Views from the Hawke's Nest: ECW Barely Legal 1997
Posted by TJ Hawke on 07.11.2014
A cynical take on ECW is just what the world has been waiting for!
I've watched a lot of ECW after the company died (as I was not allowed to watch the company when it was still alive), but I always did so in a haphazard way. I would watch a match here or there. I would only very occasionally watch a full show. However, with the WWE Network having another free trial, I thought it was time I started to methodically go through ECW's PPV catalog. ECW nostalgia has (sadly) been such a large part of wrestling for the past decade, but I've always thought that the love for the company has been somewhat unwarranted based on the product. I'm hoping to discover what elements of the company age well and which elements do not. I want to see what talents really stood out as special at the time, and maybe which talents could have succeeded in a different era. Basically, I just want to see what it's like to watch some of ECW's biggest shows with 2014 eyes.
April 13, 1997
Joey Styles opens the show from the ring. Styles starts to run down the card, but he is interrupted by the Dudley Boys. The crowd did not like the Dudleys. D’Von told them to shut up, but there was a cut to an opening video with highlights of ECW. The show cut back to Joel Gertner introducing the Dudleys to the crowd. Sign Guy Dudley was there as well. Finally, The Eliminators came out…
Joel Gertner tried to explain that the Dudleys won via the Stud Muffin scoring system, but the Eliminators just gave him Total Elimination
This was booked like a slightly competitive squash, and it was awesome as a result. The Eliminators just did all of the coolest movez they know, and the crowd ate it up. This was a fantastic opening to the first ECW PPV ever. I will say that the crowd seemed to be noticeably quiet in between the movez. We’ll see if that continues. Match Rating: Squash
There was a quick video package of The Sandman, as he is one of the 3 men competing for a chance at Raven’s ECW World Title later in the show.
Chris Candido was in the ring to cut a promo. Candido was supposed to face Lance Storm on the PPV, but he had a torn muscle. Candido is indignant that he is not a part of the show (even with an injured arm). Candido vows to make an impact tonight. This promo did not impress me much. There’s a fine line between differentiating yourself from mainstream wrestling and coming across like an indie geek.
Lance Storm (w/ Lance Storm’s blonde rat tail) vs. Rob Van Dam
RVD sent Storm to the outside early and hit a sommersault plancha to the floor. Storm came back with a flying back elbow. Storm went for a slingshot press to the floor, but he came up empty. Joey Styles bragged about how ECW doesn’t have mats on the floor. That just makes ECW seem stupid and cheap to me. RVD then hit a moonsault off the apron. RVD followed that up with a chair to Storm’s face. RVD then hit a Van Daminator, Angel Wings and a Five Star Frog Splash, but Storm kicked out. Van Dam went for a Monkey Flip but got caught by Storm who hit a exploder suplex on a chair. Storm then made a comeback. RVD cut him off with a slingshot leg drop on the apron. Back in the ring, Storm hit the weakest chairshot to the head I have ever seen (not complaining, just observing). RVD cut Storm off with a low blow and then botched a springboard kick. Storm came right back with a bridging German suplex and then hit another weak chair shot and another weak chair shot (hearing fans boo weak unprotected chair shots to the head does not age well); Van Dam then hit a Van Daminator and standing moonsault to get the victory
Spot. Spot. Spot. Spot. Spot. Spot. Spot. Spot. There were some fun moments, but it lacked any substance. I believe this is the fourth or fifth time that I’ve watched this match, and I think I have liked it less each time. The crowd continues to be very quiet in between the movez. Match Rating: **1/4
RVD cut a promo about not caring if he had the respect from the wrestlers or the fans. RVD is indignant that he wasn’t originally booked for the show and that he was only on the show after Candido got injured. That was honestly one of the better RVD promos that I have ever seen. RVD was a natural heel.
The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, & Masato Yakushiji vs. bWo (Terry Boy, Dick Togo, & TAKA Michinoku)
ECW “imported” this 6 man tag from Michinoku Pro for the PPV. This had no story line significance. It was just an exhibition to make the PPV more special. If ECW had its financial ducks in a row, having international exhibitions on all the PPVs would have been very good for them.
The six men got the streamer reception from the crowd. Yes, the Blue World Order had an international branch. The two teams went back and forth for a while until the bWo got the advantage and worked over Sasuke. Actually, each of Sauske’s teammates took several turns getting worked over by the bWo. Sasuske came back with a Lionsault and an Asai Moonsault. TAKA then hit a double jump dive to the outside. The six men proceeded to hit every move in the book. Eventually , Sasuke hit a tiger suplex on TAKA for the win.
At the time, this match was considered a classic, but it does not hold up like one. While the action itself was very impressive (and fun for sure), the environment just was not one of a classic. It's crazy how flat this crowd has been at times. Match Rating: ***1/2
There was a video package/promo for Stevie Richards. Richards says he finally has an opportunity to get a shot at a man who abused him for a long time. Stevie says he won’t be “Big Stevie Cool” or as the leader of the bWo, because tonight is not about that. He says tonight is about Stevie Richards becoming a man, and that he is leaving the ring tonight with respect
Francine was wearing a see-through dress, a bra, and a thong; she knew ECW’s target audience. Shane cut a promo before the match about how great he is and how proud he is to have broken Gary Wolfe’s neck. They started the match by trading front chanceries. What the fuck. Is this earth? Pitbull decided the best way to get revenge was with A REST HOLD~! The story early was Pitbull was using chinlocks to break Douglas’ neck. Needless to say, the crowd fell asleep when he did that. Eventually, Pitbull went to powerbomb Douglas, but the Franchise countered with a hurricanrana to the outside. Back in the ring, Douglas hit three piledrivers in a row: Pitbull sold this as if it was extremely uncomfortable. This match is a disaster. Franchise then locked in a Camel Clutch. Pitbull came back with a reverse atomic drop and a lariat. Franchise went for a body press, but Pitbull caught him and then GENTLY PLACED HIM ON HIS FEET~! Things threatened to pick up right after that though when Pitbull gave Douglas a fallaway slam through a table. Gary Wolfe finally came out of the crowd and attacked Douglas, only to be dragged away by security. Pitbull brought a guardrail into the ring. Douglas sent Pitbull to the outside and then dropped a guardrail on him on the floor. The referee was then kind enough to let everyone know that they have gone 12 minutes, and thus let everyone know that they have wasted 12 minutes of their life so far. Back in the ring, Douglas went for a top rope move but Pitbull caught him; Pitbull then placed right back on the top rope. Douglas went for a crossbody again, but he got met with a dropkick. Pitbull was getting the advantage, but Francine gave Douglas some brass knux. Douglas used brass knux, a piece of wood, a chair, a ring bell, and more wood but Pitbull would not stay down. Douglas went for a chain in his belt, but Pitbull caught him and gave him a pumphandle slam; Pitbull then gave Douglas a shot with the chain. Finally, Douglas won with a belly-to-belly suplex. After the match, a guy came down in a mask and a Rick Rude robe, but it turned out to be Brian Lee. Rick Rude then showed up, and they beat down Douglas
This was one of the worst matches that I have ever seen. It was long and boring. It does not get worse than that. This was a massive failure. Avoid watching this match like your life depended on it. Match Rating: DUD
Raven cut a fun promo in the back. Taz then cut a boring promo for his match. That's all I got.
Taz (w/ Bill Alfonso) vs. Sabu
Taz was mauling Sabu a lot early on. Sabu came back with a triple jump dive into the crowd. Back in the ring, Taz applied a leg-trap submission. Sabu escaped though. They traded shots. Sabu hit his double jump corner leg splash. Taz avoided a second one and dropped Sabu through a chair. Taz was in control after that again. Taz avoided another dive from Sabu and then sent him into the crowd with a throw. Sabu tried to come back with a swinging DDT through a bridged table, but Taz just dropped him through the table. Alfonso mocked him after that. Taz started selling his left shoulder, and Sabu started to go after that injury. He was building some momentum, but Taz dropped him on his dome with a Tax-plex. Sabu came back with a Taz-plex and then applied the Tazmission, but Taz escaped and hit another Taz-plex. Another Taz-plex. Taz applied the Tazmission, and Sabu passed out.
Taz asked for Sabu to follow the Code of Honor after the match. Sabu obliged and then raised Taz’s hand. Rob Van Dam attacked Taz after the match. Sabu was conflicted at first but then joined in. After botching his first attempt, Sabu hit a triple jump dive on Taz through a table. Alfonso then revealed that he was joining Sabu and RVD. RVD talked about how he was a superstar who should be working on Mondays.
There were some interesting ideas and sequences in this match. However, I didn’t think that the match held together as a whole and was often quite boring. This was a massive styles clash on paper, and it basically played out as one on screen. Considering how long of a build this match had, this has to be considered a disappointment. Match Rating: **1/2
Tommy Dreamer came out to join Joey Styles on commentary for the last two matches.
Stevie Richards (w/ bWo) vs. The Sandman vs. Terry Funk
The winner of this match goes on to the main event to face Raven for the ECW Championship. The Sandman’s entrance without “Enter Sandman” is very, very dull.
This was an elimination match. Huzzah, they did not do the “two men in, one man out” triple threat formula at the beginning of the match. Sandman got a ladder and threw it at Terry Funk’s face. Funk climbed a ladder and hit a moonsault on a standing Richards. Well, he didn’t really connect with Richards, but it looked cool all the same. Sandman and Stevie climbed the ladder to punch each other, because they are stupid. They paid for their stupidity when Terry accidentally knocked the ladder over. Funk then hit them with the airplane spin ladder attack. Stevie connected with a superkick on Sandman: 1…2…NO! Terry ate a superkick and got covered by both men: 1…2…NO! Sandman did an unnecessary dive onto a ladder to hurt Stevie. Terry Funk then delivered some chairshots to the head of both men. Sandman brought a trash can into the ring. Stevie took a ton of a punishment. After an excessively long time, Richards finally succumbed to defeat when Funk and Sandman hit a double powerbomb.
Sandman and Funk then battled it out. Sandman brought out some barbed wire. Terry used that wire to whip Sandman. Sandman wrapped the wire around himself and charged at Funk repeatedly. Stevie got back involved for some reason and superkicked Sandman with a trashcan on his head. Terry hit Sandman with a moonsault: 1…2…3
The match lost a lot of momentum in the build up to Stevie’s elimination, and it never really recovered. The first half of the match was a really fun brawl though, and I enjoyed that enough to give this match a “Thumbs Up” overall. It’s a very mild positive reaction to this though. Match Rating: ***
Raven just mauled Terry Funk. Terry’s face was busted open big time; Terry barely looked alive. Raven brought Terry to the floor and placed him on a table. Raven then hit a running elbow diving plancha. Raven took out the doctor who had been trying to help Terry. Raven’s Flock stable came out to attack Terry. Tommy Dreamer challenged Raven, but Big Dick Dudley smacked Dreamer in the head with a garbage can. Dreamer blocked a chokeslam from the stage to the tables on the floor and gave that to Big Dick Dudley instead. Raven was very distracted. Dreamer then got in the ring and hit Raven with a DDT! Terry made the cover: 1…2…NO! Terry then caught him with a small package: 1…2…3
This was a mess, but it was a fun kind of mess. As soon as Dreamer gave Big Dick Dudley a chokeslam through the tables, the crowd became electric. Those last few minutes really made this company, match and title change feel important. Match Rating: ***
The 411: ECW was an important part of wrestling history, but they were far from a perfect company. I know this show was considered a creative success at the time, but there are so many aspects of this show that were disappointing. The crowd was easily the biggest letdown of the show. For all the talk about how awesome the ECW crowd was in Philadelphia, they really did not respond to this show liked they cared about anything except for movez and the two title changes. The matches themselves were a mixed bag. While I enjoyed the last two matches enough to give them a positive rating, they were not classics by any stretch of the imagination. The undercard was full of cool moments, but it lacked consistency. Overall, I enjoyed this viewing experience, but it's not great or anything like that.