James Dixon: Having been a delightfully cheesy real life cartoon throughout the previous two decades of its existence, the WWF drastically changed tact in 1997/98 and decided to borrow liberally from the red hot ECW and embrace blood, guts and weapons. This tape is a celebration of all things hardcore from the WWF’s infamous Attitude Era.
Tazz presents from a dilapidated building, and we start off with various WWF superstars discussing what the term “hardcore” means to them. Bradshaw thinks people enjoy it because they like to see violence whereas Christian takes on the question literally, and reads the Webster’s Dictionary definition. Matt Hardy mentions injuries while his brother Jeff claims his dad is hardcore. This is not the tape for soppy nonsense and glowing soliloquies, Jeff. Even the Fink gets a few words, which tickles Tazz because of how out of place Fink is on a tape like this.
The tapes moves on to feature talent who have made the term hardcore popular, and naturally we start out with Mick Foley, one of the key perpetrators of the style in the company. Foley says he was doing hardcore matches in the WWF before the term became vogue, such as his slightly underrated and perversely entertaining Boiler Room Brawl from SummerSlam ’96 which was completely different to anything else the company was doing at the time. Highlights from Mick’s various violent battles from over the years follow, including slightly extended footage from his wild brawl with mentor and best friend Terry Funk on RAW in 1998. As a thank you from Vince McMahon, the Mankind character was awarded the brand new Hardcore Championship, which was just an old winged eagle WWF Championship belt smashed to pieces with “hardcore” taped onto it. It was actually a really fun idea because it gave the plethora of otherwise fairly useless undercard guys a purpose and the chance to be entertaining, especially when the WWF introduced the wild 24/7 rules. For once the company didn’t take itself too seriously, and it resulted in some memorable outings for guys who would have otherwise been afterthoughts. Like Al Snow…
No Holds Barred, Falls Count Anywhere
WWF Hardcore Championship
Road Dogg (c) vs. Al Snow
…Who is featured in this match from RAW against Road Dogg. Snow wrestles the match in a blood-soaked t-shirt, with the crimson coming from a Brood bloodbath two weeks prior. Al is at his most unhinged in this, hiding underneath the curtain prior to the bout and shooting crazed looks like a guy who has just drank all of Randy Savage’s coffee stash. He takes some nasty bumps too, including a moonsault off the barricade through a table and some violent tray shots from Dogg, which he laughs about. The brawl heads all over the building and utilises all manner of comedic props along the way, including a potted plant. It’s reminiscent of every backstage brawl you have ever seen, but it is still entertaining to watch. Why is it so fun to watch guys walking around taking the odd bump into something unusual? I have no idea, but it is! Al plays around with some metal poles and twirls them in his hands as he channels his previous one-off gimmick Shinobi, but Dogg fires back and they end up outside the building, where it just happens to be snowing heavily. How fitting. Dogg hits Snow with a snow shovel, which makes sense as a weapon to defeat someone called Snow I guess, and then pins him to lift the title after a piledriver onto a crate. That looked less than a barrel of laughs to take in that temperature! Both of these guys were really good at these type of matches because they were excellent at using their surroundings creatively, and this was no different. Hardcore matches I don’t rate compared to actual wrestling bouts, I almost rate them in their own category because they are so far removed from actual wrestling. Thus, a *** hardcore match obviously doesn’t compare to a *** standard bout, but is as entertaining in its own right nevertheless. This was a fun one for sure.
Final Rating: **½
Back to the talking heads, and Chris Jericho thinks the Undertaker is hardcore because of the way he works and how long he has been around. Not that he is trying to score political points or anything. It seems they have ran out of guys who want to talk about the subject, so they go to timekeeper Mark Yeaton who throws out the names Mick Foley, Al Snow and Steve Blackman. This is fairly redundant. A few more guys chime in as this just becomes a list of names of guys on the roster. Tazz in the next link marks out for Edge mentioning him, thrilled that someone has remembered that he was a wrestler once before he became a bad announcer.
Ivory vs. Tori
To the women, and a thong-wearing Tori attacks Ivory in a bathroom while a naked Jacqueline watches from in the shower. Ivory calls Tori a “little slut” so Tori throws tampons at her. “What are those!?” asks JR. Ivory takes to washing out Tori’s mouth with soap and scores a near fall in the wet shower, before the brawl ends up in the men’s locker room. Albert, Droz and Viscera get an eyeful of Tori’s very exposed ass as she shoves Ivory off a table. They continue to fight/throw things at each other, and then things go from perversely amusing to slightly uncomfortable when Ivory smashes a mirror over a barefooted Tori’s head and scores the win. Things get more disturbing after the “match” when Ivory grabs an iron and brands Tori in the back with it, causing her to scream in agony as hissing sound effects are pumped in from the truck. There is a point where things become just a little bit too much and go too far, and watching two half naked ladies beating the piss out of each other with weapons while their nipples and their dinner’s are exposed, seems like that is probably it. What it says about me that I hypocritically had a good time watching it, I do not know.
Final Rating: **
WWF Hardcore Championship
Hardcore Holly vs. Al Snow
This comes from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre with the belt currently vacant. Michael Cole throws out the “cup of coffee” line about Holly’s previous Intercontinental and Tag Team Title reigns, which bothers me. A cup of coffee reign is brief, so I can accept that being the case with the tag belts, which he held for a couple of days. But Holly was never Intercontinental Champion, he just wasn’t! The WWF have claimed this before, but in reality champion Jeff Jarrett was beaten by Holly in 1994, but the decision was overturned and the belt held up, with Jarrett winning the rematch. Holly was never recognised as the champion. If you are going to count him as a title holder, then we need to count Savio Vega too, we need to recognise Chris Jericho’s 2000 WWF Championship victory over Triple H, and also count Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase as former WWF Title holders. I know it doesn’t really matter, but things like this where they chop and change their history and don’t really pay it any respect, grates on me as a wrestling historian. The majority of this bout takes place outside in the dark, which makes it tough to see what is actually going on. The endless plunder shots are now losing their lustre having just watched plenty in the previous bouts, and the relative lack of creativity in this bout combined with the messy nature of it leaves one uninspired. The finish sees Holly wrap Snow in a mesh fence and pin him, with the idea being he is unable to get his shoulder up. Only, his shoulder is CLEARLY up, making the whole thing pretty dumb.
Final Rating: ¾*
A bunch of the guys discuss the worst injuries they have sustained, with many seeming to view them as badges of honour. There was a time when wrestling injuries made you tough, and working through them even tougher, but years later it just seems idiotic. The main feature of the piece is Hardcore Holly, who had his arm broken in half by an errant Kurt Angle moonsault during a match on SmackDown! and just continued anyway because he is a badass. What this has to do with a tape about hardcore matches I am not sure, because the bout was just a standard match with a botched spot. In his book The Hardcore Truth Holly talks about how when they were planning the match backstage, it was his idea for Angle to hit the moonsault, as previously he always missed it. Angle was not confident about it, but Holly told him it would be fine. Famous last words. When the spot came, Holly realised that Angle had placed him too far away, and when Kurt launched himself into the move, Holly rolled towards him to protect himself but ended up taking a shin to the forearm, resulting in the following exchange:
Holly: “You broke my fucking arm! Cover me!”.
(Angle did, but Holly decided to show he was tough and stick with the script, so kicked out.)
Angle: “What the fuck are you doing?!”
Holly: “Just hit me!”
Holly: “Fucking hit me, Kurt!”
I get that Holly is a hard guy and wanted to stick to the script, the show must go on and all of that, but it was just a throwaway match on a taped show, and he was losing anyway. Just stay down! Holly claims he figured it was just badly bruised because he had been able to continue, but from the way he was favouring the arm it was clear to everyone watching that it was broken. For his part, Angle was incredibly apologetic and did everything he could to make it up to Holly, such as turning up at the hospital, helping him make his flight the next day and sending him care packages while he was off. Commendable stuff. Vince McMahon later called Holly and praised him for working through the injury but chastised him at the same time because of the potential risks of doing so, such as if one of the broken bones had cut an artery and caused Holly to bleed to death. Like I said, he should have just stopped the match.
WWF Hardcore Championship
The Big Bossman (c) vs. Al Snow
This comes from SummerSlam ’99, with Road Dogg coming out and earning his money by becoming the “roving Road Dogg” and following Bossman and Snow around to provide commentary. This doesn’t even make the ring, and they brawl backstage, using all manner of plunder including a product placement Pepsi machine, which is empty. In a funny moment, a random guy on crutches is hobbling past and Bossman casually takes one of his crutches and belts Snow with it. Is it wrong to be amused by that? They brawl outside of the arena and into the street, and smash up some of Minneapolis on route to a bar. The drinking establishment is full of people wearing WWF merchandise, which rather gives away that this is all set-up and they are plants. Well, expect one drunk homeless guy who shouts obscenities and one delighted mark on his mobile phone, who gets in the way and is thrilled that he is on PPV. The bar brawl is good fun, though obviously it is all just hitting each other with stuff and there is no actual point or purpose to it. A technical masterpiece it ain’t, but it is entertaining for sure. Road Dogg is a riot on commentary, but Bossman gets annoyed with him shadowing them and shoves him away, so Dogg belts him with a nightstick and Al pins him on a pool table. Al runs back to the arena, making sure to avoid traffic when he crosses the road, and catches Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie seemingly trying to dognap Pepper. The poor guy from earlier is still hanging around, so Al takes his other crutch, which sends him to the floor, and he beats on the former bWo members while his music plays in the background. It is like an additional scene in a movie that runs during the end credits. This was all harmless fun and entertaining to watch.
Final Rating: **½
In a link, Tazz claims to be a tough guy and tells a story about smashing someone’s face into a brick wall in a bar. Well, let me tell you another story about Tazz: once he pissed off Rob Van Dam so much that RVD came up to him backstage at an ECW show and told him calmly: “Pick the hand”. Tazz, unsure what he meant, laughed it off and asked him what he meant. Van Dam responded that he wanted him to pick either his left or right hand, because he was going to smash his face in with one of them and he didn’t care which. “Tough guy” Tazz backed off.
Next we go to the classic brawl between Cactus Jack and Triple H from Royal Rumble 2000, a bout that did more for Hunter’s career than he gives credit for. Mick Foley made Triple H, there is no doubt about that. The match itself was a 30-minute war, and there is not enough tape time to feature it in full here, so we get highlights of the big bumps and stunts set to the creepy choir music that the WWF liked to use in their video packages at the time. It makes things seems intense, real and dangerous, as opposed to the wink-wink, nudge-nudge nature of modern day WWE from the Cena era, where everything is just a big joke. The match sees both guys take a pasting, with Hunter suffering a huge wooden splinter from a smashed crate going through his leg, and Cactus taking shots from Barbie and bumps into thumbtacks. Furious rates the bout at the full ***** shebang elsewhere in this book, though I don’t quite go as high as that, but I agree that it is a sensational match and probably the best hardcore style outing that the WWF ever did. Following the highlights, we get another highlight package of the same bumps we have just seen, set to different music. Erm, okay then.
The riotously entertaining Crash Holly and his 24/7 title defences are covered next, and man was this ever a blast. Crash found himself in all manner of increasingly ridiculous scenarios, including fighting in a children’s play area, being smashed over the head with a glass jar by Ivory while getting a massage and being attacked by referees, and he made every one of them work brilliantly. Crash was booked perfectly in this role, and it is a shame the run didn’t last longer than it did. Some think it cheapened the title to have silly champions and 24/7 defences, but the hardcore division was a bit of light entertainment and an excuse to do silly things in one place at the bottom of the card rather than in the important matches. I was fine with it.
The series of ladder matches between the Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and the Dudleys is featured next, though again these are not really hardcore matches as such. I mean, you would never describe Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon and their ladder bouts as being “hardcore”, and the same applies here. Full of stunts and big bumps sure, but hardcore is a different thing.
Next, the talking heads discuss their favourite hardcore memories. Steve Lombardi and Howard Finkel both go old school, with Lombardi picking Superfly Jimmy Snuka’s much hyped cage leap and Fink going for the famous Alley Fight between Sgt. Slaughter and Pat Patterson from 1981. We get more of Mick Foley’s wild bumps from over the years and then the APA smashing through everyone. None of this has much in the way of structure or any threads holding it together, it is just footage.
Because Shane McMahon is such a tough guy, he had to have a Hardcore Title run to go alongside his equally unwelcomed European Title reign from the prior year. We see highlights of his match with Steve Blackman from SummerSlam 2000, which is a sluggish and dull affair, remembered only for the ridiculous bump that Shane takes at the end. The glory stealing McMahon sibling ascends the scaffold surrounding the set and is chased up by Blackman, and takes a few cane shots to the leg that cause him to fall backwards onto a big landing pad. What an egotist. Hey, watching people fall from great heights just over a year after the death of Owen Hart, who fell from a great height, is just swell.
And that is your lot, other than Tazz reminding everyone that “I am Tazz, and you’re not”. Great, thanks for that.
Summary: The content on offer is all for the most part entertaining, but there is just too much of it in one go. My complaint is actually that the tape is too long, and would have been better served at 45-minutes. There is just not enough variation for over an hour of stuff when the majority of the matches are very similar. Hardcore wrestling works well as an interlude and a change from everything else on a card, not as a whole standalone presentation. By the end of this I was completely desensitised to the weapon shots, big bumps and blood. It is all very samey after a while.