CM Punk vs. Hardcore Holly (9/1/07)
1. I’m whistful for the old ECW set-up, where WWE tried to make everything look super cheap. I love the ECW entrance area, the way the lights are turned down low, how the announcers desk appears in the hard camera like it would in an SNES WWF game. In general, I’m against the recent homogenization of TitanTrons. I know the brand split hasn’t mattered since Stephanie McMahon tried to sex Scott Steiner over the SmackDown!, but I like how the sets at least pretended that the shows were different.
2. Brad Armstrong, the drawly dude on commentary, is one of my favorite jobbers ever, but man is he boring with a headset. If I remember correctly, they were grooming him to be an actual color commentator, even though he sounds like he’s stuck in 1991. It’s almost a shame things didn’t work out on that front, as I’d love to hear about so-and-so’s great powerslams and wonderful biceps on a weekly basis.
3. You’ll never be able to convince me that WWE’s ECW was nothing less than great. Every week there was at least one match like this, and sometimes the matches were longer/better/had CM Punk winning. Compare any given episode of ECW to any given episode of NXT and tell me what you’d rather be watching. And don’t give me any crap about “legacy.” This is wrestling. If wrestling cared about legacy, Dan Sevren would have been legally prohibited from winning the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
In 2007, I was absolutely pissed off by the end result of this match, which sees Hardcore Holly beat CM Punk with a super duper Alabama Slam (Hardcore Holly didn’t spin around like a fool for just anybody), representing Punk’s first losses in the WWE. Part of me still wishes that it wasn’t a clean win, but Holly beating Punk is just a case of a crafty veteran upending a “rookie” making a rookie mistake. Besides which, Punk already had two weeks where he showed that he was the better man, as evidenced by the pre-match run-down of the Punk/Holly feud. 2007 was a weird year for Punk, who debuted on TV and was almost immediately the most popular man on the ECW roster. He was either having good matches like this against the likes of Hardcore Holly and Steven Richards (be still, my bleeding heart), or was feuding with Mike Knox (that beard!) over the affections of Kelly Kelly (that inability to remove a bra!). I’ll take this, every time.
Hardcore Holly…most wrestling fans seem to hate him, and I have no idea why. I understand why a wrestler would hate him (he’s got a reputation for working unnecessarily stiff) and he’s kind of boring, but he’s pretty much the definition of “solid hand”–a guy who can go out, get a good match out of anybody and not steal the spotlight from whomever he’s supposed to be making look good. Not that a dude like CM Punk needed any help looking good, but Holly takes Punk’s still-indyish moveset in stride, putting together a good six or seven minute match where somebody else would have been mystified. The value of guys like Hardcore Holly can’t really be overstated.
Yes, there’ll always be the joke that Bob Holly has a pretty dropkick and not much else (Jim Ross said this every time Bob hit a dropkick, so it must have been a joke), but when you’re asking a guy to learn a completely new style of wrestling (again, not that Punk needed help in this regard), you probably want to put him in the ring with a dude who has 14 years of experience working that style. Granted the window where a guy like Holly still looks legitimate isn’t open forever (hence why he was eventually released), but when Hardcore found himself on ECW, he not only had a few of the better matches featuring Punk, but he took Rob Van Dam to what was probably the best post-WWE Title match of his career, if not the rest of his career thus far. That’s no fluke. Respect Sparky Plugg.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.