Saturday, February 16, 2008
Daily SAll-Star: Big Stevie Cool
All of us, at one point or another, has at the very least a passing interest in professional wrestling during our youth. Perhaps we don't tune into the broadcast every week; perhaps we can't name more than two active wrestlers at any given time; perhaps we don't even know the rules of the contest. But there is a period in a boy's life during which he can and does identify with the warriors of the squared circle.
Men like Hulk Hogan and Goldberg existed to satiate the passions of the most casual fans. Big names performing under big lights with big money changing hands. This was the business in the 1990's.
But during this time many of the boys who found these living action figures too generic, too accessible, and too friendly to properly channel their adolescent rage and anxiety turned to the mean streets of Philadelphia. It was here that Extreme Championship Wrestling was born, and it was here that it flourished.
And it was here, in the blood-stained bingo hall that was the ECW Arena, that a legend was born. A legend by the name of Big Stevie Cool.
Big Stevie Cool, born Michael Manna in Philadelphia in 1971, participated in ECW's first-ever match--ever! It was a 20-minute draw with future washout Jimmy Jannetty, and although Stevie would never hold more than a tag team championship during his eight years in ECW, the match was a sign of the trust that the promotion could--and would--place in Stevie's young, dancing hands.
Stevie's shining moment in the annals of professional wrestling was undoubtedly April 13th, 1997, when 26-year-old Stevie took on Terry Funk and Raven, the promotions two biggest stars, in a Three-Way Dance for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
It wasn't Stevie's enormous physique or technical prowess on the mat that put him in the spotlight--because at 180 pounds and with minimal training under his belt, he had neither. Rather, Stevie made it big because of his overwhelming charm and charisma which he put on full display in the Blue World Order--ECW's answer to the New World Order of WCW.
The bWo was one of the first angles in professional wrestling that wasn't an outright joke (like Doink the Clown) that didn't take itself too seriously. Stevie was the leader of these misfits, and eventually, his personality garnered the attention of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
Since 1999, Stevie has been wrestling valiantly for the WWE. He briefly reinvented himself as evil heel Steven Richards of the Right to Censor organization, but he quickly saw the error of his ways and returned to dancing like a maniac.
Stevie represents everything that is good about professional wrestling, and at 36 years old, who knows? He might have another title run left in the tank.
Way out east in Philadelphia there's this fella I want to tell you about. Goes by the name of Michael Manna. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Manna, he called himself Big Stevie Cool.
Now, "Big Stevie" - there's a name no man would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about Big Stevie Cool that didn't make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'. See, they call Philadelphia the "City of Brotherly Love"; but I didn't find it to be that, exactly. But I'll allow it as there are some nice folks there. 'Course I ain't never been to London, and I ain't never seen France. And I ain't never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I'll tell you what - after seeing Philadelphia, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd seen in any of them other places. And in English, too. So I can die with a smile on my face, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me. Now this here story I'm about to unfold took place in the early '90s - just about the time of our conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis. I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about Big Stevie Cool here - Big Stevie Cool from Philadelphia. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's Stevie. Sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But...aw, hell. I've done introduced him enough.