I must’ve listened to El Scorcho by Weezer a thousand times before a lightbulb went off in my head. At that point, I had the realization that the line “Watching Grunge leg-drop New Jack through a press table” was a definite nod to ECW, where the tag-teams Public Enemy (Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge) and the Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa) had a profoundly violent feud in the mid-90’s.
Not that Rivers Cuomo was a fan of pro wrestling, let alone the Philadelphia-based indie organization. In a 2006 interview with The Crimson, the Weezer frontman explained that two of the lines from El Scorcho were inspired by a classmate at Harvard, where he attended on and off, including two semesters in between the releases of The Blue Album and Pinkerton. “Two lines in the song are actually taken from someone else’s essay in my Expos class,” he said. “Because at one point, we had to do a little workshop thing, and we each got assigned to review someone else’s essay. So, I reviewed this one person’s essay, and I liked some of the lines in it, so I took them and used them in the song.” (He also said this in a Reddit AMA.)
That the line — and, in the Crimson interview, Rivers alluded to some ambiguous strife with the guy he got it from — doesn’t even make contextual sense in El Scorcho did not deter me from wondering exactly when and where it came from. However, any attempt to pinpoint that was fruitless. The matches between the teams that existed on YouTube didn’t show the move, Wikipedia just talked about the reference in broad terms, and a Reddit thread devoted to the mystery provided no answer. As mentioned in the latter two, the February 1996 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which featured Randy Savage on the cover, had a spread of photos from Public Enemy/Gangstas matches. I’ve ordered the issue on eBay (it was $5 net of shipping), so hopefully it will supplement the following discovery.
On Saturday night, I was futzing about on the WWE Network, saw a Public Enemy match on an old episode of Monday Nitro, and wondered if the team’s relevant ECW match was somewhere in the archives. While most would classify this as a sad story, it had a happy ending. The bout above comes from Hardcore Heaven, which was taped on July 4, 1995 at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
Other matches on the card included 2 Cold Scorpio versus Taz, Raven and Stevie Richards fighting Tommy Dreamer and Luna Vachon, and Cactus Jack against The Sandman. Mick Foley had barb-wire wrapped around his fist for this match. Sandman, the smoking, drinking, Singapore cane-carrying, non-technically-skilled brawler, was the walking epitome of ECW. The almost entirely white male crowd was enthralled.
Here’s the Grunge leg drop on New Jack that matches up with El Scorcho:
ECW matches were just absurdly violent. Rocco Rock and Mustafa took turns just crushing each other from significant heights atop the arena. And, the weapons used in Paul Heyman’s organization were so random. In addition to the table, which has become standard fare in pro wrestling, this bout included a mailbox and a metal fan. In another match I watched from the feud, a boom box, a fork, a noose rope (really), a frying pan, and a rolling pin featured prominently.
These fights went on for about six months until Public Enemy left for WCW. They were probably in the upper 20th percentile of ECW brutality, but there were also worse. The storylines may have been scripted, but you just could not fake most of this stuff. In retrospect, it’s astonishing that nobody ever died in their ring.
As was the case with many professional wrestlers in the 80’s and 90’s, this foursome did not have an enviable mortality rate. Rocco Rock died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 49, and Johnny Grunge was just 39 when he passed away after suffering sleep apnea complications in 2006. Mustafa and New Jack are both still around, but are nominally retired; New Jack suffered brain damage in a fall at an ECW Pay-Per-View in 2000, but kicked around the indies and TNA throughout the oughts.
Anyways, it’s not 100% certain that this is the match that inspired the line in El Scorcho. The tag-teams also fought at un-televised house shows in between July 1995 and January 1996, and it’s not as though it was rare for a Public Enemy match to feature a table destruction. I’ll drop back in here next week to see if the PWI issue I ordered provides further confirmation.
UPDATE (8/18): The footnote in the excellent profile of New Jack by Tom Breihan at Grantland reminds me that I never updated this piece with the photo from PWI, which suggests the song might’ve been referencing a house show from this period: