After taking a look at Buffalo Invasion last week, I decided to finish up my journey into 1997 era ECW with this show. True story, I watched this show years back and really didn’t like it. Will multiple years of perspective have changed my viewpoint? Let’s find out!
The event is emanating from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the 9th of August 1997
Calling the action is Joey Styles
Little Guido w/ Tracey Smothers and “The Big Don” Tommy Rich Vs Pablo Marquez
Marquez would eventually get a brief run in the WWF as a lackey for Tiger Ali Singh. He was little more than a jobber in ECW, and was regularly used to put people over, which I guess is what he’s going to do here for Guido. Guido won’t even let Pablo into the ring to start, and all three members of the Full Blooded Italians try to intimidate him before the bell.
As mentioned last week, neither Smothers nor Rich are actually from Italy, which is basically the joke. It’s not subtle or anything but it draws good cheap heat at least. Rich grabs the mic pre-match and antagonises the crowd in his trademark raspy southern accent. I actually love Tommy Rich and think he’s both an excellent fiery babyface as well as a despicable heel.
Guido and Marquez do some chain wrestling to start, which goes Pablo’s way and he gives Guido a rana. Guido rolls outside, so Marquez follows with a dive onto him, but when he tries one back inside Guido pips him out of the air with a clothesline to take over. Pablo is soon back in the match with a missile dropkick however, and that gets him a two count.
Guido shit cans Marquez to the outside and taunts the crowd, which allows Rich to attack Pablo on the outside. Back inside Guido hits a suplex on Marquez but he comes back with an Ecuadorian Leg Sweep for two. Guido bails following a dropkick and Marquez follows with something between a dive and baseball slide, which didn’t look great.
Marquez dives out onto Rich and Smothers (with Rich not even trying to catch him) but when he goes up top to get Guido, Rich hits him with the Italian flag and Guido gets a cheap pin fall victory. Marquez’s foot was actually on the rope but it wasn’t noticed/actively ignored by future heel referee Jeff Jones, which makes me think it was intentional.
WINNER: LITTLE GUIDO
Standard opener here. Guido’s stuff looked smooth as always.
Louie Spicolli Vs Mikey Whipwreck
Spicolli coming out to “Louie, Louie” is a nice touch. Spicolli was dressing like Tommy Dreamer here (T-Shirt and jogging pants) as he was currently feuding with him. Mikey had officially switched to Buthole Surfers from Beck for his entrance music. Louie controls proceedings early on with arm drags and the like, and it’s clear he’s taking Mikey lightly.
Mikey comes back with hip tosses and body slams before crotching Spicolli in the corner. Spicolli gets a nice enziguri in response for two before going to a chin lock. I like how Spicolli is actively trying to be a heel here and rile the ECW Arena crowd up. Spicolli works Mikey over with basic moves, but keeps going for relaxed and nonchalant covers, which allows Mikey to keep kicking out.
Spicolli goes up for a Swanton Bomb, but Mikey rolls out of the way and hits a pair of dropkicks until Spicolli cuts him off and sends him outside. Mikey sends Spicolli into the guardrail a couple of times and then gets an insane flip dive to the outside, which Spicolli only barely catches him on. That looked positively terrifying. Mikey thankfully survives and then catches Spicolli with a FrankenMikey back inside for the win.
WINNER: MIKEY WHIPWRECK
Spicolli played his heel role well and Mikey is always a good underdog. That dive to the outside was really scary though.
Little Spike Dudley Vs Bam Bam Bigelow
Spike’s initials and tie-dye shirt kind of give away his gimmick somewhat. Bigelow immediately asks which side of the crowd wants Spike thrown onto them, and the bloodthirsty masses like the sound of that very much and chant “over here” in the hope that they’ll be the lucky side that gets him. Bigelow clubs Spike down and then throws him from one corner of the ring to the other with a big hip toss.
Bigelow hurks Spike up into a Gorilla Press and threatens to throw him out into the crowd, but then changes his mind and slams him in the ring to boo’s from the sadistic audience. Bigelow continues to pound away on poor Spike, who gets the odd punch in to no avail. Bigelow gets a big vertical suplex, lifting Spike with ease, and then takes the fight outside where he throws Spike face first into the ring post.
Spike comes up bleeding from that but still manages to drag himself into the ring. The referee wants to stop the match, but Spike demands that he doesn’t and even takes a swing at him! Bigelow misses a moonsault and Spike starts a comeback with some forearms and a dropkick, but he can’t keep Bigelow down for very long.
Spike goes for the Acid Drop, but Bigelow blocks it with a suplex. Bigelow throttles Spike and then throws him back first into the corner, which causes Spike to stumble out and inadvertently head butt Bigelow in the groin. As Bigelow sells, Spike quickly scampers up onto his shoulders and successfully performs a Victory Roll to get an improbable three count and pull off the upset of the century.
WINNER: LITTLE SPIKE DUDLEY
And thus Spike was made for life, as he became henceforth known as “The Giant Killer”. This had slightly less of an impact coming straight after another match where a heel took an underdog opponent too slightly and got beaten, but it was still a good match and got Spike massively over with the ECW crowd.
“The Rookie” Chris Chetti Vs “No Gimmicks Needed” Chris Candido
Chetti was green but solid enough at this stage in his career, but this gimmick was utter death and he didn’t really start getting any traction until he started teaming with Nova a few years later. Candido was currently part of the heel Triple Threat stable with Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow. We get some chain wrestling to start, which looks good as both men are mechanically decent.
Candido puts an end to the wrestling by teeing off on Chetti in the corner with punches, but The Rookie fights back with punches of his own and gets two counts from an O’Connor Roll and a cross body respectively. The ECW Arena crowd decides to chant “boring” here, even though the match has been fine so far.
The fight spills outside and Candido gets the better of things out there and maintains control when they both get back inside. Candido drops a leg for two, as Joey hypes up his future clash with Taz at Hardcore Heaven 97. Candido goes to a chin lock and the fans start chanting for Taz, who is a real life relative of Chetti, although Joey doesn’t bring that up. Candido gives Chetti a suplex and then mocks Taz afterwards by doing his trademark taunt.
Candido tries a sunset flip off the top rope but Chetti counters it for two before getting cut off again. Candido works Chetti over with chops and then spits on him, which fires Chetti up but Candido is quickly able to cut him off again. Candido is holding the greener Chetti’s hand through this and it’s been a simple, solid match.
Candido goes for an axe handle smash off the top but Chetti counters with a punch to the bread basket and then follows up with a German Suplex for two. Chetti makes the comeback and nails a nice looking swinging neck breaker for two. Poweslam but Chetti opts not to pin and heads up for a somersault leg drop, but Candido rolls out of the way. Rookie mistake there, literally.
Candido heads up himself but Chetti stops him and brings him down with a superplex for two. Candido comes back with a powerbomb and then mocks Taz again before hitting The Rookie with an underhook suplex from the top turnbuckle for the pin.
WINNER: CHRIS CANDIDO
This was a fun match and Chetti looked very good before losing. Sadly his size meant he would never get a proper look from WWE, but he looked like a decent young worker here who just needed a gimmick overhaul. Candido was solid enough and made sure to get some jabs in at Taz to hype the pay per view match. Overall, the match was a complete success at what it wanted to achieve.
Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs Lance Storm
Douglas, who will be getting an ECW World Title shot at Hardcore Heaven, has a promo and addresses Terry Funk and Sabu, who will face each other for the title later in a barbed wire rope match. Douglas says that if Sabu happens to win tonight, then he still wants a title shot at the pay per view and even goes as far to lay down the challenge for a three way dance, just to make sure all his bases are covered.
Lance Storm uses “Sad But True” for his entrance music here, which doesn’t suit him at all. Douglas offers a handshake to start, but Storm doesn’t trust him and knocks him down with some shoulder blocks. The two trade some chops, with Storm getting the better of things and delivering a hip toss. Storm continues to shine on Douglas, bumping him around and working an arm bar.
Douglas uses a distraction from Francine to get a Stun Gun for the cut off and starts working Storm over. Francine gets her usual array of abuse from the ever classy ECW crowd, as Douglas works a camel clutch. Douglas sets two chairs up in the ring and then suplexes Storm through them for a count of two.
Storm goes for his own suplex, but Francine grabs his leg to stop that. Undeterred, Storm back body drops Douglas out and then hits him with a baseball slide. Outside the ring, Storm crotches Douglas on the guardrail and then puts him back in the ring where he gets a two count from a springboard cross body.
An enziguri gets another two for Storm, which leads into both him and Douglas trading cradles and roll ups, but neither man is able to keep the other down for three. Storm knocks Douglas down with a spinning wheel kick and heads up top for a leg drop, but Douglas moves. Douglas tries the belly to belly but Storm counters it to a DDT for a near fall. The fans bought that as a finish and were perturbed it wasn’t. Storm keeps coming but Douglas is able to catch him out of nowhere with the belly to belly and that collects him the three count.
WINNER: SHANE DOUGLAS
An enjoyable match that was fought at a high tempo and achieved the aim of letting Storm shine whilst also letting Douglas look good by getting a clean win over a credible competitor. No complaints from me whatsoever.
Al Snow Vs Taz
This was the early stages of Al going crazy, which would eventually lead to him making friends with a mannequin head and truly going off the deep end. Taz was the Television Champion at this point after defeating Douglas for the title at Wrestlepalooza. Snow actually gets a pretty sizable pop from the ECW crowd, even though he spent most of his entrance yelling at them all.
Al grabs a mic before the match and declares that he isn’t Leif Cassidy (His name during a previous run in the WWF) and tells the fans to shut their mouths. This successfully turns the crowd against him and they start demanding Taz give Snow a jolly good thrashing (Although the language they used was slightly more vulgar)
Chain wrestling to start between both men, which one fan tries to say is boring, which earns him a stern dressing down from Taz. ECW Hat Guy seems especially peeved by Snow’s comments and yells obscenities at him whilst Taz works a hammerlock. They do some “worked shoot” stuff, with Taz getting a judo takedown and then going to an MMA styled ankle lock.
Overwhelmed by his opponent, Snow takes a powder to get his bearings, but when he gets back in he’s met with a flurry of strikes from Taz. Snow tries the up and over, but Taz catches him and delivers a version of the Alabama Slam. Snow comes back with an enziguri and then stomps away on the champion before delivering a back suplex.
Snow works over Taz whilst occasionally gurning to the crowd and camera in an attempt to look crazy. Taz manages to hit a T-Bone Suplex to get himself back into things but Snow is able to counter a move off the ropes with a sit out powerbomb. The problem with Taz being booked as such a dominant force was that you had to be viewed as a pretty strong threat to get any actual heat on him for a sustained period, which Snow sadly wasn’t at this point in time.
Taz blocks a kick and starts hammering away on Snow, but Al counters this with a thumb to the eye and then gets a slam. Al wastes a lot of time taunting the crowd whilst Taz is down, and this allows Taz to recover somewhat and deliver another suplex to Snow. Snow comes back with his own suplex but stupidly stops to stare at the crowd, which allows Taz to walk up and lock him in the Tazmission for the win.
The work was absolutely fine but the crowd didn’t really buy Snow as a threat to Taz and, because Taz did a lot of selling, they weren’t really that into the match as consequence.
We cut to the Dudley Family of Bubba Ray, D-Von, Sign Guy and Big Dick in the ring, along with their mouthpiece Joel “Put your lipstick on my dipstick” Gertner. The Dudleyz have the tag team title belts with them at this point, but they aren’t actually champions and had just stolen the belts instead. I believe a technicality led to them being declared the champions at Hardcore Heaven. This, like most ECW Dudley promos, has some funny moments but ends up dragging on for too long. The gag of Gertner always announcing D-Von as being far lighter than he actually is (219 pounds on this show) is very funny though. The promo leads to the following.
D-Von and Bubba Ray Dudley w/ Sign Guy Dudley, Big Dick Dudley and Joel Gertner
Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney
Rotten and D-Von had previously been a tag team in ECW, so they jaw with one another before the match starts. The Dudleyz demand that Balls gets rid of his chair before the bout starts and tease leaving when he doesn’t. Joey explains on commentary that The Gangsta’s were actually the champions at this time but The Dudleyz injured them. If The Gangsta’s can’t make it to Hardcore Heaven then they’ll forfeit the belts. Ah, so that’s how it happened.
The Dudleyz finally get in the ring to start the match. Rotten wants D-Von, and after some arguing Bubba finally relents and tags him in. Rotten and D-Von actually lock up and go to a headlock, but Big Dick trips up Axl when he gets whipped off the ropes. Rotten and Mahoney work over D-Vons arm, with the fans chanting “BALLS” whenever Mahoney does anything. Big Dick keeps getting involved from the outside whenever Balls and Axl start gaining any momentum.
Balls and Axl have a quick debate on the outside and then head to the back, teasing that they’re walking out, only to return with Hack Myers. As Myers is the “Extreme Shah” of ECW, fans yell “SHAH” whenever he hits anybody. Thus we have a bizarre sight of the three babyfaces teeing off on Big Dick with punches whilst the fans yell “BALLS! SHAH! AXL!” to correspond with each man hitting him in one of the funnier moments of the show.
With Myers and Big Dick now openly getting involved, the ref decides just to make it a 6 man tag and be done with it. Thus we get a brawl, as everyone walks around the building hitting each other with stuff in typical ECW style. Back in the ring, Balls hits the New Jersey Jam on D-Von and goes to the cover, but D-Von is out at two. Myers and D-Von got at in the ring next, with Myers getting two from a roll up.
Balls splats Big Dick with a chair shot but ends up getting choke slammed through a table on the outside for his troubles. This allows Bubba Ray and D-Von to get the Dudley Death Drop on Myers in the ring for the three count
WINNERS: THE DUDLEY BOYZ
Just a generic ECW brawl. It was watchable but light on actual wrestling. Myers got pretty over for his return but I’m not sure how long he stuck around for after this.
Rob Van Dam w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Tommy Dreamer w/ Beulah
This was a continuation of the WWF Vs ECW feud that was raging at the time, with Van Dam representing the anti-ECW side of the dispute here. Dreamer was due to wrestle Jerry Lawler at Hardcore Heaven and was going to be matched off against Van Dam during the autumn, so this is the first steps in that rivalry. Beulah had a genuine air of class about her, which was completely out of place in the 90’s ECW. It’s humorous seeing her wearing quite elegant ring outfits whilst valeting a man who wrestles in jogging pants and a t-shirt.
Dreamer and RVD jaw before the start of the match and Tommy grabs a headlock. Dreamer sends RVD outside and then actually follows with a pescado! RVD has an awesome airbrushed singlet here which spoofs the cover of “Jaws” and it looks absolutely amazing. He always had really cool ring gear. Dreamer hits RVD with a road sign and then puts him back inside, though he’s clearly moving with some difficulty following the dive earlier.
RVD sends Dreamer outside and then follows with a dive of his own. Van Dam dominates on the outside and whips Dreamer into the guardrail numerous times before crotching him on the rail and then kicking a chair into his face. Back inside, RVD continues to pummel Dreamer and dropkicks a chair into his face for good measure. You could really see Van Dam getting to grips with his character and move set here, after a somewhat difficult early teething period.
RVD gets the frogsplash, but it wasn’t yet his finisher at this time so it only gets two. We can’t be far off him upgrading that move now can we? The split legged moonsault, Van Dam’s actual finisher during this period, misses and Dreamer gets his own Van Daminator. Dreamer dropkicks a chair into RVD’s face and actually delivers his own frogsplash to a big pop. Alfonso tries to get involved, but Beulah stops him and starts throttling him in the corner. Dreamer tries to add a DDT to Fonzie as well, but Van Dam stops that with a Van Daminator kick.
Dreamer is able to come back and hit RVD with a DDT, which is the cue for Sabu to run down with a garbage can to rescue his partner. Dreamer deals with him but RVD kicks the can into his face and then holds him down with it for the pin fall
WINNER: ROB VAN DAM
RVD and Dreamer had a strange kind of chemistry that often meant they were able to have watchable matches despite being complete polar opposites when it came to ring style.
Post-match, The Triple Threat of Shane Douglas, Bam Bam Bigelow and Chris Candido run down to destroy Dreamer, RVD and Sabu, which leads to the ring filling with everyone else on the roster for a huge brawl. The Dudley Family appear to be standing tall, at which point New Jacks music hits and he comes down to the ring to destroy everyone with weapons because…
Anyway, Kronus and Saturn come down to help New Jack and the babyfaces ultimately stand tall as the segment comes to a close. This was very similar to the ending of the Hardcore Heaven show in a weeks’ time actually. Indeed, the “entire roster riot” is still quite a popular trope in a lot of indy wrestling companies even to this day. Seeing New Jack and The Eliminators teaming up was pretty cool seeing as they’d all been feuding for so long. Gertner’s girly screaming as the babyfaces annihilate him is funny stuff.
No Rope, Barbed Wire Match
ECW World Title
Champion: Terry Funk Vs Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso
As the title suggests, the ropes have been taken down and replaced with barbed wire here, in a match type more commonly found in Japan. As those who have been following my reviews the past couple of weeks will know, Funk won the title back at Barely Legal. The importance on the result of this match has been lessened somewhat by the fact both men will be in the main event of Hardcore Heaven 97 regardless of who leaves with the title.
Both men are cautious to start, with neither wanting to be the first to taste the wire. Both men tease going into the wire early on, with both being able to avoid going in at the last minute. Funk drills Sabu with a piledriver and gets a two count, but no one bought it as a finish because no one had gone into the wire yet. That’s the problem with these kinds of matches. Sabu finally eats the wire first, as Funk kicks out of a rana and the force sends him into it.
A problem is immediately apparent, as Sabu’s baggy faux Arabian pants gets caught on the wire, making it hard for him to pull himself away. Funk then exacerbates things by crotching Sabu on the wire, and Sabu has an absolutely torrid time getting off the wire and back into the ring due to his ring attire. Sabu is now bleeding from the wire, as Funk hammers away on him with punches. The fans surprisingly get behind Sabu, despite him supposedly being the heel, and he responds by whipping Funk into the wire for the first time.
It’s now time for Funk’s clothes to get him caught in the wire, with his issue being his t-shirt. Unable to get out of the wire, Funk is a sitting duck and Sabu hits him with a chair a few times for good measure. Sabu rubs Funk’s face into the wire and then rips a piece off to jab into Funk’s forehead in a gory spot. Both men are now, not surprisingly, bleeding heavily and Sabu springboards off a chair with a leg drop onto Funk for two. He goes for it again but Funk moves, which sees Sabu leap right into the wire. It appears the wire has sliced open Sabu’s left bicep. Sabu, being Sabu and all, decides just to tape it up and keep wrestling.
Funk gives Sabu a Rude Awakening through two chairs for a two count and then fires up on Sabu, who bails outside. Both men brawl around outside the ring for a bit, with Funk soon throwing Sabu back in and going to the Funk Spinning Toehold. Alfonso tries to stop that, so Funk drags him inside over the wire. Even the manager is taking bumps into the wire! Funk even rips off Alfonso’s shirt and starts raking the wire over his back in a vicious moment.
Terry Funk as “Crazy Evil Old Man” is always something to behold. Funk cuts some of the wire off and starts whipping Sabu with it, in a spot that sounds more devastating than it looks, and then goes outside to continue pummelling Alfonso, no doubt to give Sabu a moment to recover after ripping his bicep. Sabu cuts down an entire side of the wire, which allows Van Dam to run down wearing work gloves and wrap Funk in the barbs.
With Funk now firmly wrapped in the wire, Van Dam and Alfonso lay him on a table and Sabu comes off the apron with leg drop. This is Tommy Dreamer’s cue to run down to the ring and drag RVD to the back. Meanwhile, back inside, Sabu tries to pin Funk following the table spot but he’s able to kick out. Undeterred, Sabu puts Funk on another table but this time decides to wrap HIMSELF in barbed wire before jumping off the apron.
I’m not exactly sure how that was supposed to hurt Funk more but it was visually arresting at least. Both men are now wrapped together in the wire and can barely move as a result. Somehow they heave themselves into the ring and Sabu is able to just about lay on top of Funk to pick up the win and the title. I think they had more planned there but they were just so tangled in the wire that they had to take it home.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SABU
A good intense brawl that got really scary at the end once both of them got wrapped so heavily in the wire. This one doesn’t seem to get spoken about a lot when it comes to big ECW matches, mainly because it happened a week before a pay per view event and was never televised. But such a brutal stipulation and a title change definitely make this worth a watch. If you’re squeamish though I recommend turning it off just before Sabu wraps himself in the wire. We don’t really get much in the way of a celebration for Sabu, as he’s merely cut out of the wire and tape ends.
This show blew by and was exceedingly watchable, like a nice session ale. There wasn’t much in the way of classic matches, but there was good action up and down the card with the usual first class effort from the ECW roster. There was also some big historic moments, such as Spike beating Bigelow and Sabu winning the title. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of 90’s era ECW.
I’ll take a break from ECW next week and will watch some NWA/WCW from the 80’s methinks. I hope you’ll all join me for that!
Thanks for reading and thanks as always to Adam Matters for the pure nightmare fuel that is this weeks featured image!
You can pick up a copy of ECW Born To Be Wired by visiting Amazon
Looking for other great content here on the site? Well why not take a goosey gander at this recent article by Alec, where he takes a look at Five Films That Would Make Good Games? It’s a corker!