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  May 11, 2000



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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: The sorry state of 'hardcore'
By CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

First off, let me say that your fresh, young, baby-faced editorialist is as big a fan of hardcore wrestling as the naive WWF fans are of the Worm (which is possibly the stupidest move ever -- how on Earth can anyone sell that and still look in the mirror?). However, hardcore wrestling in the year 2000 is beyond a joke. It's pathetic.

Let me clarify that statement, hardcore wrestling as presented by the WWF and WCW is pathetic. While it has only been in the past few years that either federation has adopted the "hardcore" match (introducing hardcore belts, destroying tables, trashcans and other household paraphernalia at an astonishing rate), neither has grasped the very basic concepts of what hardcore is.

What started as each federation trying to emulate the more violent, extreme and intense matches ECW was popularising in North America (which included weapons matches, but wasn't limited to them) -- and in turn cashing in on it -- has turned into a parody of itself. Hardcore wrestling is not an excuse to run into the ring and destroy a number of perfectly good tables, cookie sheets and chairs, nor should it be used in place of actual wrestling -- after all, how much talent does it take to swing a chair, set up a table and not do any wrestling holds? Although Hulk Hogan has made a career out of not doing wrestling holds, but I digress.

Hardcore wrestling is about wrestlers giving more in their matches than in a "regular" match, sustaining more punishment, hitting more moves and generally being tougher than anyone else -- this can include a weapons match, barbwire, glass or just about anything else but shouldn't be limited as such. Watch any match between Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn and tell me that's not hardcore, then also tell me it wasn't one of the greatest wrestling matches you've ever seen.

The same goes for Steve Austin vs Bret Hart at Wrestlemania, the match that put Austin over as a true bad ass, to say that wasn't hardcore is to say a sixty-minute Iron Man match between Ric Flair and Rick Steamboat isn't hardcore. By the same token, Cactus Jack and Terry Funk for the King of the Death Match title was about as hardcore as it can be. But what makes these matches hardcore and a step beyond what is being offered today is that level of sacrifice, commitment and dedication, traits that are lacking in either the WCW's or the WWF's hardcore divisions.

You're more likely to see a true hardcore match in the guise of a regular match (providing the combatants are dedicated and talented, the Hardys or Vampiro for example), than what either the WWF or WCW are labelling as a hardcore match. Not to say that ECW is totally innocent in helping perpetuate the state of the WWF and WCW's hardcore product, or lack thereof, a product that is basically just an endless regurgitation of any New Jack match.

ECW has relied heavily on the weapons match, the parking lot brawl, the bleacher crawl, balcony dives and any number of other non-wrestling related spots to help establish themselves and popularize hardcore wrestling, but they always had the wrestling matches to balance everything out. They didn't define themselves by a weapons match, they labelled their entire product hardcore, a product that included any number of diverse styles, wrestlers and extremes all with a common bond: To work harder and push the boundaries farther than anyone else.

When fans started to gravitate towards this fresher style, the WCW and WWF picked up on it and eventually starting their own hardcore divisions. But they missed the point. They didn't need to establish a division for garbage matches, all they had to do was pick up the overall intensity of their product, but instead they chose a path that not only mocks hardcore, it makes no sense.

A perfect example of this is the current stipulations surrounding a WWF hardcore championship match -- the anytime, anywhere, anyone rule. Many were upset when the WCW put the WCW Heavyweight title on David Arquette, but I find it more disgusting that the WWF Hardcore Championship is laden with idiotic conditions and has been hot-shotted around to just about half the WWF roster. At least Arquette didn't actually pin a wrestler to win the belt. Hell, wasn't John Powell the hardcore champ for a couple days in March? (He sure as hell wasn't the SLAM! Hardcore champion, thank you very much.)

How much value can a title have when everyone can win it and then lose it in a single match? How much can it mean when it is basically a belt without worth, mocking the man it was created for -- Mick (Mankind) Foley. There is no skill in five people running into a match and hitting each other with whatever isn't nailed down, then the last one standing wins the title and runs away. I would go as far as to say it isn't entertaining either. Neither is there a point in having the belt constantly changing hands. For a belt to mean something it has to be a highly sought after trophy, not something to be passed around. It is to be won (fairly or unfairly) and then defended by the best until someone better claims it. Or at least that's the idea.

WCW may be in a better position with their champion, the hardcore legend Terry Funk, but their division has succumbed to the same garbage/weapon match ideal as the WWF's and shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

However, hardcore wrestling isn't dead, despite ECW's depleted line-up they are still a bastion of true hardcore. Excellent matches can be found in Japan or Mexico (just try telling me Rey Mysterio Jr. isn't hardcore), and both the WWF and WCW regularly feature what can be interpreted as hardcore matches every week. Still, the sad state of both the WCW and the WWF's hardcore divisions leave little hope that they will ever make either the belt -- or the term -- mean something in their respective companies.


Reader Feedback

  • May 4:The state of veteran affairs


  • What was the whole purpose of attending HWF Meltdown 2000? To expose and ridicule the veterans of our sport?

    Let me ask you a few questions....

    What would wrestling be without the vets? Would an Indy show draw 1,600 fans without the drawing power of the vets? Don't you think the promoters take a chance with the possibilities of the performers being under the influence of a substance when they book them? Did Mark Anderson make the right choice to book the vets considering the possibilities?

    The answers are simple. Without veterans like the Iron Sheik, or the Bushwhackers wrestling just wouldn't be the same.

    Without the "names" on the card, Meltdown may have only drawn 200-300 fans.

    Sure, promoting wrestling is as close to gambling as you can get. Everything is a gamble. There is either lots of money to be made in promoting, or there are gigantic losses.

    Yes, I think (HWF promoter) Mark Anderson made an excellent choice of bringing in all the vets. Look at the media coverage the HWF got, both good and bad... The majority of it being good, and example of bad press is your editorial.

    Isn't SLAM! Wrestling supposed to be a site for the promoting of wrestling? Your column, if read by parents or guardians of the younger fans attending the show could seriously harm independent wrestling. Who the hell do you think you are? Brent Bozell?

    Of course there are, have been and always will be drugs and alcohol in pro wrestling, no matter on the independent circuit, or in the big 3, it's a given.

    Should the wrestlers have been intoxicated? No.

    But how do you control that? They are going to do what they want, when they want.. And you or anyone else isn't going to stop them. They are grown men, they make their own choices.

    What about kayfabe? Is there such thing as kayfabe anymore? Obviously it isn't in your vocabulary.

    Kayfabe is ABSOLUTELY essential for you to be anywhere even REMOTELY successful in this business.

    Blair Ralf
    Hardcore Wrestling Federation
    Public Relations / Webmaster
    http://www.hwfwrestling.com
    What can I say. I just read the article you wrote about the HWF wresting show in London. This was the first HWF show I have gone to. I did enjoy myself and enjoyed the appearance of Jake the Snake. Now part of my enjoyment was watching the fans reactions. You obviously didn't look about during the show because you didn't mention the roar that went through the crowd when Jake came out.

    You use your job to write this garbage without looking through the outer layer and seeing the real life these people are living and have lived for the past umpteen years. What gives you or should I say who gave you the right to print your narrow-minded views as if you have walked a mile in the shoes of the people who performed at this show.

    I just couldn't believe the article as I read it. I am a registered nurse presently not working due to illness but I can say that in my 13 years of working with people you truly are ignorant of the pain that goes in living a life. Yet you stand in judgement of other people. Remember what goes around comes around. Good luck with your career, from what I've read you will need it.

    (Name withheld)

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