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SLAM! Wrestling

Friday, February 5th, 1999

Hardcore hip?


  For those of you who think Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), invented Hardcore wrestling, well think again. The NWA had some pretty Hardcore wrestling with barbwire, cages and dog collars. Ditto with Calgary Stampede Wrestling. I mean where else could you see the Dynamite Kid do a diving head-butt twenty feet onto the concrete. Smoky Mountain Wrestling liked scaffold matches and other violent gimmicks. Japan? Well, Japan owns the market on viewable physical abuse.

But the ECW will forever be known as the innovators of the "extreme" simply because they got on Pay Per View with it first. They cornered a national and somewhat international market. They took it further and did it better than anyone previously and now that Hardcore is hip and cool everyone else is ripping off the "extreme" style and renaming it what they will: "attitude", "extremist", "extreme", whatever.

The point is "hardcore" wrestling (the more extreme the better!), is in. The WWF realized this awhile ago which is why they are winning the ratings war, why they have a Hardcore championship and also the reason why Mick Foley (the hardest of the core!), is the champ. The WCW has started to come to the same conclusion as exemplified by the Kimberly/Steiner angle and the Sandman/Bigelow match on Monday's Nitro which featured the Singapore cane, real barbwire and violent use of a steel chair. After years of hiding behind family values, it seems the WCW is hesitantly following the path of the WWF and the ECW which isn't that much of a stretch considering they've bought half of the ECW roster over the last year or two.

The main concern here also happens to be one of those immutable laws of physics (or something to that effect). What goes-up, must eventually come crashing back to Earth killing as many people as humanly possible in the process. The problem with any trend, fashion, cool or hip new thing is that it only stays so for as long as it isn't overexposed, convoluted or just plain ruined with trendy pieces of crap jumping on the bandwagon (I'm thinking Seattle and something about a group called Nirvana?). ECW has kept their niche and continued to thrive simply because they have the ability to continually top themselves. Have wrestlers that can also wrestle in a Hardcore environment and lastly, treat the fans the way people paying money for your services should be treated.

This is not to say the big two don't have these attributes. It's just that ECW has spent years learning their craft and learning from their mistakes. While the big two are content to steal some of their wrestlers and throw them into "hardcore" matches this doesn't make either of the two hardcore. But why "hardcore" and why now?

It all comes back to a little company called ECW and the fact that they are on the verge of making the jump to the next level, the thinking of the competition is probably that if they go more "hardcore" who'll want the ECW? After all they are just a small pissant company who is too extreme for their own good. Sure that argument could have been made even up to a few short months ago but after having barbwire on Monday night, swearing (and I'm not talking about "hell or ass"), a Hell in the Cell (or two), home invasions and hospital invasions. The head of the Hell's Angels stalking Ric Flair's kid, Hardcore match after Hardcore match and lastly Steve Austin threatening to shoot Vince in the back of the head on Raw, is it such a stretch to imagine the company that started it all is still too Extreme?

The answer is a resounding No! While the ECW is still more Hardcore, violent and vulgar than the big two the difference between them isn't as vast as it once was. Hardcore wrestling is a genre of wrestling which has been around for decades, pioneered by the original Sheik, Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, Tiger Jeht Singh and about a million other wrestlers I'm forgetting at the moment. Popularity wise it is at an all time high, which is precisely the reason it is in danger of becoming overexposed. If the WWF and the WCW want to have any sort of Hardcore longevity then they must learn from the lessons of the ECW and those before them or they will simply ruin the extreme.

Maybe the Big Two's game plan is they can't combat ECW so they will ruin the Extreme by diluting the "extreme"?

Damn you Vince!

Damn you Bischoff!

Damn you to hell!

You blew it up, you bastards!

Chris Gramlich originally hails from "anywhere he damn well pleases" (a.k.a. Vancouver, BC). His hobbies include: wrestling, piercing various body parts, aggressive music, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Trek related programs, good animation, any all shark programs, video games, wrestling and walking his dog. Gramlich plays in a jazz/metal/punk/noise band called Association Area, being previous associated with bands such as Bad Blood and Tchort. Also a respected music writer based out of Toronto, "Hardcore" writes for the Exclaim and Doomhauled magazines.

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