.

Things faired no better for the Italians back in the ring when, following a run-in from Tajiri's men, the Japanese Buzzsaw eliminated Guido from the contest.

Yet it was the Insane Luchador who finally triumphed, planting Tajiri with a swift moonsault to end the contest.

Your winner: Super Crazy

Following a look at some of the more memorable moments in ECW's history, it was on with the action.

Match 3: Psicosis vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.

Though similar in style to the previous outing, this battle between two of the most recognisable luchadors in North America managed to go one better with a fast-paced, high-impact offering which delivered everything you might expect, and then some.

Both men traded the advantage several times, enlivening the crowd with crisp, jaw-dropping offence before Mysterio finally put his opponent away with the West Coast Pop.

Your Winner: Rey Mysterio Jr.

Interrupting what had been a fine show thus far, Kurt Angle and JBL led a small army of Smackdown stars to a private viewing box, greeted by fevered chants of 'You suck dick!' and 'Fuck You Smackdown!' from the Hammerstein crowd.

Even now, this writer isn't convinced that this invasion angle was entirely necessarily, especially when Kurt Angle took to the microphone with a rather juvenile anti-ECW promo which consisted of little more than repeating the words 'You people suck and can kiss my ass!'

JBL faired a little better on the mic, though his calling ECW as a garbage promotion full of people taking cane shots to the head made little sense following three first-class wrestling matches.

Thankfully, an injured Rob Van Dam arrived on the scene, lambasting the WWE crew and cutting an impassioned promo in which he praised the fans, the spirit of ECW and, of course, himself. Before he left, RVD discussed his knee surgery, claiming that missing the PPV due to the surgery was worse than missing Wrestlemania.

Then, for seemingly no reason, Rhino ran in and gored the hell out of RVD. Sabu then popped up, and we had our next match.

Match 4: Rhino vs. Sabu 

Sabu took the advantage in the early going, battling Rhino in a short, passable contest complete with chairshots aplenty and an awesome plancha onto the outside.

The master of the gore turned the tide, pummelling his foe with some stiff offence, but when the referee took a tumble, RVD returned to the fray, planting Rhino with a chair and helping Sabu land an Arabian Facebuster through a table for the three count.

Your winner: Sabu

Backstage, Al Snow yelled at Head for a while before introducing another video montage, this one mostly featuring people falling through tables.

Following this montage, the 'Raw Crusaders,' led by Eric Bischoff and Edge made their way to their own private box.

Match 5: Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

Prior to the match, Joey Styles insisted that this match would be a firm middle finger in the face of everyone who claimed ECW was nothing more than chairshots and tables (so, the previous match then?) and that we would witness 'as good a pure wrestling match as you'll see anywhere.'

He wasn't wrong.

Going at it in a vicious, aggressive wrestling contest, the two now-deceased superstars lit up New York with a thrilling performance that could have easily stood as the main event of a much larger show.

Benoit scored the victory thanks to the Crippler Crossface.

Your Winner: Chris Benoit

Up in the stands, Joel Gertner begged Eric Bischoff for a job. Unsurprisingly, the Raw GM refused before cutting a scathing promo on ECW which put the earlier efforts by JBL and Angle to shame.

Match 6: Mike Awesome vs. Matsato Tanaka 

Throughout the show, Joey Styles had held nothing back when it came to his commentary, shooting when necessary and giving his honest opinion whenever the opportunity arose, yet in the early moments of this brutal-yet-enjoyable contest, Styles went off the rails as he lambasted Awesome for defecting to WCW whilst still ECW champion back in the 1990s.

In one uncomfortable moment following a Mike Awesome suicide dive, Styles commented that 'it's a shame Awesome didn't succeed in taking his own life.' Of course, two years later, and Awesome did just that.

On this night in New York however, he and Tanaka stole the show, planting each other with some vicious offence as the battered each other around the ring, transitioning well from one violent spot to the next until Awesome powerbombed his long-time rival over the top rope and planted him with a second suicide dive for a pinfall on the outside.
Your Winner: Mike Awesome

Overwhelmed by the standing ovation he received from the ECW diehards as he stepped into the ring, Paul Heyman took centre stage next to cut a very personal, very real promo. Thanking Todd Gordon and others who had helped ECW along the way, especially the fans, the former owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling then turned his attentions the WWE stars.

Tearing shreds out of arch-rival Eric Bischoff, Edge ('I have two words to say to you; "MATT FREAKIN HARDY!!"' ...erm, Paul, that's three), and JBL in what would have been a classic promo for the ages had the targets of Heyman's venom sold anything he had to say rather than goofing around and treating the man with the microphone like a silly child.

Match 7: The Dudley Boys vs. Tommy Dreamer & The Sandman

What with The Sandman's usual hour-long entrance and a host of interruptions from The BWO (causing Joey Styles laugh manically), Kid Kash (who took out everybody with an incredible suicide dive), Axl Rotten & Balls Mahoney, tonight's main event took more than a fair while to get going.

When it did however, what came was a wildly entertaining, brilliantly bloody brawl. Bubba Ray and Dreamer tore at each other's flesh with a cheesegrater, The Sandman battered D-Von with a trashcan and ladder shots, chairs flew, chaos ensued and the crowds let rip with appreciative round of 'Holy shit!' chants.

Things turned even more violent with the arrival of The Impact Players as Justin Credible drilled The Sandman with a That's Incredible atop a sphere of barbed wire.

Fans were then treated to an impromptu catfight between Francine and Beaulah McGuilicutty before Beulah reunited with her real-life husband Dreamer to deliver a couple of DDTs to the Dudleys.

Bubba and D-Von fought back, taking out their foes and having Spike Dudley join them in the ring as they sent Tommy Dreamer flying through a flaming table for the win.

Your Winners: The Dudley Boys

Bringing the show to a riotous finale, ECW alum Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring, rounding up the troops and leading the ECW originals into a hectic brawl against the invading WWE stars. Whilst your reviewer still feels this could have been a perfect show without the Raw and Smackdown involvement, this was a fantastically fun fisticuffs which ended with Mick Foley bringing Eric Bischoff to the ring, Austin leading the charge as The Dudleys, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio hit their finishing moves on the former WCW Main man.

Things finally came to a close with a rousing beer bash, the ECW Originals united in triumph.

Overall, a stellar show from start to finish with a string of enjoyable matches, entertainment, comedy and pure emotion. Only the Sabu/Rhino bout failed to surpass expectations, yet even that was enjoyable for what it was. The 'invasion' angle wasn't entirely necessary, but even that did little to detract from what was otherwise a first-rate show. 

Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.