Just because you can go home again doesn't mean you should...
In the middle of 2010, Paul Heyman and TNA were in talks. Carter, having possibly seen that the Hogan era was not quite paying the dividends that she had envisaged, thought that the mad genius behind ECW could bring some new ideas into TNA.
Heyman, however, wanted to completely renovate the roster from the ground up. Immortally claiming that if "you're over 40 I'll rip your fucking head off", Heyman wanted the older, staler talent out of the picture so that TNA could become a leaner, hungrier company. This, coupled with the fact that Heyman wanted complete control over creative which would have led to the firing of one Vince Russo caused the deal to fall apart.
However Dixie thought that if she couldn't get Paul, maybe she could get the next best thing...
2010 was a fairly sanitized year for professional wrestling in America. The WWE's PG-13 stance had come into effect in full force and poor Daniel Bryan had already been sent on his way because of it. So there was no doubt that there was a market there who craved a more adult orientated product. The question was of course to execute it in a way that would allow TNA to move forward.
In weeks leading up to the 8th August, Tommy Dreamer was seen in the audience along with various other members of the ECW alumni, when finally on one episode of Impact they seemingly had enough and rushed the ring to brawl with the TNA workers. The next week, Dreamer asked Dixie Carter if they could have one night on PPV so that the legacy of ECW could live forever (apparently the stellar One Night Stand shows just didn't cut the mustard).
Dixie agreed on the condition that TNA would not get involved- it was all ECW! And so Hardcore Justice was born.
Or, er EV 2.0, as the group was being dubbed now because VInce had the rights to the Philly promotion and TNA didn't want to get into trouble (EV 2.0 stands for Extreme Violence and was supposed to phonetically sound like ECW).
But the trouble with this wasn't that they couldn't make it like ECW, the problem was that everyone was so obsessed in making ECW that they forgot about their own fucking promotion.
Which leads me to my first big problem about this whole damn angle.
It's clear that Carter probably didn't have a total idea this would go ahead until the last minute which means the card is essentially a hodge podge of thrown together matches with little to no build.
"But Vectron!" I hear you say, "It still got a good (well, good for 2010 TNA) PPV buy rate for the company."
Exactly, which shows what they could have done if they actually taken some time and built the damn thing up properly rather than attempting some sort rush job which I am guessing is because Dixie could only get the talent for a limited amount of time or creative realised that the talent wasn't up to the job of a sustained push and so they essentially attempted to hot shot them for a big buy.
And this would have been ok too- after all it's a walk down memory lane- except you've bumped one of your PPVs to do it!
Kurt Angle and AJ Styles got eight minutes on the 'free' TNA event on the next Impact. Just let that sink in for a second. Two of the best workers in the past...well, ever were pushed to an eight minute match because your company was obsessing with the notion of a nostalgia pop rather than getting your current talent over! And the match had a feud, a backstory, it even had a stipulation!
Because while Hardcore Justice did pop a good number for the company, what was it going to lead to a month down the line? Or three months? Or six?
One of the stables I truly love- against my better judgement- is Evolution. You want to know why? Because Evolution helped to make the careers of Randy Orton and Batista (admittedly with a little speedbump when poor Randy had his first World Title Reign cut short...). Stables are great at exposing young talent in areas where they can succeed- it's one of the things that the Shield will be remembered for. And if there was ever an angle to put over young 'hardcore' talent it would be this one as you could line them up with the likes of Raven, Foley and Dreamer who could all put said young talent over. But instead, all it did was remind TNA fans of a time long past, rather that the present or- heaven forbid- the future.
And for what it's worth, the whole thing tainted notions of ECW, rather than cemented its legacy.
The thing is, ECW was much more than just foreign objects and a whole bunch of profanity. But you probably wouldn't know that if you watched Hardcore Justice or anything else involving the EV 2.0 angle. Tommy Dreamer tried to recreate the controversial Royal Rumble match between Rock and Foley where Foley took a massive amount of unprotected chair shots in front of his children by sitting his children in the front row for his match with Raven- where he proceeded to bite a bloody Raven before getting handcuffed and, yes receiving a whole bunch of unprotected chair shots- to the point where Taz on commentary felt he had to point out that this sort of gratuitous violence wasn't the only thing that ECW used to offer.
Actually, behind the scenes Taz apparently dreaded the notion of an ECW-like PPV for exactly these reasons. Nobody remembers it as the company that introduced Mysterio, Jericho and Benoit to a big American audience. Nor do people remember it as being the launch pad where Mick Foley and Steve Austin could finally grab the brass ring. Instead it all comes back to that damn word extreme.
A word that seems all the more telling when you looked at the state of the ECW alumni in 2010.
Age is all too often not kind to wrestlers and it's not really a surprise that the hardcore style of ECW would impact its wrestlers more than most. Some, like Sabu, managed to pull off a good match regardless but it did not hide the fact that they were well past their prime. Others, like Raven and Sandman looked a lot worse off. And sure, nostalgia can take you a long way, but it's best utilised when it keeps the rose tinted glasses on. When Hogan at Wrestlemania 30 talked about the match with Andre at Wrestlemania 3, people were willing to look back and see the epic it was and not see a match between a giant whose legs had gone and a wrestler whose prime was past- even though that was true as well.
Dixie Carter essentially gave everyone a chance to remember the warts of ECW rather than the greatness. And then she couldn't even kill the angle off properly.
Well at least they all got a good payday...
...Unless you have heard the substantial rumours that claim that some of the workers for the Hardcore Justice Show only got paid $250 for their troubles...
I should point out that I don't know that this is true, but if it is, it makes that whole last scene of Hardcore Justice with the ECW guys celebrating with Dixie so...inauthentic. And that's actually the problem with this whole angle. None of it really feels like it a real attempt at putting ECW over. Or putting TNA over. Instead it just feels like a half-assed attempt to grab some ratings after a focus group told TNA what they wanted to hear. If Heyman had actually been in charge of this, he would have treated these guys with respect for all the miles they travelled. This came off as tacky. And sure ECW was cheap, but it was most certainly not tacky.
It's ironic that the company that the fans are screaming "fuck you" to at the end of the night did a much better job making these guys feel like stars at not one but two PPV's. And TNA couldn't learn from that. Much like they didn't learn from the nWo. Or Daniel Bryan.
And that's article 65! Next time we embark on a multi parter about a guy who was so magnetic that he had fanatical followers in the IWC and in the crowd at one time. One could almost say he had a Cult of Personality...
See you then!
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?