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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Vintage Cactus Jack, just because 
Friday, October 23rd, 2009 | 04:35 pm [video, wrestling]
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As you may have noticed, and as the past six straight days of shitty comics has demonstrated, I haven’t felt much like writing this week. I’m not sure why exactly, but I have a theory. It involves my watching a shitload of pro wrestling recently, and the mass death of brain cells which subsequently resulted.

My library of wrestling DVDs is small but respectable. Nothing to brag about (not that having a large enough collection wrestling videos to term it a “library” is ever anything to brag about . . .), almost all WWE stuff, with some early TNA releases and a handful of VHS tapes of stuff from Japan circa 2000, along with a tape of Dynamite Kid vs. Tiger Mask matches, and a tape of the entire 1989 Flair/Steamboat NWA World Title feud. Last week I was going back and picking up a few WWE releases I’d always meant to get but had missed. One of the few I ordered up cheap from Amazon was the three-disc “Hardcore Edition” of Mick Foley’s Greatest Hits and Misses.

I don’t think of myself as that difficult of a wrestling fan to please. I’ve seen and enjoyed a wide variety of styles, from the stiff, high impact puroresu of Japan, to the acrobatic Mexican lucha libre, to good ol’ southern style wrasslin’. And shit, man, I like it all. When you’re a pro wrestling fan, the one thing you don’t want to be is a snob. Liking some stuff over some other stuff is fine, natural, and unavoidable, but you don’t want to get too picky when the product in question consists of large men pretending to beat the shit out of each other in front of a crowd of cheering rednecks. That’d be like having a really serious, deeply held preference for one particular brand of pork rinds.


Put a gun to my head and yes, I prefer what they used to call scientific wrestling to the more violent, bloody hardcore style that was all the rage through the mid to late 1990s. I’d rather see Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, or The Midnight Express vs. The Rock and Roll Express, than see the Dudleys powerbomb people through tables or watch Sabu try to fucking kill himself. It’s not that I turn my nose up at the hardcore stuff. I just prefer a different style – a style that, as a fringe benefit, doesn’t lead to nearly as many life-threatening injuries, and which I don’t have to feel quite as guilty about enjoying so damn much.


All that said, the Foley DVD is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s a terrific companion to the Rise and Fall of ECW set that was released a few years before, with most of the first disc being devoted to Foley’s days wrestling in Eastern (later Extreme) Championship Wrestling as Cactus Jack.


When I was a kid and I got my wrestling fix from the syndicated shows like WWF Superstars and WCW Main Event (we were the last family in the eastern United States to get cable, so no Prime Time Wrestling or WCW Saturday Night for me), and from magazines like The Wrestler and Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Cactus Jack was just a name to me. I read about his legendary matches with Terry Funk, his tours of Japan, his work on the independent circuit practically in my own back yard. Jack won his first title, the NWL Heavyweight Championship, from John Rambo, who now runs the wrestling school in Hagerstown. The now-defunct Tri-State Wrestling Alliance operated in Maryland and Delaware and I’d see match results in the back of PWI from towns not far from Clear Spring. I never saw Cactus Jack actually work on television until he started with WCW in 1991. By then he was already a legend, at least to me.


Foley went back and forth between WCW and ECW for most of the 1990s, eventually got picked up by the WWF in ’96 and worked there as Mankind and Dude Love – and eventually as Cactus Jack, culminating in a great series with Triple H in late ’99 and early 2000 leading up to Wrestlemania. That’s all covered nicely on the DVD, but what really interests me is the ECW stuff, since I totally missed that the first time around. By the time I finally saw an ECW show, the company only had about three years to live, and Cactus Jack was long gone. Luckily, the Foley DVD includes some of his best ECW moments, two of which I will share with you on this rather verbose Lazy Bastard Friday.


The first is Cactus Jack’s so-called “Cane Dewey” promo. Dewey is Mick Foley’s son, who was like three years old when this promo was cut in 1994. Jack had turned heel at this point – and what better way to turn heel in the soon-to-be Extreme Championship Wrestling than to renounce the hardcore style? Here’s Jack taking out his frustrations on the fans, and on Tommy Dreamer, who had declared himself “ECW for life,” in one of the best pro wrestling promos ever.


And what good would the promo be without the match? Here, in two parts, is a pretty good tag team match from those blood-drenched good ol’ ECW days, featuring Cactus Jack and Raven taking on the team of Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk.

Sunday, October 25th, 2009 | 10:59 am (UTC)
It's probably cold of me to say but I have no problem watching the risks of hardcore wrestling when drugs and steroids have claimed far more lives than tables. Hell, from what I've read the heard hitting scientific style of Ring of Honor has caused more than a few problems for Nigel McGuinness.

Sunday, October 25th, 2009 | 05:05 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. Any kind of high impact style, whether it's hardcore or more traditional, is going to take its toll in the long run. There's a reason why Japanese wrestlers are usually forced to train for years before ever having a public match, because that classic puroresu style is so demanding and dangerous.

Nigel isn't the only one suffering from going too hard for too long. That's why the Dynamite Kid is in a wheelchair, and why Kurt Angle is in such horrible shape. And the multiple concussions and serious brain damage that may (or may not) have contributed to Chris Benoit snapping and murdering his family weren't caused by twenty years of chairshots and ladder matches, but rather twenty years of diving headbutts and German suplexes.

Not all that long ago I watched Angle vs. Benoit from the 2003 Royal Rumble. It's one of the best matches I've ever seen, just amazing . . . but also difficult to watch at times. There's no weapons, not a drop of blood, just a purely scientific match, with about a hundred German suplexes thrown in its twenty minutes. Sometimes I think matches like that do more damage in the long run than the old ECW stuff. But I don't know.
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