This is our first ECW arena show together, you and I. I remember, roughly 15 years ago, spending far too much time, effort, and money, trying to amass an unrivalled VHS collection of every wrestling program that ever aired in the history of the universe. This particular show was my first eye opener that there were some slippery people in the tape trading world. I, man of my world, traded someone a money order for roughly $25. They, in turn, traded me the finger. I never did wind up with my copy of Crossing The Line Again; though if you’d asked me to be patient for a decade and a half, and that one day everything I ever dreamed of could be digitally sought out and placed on a hard drive the size of one VHS tape, I could have invested thousands of dollars into my future and … who am I kidding, I wasn’t waiting no 15 years.
We start with a passionate speech from PAUL HEYMAN, promoting their first ever pay-per-view in April. THE ENTIRE ECW LOCKER ROOM is with him, though some of the more heely heels are located in the upper bowels. Taz is booked against Sabu to no surprise (but gets a 2 litre pop regardless). Paul then thanks all the fans for having his back when the PPV companies didn’t want to carry them (ignoring the fact HE allowed a 16 year old kid to get maimed on his watch), and the place explodes. Nobody can ever deny the charisma of a fired up Paul Heyman, and it’s his Us vs The World stuff that had wrestlers literally willing to die for him in the name of keeping the ECW brand alive.
LANCE STORM vs. BALLS MAHONEY
This seems to be joined in progress, but it’s not far along because Balls isn’t sweaty. Balls no sells a lot of the early offense, but a spinning heel kick takes him off his feet. Balls tries one of his own, but Storm sidesteps and he twists his knee up between the ropes and the fall to the floor. A slingshot senton from Storm keeps Balls down, but back in, Mahoney turns the tables with a gutshot to stop a flying attack. A legdrop gets 2, while a t-bone gets nothing but probably hurt like hell. The Vaderbomb connects, and Balls grins sheepishly about his impending victory, but Storm kicks out. Balls whips Lance to the corner, by a springboard back elbow knocks the big guy down, and Storm gets back on the attack with his speed. A beautiful missile dropkick, with Storm’s rattail flowing like a beautiful golden sunset over a pristine lake setting gets 2. Balls recovers fast, and piledrives the small guy and goes for an elbowdrop off the second rope. It misses, and Storm quickly finishes with the spinning heel kick off the top at 5:22. This was a fun small man / big man clash, and probably about as good as anything you’ll get out of Mahoney. **
RICKY MORTON (with his Girlfriend) vs. BIG STEVIE COOL (with Hollywood Nova and The Blue Guy)
Wrestling, being the spectator sport that it is, relies on a specific criteria for its lady managers. Unfortunately, Ricky Morton does not understand this, bringing his very real girlfriend to the ring for god knows what reason. She looks like one of the rejected girls who didn’t make it to TV from last week’s Cedar Rapids Miss nWo contest. Thankfully, the Blue Guy knows exactly how to handle the “SHOW YOUR TITS” chants.
Morton takes a lot of heat, not getting anywhere near the old school respect that Terry Funk commands. And it’s for that reason Morton tells them to kiss his ass, and starts in with his antiquated offense. Stevie hits a clothesline, which kicks off a loud “BWO” chant. Morton plays possum and tosses Stevie outside, but Meanie was waiting for him and slams Morton’s face into the ring post. Back in, the Emerald City Slam gets 2. Stevie tries a cross arm breaker, but Morton wriggles out and stomps on his face. Morton punches Richards in the pooter, but Stevie only sells for a second before mounting Ricky in the corner and playing the 10-punch count-a-long, complete with face-fucking on 9. The Jackknife Powerbomb only gets 2, so Stevie warms up the band and finishes with the Stevie Kick at 5:35. Morton’s girlfriend joins the bWo after the match, wearing the t-shirt like a diaper thong. Totally one-sided, exactly as it should have been en-route to establishing Stevie as a legit challenger to Raven. *1/2
AXL ROTTEN vs. “DR. DEATH” STEVE WILLIAMS
Blink and you’ll miss this one. Axl starts in with the kick punch crap, but Williams has no time for amateur hour. 3 Point Stance sets up the Oklahoma Stampede for 2, and a backdrop driver finishes at 1:49.
JOEY STYLES heads down for an interview with Williams, and he wants a title shot. RAVEN arrives, and tells him if he wants the belt, then he’s gonna have to take it. I wouldn’t exactly encourage that, Raven just spent the last month chasing around The Sandman trying to get it back from the drunken klepto. The pair starts to brawl, so TOD GORDON shrugs and makes it a title match.
RAVEN vs. “DR. DEATH” STEVE WILLIAMS (for the ECW world heavyweight title)
Raven wastes no time in throwing Williams face-first to the ring post, and smashes a chair over the Doc’s back. Styles does a fantastic job selling Williams as the most dominant North American wrestler of the last decade, even though the only reason he hasn’t been pinned since the late 80’s on US soil is because he’s been hanging out in Japan and doing minimal high profile work in the States. Raven sets Williams on a table by the guardrail, but he rolls away as Raven flies in with a legdrop off the top and through the table. Williams grabs the chair, and gives Raven a shot to the face that would draw the ire of every medical professional in America today. Both guys are busted open, but Williams refuses to sell the pain, tossing Raven back into the middle of the ring. A powerslam gets 2, and a couple of fans were gasping there thinking that was it. Doc throws a series of clotheslines, and just as Raven escapes the third and looks to be on the move, Williams throws him halfway across the ring with a release German for 2. Raven staggers around, completely lost, and Williams nails a top rope shoulderblock for 2. He goes up again, and Raven throws a bunch of desperation haymakers to stop the attack. Williams is stunned just enough for Raven to jump up and hit the superplex. Charged with momentum, Raven jumps up in his pose to a massive reception … and passes out. THE BLUE WORLD ORDER, complete with TYLER and LORI FULLINGTON, make their way down to the ring. A confused Raven asks Stevie what the deal is, and the next thing you know they’re throwing punches at each other. He forgets all about Richards, who punches Raven in the back of the head, and he falls forward, noggin to noggin with Richards, knocking both men out. The Doc gorilla presses Raven into the entire bWo at ringside, except for Richards who’s still in the ring and offering his shirt to Williams. Williams tears it apart, so Richards gives him the Steviekick, but Williams pops up! A second one yields the same, and Death tells him to bring it on. The fans chant “ONE MORE TIME”, but this one’s blocked. Williams spins him around, and Stevie manages to snap off that third Steviekick. Williams isn’t getting up this time. A bloodied Raven sees his opportunity, hits the Evenflow, and retains the title at 8:27. A shame this was a one shot deal, Williams was put over like the birth of a hardcore Hulk Hogan, and he easily could have done a series with Raven. ***
THE SANDMAN vs. D-VON DUDLEY
D-Von manages to sit through Sandman’s entrance for roughly 45 minutes before he grows bored and jumps over the top to attack. I figure that was just to get the damn match started before his next birthday. D-Von grabs the stick, and smashes it over Sandman’s face repeatedly, and he’s already bleeding. D-Von sticks to the basics of punching Sandman in the face and jawing with the fans, but Sandman eventually figures to have had enough and kicks a field goal. The fans chant their rallying cry of “FUCK HIM UP SANDMAN, FUCK HIM UP!”, and Sandman obliges with a hotshot onto the guardrail, followed by a spinning heel kick off the apron. A table has been helpfully left at ringside, so Sandman smashes it over D-Von’s head and retrieves his Singapore cane. Repeated shots wind up breaking his toy, so Sandman whips him in the face with the splintered cane and DDT’s him. Bored, Sandman grabs a chair, drapes it across D-Von’s face, and drops a leg onto it from the top to score the easy win at 5:31. Sandman stares on, looking completely lifeless following the loss of his family, and doesn’t seem to particularly care that he won. The Sandman is probably one of the most tragic characters in wrestling history, because clearly feeds off of, and lives for the adulation of a group of fans who only love him because he’s a violent miserable drunk. But once that bell rings, he returns to his broken home, where you KNOW his fridge is stocked with about 400 cans of beer, and a half empty squeeze bottle of mustard. He’ll eventually pass out in his arm-chair, to the quiet flicker of late night infomercials from spirit-healing priests just begging you to send them money in exchange for miracle spring water, before he wakes up in a fog and returns to do it all again tomorrow. He’s the wrestling embodiment of an award winning short-film director who once said “don’t cry for me, I’m already dead”. *
JOEL GERTNER makes his way into the ring in the aftermath of this mess, and has the audacity to announce D-Von as the winner by a final score of 4-2, so Sandman knocks him out cold with a shot to the head with the cane. D-Von’s awake again though, and steals the cane, beating down the Sandman until BUBBA RAY and SPIKE DUDLEY come to knock it off. Face to face with their estranged brother … Bubba grabs a chair and smashes it into Sandman’s face! Spike can’t understand what the hell is going on, as both Dudleys break into grins. Spike attacks his brothers, dropkicking the chair into the face of Bubba, but two-on-one is far too much, and Spike gets nailed with a “double Bubba Cutter” which would in fact be the first appearance of the 3-D. Sandman takes a half dozen more chair shots and cane shots to the head until DA GANGSTAS clean house with a household worth of weapons. D-Von nearly gets killed with a messed up backdrop/Samoan drop thing which sends him face first into a chair via New Jack. Still, the Dudleys are the new hot team of the hour, and they come back, beating the former champs down and standing tall.
So, that was a lot of stuff for one segment. Far too much actually, Da Gangsta’s stuff could have been saved for a future show easily, instead of dragging that segment out for another 5 minutes.
THE ELIMINATORS vs. SABU and ROB VAN DAM (for the ECW world tag-team titles)
A freshly shorn Saturn starts with RVD, who struts around looking far too comfortable in his own skin right now. A spin kick knocks down Saturn, but he comes right back with a gorgeous dropkick to the face for 1. Kronus tags in and shows off, but he’s in there with the biggest show-off of them all, and Kronus is taken down with a bunch of martial arts kicks. A double-team slingshot splash introduces Sabu to the match, but Kronus hits a spinning heel kick to keep him at bay. A pumphandle suplex gets 2. Sabu hits a springboard back elbow off an Irish whip and turns matters back to Van Dam. Kronus rakes the eyes, and Saturn joins the fray as they hit stereo spinning heel kicks for 2! Sabu quickly holds Saturn hostage in a camel clutch, allowing RVD to hit a baseball slide dropkick to the face. Gory special is applied mid-ring, and Sabu flies off the top with an elbow to Saturn’s ribs. Kronus barely saves at 2, but it’s enough for Saturn to come back with a dropkick to the face. Saturn tries to block a tag by throwing a knee to Van Dam’s ear, but he manages to get there and Sabu heads in … right into a Saturnbomb for 2! Kronus and RVD throw down outside the ring, while Saturn drops Sabu with a Diamond Cutter. Everything breaks down now, and guys wind up in all parts of the outside area. Sabu dives at Saturn in the front row, drawing an “ECW” chant when he clears the guardrail. They head back in, and Sabu works a single leg crab while RVD drops a leg for 2. Rolling Thunder is complimented with a legdrop, and that gets 2. Saturn tags in his buddy, and Kronus greets Van Dam with a pump kick. Top rope splash gets 1 before Sabu saves, but he doesn’t see Saturn flying in next with a splash, and THAT gets 2. The show gets stopped with a quick scoop slam, and the challengers hit a top rope legdrop/splash combo for 2. Kronus tries to DDT Sabu, but it’s reversed into a hammerlock. Saturn breaks it up, Kronus hits an enzuigiri, and Saturn drops a leg for 2. Another enzuigiri sets up a superkick, and Kronus gets 2. A second rope senton backsplash has Kronus fired up and saying Bad Words, but he’s a little too full of pip and zip, getting backdropped to the outside by Sabu. Sabu sets up a table with Kronus on it, gets in, and goes for the triple jump legdrop; except Saturn’s too close and trips Sabu up while going for the top rope springboard. Sabu uses a leg lariat to fight off Saturn, while Van Dam brings the table into the ring. The Eliminators clean house before anything comes of it, but it remains in the ring, lurking like a bad dream. Saturn adds to the mess by getting a short painter’s ladder, but when he heads up to attack Van Dam, Sabu dropkicks it from behind and he falls on his partner instead! Both guys are wiped out with ladder shots, and they try for a dual pin. Both guys kick out, so the challengers climb each side of the ladder, giving the champs just enough time to get up and nail the ladder with Total Elimination to bring them crashing back down to reality. The fans are on their feet chanting “ECW” as Styles fills with company pride, while Saturn sets the ladder up ON the table. The table doesn’t look too sturdy, and as Saturn slowly makes his way up for whatever the hell he has planned, Van Dam kicks him off and nails him with the Van Daminator! Kronus barely saves the day, and once Sabu tosses Saturn, he’s left alone with the challengers. With nowhere to go, he fights as best he can, but succumbs to the numbers. The Triple Jump Moonsault misses, because Saturn just barely returns to shove Van Dam in the way, and Total Elimination finishes RVD off at 20:03. So, this match has been heralded a classic in some circles, but it didn’t do it for me. There were a lot of nice spots, but it literally felt like “ok, I did my move, now it’s your turn”, with very little selling of any kind, and absolutely no storytelling at all. Where Sabu’s concerned, you either love him or you don’t, and you can find me in the Don’t section. **
So after Sabu eats Total Elimination, cuz why not, TAZ shows up with BILL ALPHONSO. This is probably bad news for the fallen challengers. True to his word, Taz beats down RVD with a chair in retaliation for Van Dam’s previous assault, and locks on the Tazmission to prove that his hands are even MORE lethal than the steel. The Eliminations hold Sabu hostage, and Taz readies to strike with the chair … but he drops it and just spits in his face instead. Sabu tries to wiggle loose, but he’s dropped with the Total Elimination again. Taz tells him he doesn’t actually need the tag-team champs to do his bidding, because what he REALLY wants is for Sabu to grow a pair of balls and show up at the pay-per-view.
TERRY FUNK vs. TOMMY RICH
Really? This needs to be paid off? The fans use a surprisingly witty “YOU SUCK COCK” chant which gets a laugh out of me. Funk soaks in the love while Rich heads into the crowd to feed it to the locals, instead of getting fed as was the style in 1981. Terry busts him open with his left hands all of 3 seconds into the match, and Rich is on weak legs. They head outside, where Rich tries a kneelift, but he hits the guardrail instead of Terry. Funk smashes a chair into Tommy’s leg a dozen times or so, and Rich hobbles around like Zack Gowen. Back in the ring, Terry takes a seat on the chair, and starts lecturing Rich about respect while bitch slapping him over and over. Then he tosses the chair away cuz that’s not how Funk do; but that turns out to be a mistake because Tommy finds his wild fire and gives it to Terry. Funk is introduced face to face with the ring post, and dropped into the front row. Rich gives Terry a couple of REALLY weak chair shots to the head, and they head back in. Rich works a half crab across the top rope, while the fans give him the love via a “YOU FAT FUCK” chant. Tommy uses it for inspiration, and clotheslines Funk until he starts to bleed. A DDT looks to finish, but Funk won’t stay down. A second DDT gets another 2, and Rich finally has enough of the ref’s “slow” counts and DDTs HIM too – twice! Terry rolls to the “safety” of the table set up at ringside, but Rich grabs a chair and drives it into Funk’s knee. Rich gives himself a standing ovation, but Funk’s not down til he’s down, and starts throwing his desperation windmill punches. Rich sweeps Funk’s legs, and tries to finish Terry with the spinning toe hold – how heelish! Terry escapes and drops a knee to Rich’s junk, and now HE works the spinning toe hold until Rich gives it up (again?) at 10:51. Funk celebrates with another kick to the plums, and stands victorious with the fans. **1/2
THE TRIPLE THREAT (with Francine) vs. THE PITBULLS and TOMMY DREAMER
The babyfaces are stupid enough to stand on the buckles and pose when the heels are standing in the ring, in THIS company, and they wind up getting attacked. Brilliant work, boneheads. Douglas destroys #2 with chairshots to the head, and they make their way back in to celebrate. Of course, now THEY’RE the morons with any kind of premature celebration, and everyone spills back out to the floor and pair off. #2 winds up back in the ring with Lee and Douglas, but he successfully beats them both down until Dreamer’s able to join him with a bent piece of the guardrail. Lee is tossed into the railing, and Candido’s dumped, leaving Douglas alone with all his biggest enemies. “BREAK HIS NECK” scream the ever human fans, and lord do they try, press slamming Douglas into the guardrail, causing it to fold up on itself. On the floor, Dreamer grabs the Pitbulls chain and drives it into Candido’s face. They wind up back in the ring, and Candido crotches Dreamer across the broken guardrail piece. Tommy eats a spike piledriver while Douglas threatens to throw the guardrail at the fans. The Pitbulls wind up completely incapacitated, and the Triple Threat converge to work over Tommy with a bunch of chairs. A vertical suplex THROUGH a couple of chairs make it so that those won’t ever be used again, while Candido catches Pitbull #2 with the chain, and ties him up by the neck around the ringpost, trying to choke him to death. He’s a bloody mess, and probably not getting involved again for awhile. Candido gives Dreamer a snap suplex, and a kneedrop from Lee gets 2. The Bulldozer launches Candido off the top, right onto Dreamer for a super splash. Candido wants to finish now, and goes for the top rope powerbomb. Dreamer blocks it with a backdrop, and nails the DDT for 2. CLOUDY (?!?!) shows up now, but BEULAH’s right behind the nasty creature, upending it with a chairshot and dragging it back to the locker room. Really, Cloudy? Dreamer is held hostage by Lee with a chair, but he squirms loose JUST as Douglas and Candido come flying in with dropkicks, and the Bulldozer is down! The distraction lets the Pitbulls FINALLY re-enter the match, and they dump Candido to get their hands on Douglas. He’s tied up in the ropes, but Candido saves before anything happens. #1 is alone with Douglas now, and cracks him with a chair – but Candido dives back in to save his buddy from more. Everyone winds up back in, and the heels hit a trio of Rude Awakenings and start wiggling their hips, drawing a “you have GOT to be SHITTIN’ me” from THE MASKED MAN, who makes his way to ringside.. He tells the “fuckin’ assholes” that not only do they have no idea who he is, but they don’t know how to do the Rude Awakening. “Look behind you, assholes.” Too late, of course, with Lee and Candido dumped and Douglas tied up in the ropes, unable to do anything. #2 gives Douglas a press slam, and #1 hits the Rude Awakening while the Masked Man hangs Francine over the top rope and spanks her to the mother of all pops. Once she runs off to safety, Masked Man helps them set up a table and the fans want a Superbomb. In ECW, you want, you get, and #1 is powerbombed off the top through Douglas and the table to win the match at 16:23. This was a little better structurally than the tag-team match, but it was still disjointed mess, with all the emphasis on the weapons instead of the wrestling. **
Both Douglas and Pitbull #1 need to be stretchered, but this is ECW and there’s only 1 stretcher available, and Dreamer makes damn sure it’s HIS partner that gets it. Lee carries Douglas to the locker room while Styles signs us off.
So much for the hot streak! There was so much missed opportunity here, as evidenced by the fact that the best matches of the night were all put on by the older guys. The fact is, guys like Williams and Funk understand how to make a match violent, without resorting to all the stupid props and tricks. Hell, Terry managed to tell a fantastic story with a completely washed up Tommy Rich.
The young guys need to take something away from this. The locals will always pop huge for chair-shots and bloody messes, so it’s not like anyone’s going to be hurting for adulation; but longevity is brought on by making the fans want to see more instead of repeating the same spots week after week. This applies not only to ECW, but the nWo – and while hindsight is always 20/20, it’s not a wonder that the only group who successfully adapted was also the only one left standing at the end of the war.