Canvas Critiques #6 - ECW Living Dangerously 2000
Posted by Nick Sellers on 03.16.2013
ECW vs TNN...
Canvas Critiques #6 - ECW Living Dangerously
Problem solving and last minute changes were something of a necessity for the Philadelphia based promotion, from the first day of it's operation to the bitter and unfortunate end. You won't be the least bit surprised to know that Living Dangerously 2000 had a number of issues with its build-up, thanks to a combination of injuries, departures and an unsupportive television network.
The biggest headache was Rob Van Dam's injury; the original plan had Van Dam set to do battle with World champion Mike Awesome, but he suffered a broken ankle in a match against Rhino which ultimately saw him vacate the TV title after 23 months with the strap.
Plan B was to have a tournament to crown a new champion, and Sabu vs Super Crazy was slotted into the booking sheet. But Sabu refused to put Super Crazy over (a move which Heyman probably expected) and then left the company, forcing them to go with plan C instead. No wonder poor Paul. E hasn't got much hair left!
Because of this chaos, no matches were actually announced for the show until about two days beforehand, and the show does feel very rushed as a result. No match lasts longer than around ten minutes and the show actually finishes around half an hour earlier. With all due respect to Super Crazy and the likes of Rhyno, the show didn't have a big fight feel about it, and they looked to be becoming increasingly stretched in terms of solid booking for midcard workers. Many of their stars like Sandman and Tommy Dreamer were becoming increasingly beat-up and with the financial situation becoming desperate, many of the talent were working for little to no cash at all, pride and loyalty points being their only source of income.
Aside from the tournament finals to crown the new champion, the heat with TNN was a key focus and formed a large part of their output. With Don “Cyrus” Callis playing the evil network exec (to perfection, by the way), real-life struggles between the promotion and the television channel were being played out before an intrigued audience. An audience that probably thought – along with Heyman- that the initial deal struck with TNN was exactly what the company needed to springboard to the next level.
Sadly, it turned out to be the complete opposite. TNN treated the company with nothing but contempt, scarcely helping to promote the show. There were constant battles over the content that went on the air, and this lead to a number of very public condemnations from Heyman as they tried to censor him.
How does this show stack up compared to the rest? I actually enjoyed the previous PPV they put out, or at least bits of it, but most of the critics haven't been too favorable when looking at this one. Slam Wrestling actually wrote a very positive article about many aspects of the show, yet entries on this very site from past names such as Scott Keith tore it to pieces.
13 years on from it's original air date, how does it hold up?
Dusty Rhodes beat Steve Corino in a Bullrope match.
CW Anderson and Billy Wiles defeated Danny Doring & Roadkill, after Elektra turned on the latter team.
Mike Awesome retained his ECW World title against Kid Kash in an impromptu match.
Nova & Chris Chetti pinned Gedo & Jado.
Super Crazy pinned Little Guido to advance to the finals of the TV title tournament.
Balls Mahoney bested Kintaro Kanemura
New Jack and The Baldies got into another fight, culminating when Jack and Vic Grimes jumped off of some scaffolding. It doesn't end well.
The Impact Players (Lance Storm & Justin Credible) regained their Tag Team titles in a triple threat match against Mike Awesome & Raven, and Tommy Dreamer & Masato Tanaka.
Super Crazy beat Rhino to win the TV title in the tournament final.
ECW vs TNN- TV title finals.
RVD's injury meant that his staggering 23-Month TV title reign was brought to a rather cruel, anticlimactic end.
In Canvas Critique #3 – Guilty as Charged 2000 – I mentioned how this particular title was often higher up on the card than their World heavyweight title, or at the very least in a match with much more meticulous booking and preparation put into it. For instance, at GAC, RVD vs Sabu had much more going for it than Awesome vs Spike did. This month, it once again headlines an ECW show as its focal point.
I haven't seen many of their TNN shows, but you got the feeling that PPV was the only chance you could get to see the kind of product that Heyman actually wanted to put out. What the Cyrus character did do was actually give them a vehicle to go about censoring things (kayfabe) to appease TNN (shoot), but also give the rebellious babyfaces (and the fans) someone to rally against and show their displeasure.
As for the main event itself, I've spoken before in these articles about overbooking in this era of wrestling and how it became a trend. This is just as you'd expect, but I think it worked very well in the chaotic context of what ECW was all about. I don't think Rhino and Super Crazy gelled so well together from an in-ring perspective, but in storyline terms an athletic and “insane luchador” which represented many microcosms of what ECW stood for (innovative technical wrestling and of course, hardcore), going up against the Network's hand-picked successor, the powerful, bullish, network golden boy Rhino who was everything they disliked.
Storyline wise, it worked a treat. Bringing in RVD for some interference was a nice touch, and he worked pretty hard considering his leg was knackered. Sandman will always divide opinion, but he was the crowd's idol -THE face of ECW- and having his involvement was only going to have a positive effect on the audience.
It was another snapshot of what ECW was about, and yet another case of Heyman taking negatives (TNN's treatment of them and RVD's injury) and doing his utmost to turn them round into positives.
Living very, VERY dangerously and stupidly- New Jack and Vic Grimes.
If you've read my articles before, you'll hopefully notice that I mostly like to keep it positive. I'm very respectful of the hard work and dedication it takes to become a wrestler, and to that end I try and be respectful when talking about the performers in question.
I'm not looking for them to pat me on the back or anything, and I'm certainly not trying to portray myself as someone who's above the “smart fans” and/or “smart marks” and so on, but that's a stance I choose to take and I'll generally try and stick to it. I've never been in a ring or wrestled a match, therefore no wrestler or you, dear reader, should really take anything I type as anything other than an opinion and, I hope, something to generate some discussion. Anyway, back on point, I'm usually respectful to them and even if I'm not much of a fan, I still have respect for them.
And then there's incidents like this that I will never, ever be able to comprehend from a positive standpoint no matter how hard I try.
Simply put, both men were total clowns here. Harsh as it may sound, the injuries New Jack sustained in particular were his own fault and I'd even go as far to say that he totally deserved it. And as much as I will sing the praises of this promotion and Heyman for his creativity and guts, how they could let something like this happen is an absolute joke in itself.
There was absolutely nothing necessary about the dive whatsoever. Maybe if you can at least go some way to protecting yourself (or if the company can protect them) and they do the stunt in a controlled environment, fair enough. But rubbish like this is what sometimes gave both themselves and ECW a bad name. And not a bad name from a fun, rebellious point of view, but a negative as in “Wow. That was really, really bloody stupid.”
It's not controversy, it's just pure cack. I'm all for hardcore wrestling and death defying stunts and stuff to please the crowds, but this was nothing short of complete idiocy.
Dangerously formulaic- The rest of Living Dangerously
Mike Awesome pulled double duty on this night, although in both of his matches he didn't get too much of a run out. First, he'd take out Kid Kash (sporting a rip-off Kid Rock gimmick) in an impromptu title defense, which felt more like a condensed version of his match with Spike Dudley at the previous PPV. Then he didn't have too much involvement as he defended his tag team title with Raven in the 3-way tag. I was actually a big fan of his work, and I find it strange that someone who holds the World title (not to mention another belt to go with it) didn't feature much on the show. I know plans changed, but surely he was one of their more important commodities at the time? I know he departed for WCW not long afterwards, but I think they missed a trick here by not giving him more involvement in the show.
The match I enjoyed most was the semi-final TV title match between Crazy and Little Guido, who engaged in a fun bout with a mixture of nice technical exchanges and had added hardcore elements like tables involved. It wasn't quite on the scale of some of the past cruiserweight/lucha exhibitions that the company put out in the 90's when stars like Rey Mysterio were being introduced, but it was still very good considering they didn't have much in the way of time.
The triple threat tag bout for the tag team titles didn't entertain me as much as the previous PPV match for the belts, and I think having 3 teams instead of 2 made it into too much of a cluster for my liking. It's still enjoyable, but I didn't see much point in having the Impact Players losing the titles in the run-up only to win them again at the next show. I'm not totally sure how much preparation was put into it, but had this been in the pipeline for a bit longer I think the additional preparation time for the performers would've seen a better quality bout.
I must confess to not being too familiar with Steve Corino's work post-ECW, but here he looked to be on fine form as a heel, putting some serious venom into his promos and using ECW's PPV platform as a chance to truly express himself. For someone quite limited, Dusty put in a half-decent showing too, and his middle finger salute before the bionic elbow finish was a nice touch. I'm not normally one for bullrope matches, but I was digging this for the most part. Dusty didn't stick around long so I question him going over to an extent, but with Corino representing The Network it made the crowd happy, so in that respect you have to say fair play.
The Doring/Roadkill vs Dangerous alliance and Nova/Chetti vs Gedo/Jado matches didn't do much for me. Neither did Balls Mahoney vs Kanemura. At least the latter was fun for the traditional crowd participation we were accustomed to with “Balls! Balls! Balls!” Mahoney. But you got the impression that outside of the feud with TNN, the midcard was starting to lack considerably. The workers themselves ranged from good to not bad, but they didn't measure up to past ECW stars from a talent perspective.
The 411: There's good, there's average and there's absolute idiocy on this show. The ECW vs TNN stuff was actually done well, but apart from the TV title stuff the rest of it fell a bit flat by comparison.And then there's THAT New Jack/Grimes scaffold dive, which was reprehensible. Apart from those, and the midcard starting to get formulaic, there's still that intangible ECW fun factor attached to the show and the crowd is hot throughout, and those two elements alone always make their shows easy viewing. Call it somewhere in the middle.