The Greatest Stepping Stones In Professional Wrestling
August 30, 2006 by Michael Miracle

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I have never been a conventional wrestling fan. I never, even once in my life, cheered for Hulk Hogan nor neither have I ever cheered for The Rock. The simple reason, they were too big icons. These men were shoved in our faces week in and week out, just like John Cena today. I have always been a fan who gets excited when I see wrestlers who aren't on whatever wrestling program I am watching two or three times a night. You see, I have always been a fan of the men who many would call Stepping Stones, or the Rungs of a Ladder. That is why I have started this series, which I call The Greatest Stepping Stones of Professional Wrestling. For my first article in the series, I am going to be talking about a professional wrestler who has been used in ECW and WWE as a stepping stone for up-and-coming superstars. This man is none other than Steven Richards...

Now, Michael Manna, or better known as either Stevie/Steven Richards during his stints in ECW and WWE, has been a professional wrestler since February of 1992. In a little known fact, this man was involved in the very first match of Eastern Championship Wrestling. Now, essentially, people remember Stevie for three things in Extreme Championship Wrestling. First of all, as a member of Raven's flock, where became enemies for years with Tommy Dreamer and countless others. With Raven, Stevie won the ECW Tag Team Titles on two occasions, defeating The Pitbull's and Public Enemy, two of the ECW's most extreme tag teams. However, in my mind, The Pitbull's would not be near as popular as they were in their heyday if it were not for the Two out of Three Falls match for the ECW Tag Team Titles on Sept. 16th, 1995. The Pitbull's winning the titles was huge, and they have not only Raven, but Stevie Richards to thank for putting them over with the ECW crowd...

Secondly, Stevie participated in one of the most famous ECW storylines of all time, the whole Beulah saga. Yes, Stevie was still part of Raven's crew, however, and helped Raven himself get over as the companies top heel. You see, without Stevie, it would have been Raven vs Tommy Dreamer for two straight years, almost no break what so ever. But, when Stevie got into the mix, he added a certain element. He allowed Dreamer to have a way of getting cheated out of defeating Raven for the first time, but he also allowed Raven a cheating way to guarantee a win for Raven. Without Stevie, maybe one of the greatest feuds in professional wrestling history would not have made as much of an impact as it did on the fans...

But maybe the biggest thing Stevie is remembered for in ECW is their parody of the nWo that was poisoning WCW at the time. From the mind of Stevie came the bWo, or the Blue World Order, with The Blue Meanie and Supernova. Each man took on a personality of one of the original three nWo members. Meanie became the Blue Guy, a mockery of the Scott Hall character. Supernova became Hollywood Nova, clearly in the image of Hollywood Hogan. And Stevie took over duties as Big Stevie Cool, become the vocal leader of the group, much like Kevin Nash was in the nWo. The bWo was an instant success with the hardcore and bloodthirsty ECW fans. The bWo essentially helped Supernova and The Blue Meanie's career's to take off. For the success of the bWo, Stevie was even given shots at the ECW World Title against ECW headliners Tommy Dreamer, Raven, The Sandman, and Terry Funk. He helped these men prove to be credible main event stars in ECW...

Now, I can't not talk about his brief WCW stint, but, even he said so himself, that not only was he wrong to leave ECW for WCW, but the only reason he was brought into WCW was to job to Raven, helping Raven become a bigger star in the WCW. Yet another promotion using Stevie as a stepping stone...

However, after a couple years of "retirement from wrestling" after a second brief stint in ECW, Stevie wrestled on the independent scene, winning some of the biggest independent wrestling championships, including the NWA 2000 Title. But a man like Richards is brought into the independent scenes for one reason, and that is to provide experience to the superstars of the future. After a while WWF realized this, and offered Stevie a contract. Stevie came into the WWF to help their mid card stars with competition, like D-Lo Brown, Jeff Jarrett, and Val Venis, which he did, no questions asked. This led to my favorite gimmick and helped not only individual wrestlers into the next stage of professional wrestling, but the WWF itself. Steven Richards formed Right to Censor, a group hell bent on ridding the WWF of cheating, sexual content, and violence...

Right to Censor, which included superstars like Bull Buchanan, Ivory, The Goodfather, and Val Venis, made their impact right away. They attempted to take away the after match dancing celebrations of fan favorite faction Too Cool, the public indecency of the WWF divas, and, most of all, anything considered hardcore. Right to Censor even tried to take away something almost unimaginable, something that is unnatural. They tried to take the tables away from The Dudley Boyz This really angered the fans, and made them want everything that the WWF was evolving into. The era of attitude, where hardcore became a lifestyle. Without Right to Censor, and Steven Richards, that wouldn't have been possible...

After the Right to Censor gimmick started going dry, Steven went back to his roots, and became exactly the thing he was trying to take out of the WWF, hardcore. Richards, with 21 WWF Hardcore Title reigns, helped put over some of the biggest hardcore superstars of the turn of the century, like Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Crash Holly, Bubba Dudley, Bradshaw, Justin Credible, William Regal, and Johnny the Bull. Richards was the one man who hung with the WWF Hardcore division until it was fazed out. Richards was one of the few men who actually made the WWF Hardcore Title a legit championship. (I know, that can be disputed, however, at times, I honestly believe the Hardcore title did have some value to it...)...

More recently, Stevie has been used as a tool to help push wrestlers in the newly named WWE. Randy Orton defeated Richards in his debut math. Victoria gained much of her credibility as not only a powerful force in the WWE Women's division, but as a crazy bitch, while being affiliated with Stevie. Stevie even tried to bring credibility to the sinking ship that was Sunday Night Heat, the stepping stone of many WWE stars, by using the Sunday Night Stevie gimmick. Stevie helped show the brute power and toughness of Chris Masters, as The Masterpiece defeated Richards in his debut match, and in the process, breaking Stevie's orbital bone. Even during the short lived bWo reunion, Stevie helped the newest WWE faction, The Mexicools, get over as true talent and a force to be dealt with. And most recently, a debuting C.M. Punk defeated Stevie Richards in ECW. The ovation was awesome for Punk, who has Richards to thank for putting him over with the ECW fans, who may or may not have known about his past in ROH and other places.

Now, after hearing all of this evidence, can it be said that Stevie Richards was not a stepping stone for both ECW and WWE" You see, it is men like Richards who help create the icons like Hogan and The Rock. They help those icons build a base, and I personally respect them for that. Because of his contributions to other Wrestling Stars, I believe Stevie Richards to be one of the greatest stepping stones in the history of professional wrestling...

by Michael Miracle ..

Tony Francioni wrote:
This was a good article to read. I think the stepping stones deserve some time in the spotlight as well. Besides the biggest names in wrestling would be nothing if stepping stones wrestlers were not there to put them over.

I think the lifetime achievment award for stepping stone should go to the Bird man Koko B. Ware. He spent years in wrestling losing to the entire WWF roster but still managed to get on the big cards( WM3, WM4,SS 88, WM6 etc.).He was also the first man to get the tombstone from the Undertaker. And he does hold a victory over the Brooklyn Brawler. He deserves resepect and he was exciting to watch as well.

Other notable stepping stones would include Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly, Well Dunn, skinner, and WCW's the State Patrol.
Josh Gosselin wrote:
I really appreciate your article on one of the most underused wrestlers Steven Richards. I have always been a fan of Richards and the fact that he has been apart of some of the biggest events in ECW and helped skyrocket some of the newer stars makes me like him even more. I feel that Richards was one of the few who were lost in the scramble for ratings that bred the different brands. He joins the ranks of Val Venis who not many remember was no. 1 contender for the title during the era of Rock and Sock. He also joins Rikishi who just couldnt find his niche without Too Cool by his side. I wish Richards could get more credit and more opportunites that he deserves for "playing ball". Thank you for your article not just for the Richards credit but for the underused wrestlers who helped push the rest to stardom.
Johnny wrote:
Steven Richards certainly has been a stepping stone, and even on ECW he put over CM Punk. Steven is always a favorite of mine. I thought his best time was as the leader of Right To Censor. He's a great heel. Steven brings entertainment that no one else brings. He deserves more than what he gets, and hopefully he'll be featured more prominently on ECW. Good Column.
Captain Mick Sparrow wrote:
i disagree with the way Big Stevie Cool has been treated in the past he was used as a jobber for the like's of Chris Masters when Stevie should be put in main event's, now i know the short-lived BWO reunion with Meanie & Nova was only a short-time deal but Vince could of at least offered Meanie a full-time contract and bring back the BWO on a full-time basis. however over here in the UK we have the honor of watching The Blue Meanie working for the highly successful Indiependant 1PW organization. i would love to see another BWO reunion in ECW again because it's worth paying money to see the BWO because they are a highly successful faction and the parodie's the do are awesome.




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