After last week’s debut of Views From the Stolen Gazebo, I received quite a few e-mails, both positive and negative.
However, one really stuck out because of the question the reader posed – “Why don’t you think Bobby Lashley is extreme?”
The reader then went on to question my estimation of Lashley, stating he was “enormous” and “awesome” and “built like brick [EXPLETIVE DELETED]-house.”
How can a man with his physique not be seen as hardcore?
I didn’t have to consider the question for very long to come up with a reasonable answer, but before I explain myself, let me just say I have no problem with Mr. Lashley as a person.
I’ve never met him personally nor do I have the desire, but I know fans that have and they’ve told me he’s one of the nicest guys in the business.
I admire him for that since, right now, with the WWE more than tripling the cost to have their superstars make personal appearances and do autograph signings, fan appreciation is quickly becoming an oxymoron in the hallowed halls of Titan Towers.
With that said, let it be known that I don’t think highly of the man as part of the ECW brand, because associating him with “extreme wrestling” is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.
He just doesn’t fit.
When I think of what’s extreme or hardcore in professional wrestling, certain images cross my mind.
I see Mick Foley getting tossed off the top of the cage by The Undertaker at the 1998 King of the Ring.
Then there’s Tommy Dreamer knocking “Prime Time” Brian Lee off scaffolding and through a stack of tables in their High Incident match in old-school ECW.
And then, of course, there’s the “chair-shot heard ‘round the world”, when Dreamer walloping a handcuffed and helpless Raven square on the head with a steel chair, one of the most brutal shots I’ve ever seen.
Now, look at present-day ECW, or WWECW as many peeved ECW loyalists have been calling it.
Take a second and think of all the “extreme spots” that we’ve seen since the WWE restarted the ECW name back in June of last year.
Can’t come up with anything, huh?
Not surprising, since I had trouble, too.
I was only able to come up with one noteworthy instance – when Rob Van Dam faced Hardcore Holly in an “Extreme Rules” match on ECW on Sci Fi back in September.
That match was the only match I’ve seen since ECW came back that actually felt like a true ECW match and it’s all been downhill since then.
I know I’ll get a lot of flak for saying this, but one of the major factors involved in the watering down of the product is the main event push of Bobby Lashley.
Ever since he won the title, the WWE has turned Raw and ECW on Sci Fi into their own little version of The Patty Duke Show.
Yes, they’re cousins – identical cousins, two of a kind.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape…
*Overpushed babyface champion John Cena overcomes the odds week in and week out, holding onto his title, even if it’s by the skin of his teeth at times, in lackluster, predictable encounters with his foes Edge, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, etc.
*Actual wrestling matches take a backseat to sports entertainment shenanigans involving the McMahon family, baldness, ECW’s Bobby Lashley and whoever else happens to be on Vince’s storyline-dictated hit list on a given week
ECW on Sci Fi
*Overpushed babyface champion Bobby Lashley overcomes the odds week in and week out against Umaga, holding onto his title, even if it’s by the skin of his teeth (or a disqualification technicality, like a few weeks ago) at times, in lackluster, predictable encounters.
*Actual wrestling—and extreme warfare—take a backseat to sports entertainment shenanigans involving the McMahon family, baldness, Bobby Lashley and whoever else happens to be on Vince’s storyline-dictated hit list on a given week
At least Rob Van Dam and The Big Show, Bobby Lashley’s predecessors as champion, knew how to put on matches that, at the very least, were violent compared to the WWE’s usual way of doing things and made ECW a step above Raw.
Lashley will never be able to pull that off… for a number of reasons.
He’s a big man.
In the history of the “genuine” ECW, only three big guys held the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and they were a step above the traditional “big man” stereotype of the business.
Two-time champ the late Mike Awesome was extremely agile for his size and a talented in-ring performer, too.
Ditto for the late Bam Bam Bigelow, a one-time champion and arguably the most nimble wrestler over the three hundred pound mark.
Rhino, another one-time champ, was the least notable of the trio, but he wasn’t afraid to take bumps.
I’ve cringed at some of the chairshots he’s taken over the years.
He’s never been afraid to put his body on the line to give the fans their money’s worth.
You can’t even say Lashley possesses half the ability of those three men, because even that would be a gross overstatement.
Even though his body is admittedly superior to most of the other guys on the WWE roster, his move-set is limited.
Running around clotheslining opponents and powerslamming them over and over again isn’t cutting edge or extreme, it’s more of a throwback to how WWE superstars were in the mid-to-late 1980s.
To stamp the ECW name on a retro product like that (or a champion like Lashley) is blasphemous and a slap in the face to all the longtime ECW fans who got excited over the WWE’s restart of the “promotion.”
He has no mic skills whatsoever.
ECW was known as the home of some of the best talkers to ever hold a microphone – “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, Cactus Jack, Taz, “The King of Old School” Steve Corino, Terry Funk and the list goes on and on.
Often, the promos were just as compelling as the matches.
There was no such thing as a cookie cutter interview in ECW, as everyone had their own style.
Douglas was a loose cannon who wielded a certain four-letter word like a Knight of the Round Table brandishing his sword, Corino was the thinking man’s snart ass, Terry Funk was old school at its finest, Taz was the badass from Brooklyn and the fans loved every word they all said.
Their interviews weren’t just there, like most of the in-ring ramblings have been in the WWE as of late.
They told a story, which ultimately led to some of the greatest wrestling matches in North America.
Bobby Lashley, on the other hand, comes from the Dave Batista School of Interviewing Skills.
He snorts, growls and barks almost unintelligible threats at his opponent.
Would be effective, if he didn’t sound like Mr. Van Driessen from Beavis & Butt-head.
Soft spoken to a fault, Lashley comes off as intimidating as a preschool teacher in his interviews, offsetting whatever awe his size and shape may invoke in the hearts of fans.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
As I stated before, Lashley has been ECW’s answer to John Cena.
He faces insurmountable forces and conquers them every time.
Every time, folks.
It passed the point of tedium long before WrestleMania 23 and the Battle of the Billionaires debacle with Umaga, The Donald, and the McMahon Family Sketch Comedy Players.
This probably wouldn’t be such a glaring problem if he put forth a little variety in his in-ring efforts, but he constantly produces the same old, same old.
Aside from the “leap through the cage” from a couple of weeks ago, which was downright hokey if you ask me, I’ve yet to see Lashley deviate from his shtick.
For God’s sake, would it kill him to actually take a chairshot that didn’t look like it was being delivered by a Girl Scout, or what about a really good table spot?
Good gravy, Marie, even Shane McMahon, who, for the most part, isn’t even a legitimate in-ring performer, has the cajones to take one of those.
Vince has pretty much placed the entire ECW name on this man’s shoulders and he hasn’t even tried to keep it afloat.
Not sure if this is due to a lack of initiative on Lashley’s part or the powers that be telling him not to take risks, but it’s turned ECW on Sci Fi into the most boring hour television has seen since CBS canceled Judging Amy and you know it’s pretty bad when I’d rather watch The Man They Call Tyne Daly than professional wrestling.
If Vince truly wants ECW to thrive, Bobby Lashley needs to drop the World Title to somebody who epitomizes what the letters ECW stand for – Rob Van Dam, anyone? – and Lashley needs to pack his bags and move to one of the other two brands, where his substandard Bill Goldberg impersonation would be a more appropriate fit.
Sadly, I don’t think he wants ECW to survive past summertime, much less thrive as a third brand.
He wants to drive the promotion’s legacy straight into the ground and I fear he’s going to accomplish just that very, very soon.
In its memory, I present to you this list.
Special thanks to Joey Pretzels, the Unsinkable Ms. U.D. Embrick Hardy Punk Calloway and the Extreme Queen of the Pine Barrens Herself for assisting me in compiling this scientifically researched catalog.
72 Things More Hardcore Than Bobby Lashley
Gary, my mini dachshund (as stated in last week’s column)
Jinx, Gary’s brand new nine-week-old little sister
Confetti-tossing stand-up comedian extraordinaire Rip Taylor
The lady from the Honey Bunches of Oats commercial
The yodeling Skittles rabbit
The Easter Bunny
Stefano DiMera from Days of Our Lives
Quaker Oat Bran
The Hair Club For Men
The Evil Monkey in Chris’s Room (for the Family Guy fans out there – I salute you!)
Mrs. Fletcher, the old woman from the old Medi-Alert commercials from the 1990s (RIP)
T-Bag from Prison Break
Lonestar, the country singing group
An ice-cold can of Diet Sunkist
Chuck Norris’s moustache
IHOP’s Rooty Tooty, Fresh & Fruity Breakfast
Guillermo Diaz from Jimmy Kimmel Live
The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo
A cardboard box
A six-pack of Zima
Steve’s notebook from Blue’s Clues
Michael Jackson’s old nose
The Sleestacks from Land of the Lost
Cornelius from Planet of the Apes
The Geico.com Cavemen
A bowl of fruit salad
A used tissue
The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George
Whatever Willis was talkin’ about
Gordon from Sesame Street
The Monster Mash
The Hand Jive
Tony Orlando & Dawn
The Berenstain Bears
Du Quoin, Illinois
Cabbage Head (Shout out to the Kids in the Hall fans out there…)
But the list doesn’t end at #72, faithful readers.
Can you say “audience participation?”
I’m inviting each and every one of you out there to drop me an e-mail or leave me a message on MySpace with your own list of persons, places and things you feel are more hardcore than the reigning ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
I’ll post the COMPLETE list in its entirety in a special column on Saturday, June 2nd – the night before ECW/Raw/Smackdown One Night Stand.
Now, onto my review of TNA Lockdown, I have to admit, as a whole, I was disappointed with the pay-per-view.
While there were many bright spots, there was also plenty of baffling WrestleCrap-worthy moments that made me wonder why Vince Russo still has a job with the company.
Before I go into a more in-depth analysis of the event, allow me to explain my method of reviewing TNA pay-per-views.
I don’t use the traditional star grading system because, well, I like to be different.
Instead, I follow the SSDDWTSOME, or the Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat Scale of Match Evaluation.
The more socks stuffed down Don’s throat, the better the match.
Everybody got it?
SIX SIDES OF STEEL PRE-SHOW MATCH
Voodoo Kin Mafia vs. Serotonin (Christy Hemme’s Mystery Team)
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t disenchanted with the reveal of Christy’s team.
After all the time and hype they put into the angle, I thought they’d align her with a team that packed more of a punch.
However, I was pleased with the fact that TNA decided to use Serotonin for something, even if they turned out to be jobber fodder for VKM.
Voodoo Kin Mafia
2 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL XSCAPE MATCH FOR THE X-DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
Chris Sabin (c) vs. “Black Machismo” Jay Lethal vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Alex Shelley vs. Shark Boy
Average match, really.
I love Jay Lethal’s new gimmick and I’m glad they’re giving him a push, too.
I just wish this match was a little longer and that Lethal won the title.
I like Sabin as much as the next guy, but I think it’s high time somebody else got a chance to shine with the belt.
Chris Sabin retains the X-Division Championship
3 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat (would’ve only been 2, but Jay Lethal is a damned good entertainer…)
SIX SIDES OF STEEL MATCH
Robert Roode vs. Petey Williams
This match was worlds better than I thought it’d be.
The crowd was way hotter than I expected, too.
The combined effort of Roode, Williams, Eric Young and Tracy Brooks produced a thoroughly enjoyable match.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this angle goes.
Eric Young has really grown on me since he first surfaced in TNA.
3 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL CAT FIGHT IN A CAGE
Gail Kim vs. Jackie Moore
Did I call this one or what?
There wasn’t any blood but, by God, Gail Kim performed a high spot that probably made the WWE’s Diva roster wet their pants.
Does anybody care to explain to me why the Creative Monkeys up at Titan let Kim go?
She’s naturally beautiful and, more importantly, she can put on a great wrestling match.
The sleeper hit of the show.
4 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL MATCH
WITH SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE BOB BACKLUND
Senshi vs. Austin Starr
This match went on a little longer than I expected.
I thought it’d be a relative squash with Senshi getting the win via Mr. Backlund’s assistance, but it wound up being a relatively clean victory after a real back-and-forth struggle.
Both men impressed me here and, like always, Mr. Backlund didn’t fail to entertain.
I just hope we get to see him in TNA again soon.
3 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL BLINDFOLD MATCH
Chris Harris vs. James Storm
I wasn’t expecting much of this match and it wound up being worse than that.
The Blindfold Match gimmick has never been a favorite of mine, but, in the past, at the very least, the matches were watchable.
Not this one.
I’ve seen better matches on bootleg backyard wrestling DVDs.
The most enjoyable thing in this whole mess was the restless crowd, although I was a little surprised they didn’t break out the “Fire Russo!” chant here.
If any match truly deserve that chant, it was this waste of time.
James Storm won, which means the feud will more than likely continue.
I just hope that, when these two men face off again, it’ll be in a less asinine gimmick match.
1 Sock Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL MATCH
“Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels vs. Jerry Lynn
Pretty decent match, although Daniels’s screwy new direction is confusing me.
Just what are they doing with him?
He’s a solid worker, but the way his character’s being booked has been schizophrenic, to put it mildly.
I’m pleased he got the win and hope this leads to bigger (and less perplexing) things for the “Fallen Angel.”
“Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels
4 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
SIX SIDES OF STEEL ELECTRIFIED CAGE MATCH FOR THE NWA WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
LAX (C) vs. Team 3D
This would’ve been a much more enjoyable match had it not been for the electrified cage gimmick attached to it.
It was just so… stupid.
Guys were touching the cage right and left and nothing ever happened, forcing poor Mike Tenay to pull Mr. Wizard-esque scientific excuses out of thin air to explain why no one got electrocuted.
Then, when somebody finally got “fried” by the cage, it was the cheesiest thing this side of Bert I. Gordon.
I was pleased to see Team 3D finally get those titles, but I wish it were under better circumstances.
I do have to admit, though, having Team 3D bring out the WCW, WWE and ECW Tag Team Titles was a nice touch.
I wonder if those titles were real or Figures Inc. replicas.
I also enjoyed seeing Hector Guerrero stand up to LAX.
The legends were out in full force tonight.
Team 3D (New NWA World Tag Team Champions!)
3 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat (would’ve been 4, if it wasn’t for the sheer absurdity of the cage)
WRESTLER WHO SCORES THE WINNING FALL GETS A SHOT AT THE NWA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AT SACRIFICE
Team Cage (Christian Cage, AJ Styles, Abyss, “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner and Tomko) vs. Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Sting, Samoa Joe, Rhino and “The King of the Mountain” Jeff Jarrett)
Shockingly enough, all ten men gave one hundred and ten percent here.
AJ Styles’s bump off the cage was one of the sickest bumps I’ve seen in years.
And how awesome was it to see Steiner break out the Frankensteiner?
I didn’t think the big guy still had it in him!
The angle with Jarrett intrigued me, too.
Are they really going to turn him babyface or was the spot where he “gave” Sting the victory just the beginnings of a swerve?
Only time will tell…
Sting wins for Team Angle and earns himself a title shot
5 Socks Stuffed Down Don West’s Throat
That gives the 2007 edition of TNA Lockdown an average score of a 3, which puts it on the same level as WrestleMania 23.
Probably would’ve outscored it, if it weren’t for the Russorific Blindfold and Electrified Cage matches.
Until next time, this is Nicholas Spears reminding you to fight the power.
Smuggle your anti-Cena signs into Raw live events and hold them up with pride for as long as you can until the WWE Sign Police confiscate them.
Vince will have to see the light, sooner or later.