Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mike Awesome vs Tazz - A tale of ECW vs WCW vs WWF

I always found the "sport" of professional wrestling fascinating for a number of reasons.
  • While matches outcomes are scripted ahead of time, the shows continue to sell the "sport" as real.
  • Despite it being scripted, the wrestlers deserve an incredible amount of respect for the real pain they suffer during a match.
  • There is an incredible art to selling the wrestling moves as real.
  • There is an art to the selling and promotion of individual wrestlers, for example the promotion of a lesser known wrestler by beating a better one, the establishment of "good guys" and "bad guys".

The list an go on.

While in college, I became a pretty big WWF/WWE fan.  WWE shows, especially with characters like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, the APA, and others, were just plain entertaining.  I jokingly told friends, "It's like a soap opera for guys.  There's love, greed, betrayal, revenge, etc. ... except everything is resolved with fighting."  (See prior post here)

Watching some random videos on YouTube one time, I eventually came upon this match.

The match was one of the most interesting ones I recall, even though I had never seen it until just in the past few weeks.  It is one of the most fascinating stories I can recall while a wrestling fan in college.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s there were three major wrestling promotions, ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), WCW (World Championship Wrestling), and WWF (World Wrestling Federation)  [WWF would later become WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment].

WWF was the most popular by far, but each of the others had their fans.

From my understanding, ECW had some financial troubles.  Their champion, Mike Awesome, had reportedly gone unpaid (or felt he was due money) and felt that his contract with ECW was effectively voided.  He then went onto sign with WCW, although he was the reigning ECW champion.

ECW was naturally pissed.  I assume legal action was taken for breach of contract, but eventually WCW & ECW came to a compromise that Mike Awesome would come back to ECW and perform in a single match to lose his championship to someone else.

This is where it gets interesting.  Instead of losing to another wrestler in ECW, Mike Awesome instead lost his belt to Tazz (sometimes known as Taz).  Tazz was a former popular ECW wrestler that had recently gone to WWF.  The match Tazz wins the belt is the one in the video above.

I find this tale fascinating for a variety of reasons.

At the end of the day, professional wrestling is a scripted show.  But there is a certain pride that one takes in having the championship belt in your promotion.  You're the star of the program, you're the one that sells tickets, and gets the most money for the promotion.  You are the face of the franchise/company.  While there may have been tough times, a number of ECW wrestlers and employees took pride in their company.  For the ECW champion to jump ship was a tough pill to swallow.  I'm sure it felt like a huge betrayal.

So ECW, to some extent, wanted to embarrass Mike Awesome in this final match for ECW.  Effectively,  hurt the Mike Awesome brand before he goes to WCW.  So they wanted to get the biggest star they could to beat Mike Awesome. 

WCW was a bitter rival of WWF.  Despite the fact that WWF had absolutely nothing to do with this mess, they also had an interest in hurting the WCW brand as well.

So, WWF being the larger brand, lent ECW Tazz for this match.  Tazz would then lose the belt to someone else in ECW that I can't recall.

I find it fascinating that effectively ECW and WWF thought it best to team up to hurt the WCW brand.  ECW, perhaps running a bit on emotion, simply wanted to get the most popular wrestler they could to beat Mike Awesome in a match.  WWF agreed just to try and embarass the WCW brand.

If you watch the match above, it's pretty pathetic.  The ECW champion falls in about 1 minute and taps out with almost no effort.  

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