Beat Me If You Can, Survive If I Let You
My earliest memory of Extreme Championship Wrestling came in January 1999. It was a Saturday morning, before noon, and I stumbled upon a man with a black towel over his face speaking into a camera about how he was going to beat Shane Douglas for the ECW World Championship. Over the years, I had kept up with ECW through Pro Wrestling Illustrated and magazines under that umbrella, but this was my first televised exposure.
Through magazines I was able to follow the career of Taz in ECW. I recall reading about his feud with Bam-Bam Bigelow in 1998 and how they had both gone through a canvas and a ramp during the year. Just judging by pictures in the magazines, I found myself interested and invested in Taz. Following the thirty-second promo, that I saw anyway, I felt the need to know if Taz was going to win the ECW World Championship.
Sure enough, Taz won the title at Guilty As Charged 1999 defeating Shane Douglas. Each month, I’d grab the PWI magazine released at my local Wegmans and see what he was up to. By all accounts, he was dominating the company defeating guys like Sabu and Tajiri during the year.
By the end of 1999, ECW got a television deal with TNN on Friday nights, but considering I was ten years old, more times than not I was outside or doing something other than watching wrestling.
But then I was watching RAW during a holiday break from school, which allowed me to stay up late, and during one of the matches the lights went orange and there was the sound of a pulse and number thirteen appeared. Although I may not have been a diehard ECW, I knew it was for one guy… and it had to be Taz.
Perhaps it was because ECW was promoted as being full of hardcore and bloodshed, but I was completely sold on Taz entering the World Wrestling Federation. I quickly thought that he’d be in the mix to feud with Triple H, The Rock, Chris Jericho and other top names in the WWF. He had dominated ECW and I thought the same would happen in the WWF.
His first match was against the undefeated Kurt Angle at the 2000 Royal Rumble. I thought that was a terrific way to enter the company. He made the guy tap out right in the middle of the ring. The victory left me convinced that Taz was about to be the next big main event act. He had a brief program with Kurt Angle, even had a triple threat match involving Angle and Rock, which he lost, but I still had hope.
But, then by the end of February, Tazz was wrestling the likes of Big Bossman and losing to Crash Holly in hardcore matches. He had been regulated to the lower midcard scene competing for the WWF Hardcore Championship. I thought he would have a big-time match at WrestleMania, and yet he had to settle for the hardcore gauntlet match. He at least had to be the favorite for that match, right? Right?
Well, Tazz, you see they added an extra “z” to his name, competed at WrestleMania 16 and didn’t win the WWF Hardcore Championship. It’s an enjoyable match that Hardcore Holly eventually wins after hitting Tazz with a glass jar, but such a disappointment for me to see Tazz regulated to such a role. Mind you, shortly after his debut the Radicals made their debut and may have cut into his push, but to fall so drastically down the ranks to the hardcore division was baffling.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that Tazz wasn’t the biggest guy going. Realistically, would a large scale audience buy into him tossing the top WWF wrestlers around and winning matches. Sadly, it would appear that Tazz came around about eight years too soon.
Tazz returned to ECW on April 13th, 2000 to win the ECW World Championship from Mike Awesome, who had broke his contract and signed with World Championship Wrestling. Tazz would go on to lose to Triple H on Smackdown before dropping the title to Tommy Dreamer ten days after winning it.
By the summer, Tazz would turn heel when he cost Rikishi a steel cage match against Val Venis, which had the WWF Intercontinental Championship at stake. Tazz briefly wrestled for the championship, but wasn’t able to win the gold.
For the remainder of 2000, Tazz would have a feud with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. Often times, Tazz would mock JR until Lawler came to the rescue. Lawler would defeat Tazz at SummerSlam 2000, but lost a strap match to Tazz the following month at Unforgiven. By the fall, Tazz found himself focusing more and more on commentary due to various injuries that were catching up to him.
Tazz worked a bit in 2001 and turned face to feud with Right To Censor, which led to another WrestleMania appearance, where he won alongside the APA in a six man tag match. Shortly afterward, the Invasion angle began and Tazz found himself being the voice of the Alliance and didn’t work many matches.
Something he is best remembered for is when he was whipped by Steve Austin on an episode of RAW because Tazz suggested that the group couldn’t trust him. After the Alliance lost the Invasion match, Tazz found success teaming with Spike Dudley. They managed to win the WWF Tag Team Championships on January 7th defeating the Dudley Boys. They held the belts until February 19th when they lost to Billy and Chuck.
Tazz transitioned into being a commentator following his retirement in 2002.
As mentioned earlier, I was disappointed with how Taz ended up being presented in WWF. Of course, a lot of that has to do with how Paul Heyman was able to bring the best out of some limited wrestlers. Taz was a small guy, but a believable force in ECW. In reality, I’m not sure how realistic feuds with other top names in WWF really could have gone.
Would you have bought into Tazz feuding with top WWF names in 2000? Who would you have wanted to see him feud with, if so?
Leave your thoughts below!
Thanks for reading.