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Can we table the tables?
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By Paul Herzog

There’s been a lot of make me nostalgic for the not-so-distant past of Extreme Championship Wrestling recently. Mike Awesome and Lance Storm are now WCW wrestlers, opening up the “How will ECW survive without them?” questions that come up every time a talent has left, from Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko to Raven to Sandman to Tazz and the Dudley Boyz. I’ve had occasion to sit down and watch lots of old tapes while going through midnight feedings with my 3-month-old son. And I’ll be in central New Jersey next week for a work-related symposium, and will be meeting up with some old friends who have been around that promotion for a long time, starting as part of the semi-legendary Bleacher Bums. I thought I’d share some of my revisited memories with you.

Used to be that Sabu was the only guy using folding tables. If I had a chance to do it all over again, manufacturers of folding tables would be alongside fiber optics and gene researchers in my stock portfolio. Nowadays, everyone goes through tables on every match, and if you’re not an 80-year-old woman, you get right back up and work again at the next night’s show. But it started out as a post match ritual for Sabu, where he would moonsault a table until it broke on FMW shows in Japan and indy shows through the U.S. as early as 1992. He brought the gimmick with him to ECW in late 1993, and added the twist of putting his opponents on the table in 1994. It was a big deal in late 1994 when Flyboy Rocco Rock of the Public Enemy “stole” the gimmick and started putting guys through tables, including Sabu’s manager, one Paul E. Dangerously. The feud was blown off on 2/4/95; the Double Tables match that headlined the first ECW Internet Convention (now called Cyberslams). Supposedly, there was some legit heat with Sabu…after all; part of what made him unique was now shared.

The sharing continued throughout 1995, especially when Sabu took a forced seven-month hiatus. He took a Japan booking rather than work on the Three Way Dance show at the ECW Arena, the big super-duper blow off with Benoit & Malenko, Public Enemy and the Tazmaniac, Sabu’s tag-champion partner at the time. Paul E. was forced to bring in Rick Steiner on super-short notice (and super-high expense for a promotion of that size), and the falling out between Sabu and ECW lasted until that year’s November to Remember. Between April and November, the tables were shattered like never before. Down Smoky Mountain way, Tracy Smothers piledrove Tom Pritchard through one. Rocco put New Jack through two tables, with a moonsault from the top of a cage, at Heat Wave 95. A curtain-jerker known as Ubas (Sabu backwards, get it?) used them. Axl & Ian Rotten used them, along with everything else hard and sharp that was available at a decent price. Good thing the ECW Arena serves as a bingo hall the other 29 days of every month, so that there were lots of tables available.

That September, Stevie Richards got super bombed through a table by the Pit Bulls during a tag match on the Gangstas Paradise show. It was an awkward looking bump, partially because nobody had ever really done that kind of thing before, so I’m sure Richards was pretty scared. Also, and this is probably the biggest thing, it was the Pit Bulls delivering the move. But I digress. Things exploded after that. As ECW moved into 1996, the table possibilities seemed endless. Stack two, then three. Brian Lee consistently put splinters up Tommy Dreamer’s ass; eventually choke slamming him through FOUR tables from the top of the Eagle’s Nest. Dreamer got his revenge in a match called High Incident, a scaffold match where the ring below was filled with tables, stacked three high. Prime Time’s fall took out seven or eight total. Sabu & Rob Van Dam teamed up to take on the Eliminators in a series of “Tables & Ladders” matches which drew rave reviews from ECW fans everywhere. Public Enemy took the gimmick to WCW and the unwashed masses, putting Scotty Riggs through two tables. A few months later, Eric Bischoff was power bombed by Kevin Nash from the ramp at the Great American Bash to a well-placed table, putting him out for a few months (and leaving us all scratching our heads when it was revealed he was actually on their side).

In the subsequent years, bringing us to the present day, the escalating trend has continued. The WWF’s Spanish Announcer’s table takes a beating week in and week out, from everyone from the Rock to Shane McMahon. One of the most famous bumps on it was by Mick Foley, one of Sabu’s first victims, in a spot that we’ll be seeing until the WWF hangs it up for good. Before leaving for the WWF, the Dudleys used to light the table on fire before putting someone (usually Balls Mahoney) through it. They don’t use fire anymore, but their targets are now women the size of Mahoney’s leg, like Terri Runnels and Trish Stratus. Every single Hardcore match in the Big Two uses several tables. The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian see more wood than a typical Jose Lima fastball. Back in ECW, the current table favorite is to prop it up in the corner. Taz beat Shane Douglas by giving him a belly-to-back through it, Shane landing headfirst. Mike Awesome would power bomb guys through it. Rhino speared Mr. & Mrs. Sandman through one a few weeks ago. And then there’s New Jack, who five years after taking Rocco’s moonsault, is consistently diving out of balconies and off basketball hoops and scaffolds onto tables below, opponents waiting like deer in the headlights.

Yeah, there’s a point to all this. The rate of change in professional wrestling since the days of Farmer Burns appears to be pretty constant. Things were the same until it all became worked, then it changed a little with Strangler Lewis, then a little more when Gorgeous George peroxides his hair, still more when everyone peroxides their hair. The problem being, as you physics wizards know, is that as acceleration remains constant, velocity increases exponentially unless it encounters some friction to act as an opposing force. The violence quotient in today’s professional wrestling is yet to see that opposition. And the use of tables is a big part of that. Whether you cut it or not, pad underneath or not, that’s real wood, and real things can go wrong. New Jack was an incredibly lucky man when he overshot the bump at the ECW Living Dangerously PPV. Fit Finlay almost lost a leg in a meaningless third-from-the-bottom match on a WCW house show when he didn’t go through clean. How much longer until something like that, or worse, happens on live TV, and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it? The curve says it could any day now. It’ll be horrible publicity for a business that has journalists lined up waiting to rip it down any chance they get. It’ll be horrible for the wrestler that takes the bump, and the one that delivers it, who were forced to that length to get a reaction for a crowd to whom a standard wrestling move is irrelevant. It’ll be most horrible to me, as a fan, because it just isn’t part of the sport I’ve watched all my life. I wish it were still Sabu’s move to deliver, unique to him and him alone.

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@aol.com.

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