Work can be hell. Most of you know this. At the end of the day, night, or whatever time you finish your shift, coming home can sometimes be just as hectic. There are things to fix, kids to feed, and plans to make. Sometimes you just need a break from it all. Sometimes to take a mental break from things I find myself popping in an old match and kicking back. Some people do yoga or listen to relaxing music. Me? I like to watch an old wrestling match. Of course what classifies as old changes every day. When I was growing up an old match meant watching Hogan-Andre from Wrestlemania III. Nowadays an old match is from the Austin era and Hogan-Andre feels like something out of the cretaceous period. It turned out to be one of those weeks for me where I had some free time and wanted kick back with an old wrestling match. I decided to take another look at the Taz-Shane Douglas match for the ECW Championship from House Party on January 16th, 1999.
The reason I chose this match was because of recent happenings in TNA. With the Hardcore Justice pay per view now months behind us we are seeing the old ECW stars exit TNA. I have never been excited about TNA bringing back the ECW alumni. I was a huge fan of ECW growing up and I hate seeing my fond memories of that tainted by TNA. I want to remember ECW for what it was. Part of that is remembering the times it in which it lived. I don’t think ECW is the greatest promotion ever, but I did enjoy watching it. One of those matches I enjoyed was the Douglas-Taz match. It had a blend ECW classics between mat wrestling, brawling, and hardcore spots.
This came just after Taz had dethroned Douglas for the belt at Guilty as Charged pay per view days prior. The inevitable showdown between Taz and Douglas had been building for months. When the time came for these two to tango there was little doubt that Douglas would drop the strap. At House Party Taz was slated to face the late, great Chris Candido. Candido has been part of the Triple Threat with Douglas up until the GAC pay per view. Upon his entrance to the ring Douglas attacked Candido and challenged Taz on the spot in a title rematch that they could “be proud of.”
The match started out with the two taking to the mat before the action spilled outside. Fans broke out into chants of “Taz is gonna kill you” and “**** em up Taz, **** em up.” Their brawl from the floor continued through the crowd and to the outside of the ECW arena. When they made their way back in, Douglas went to toss a table in the ring. On that table lay the coveted ECW title. Douglas gazed at the gold before putting it aside and throwing the table inside the ring. They teased putting each other through the table only for Douglas to get caught in the Tazmission. Douglas used the cast on his forearm to break the hold. He screamed out in triumph, only for Taz to reapply it and turn it into a suplex through the table that had been set up in the corner. That was it. Taz got the three and retained the title.
It was a perfect example of a changing-of-the-guard match. Since 1994 Douglas had been on top since 1994. During that time the belt would go to guys like Sandman, Raven and others, but Douglas seemed like the John Cena or the Triple H of ECW. The belt would always come back to him. When he lost this match, Taz became the new standard bearer for ECW. Shane Douglas would never hold the ECW Championship ever again.
Joey Styles touted it as a battle between two great champions and in the weeks after I remember seeing advertisements for the VHS tape of the event where ECW marketed this as the greatest ECW title match ever. Was it really? I guess it depends on what you think makes for a classic match. It was pretty good, but I if I had to name the greatest match contested for the ECW Championship up to that point, I don’t know that I would have put this at the top of the list. But that did not need to be the case. How many times have we heard that Paul Heyman was a genius at bringing out the best in his wrestlers? There was something about him that the matches he booked made his performers look so good. Shane Douglas is not considered a good wrestler outside of ECW, yet when he was under Heyman’s roof he truly was The Franchise. ECW could sell their characters very well. Justin Credible could not be a world champion in WWE, but in ECW he was one of the greatest heels they ever had. Douglas was very much the same. Their matches could be sold in the same way. Rob Van Dam-Jerry Lynn is still a highly-praised series because of the way ECW presented it to the audience. It nearly headlined the Hardcore Justice pay per view in August. If they said that Taz-Douglas had one of the greatest title matches ever at House Party, the ECW faithful would believe it.
When this column is finished I will shut of my computer and go back to reality but like many others I will soon be back in my chair, watching an old match and enjoying myself. It is times like these I am a fan of professional wrestling because it is something I enjoy and it can sometimes provide a much needed getaway car. It helps remind us that sometimes we need not take professional wrestling too seriously all the time and remember to enjoy it.