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And you can understand, to a point. ECW presented something looked nothing like WCW Saturday Night or Monday Night Raw. Shane Douglas once opened an ECW show with a 30 minute promo, something that mercifully would take another decade to become common place in the WWE. RnB music (that, admittedly, ECW probably didn’t have the rights for) underscored video packages with jerky camerawork, again, before it went out of fashion.
It was the promos that really made ECW stand out though. The matches were often nothing overly special, particularly when it involved regular names. The storylines were something else, but often what made ECW really feel different was their promos. WWF didn’t usually give wrestlers that much talking time, WCW was the opposite – everyone got to talk in very paint by numbers situations.
In ECW the formula was more like this – you were either a great promo or you kept your mouth shut. That wasn’t without the odd exception, Chris Benoit’s promos were worked on heavily in his 12 months with the company. But as a general rule unless you were great on the mic you’d rarely get time. Fortunately, in Shane Douglas, Terry Funk, Paul Heyman, The Public Enemy and Cactus Jack the company had a long line of terrific promos.
A number of things helped ECW talent get the most out of their talking segments. For one, within reason, they could say whatever the hell they wanted. Shane Douglas spent the better part of 1994 on one long (and largely pretty entertaining) moan about Ric Flair. Paul E. Dangerously was fighting a constant battle with the system too. Not being bound by a major TV gave them freedom, in addition to their desire to reference pop culture
Cactus Jack was something altogether different, though. Like Douglas and Heyman, Jack had an axe to sharpen with his departure from WCW. And why not? They’d turfed him out the door to make ways for such luminaires as the Honky Tonk Man and John Tenta. But unlike Douglas it wasn’t about settling scores, it was about building rivalries. Foley could channel an intensity with his promos that allowed them to build a crechendo.
And listen to any ECW podcast from about December 1994 onwards, I’m pretty sure we’ve got a Cactus Jack home run promo in each one (literally, in one case). Jack as one of the more overt babyfaces in a roster full of guys who trod the line would start off in a very jokey manner with a seemingly innocuous story, over the course of the coming minutes the intensity would build and the focus would shift to his opponent, be it Funk, Sandman, Douglas or whoever. By the final 30 seconds he hit a crescendo of noise; shouting, occasionally screeching to get his point across. Often in his case you felt like his promos ended when he had sapped himself of words, rather than when the time came to stop.
And it would be unfair to simply say that it was the ECW platform that gave Jack the opportunity to speak. Back in 1993 (when still in WCW) Jack more than held is own in a World-Title main event feud with Vader. One line, on a comeback promo, went: "If you can arrest a man for the thoughts in his head then get a rope and hang me now". Of course, you have to take out those horrendous amnesia mini-movies to stop his 1993 batting average dropping below a certain level, but we'll put the blame on WCW's shoulders for that.
But it's a testimony for Foley that he'd carved such a niche for himself by this time. As if he needed any more incentive to stand out from the crowd it was being able to work in ECW laying the groundwork for a feud with Terry Funk that would culminate in Japan that would let him sit out from the crowd. There's a lot quite rightly said about ECW paving the way for Steve Austin to find his voice, it probably did the same for Cactus Jack too.