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WRESTLING COLUMNS

3PW: Nostalgia Never Dies...
3PW: Nostalgia never dies...and that's not always a good thing

January 25, 2003 by LucharesuFan619


Nearly twelve years after the inaugural live event of Extreme Championship Wrestling (at that time, Eastern Championship Wrestling) was held, the legacy of ECW is still as evident as it's ever been and that trend appears to be going nowhere anytime soon. Why? Put simply - ECW forever redefined what "professional wrestling" is, with a form of in-ring competition that consisted of violence at a level (then, at least) yet-to-be-seen in the US. As the promotion developed over the years, it expanded it's style and incorporated some impressive scientific wrestling performances onto its shows, but when fans hear the phrase, "ECW," the first word to come to mind for most is "hardcore." It's that style which became the trademark feature of ECW shows and eventually got people not only all across the nation, but all across the world, talking.

And quite frankly, they're still talking...if you're looking to find the remnants of ECW, look no further than the US indy circuit, where Chris Hamrick, Julio Dinero, Tony Mamaluke, Kid Kash, and Vic Grimes - all of whom were once, at best, midcard wrestlers while in ECW - find themself in upper level positions of some of the most popular indy promotions in the nation. If a promotion is searching for the type of performers who made ECW famous, though...the hardcore "brawlers," as they're called, they'll also find no shortage of potential choices. Tony DeVito and HC Loc are mainstays in Ring of Honor as the Carnage Crew and Axl Rotten, Ian Rotten, Balls Mahoney, Sabu, The Sandman, and other extreme wrestlers who once worked for ECW are in high demand on indy cards across the country. Many of these promotions have found success in rekindling old rivalries that began in ECW, for the legends that ECW created in guys like Sabu, Sandman, and other workers still have a way of making a fan more likely to attend a wrestling card if they see such names on the scheduled roster.

One such organization is Pro-Pain Pro Wrestling, or 3PW for short. Owned and operated by former-porno actress and ECW valet Jasmin St. Claire, and booked by Jasmin and two other ECW veterans - Tod Gorden and her real-life boyfriend, Brian "The Blue Meanie" Heffron, 3PW's first show came on May 18, 2002 in Philadelphia, PA and featured Sabu, Sandman, New Jack, (who comprised the three-way main event) Jasmin, Blue Meanie, The Public Enemy, "Pitbull #1" Gary Wolf, and other former-ECW talent. Jack and The P.E. have since left the roster, but the five others still regularly appear on 3PW cards, along with Raven, Amish Roadkill, and Justin Credible. And even more ex-ECW talent is being promoted for it's next show, scheduled to occur tonight at Viking Hall.

The main event is being hyped as Sabu vs. WWE's Al Snow, and is being billed as "the 10-year anniversary of a match that launched a feud and enhanced two men's careers," a match that occurred on January 28, 1994 in the very same building, only for ECW. The semi-main event is scheduled as a "Tables, Ladders, & Chairs Match" between Raven and The Sandman, who had one of the most heated feuds in ECW history during that promotion's heyday. Also, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka will also work on the show, as he battles former-ECW Tag Team Champ "Pitbull #1" Gary Wolf. And finally, booked is a one-night reunion of the Blue World Order, a stable which ECW made famous in the late '90's. Blue Meanie and WWE's Stevie Richards - who were two of the main members of the faction in ECW - are scheduled to represent 3PW's reincarnation.

Basically, as of now, the card looks like just that - a reincarnation, only of ECW...with a couple of other random indy talent mixed in (i.e. A.J. Styles, Damian Adams, Ricky Vega, Monsta Mack, and Derek Wylde...and not to mention some other ex-ECW talent in Roadkill, Joey Matthews, and Rockin' Rebel). Don't get me wrong...there's little doubt that the show intself will be exciting. Al Snow has shown in recent indy matches that when his act isn't censored by WWE management and he's allowed to go all out, he's a tremendous worker. Meanwhile, Raven and Sandman - while not as they once were - are still entertaining, especially when paired against one another.

However, the problem comes about when one fully comprehends the fact that all of these matches/segments - Snow vs. Sabu, Raven vs. Sandman, Snuka vs. Wolfe, and the bWo - are all scheduled on the same exact show as one another, and not only that, but 3PW's past cards look nearly identical, with recycled ECW era feuds still be used to not only comprise cards, but to main event them. Quite frankly, the facts stand for themselves...

3PW has held a total of 14 live events and therefore the same number of main events (anotherwards, the final match on a card), all 14 of which have featured at least one participant who has previously competed in ECW as a main-eventer. Only three of those 14 main events have featured even one participant who hasn't before wrestled for ECW. Those talents are Syxx-Pac (a.k.a. Sean Waltman/X-Pac) and CZW's John Zandig and Wifebeater. Syxx-Pac twice main evented vs. Sabu, and Zandig & Wifebeater headlined the last show vs. Raven & Sandman. Technically, one should also Dusty Rhodes vs. Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Kevin Sullivan, Terry Funk vs. Abdullah the Butcher vs. Rhodes, and Jerry Lawler vs. Funk as three of several 3PW main events where every single one of the participants - not at least one, but every single competitor - was a former-ECW performer. To be fair, though, I won't count those matches, since Lawler, Abby, and Sullivan all had relatively short tenures in ECW.

So, disregarding those three matches, even though technically they would count, eight of the 14 main events in 3PW history have included a list of wrestlers where every single name has competed for ECW. The only three main events - other than the three aforementioned, all of which technically should count, but I'm being generous here - that didn't feature every participant possessing a history in ECW was two Syxx-Pac vs. Sabu matches and the previously stated Zandig/Wifebeater vs. Raven/Sandman bout. Other than that, all of the 3PW main events have been main evented entirely by ex-ECW talent.

By the way, if you're wondering about the past 3PW main events, they are, in order from first show to the most recent one: New Jack vs. Sabu vs. Sandman (Bodybag Match), Sabu vs. Sandman, Rhodes vs. Bigelow vs. Sullivan, Syxx-Pac vs. Sabu, Sabu vs. Wolfe, Syxx-Pac vs. Sabu, Sabu vs. Wolfe, Funk vs. Sabu (although this event also showcased a Raven vs. Blue Meanie match that was built off of their ECW history in the bWo), Funk vs. Abby vs. Rhodes, Lawler vs. Funk, Sandman vs. Funk vs. Wolfe, Justin Credible vs. Funk, Raven vs. Sandman vs. Sabu (Ladder Match), and Wifebeater/Zandig vs. Raven, Sandman (this show featured a semi-main event, though, of Jerry Lynn vs. Sabu).

Now, take a deep breath for a moment, before continuing. I know I need to take one...

Granted, when it's not re-showcasing ECW-invented rivalries, 3PW has produced some undeniably entertaining matches that have showcased the likes of Homicide, Xavier, A.J. Styles, Kid Kash, Low Ki, Joey Matthews, and Nosawa,. As of late, the promotion even deserves considerable kudos for it's pushing of "Hottstuff" Matt Striker, one of the most enteraining acts on the indy circuit when it comes to both mic work and in-ring workrate. However, for all of it's original matchups and segments, there's an entire, four-plus-hour-long videotape that could be compiled, featuring the feuds that it's reincarnated from ECW. Hell, it's not only the main event acts that 3PW is recycling from ECW.

A great deal of the midcard happens to be falling to the same trends. Besides the aforementioned return of the bWo and the Blue Meanie vs. Raven and Lynn vs. Sabu matches, 3PW's held a "street fight"-style match between The Bad Breed (Axl & Ian Rotten) and The Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge & the late Rocco Rock) on it's second show, a match specifically hyped as being a return match between the two ECW rival duos.

Many of the former-ECW wrestlers that currently comprise and have previously comprised 3PW's roster also were once regulars for the California's Xtreme Pro Wrestling, which folded earlier this year. XPW - as it was called, for short - modeled itself after ECW to a degree similar to that of 3PW, but quite frankly, it did employ a method different than that of 3PW when it came to incorporating the ECW veterans onto its cards. Rather than almost exclusively match ex-ECW talent up against one another, which God knows it did do many times, it regularly used its former-ECW wrestlers to feud with its homegrown talent. Granted, ECW-developed rivalries such as Sabu vs. Funk, Credible vs. Shane Douglas, and Douglas vs. Chris Candido did make their way into XPW storylines, but for the most part, considering the vast amount of ex-ECW talent that XPW did use - and it used quite a lot - it, for the most part, employed those workers against their own cream of the crop.

To this day, some of "The Rock Superstar" Kaos' best matches in XPW came against Juventud Guerrera, Chris Hamrick, and Danny Doring, and ex-ECW workers like Vic Grimes and John Kronus had some surprisingly enjoyable matches with several different homegrown XPW performers. Hell, the first major feud in XPW's history pitted Big Dick Dudley against "The Real Deal" Damien Steele, who XPW converted from a local midcard indy worker into a future UPW trainer, a standout in Puerto Rico's WWC promotion, and even a regular target of praise by Stuart Max, the acclaimed puroresu journalist on the Internet and one of XPW's most frequent detractors. Perhaps XPW's most acclaimed rivalry pitted Sabu against current-CZW superstar The Messiah, as Sabu was able to carry the then-quite green performer to a series of unexpectedly exciting matches.

ROH took and still employs a similar approach, although they've used significantly less ex-ECW talent as XPW has. Arguably the two most intelligently booked rivalries in ROH during 2003 were Homicide vs. Steve Corino and C.M. Punk vs. Raven. ROH - more than probably any other promotion - seems to not have any trouble whatsoever in realizing the most effective way to book big names. Both veterans, Corino and Raven, used their star status to help put over the up-and-comers of the next generation (in this case, Homicide and Punk), and were entirely selfless in their willingness to lay down for the count when the storyline benefited from such an act. Even when Tommy Dreamer appeared on ROH shows in 2003, he did so with the purpose of further putting over ROH talent, such as Punk, Michael Shane (who has since found a regular home in NWA-TNA), and current-WWE wrestler Paul London, as opposed to merely using his name value as self-promotion. Such brilliant booking strategies exemplify why ROH wrestlers, rivalries, and management placed in as impressive positions as they did in the recently released 2003 Wrestling Observer Awards.

It's unfortunate that 3PW doesn't seem to get the message that other federations for the most part follow quite well because its owners, Blue Meanie and St. Claire, appear to have most of the resources necessary to become at least a partial alternative to WWE and NWA-TNA. It's one thing to employ those who drew in formerly prosperous to put over your own talent, and it's even something to occasionally reincarnate old school feuds and have them headline a show every now and then, but quite frankly, 3PW doesn't appear to be falling under either of those classications. It's not just it's upcoming event, scheduled to feature - at least as of now - three segments specifically designed to captitalize off of ECW's past successes. For one and a half years of it's being in business, 3PW has given some skillful independent talents a stage to show their abilities on.

However, it seems that those future stars - the Low Ki's, the AJ Styles', the Striker's, the Joey Matthews' - are being overshadowed by the stars of yesteryear, thanks to management who don't seem capable of realizing that bringing back feuds that made ECW prosper doesn't guarantee sucess in the current era. One of the primary reasons that XPW recently folded was that fans stereotyped it as an ECW ripoff, and that led to less interest in the product, to the point where began having trouble breaking even. Although fans generally don't regard it as an ECW reincarnation to the degree that they did XPW (although 3PW arguably has adopted just as much, if not more, ECW-esque characteristics as XPW did), 3PW should take notice and avoid the traits that led to XPW's eventual demise, if it wishes to stay in business.

No doubt about it...holding ECW as an inspiration is fine, but copying it is a completely different thing, and that's a concept that 3PW management seems unable to realize. The first step comes to tonight - if it wishes to differentiate itself from all of ECW, 3PW would be smart to give its younger talent some time to show what they do best. With the card that's already booked, it looks like the promotion is going to focus on the nostalgia concept and highlight the bWo reformation, Snow, Sabu, Sandman, Raven, etc. However, that doesn't make it impossible for those workers to keep in the back of their mind that their headlining a show whose undercard is featuring some of the most talented young performers the business has to offer.

Raven himself devoted one of his recent commentaries (the 12/10/03 one, to be exact) on his official website, RavenEffect.com, entirely to criticizing the veterans in pro wrestling who are selfish, who are unwilling to put over the stars of the next generation. Granted, Raven himself is very respected in this industry, and for good reason - he's willing to help the young wrestlers hoping to become tomorrow's stars, as evidenced by how - since leaving WWE - he's worked with upper-level indy performers like C.M. Punk, Chris Hero, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, and AJ Styles and a bunch of other much lesser-known rookies. Raven is no doubt a man of his words, but let's hope that those with the booking power in 3PW take the criticisms of wrestling in general that he offered in that commentary and use it to better their product, instead of building their events off of recycled ECW storylines and workers.

Nostalgia is fine when used in moderation, but the fact that 3PW runs in ECW's old stomping grounds, Viking Hall, should be meet that principle just fine. It's priorities, and in fact those of any other wrestling organization, should be to "pass the torch" and thereby "create new stars," and the sooner that 3PW realizes these realities, the better of they'll be.

by LucharesuFan619..


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