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Retro Wrestle Respawn – ECW Hardcore TV #216 (12/06/1997)

No real reason for this particular show other than I recall Paul Heyman saying it was his favourite episode of Hardcore TV. All of the action from this actually took place at Wrestlepalooza 97. I have the full show on tape and it’s an enjoyable one so it’ll be interesting how it translates to TV.

The event is emanating from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Joey Styles starts us out with the intro in the ring but the camera quickly cuts backstage to Lance Wright with The Eliminators tag team of John Kronus and Perry Saturn. Saturn says he’s suffered all kind of injuries to his left leg but that won’t stop The Eliminators being the best tag team in the world.

Cut to Joey Styles and Rick Rude, who hype up Taz Vs Sabu and Tommy Dreamer Vs Raven for the show tonight before sending to a taped promo from Joel Gertner and The Dudley Boyz. Gertner says D-Von and Buh-Buh Ray will soon be tag team champions again. D-Von and Buh-Buh mock Saturn for his injury and say that they’ll take the titles from The Eliminators.

Opening Match
Raven w/ Chastity and Lupus Vs Tommy Dreamer w/ Beulah

The story here was that Dreamer hasn’t been able to defeat Raven during their over two year feud. Things have got so bad between the feuding rivals that tonight will bring the rivalry to an end once and for all. Joey points out that the rivalry originally started over Beulah, to which Rude states that Beulah is worth fighting over. In reality, Raven was WCW bound so they booked this as a way to pay the storyline off before he left.

Raven tries to flee to start, so Dreamer follows him and they start brawling in the crowd. During the brawl Raven throws Dreamer off the bleachers through a merchandise table and then drops him with a nasty piledriver on the concrete. They’re wasting no time going to the crazy spots with this one are they?! They brawl up towards the announce position, where Raven drops a table on Dreamer and then goes for a piledriver on another but Dreamer back body drops out of it to counter.

Dreamer tries to splash Raven through the table but he rolls out of the way and Tommy ends up going through it himself. We see that Shane Douglas and Francine are watching the action on the stage and seem amused by the destruction. The fight spills back to ringside, where Dreamer hits Raven with a face buster onto the concrete to bust him open. Dreamer had already been lacerated during the earlier brawl so both men are now bleeding.

Back into the crowd we go, where Dreamer throws Raven into a vending machine. Raven replies by hitting Dreamer with a chair before finally taking the match back to the ring. Raven sets the chair up in the ring and gives Dreamer a drop toe hold onto it. Dreamer took that bump square on the bonce there. Raven goes low and then calls for another chair from his entourage before setting Dreamer up on the top rope.

Raven tries to suplex Dreamer off the top rope onto the chair but Dreamer fights him off. Raven is able to recover however and flings Dreamer off the top with a Rocket Launcher onto the chair for two. Dreamer counters a hip toss attempt into a DDT and brings a disguised stop sign into the ring. Dreamer gets a piledriver onto the sign but Lupus breaks the count up at two. Beulah comes in and drops Lupus with a DDT to a big pop, but this allows Raven to roll up a distracted Dreamer for two. Raven begs Beulah to help him, but this allows Dreamer to roll him up for a two of his own.

Chastity now comes into the ring and sprays Dreamer in the face with hairspray, which allows Raven to clock him with a big drop kick for two. With both men down, we now get the mandatory catfight from Beulah and Chastity, which Raven breaks up and continues to beg Beulah to help him. Beulah replies with a low blow into a Dreamer DDT, but Raven is able to kick out at two.

Dreamer goes for another DDT but the ref gets bumped in the process and isn’t able to count the pin when he delivers it. This is Louie Spicolli’s cue to run down and attack Dreamer. Louie hits Dreamer with a DDT and drapes Raven on top but Dreamer is able to kick out at two. That was a great near fall. Dreamer DDT’s Louie but turns right around into a DDT from Raven for another great near fall. Raven goes for one more DDT but Dreamer counters it into the Death Valley Driver and then hits one last DDT onto the stop sign to finally defeat Raven.

WINNER: TOMMY DREAMER
RATING: ****

Whether you like this or not will come down to whether you enjoy the Raven styled dog and pony show with all the run in’s and near falls. I personally do enjoy that style of match so I was really into this, but the mileage you get out of it may vary depending on your own personal taste.

Dreamer doesn’t have much time to celebrate the win however as the lights go out and when they come back on Rob Van Dam is there to clock him with a Van Daminator. Dreamer fends Van Dam off, at which point the lights go out again and Sabu appears to make the beat down two on one. Raven has a chance to help Dreamer but decides to walk out instead. Dreamer manages to hit both RVD and Sabu with a double DDT, at which points the lights go out once again, and when they come back on they reveal that Jerry Lawler is in the ring!

Lawler had been making disparaging remarks about ECW on WWF TV for months, but the ECW fans never thought that he’d be so brazen as to show up in their arena like this. RVD and Sabu annihilate most of the ECW roster whilst Lawler mocks the fans on the microphone. He delivers the all-time classic line of “This building ought to be made of toilet paper, because there’s nothing in it but shit!”

Even top stars like Da Gangsta’s and Sandman are laid to waste by Sabu and RVD. With pretty much no one left to fend the heels off, Taz’s music finally hits and that’s enough to cause Lawler and RVD to take their leave.

What a great angle that was. They paid off the Raven/Dreamer feud and went straight into Dreamer’s next program whilst also delivering a big surprise at the same time.

Match Two
Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Taz

Taz chastises Douglas on the microphone and then demands Sabu come down for the match. Bill Alfonso comes down to say the match isn’t happening. Taz tries to suplex him, which is enough for Sabu to run down and start the match. Sabu stomps away on Taz to start and hits a springboard leg lariat for two. Sabu chokes away on Taz but when he goes for an up and over Taz catches him and brings him down with an Alabama Slam.

Taz hammers away on Sabu with cross face punches as Alfonso annoys everyone with his whistle. Sabu goes to the leg with a dropkick, which causes Taz to bail outside, and then follows up with an Asai moonsault to the outside. Sabu gets a springboard leg drop back in but Taz is able to kick out at two. This has been fought at a much quicker pace than their match at Barely Legal.

Sabu accidentally crotches himself whilst going for a triple jump moonsault, which allows Taz to hit him with a suplex as Alfonso continues his incessant whistling. Man that’s grating! Sabu goes for a rana from the top but Taz blocks it and then tries coming off the top rope with a flipping senton splash but Sabu is able to dodge it before coming off the top himself with a leg drop for two.

Sabu tries to set up a table but Taz attacks him before he can complete it, so Sabu kicks him low and drops him with a DDT before setting the table up properly. Sabu lays Taz out on the table and heads up top for a big splash to put him through the wood. Sabu stops to taunt however, which allows Taz to rise up like a horror movie monster and lock in the Tazmission in a fantastic visual. Sabu is able to roll back however and that’s enough to pick up the three count.

WINNER: SABU
RATING: **1/2

A bit on the short side to be rated any higher, but this was an enjoyable match fought at a hectic pace with a clean finish, so there’s little grounds for complaint.

Taz doesn’t seem to care that he’s lost and cinches the hold in even tighter. A gaggle of referees try to come in and rescue Sabu and end up getting choked out as well. After disposing of the referees Taz also locks the choke onto Alfonso as we take a break

Commercial

Back from commercial, Joey Styles rapidly explains that during the break Shane Douglas got on the microphone and told Taz to leave the ring. Taz retorted by challenging Douglas to get in the ring and face him for the TV Title. He even sweetened the deal for “The Franchise” by saying that if he couldn’t choke him out in three minutes he’d leave ECW for 45 days. Douglas liked the sound of that and came down to the ring for…

Main Event
ECW Television Title
If Taz doesn’t choke Douglas out in under three minutes then he must leave ECW for 45 days
Champion: Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs Taz

Douglas hammers away on Taz with the title belt to start and then adds a choke for equal measure. Rude thinks it was silly of Douglas to agree to these stipulations and suggests that he agreed to it in order to impress Francine. Rude was trying to steal Francine from Douglas at the time off this show. Douglas attacks Taz’s neck with rolling neck snaps and goes for a Full Nelson as we hit the 90 second mark. Douglas goes for an up and over but Taz waits for him to land and locks in the Tazmission. After a struggle, Douglas is forced to submit as Taz tenaciously hangs on.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TAZ
NO RATING

I can’t really rate that as it was really an angle more than a match, but it was a great angle that got Taz’s finisher over big time and gave the fans something to cheer after the Lawler invasion.

Final Thoughts

I can see why Paul Heyman liked this episode so much. It’s high octane seat of the pants stuff from start to finish, with a great invasion angle from Lawler and a strong push to make Taz into a monster babyface. I personally found the Raven Vs Dreamer match to be very entertaining and I’ve always loved the closing angle with Taz choking out Douglas.

I can definitely recommend checking this one out. I actually quite like 97 era ECW as they had a great roster at the time and the booking was on point for most of the year. It’s just a shame that, Barely Legal aside, the companies pay per view output during the year was pretty lacklustre. The TV show was usually always great though during this period, and this is a good example of that.

Thanks for reading

Whilst you’re here, why not take a goosey gander at Jes’ review of Warriors Orochi 4 by clicking right HERE?

ECW Exposed was where I heard Heyman remark that this was his favourite episode. WWE added some of it to YouTube and you can watch it HERE

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