The SmarK Retro Rant for ECW Wrestlepalooza 98
(I almost forgot that ECW had a few entries in the May PPV archives, so given that I’ve resigned myself to not finishing this project by May 31 anyway, we might as well stretch things out a bit more)
- Back in the day, ECW's PPVs didn't air in Canada, so we had to depend on tape dealers to get copies of them, sometimes weeks later. In the case of this show, it took a long time for me to finally see the show, and by then my comments wouldn't have been timely or original anyway. But four years later, I think I'm finally ready to sit down and rant on it. (And 10 years after that I’m ready to rant on my rant, although 2002 is pretty much my cut-off point for when my style becomes the modern one, so there’s probably not much to bitch about.)
- Live from (If You Ever Take Take a Trip Down To) Cobb Country, GA.
- Your host is Jo-Jo.
- Opening match: The FBI v. Supernova & Blue Meanie.
Guido starts with Nova and they exchange wristlocks, and Guido slams him for two. Nova rollup gets two, and he gets an atomic drop and leg lariat. Guido misses a charge, and Nova bulldogs the FBI into each other. Meanie comes in and Guido stalls, so Tommy Rich stops the match and declares a dance contest. The referee is the clear loser. Tracy uses the opportunity to attack Meanie in a shocking turn of events, but the FBI collide and Meanie gets two. Tensions flare between the FBI, so the ref slams them himself. Good lord. Nova hits Smothers with a missile dropkick and dumps Guido onto him, and then nails both of them with a plancha. Tommy Rich turns the tide with a cheapshot, and back into the ring Guido sets up a bicycle kick from Tracy, which gets two. Smothers superkick gets two. Guido legdrops him for two. I think perhaps the gesturing during the cover was a tactical error. Double legsweep and Paisan Elbow get two. Nova slugs back, but gets hit with a jumping sidekick by Tracy. Guido wastes time insulting the crowd, so Nova hits him with an inverted electric chair, hot tag Meanie. He cleans house, and they badly botch a four-way collision spot. Meanie goes up and fends off Rich, but misses the Meaniesault. The flag gets involved, but Nova gets the Flatliner for the pin on Guido at 9:26. Eh, this was silly and harmless, but as a match it was nothing to write home about. *1/2 (FBI were the go-to guys for silly opening matches during this period, even as the gimmick developed into something totally off the rails from where it started. By the time it swung back to Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke actually trying to be Italian guys, the point was basically lost.)
- Justin Credible v. Mikey Whipwreck.
Mikey spears Justin to start and hammers away in the corner. Justin bails and they brawl outside, which Mikey gets the best of. Justin bumps all over the place out there, but when they get to the apron Justin pushes him into the railing to take over. Back in, he sets up a chair and rams Mikey's head into it, which seems like an awful lot of trouble as compared to, say, a chairshot. He stomps a mudhole and knees him in the face in the corner, and then powerbombs him onto the chair for two. Justin pounds away, but Mikey blocks a backslide. Whippersnapper is countered with an inverted DDT, and both guys are out. Mikey gets dumped and they do some more brawling, which leads to a table getting set up and Justin getting suplexed through it. Back in, Justin loses a chairshot duel and Mikey follows with a neckbreaker for two. Catapult into the chair gets two. They head up, where Mikey snaps off a rana for two. Whippersnapper, but the cast of Rent runs in, does a musical number, and in the chaos Justin hits his piledriver for the pin at 9:52. Really slow and too many run-ins for an undercard match. Seemed very indy-ish, with broken tables and bumps on the concrete replacing psychology and storyline. * (I’m thinking this was before CRAZY MIKEY with the Sinister Minister managing him and Tajiri, because that gimmick completely ruled.)
- ECW Tag team title: Lance Storm & Chris Candido v. Axl Rotten & Ballz Mahoney.
Candido & Storm were one of Paul Heyman's favorite concepts: The Wacky Tag Team Partners Who Hate Each Other. Oddly enough, they were also the longest-reigning ECW tag champions in history up until 1999, when Raven & Tommy Dreamer, also Wacky Tag Team Partners Who Hated Each Other, eclipsed that record. So the key to longevity in ECW, obviously, is to pick a partner who you hate. (That would explain the success that New Jack & Mustafa achieved.) Candido and Axl start, and Candido gets overpowered, but comes back with a hiptoss and armdrag. Axl slugs him down, so Storm gives it a try. Axl & Ballz work his arm over, but Ballz misses a charge. He comes back with a clothesline and the freaks get a double-team backbreaker for two. Storm takes him down with a leg lariat and Candido tags himself in, and gets armdragged. Mahoney gets a legdrop for two, and hits the chinlock. He slugs away in the corner and hiptosses him into a dropkick, but misses a high kick and lands on the floor. Candido's pescado is blocked and turned into a trip into the railing, and Axl hits everyone with a somersault dive. There's an old saying about not doing what you can't do well, and I think that spot exemplifies it. (That being said, if Axl didn’t attempt anything he couldn’t do well, he’d be forced into retirement and would never wrestle again. And I don’t think anyone wants that…) Back in, Axl gets hit with a cheapshot from the apron and Candido tags over on him after dumping his own partner. An argument ensues, but Candido works through it and gets a delayed suplex on Axl. Storm misses a charge, but gets a superkick for two. Double-team elbow gets two for Candido. Chris hits the chinlock as the crowd is more concerned with Ric Flair than the match. That's usually a bad sign. Axl with a sunset flip for two, but he goes up and gets caught with a rana. Candido's strut is met by a clothesline from Mahoney, which gives Axl two. Candido goes back up and lands in Axl's arms, but Axl ends up headbutting his crotch in a spot so ridiculously contrived that they could have handed out programs before it came. Axl DDTs both guys, hot tag Ballz. He slams everyone, but Tammy Sytch runs in to distract him, causing a fight between the champions. (“You pay her dealer off!” “No, YOU pay her dealer off!”) Everyone collides, the champions go low in stereo (which is immediately no-sold by Ballz & Axl) and Ballz goes for his chair, but gets dropkicked by Storm for two. Candido breaks it up and pins Ballz himself at 12:02. Oh, man, where to start? The styles completely clashed (brawling v. wrestling with no brawling = bad stuff) for one thing. Ballz & Axl were just not playing ball here, no-selling stuff at random. The ending was horribly anticlimactic, with Candido breaking up the pin only to get it himself. The match itself was slow and sloppy, and all the offense looked weak. There you go. * (But on the upside, only one of the team members is dead now.)
- Joey brings out some Georgia legends, including JYD, Dick Slater, Masked Superstar (I assume it's Bill Eadie but you never know with these things) and Bob Armstrong. Man, Bob sure turned to shit in the four years since this. He looked 120 years old on the NWA-TNA shows. (ARMSTRONG CURSE! ARMSTRONG CURSE! I kid. Obviously the real answer is that he sold his soul to the devil to ensure the continued employment of Road Dogg and his life force has been sustaining the dark overlord ever since then.)
- Next up, Joey brings out Shane Douglas to stress how crippled he is. He gripes about guys today stubbing a toe and collecting a paycheque while on a guaranteed contract. Which is really funny because he signed with WCW and started taking time off for injuries not that long after this. (Also funny because guys in ECW were lucky to collect a paycheque that didn’t bounce.) Shane gives his usual "Shawn Michaels is an asshole who held me down" (True, but it’s tough to feel sympathy for him these days) and "Ric Flair is an asshole who held me down" (To this day I don’t get when exactly he was held down by Flair. When he was a perpetual midcarder in 1993 WCW who got to ride Ricky Steamboat’s coattails as half of the tag champions? The guy so memorable that they fired him, stuck Tom Zenk under a mask, and NO ONE COULD TELL THE DIFFERENCE?) speeches and says that tonight may be his last match due to injuries. If only. Taz finally decides to interrupt the verbal masturbation and demand that Shane hand over his belt. It doesn't come, so Taz chokes him out before security intervenes. Security stopping an impromptu match? In ECW? Bigelow comes out to lend Shane a hand, and security stops THAT fight, too. Listening to Shane Douglas (and LOOKING at him, with the ponytail and 50 pounds of muscle mass) gives a very strong vibe of someone else's boring, self-serving promos. I can't put my tHHHumb on who he reminds me of, though. (These days, the phrases “Shane Douglas” and “muscle mass” are rarely uttered in the same sentence.)
- Bigelow stands around yelling at the crowd, until New Jack's music hits.
- Bam Bam Bigelow v. New Jack.
Bigelow stops the initial attack and stomps him in the corner, thus keeping him away from the Bucket O' Plunder. Avalanche and Bigelow grabs the guitar, but misses. New Jack uses his various signs and weapons to beat Bammer down, including the dreaded PLASTIC LIZARD OF DEATH. (Apparently New Jack was a fan of Harry And His Bucket Full Of Dinosaurs years before the show was even on the air!) They brawl out, which puts Bigelow back on the advantage. He dives over the rail, missing completely, and they fight up into the crowd. Really weak brawling follows as they head over to the backstage entrance and do a lot of standing around. One wonders, since both guys are bald, how they were pulling each other around without hair to hold onto. (Weak nuclear force? Static cling? Velcro?) New Jack wanders up to the balcony, finds what I suppose is an emergency auxiliary guitar left there in case of sudden outbursts of funkiness, and jumps down onto Bigelow, missing completely with the guitar. I guess the whoosh of air was so strong that it knocked Bigelow over. Bam Bam carries him back into the ring and pins him at 8:43. This made the usual WWE Hardcore title match look like Thesz-Rogers. *
- The Dudley Boyz v. Tommy Dreamer & Sandman.
It wouldn't be an ECW show without a Tommy Dreamer video done to "River of Deceit". (That was a quintessential 90s supergroup, by the way, composed of the singer of Alice In Chains and members of Pearl Jam. Sadly, Layne Staley likely didn’t get a dime from ECW’s constant use of this song, although in all fairness he likely would have just spent the money on heroin anyway.) Well, Joel's introductions are generally a nice pick-me-up, at least. Sadly, Sandman's entrance interrupts it, so we don't even get THAT. Sandman, true professional that he is, sells a neck injury during the entrance. Dudleyz attack to start, but get clotheslined out of the ring in stereo. Everyone brawls and Sandman drops a table on Bubba. The Dudleyz get put on the railing and have to stand there for like 30 seconds while Sandman sets up and legdrops them. Back in, Dreamer gets his neckbreaker on D-Von, and Sandman brings a piece of railing in. But irony strikes in the worst way, as Sandman gets whipped into it. Tommy is concerned, but the Dudz beat on him. If that was HHH tending to HBK, the whole show would have drawn to a close. Dudleyz get a double-suplex on Dreamer as Sandman is carted out on a stretcher. Various double-teaming follows. They decide to go into a standard handicap match, so Bubba heads to the apron while D-Von gets his twisty elbow and sideslam. Bubba goes up, but Tommy comes back and superplexes him for two. Bubba gets a backdrop suplex and clothesline, but Sign Guy throws powder at D-Von by mistake. The ref is distracted, however, so no count. Double-team neckbreaker on Tommy puts him down, and they bring the railing back in. "You know, in all honesty, this is getting hard to watch", notes Joey. I love shoot comments that aren't supposed to be shoot comments. (There’s the catchphrase! Everyone drink.) Tommy gets crotched on the railing and they gave him a bad-looking version of the conchairto, and Spike Dudley suddenly makes a run-in and fights off the Dudleyz. He splashes them under the railing and gives both the Acid Drop on the railing, and both he and Tommy give them pescados. Back in, Tommy tries to dropkick a chair in D-Von's face, but Big Dick powerbombs him. Spike completes the move. Big Dick takes care of Spike, and now Beulah and Sign Guy get involved, but Spike takes 3D. Sandman escapes from intensive care, cleans house with the cane, and stereo DDTs finish the Dudleyz at 11:22. Just a complete mess. ½*
- ECW TV title: Rob Van Dam v. Sabu.
This came from a rather clever twist whereby Sabu was scheduled to meet Bigelow for the title at this show, and they did a buildup match a couple of weeks before, where RVD would "soften up" the champion for Sabu. To everyone's shock, Rob won the title, thus making the title match RVD v. Sabu. He would, in fact, never lose the title, and probably would have carried it into the WWF with him in 2001 had he not been stripped of it in 2000 due to injuries. (Heyman probably had to pawn the belt to make rent on the bingo hall that week and needed it back.) Stalling to start. Sabu misses an elbow, and they do a token wrestling sequence that goes nowhere. Those cutesy parity spots always annoy the shit out of me. Rob stops to cut a promo about how he's not gonna fight Sabu and we're all suckers. Sabu abruptly turns on Van Dam, however, and slugs away. Spinkick gets two. Slingshot legdrop gets two. Rob bails and Sabu follows with a pescado. They do a bit o' brawling out there and head back in, where Sabu grabs an armbar. They showboat, and dropkick each other in the knee. Rob legdrops him for two. Rob with the Gory Special, but he bridges too far and Sabu falls out of it. That was pretty sloppy. Rob guillotines him on the apron and they head back in, where Rob stomps away and goes to a half-crab. He works on the leg a bit and superkicks him, but Sabu shakes it off while Rob is setting up a table outside, and dives onto him. Rob gets put on the table, but escapes before Sabu can put him through it. Sabu dives onto him in the crowd, instead. Back in, Sabu tosses a chair at him, putting Rob back on the floor again. They slug it out and Rob crotches Sabu on the railing, but Fonzie won't help him with the chair spot. He's being objective, you see. (He was the guy who called it right down the middle, that was his whole gimmick!) Rob suplexes him on the railing and guillotines him, but Sabu returns the favor. Both guys are out. Back in, Sabu gets two. Triple-jump moonsault misses, however, and Rob gets two. He crotches Sabu and kicks him back outside again to use up more time. We're about 15:00 in already with essentially nothing of any consequence having happened yet. Rob gets a tope con hilo, and both guys are out again. Back in, Sabu blocks a suplex from the apron and comes back with a moonsault, then suddenly ignores all the previous damage he took and goes on offense. That's always been the big thing with Sabu. Incredibly, horribly blown DDT spot on the table doesn't impress the crowd. Back in, Rob legsweeps him down and goes up, but Sabu sets up a table and puts him through it. Well, the table was already broken, so it's more like putting him on it, but that's nitpicking. They brawl outside and back in and throw the GIRLIEST punches ever at each other, and mess up a simple catapult under the ropes. Rob guillotines him on the apron again. Now we're repeating spots. They brawl outside as Sabu does his version of selling by clutching his ribs for about five seconds, but then pops right back up again and crotches Rob on the railing. He gets a rana off the railing, and we take another break. Back in, Van Daminator gets two. Frog splash gets two. Sabu makes another random comeback and hits a triple-jump legdrop, for two. Rob poses, but Sabu clips him.and Rob doesn't even notice, thus making everyone look silly. Rob monkey-flips him onto a chair, giving us more posing time. Elbowdrop gets two. Sabu goes back to the knee, and then follows up by legdropping a chair on his head. What a master of psychology. Another table gets set up, and this one breaks prematurely, too. Talk about amateur hour. Rob finds yet another table, and puts Sabu on top in very convenient fashion. Sabu makes yet another miraculous comeback, but then falls dead on the table in perfect position again and Rob frog-splashes him. Facebuster gets two for RVD. Sabu spinkicks him for two. Slingshot legdrop sets up a german suplex that gets two. Rob gets a moonsault for two. Sabu gets one of his own for two. And it's a 30:00 draw. Total spot-rest-spot stuff here, with each guy getting hit with a killer, devastating move and then popping up to do his own 2 seconds later. I cannot believe (well, actually I can) that the ECW mutants were drooling all over themselves because of this nonsense. ** (Does anyone even remember this match today? The RVD-Lynn stuff blew this out of the water and made Sabu look like amateur hour.)
- ECW World title: Shane Douglas v. Al Snow.
Al's entrance is still something to behold, and this was the absolute peak of his popularity.and one of his last matches in ECW. Common sense was saying that Snow, on the hot streak of a lifetime and more over than anyone in the promotion, was a shoo-in to win the title here. (In all fairness, Snow was under contract to WWE the whole time and they wanted him back at this point, so he wasn’t getting the belt only to have to lose it again right away. Still, given the LONG rehab of his character and build for his title shot with the Head stuff turning into a phenomenon, I don’t think that even a short title reign to pay it off would have been asking too much.) Douglas has an arm so heavily bandaged that he looks like he's auditioning for Mummy 3. (Which came out nearly a decade after Mummy Returns and didn’t actually feature the Mummy in the movie.) They slug it out to start and Snow goes after the arm, smartly. Shane gets an elbow, but Snow pounds away. He goes up, and they fight on the top, but Francine crotches Snow and he bails. They brawl on the floor and Douglas gets dropped on the railing and crotched on the post. Geez, three ballshots and we're not even 5:00 in. Back in, Snow knocks him down for two. Douglas dropkicks him out again, however. They do some brawling out there, and head back in, where Douglas gets a terrible clothesline and hits the chinlock. Necksnap and Shane sets up a bunch of chairs, but Snow slugs away. Shane returns fire. THRILLING. Shane gives him an atomic drop, and Snow fails to take a big bump on the intricately staged chairs, succeeding only in knocking a couple down awkwardly. Shane powerbombs him on them instead. That gets two. Snow comes back with a DDT and a clothesline as Joey starts into his "What a classic!" voice. Candido runs in and gets tossed, but Shane gets the belly-to-belly for two. Oh my god, someone kicked out of a belly-to-belly suplex? CALL THE PRESS! (They can put flyers 15 feet in the air on telephone poles to promote it!) Snow heads out with a quebrada onto Bigelow and Candido to get rid of them, so we relocate to the floor again. Everyone has come out to watch the match. HHH would be proud. (You know it’s 2002 when there’s THREE shots at HHH in the same review, and it’s a totally different company!) Snow goes up for a bodypress, but Shane rolls through for two. Snow Plow gets two. Francine gets involved and gets taken out, as does Candido. Snow goes up, gets a sunset flip, and Shane counters for the pin at 11:29. The crowd completely turns on that finish, tossing the heads into the ring in protest. ½* (Seems like it was better than that, maybe ** or so.) The ECW locker room puts the guys on their shoulders like this was a ****1/2 classic or something, which only serves to accentuate what a disaster this was. Snow, with no point in being in the promotion any longer, would show up on RAW the next night and never return.
The Bottom Line: This is generally considered the consensus favorite for "Worst ECW PPV Ever", due to some truly uninspired booking and style clashes. Paul Heyman smartly changed direction after this show, bringing in Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka to freshen things up, but MAN was that Snow match a slap in the face to the fans.
Strong recommendation to avoid.