Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic

ECW has produced something RAW, SmackDown!, and TNA iMPACT! have been unable to accomplish recently. They’ve created a natural, meaningful, logical feud between two wrestlers who’ve developed a rivalry based on action that occurred during, believe it or not, professional wrestling matches.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Kevin Thorn versus Stevie Richards: an old-school feud.

On July 24th on Sci Fi, Stevie Richards and Kevin Thorn climbed into the ECW ring and squared off for what seemed like nothing more than another unassuming mid-card match that had little impact on anything in WWE’s red-headed stepchild show. After all it wasn’t too long ago, the 5th of June in fact, that Thorn defeated Richards in another meaningless match. But this time around, things would be different between the ECW Original and the Fanged Freak.

After absorbing a great deal of offense at the hands of his bigger, stronger, younger opponent, Richards called upon his veteran instincts and reversed an attempted crucifix pinning combination into one of his own, a backslide, for the upset victory. Thorn was surprised, to say the least.

Of course it makes sense that Thorn, who felt he had things well in hand up to this point, was extremely upset about losing to an older, smaller, less powerful man. So he naturally wanted an opportunity to correct this error and squash Richards like a bug, as soon as possible.

Since Thorn was desperate to exact a measure of revenge, the two met in the ring the very next week. Thorn certainly showed more intensity and focus in this rematch, clearly determined to destroy Richards. Thorn not only wanted to teach Richards a lesson, but also wanted to pin Stevie’s shoulders to the mat for the 1-2-3. Of course if that happened, this feud would have died then and there. Amazingly, Richards again absorbed a great deal of punishment at the hands of Kevin Thorn, and again secured a surprise pinfall, this time via a roll-up. This was not only amazing in that Thorn had been moderately pushed throughout his tenure in WWECW while Richards had become a member of the J.O.B. Squad, but also because it indicated the creative department might actually have some sort of long-term plan involving these two grapplers. Now, with this second consecutive victory for Richards, they were on to something. A storyline had just emerged from the tedium of Tuesday nights.

On the 7 August edition of ECW, Thorn attacked Richards from behind while Big Stevie Cool was being interviewed. For once, this decidedly pro wrestling concept smacked or realism, at least as much as an illegal assault with no penalty can, because the animosity Thorn felt for Richards made sense. The ambush seemed spontaneous and unrehearsed. Thorn was tired of seeing Richards applauded for his lucky streak. And that’s all Richards was in Thorn’s mind, fortunate. “No way is this little man better than me”, Thorn no doubt mused as he eagerly awaited another opportunity to rip Stevie’s head off and hand it to him before stomping the remains of Richards’ carcass into oblivion.

By the time their third match in this series came about on the 14th of August, Thorn was beside himself. How could he have lost two straight to this inferior athlete? Thorn, after all, was more powerful, younger, more violent and more vicious than Richards, yet he was unable to defeat the man. Did Dancin’ Stevie just have Thorn’s number? The bite club denizen needed to prove otherwise.

This time around, Thorn was on fire. He pounded poor Stevie mercilessly, cutting off any attempt at offense by the former co-founder of the blue World order. And while Richards fought valiantly and gave Thorn a run for his money, the vampire wanna-be would not be denied. Not three times in a row. Thorn polished off Richards with a devastating spine-buster and finally got the monkey off his back. But so enraged was he with the streak Richards had against him and the number of matches it took before he was able to snare the elusive win that Thorn continued to pound on his fallen foe even after the referee raised his hand in victory. After repeated warnings and following a crucifix bomb by Thorn to Richards, the referee had no choice but to disqualify Thorn, reverse his decision, and award their third consecutive match to Stevie, making their score in this series Richards 3, Thorn 0.

While they didn’t meet in the ring on the 21st of August, Richards gave Thorn a receipt for his attack on Stevie two weeks earlier, and again it felt natural, and any impartial observer would agree that Thorn had it coming. These two were starting to hate everything about each other, and it all stemmed from Richards’ refusal to accept being beaten by the up-and-coming former New Breeder. The veteran still had some gas in his tank, and was determined to stand up for himself.

The two hooked up one more time the following week, and this time Thorn got the decisive victory he’d been craving for over a month, nailing his “Original Sin” finisher for the big win. Hopefully this will inspire Richards to strike back as opposed to wrapping up this mini-arc, because the undercard needs interesting feuds like this one.

The beauty of this story is that the entire thing feels so organic and none of their interaction seems forced. Richards didn’t steal Thorn’s favorite coffin, Thorn didn’t reveal himself as Richards’ long lost brother, neither has made time with the others’ best gal, and they aren’t former tag team partners turned enemies. The war between Richards and Thorn is not about some deep, dark secret from either man’s past, or a mysterious “attempted vehicular homicide”. Neither man’s parentage is in question, and they’re not battling over a trinket, a weapon on a pole, or a shampoo commercial. There’s nothing but good old fashioned professional wrestling booking bringing these two together, and lo and behold, it’s been completely effective.

Now I look forward to their series continuing, and the violence between Richards and Thorn escalating and building to a final crescendo. Their feud is what wrestling should be all about, but rarely is in 2007. Since their bad blood has spawned for a logical reason, the antagonism between the two seems apropos. Now when pro wrestling-type things occur between them, such as backstage assaults from behind, fans can easily understand why Thorn and Richards would want to exact a measure of revenge for the last attack, or gain an advantage before their next in-ring showdown.

With all the random matches on Tuesday nights contested for seemingly no reason, ECW can get a bit tedious. But this story between Richards and Thorn has made things a lot more interesting on Sci Fi. Like the Originals versus New Breed angle did before, this feud transforms what might have been just another done-to-death contest between two mid-carders into a worthwhile and important event. There’s only one way a match between Stevie Richards and Kevin Thorn could become meaningful, and that’s for the creative department to give it meaning, which is exactly what they’ve done up to this point. I hope we haven’t experienced the final chapter in the war between the veteran and relative newcomer. Their conflict is worthy of going out in a blaze of glory, not fading away with nary a whimper. I hope Creative sees things the same way, but only time will tell.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead. ” – Johnny Carson

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