ECW Hardcore TV: January 23, 1997

What on earth is this program I just stumbled on? I asked for ECW; and here I’m greeted by JOEY STYLES standing in a wrestling ring, in front of an actual audience. No 38 minutes of pre-tapes? No “fan cam” designed to make me dizzier than an amusement park ride? You’ve got my attention, ECW.
Styles doesn’t even get a chance to say or do anything before TOMMY DREAMER is attacked by THE TRIPLE THREAT. The fans chant for “TERRY” to save him, but he fails to appear because Tommy gets tossed off of Raven’s Nest and to the floor. FRANCINE takes a bow to the taunts of “SHE’S A WHORE”. It’s only AFTER the medical crew starts to work over the fallen Tommy Dreamer that TERRY FUNK shows up. Dude, I know you’re 55 years old, but even impotent grandfathers have been known to respond faster than that. After angrily throwing weapons around (and potentially putting Dreamer in MORE danger with the projectiles), he decides to help out and wheel his buddy backstage … walking RIGHT into an ambush by TOMMY RICH. Terry’s pummelled into a fine powder.

After the intro, a confused Joey Styles follows the advice of his director to “start over”, so we get the welcome a second time. His special guest is TAZ, flanked by BILL ALPHONSO. Alphonso steals the mic, and tells Joey that Taz was at the gym pumping 2000 pounds this morning. Taz burns a hole through Joey’s head, while the fans chant for “SABU”. Taz: “You’re gonna have to yell a little louder cuz he’s 90,000 fucking miles away in Japan, because he’s so ‘loyal’ to you people.” RVD’s with him, instead of manning up and facing Taz one on one. He figures if Paul can ever grow enough balls to sign Sabu to a contract, he’ll need all of 5 minutes to take him apart.
THE ELIMINATORS vs. AXL ROTTEN & D-VON DUDLEY (for the ECW world tag-team titles)
Taz joins Styles on commentary, showing early flashes of his eventual calling. Taz might be the smartest wrestler of the attitude era; escaping the perils of in-ring action at a young enough age so as not to have as many long-term problems, while still making a living from the profession he knows. Kronus hits a roundhouse kick, but Rotten comes back with clotheslines all around. Everyone squares off trading punches, but Saturn changes to kicks to the face while leaves Axl stunned. Saturn flies off the top with a kneedrop, and then dives to the outside with an axehandle for D-Von. In the ring, Kronus hits the handspring back elbow on Rotten, but D-Von has re-entered with Saturn and drops a leg off the top for 2. Axl nails Saturn with a DDT while D-Von rocks Kronus with a chair to the face. A pancake from Rotten gets 2. D-Von follows with the chair, but Saturn dropkicks it into his face before Axl is finishes with Total Elimination at 5:25. Total distorted mess. *
Because of Dreamer’s injuries, tonight’s main event between Tommy and Douglas has been cancelled. Also, earlier tonight …
SHANE DOUGLAS interrupted a match between PITBULL #2 and BUBBA RAY DUDLEY to put a bounty on the head of Pitbull. THE BAD CREW immediately rush in to claim the prize, but they’re pretty much the worst bounty hunters in history, getting destroyed in seconds. D-VON DUDLEY and AXL ROTTEN try next, but Bubba hits his brother with a vicious Bubba Cutter, while Axl is launched with a fallaway slam off the top! Finally, Douglas says he’ll do it himself, distracting them long enough for BRIAN LEE and CHRIS CANDIDO to attack from behind. A Primetime Slam ends Bubba’s night, leaving Pitbull alone to take a crazy nasty Primetime Slam over the top rope through a table at ringside! Jesus Christ! Shane Douglas, ever the sportsman, hits him with a double arm DDT in the wreckage. Candido and Lee are officially anointed as the newest members of the Triple Threat. Pitbull #2 was Dreamer’s replacement for a title shot tonight … so now what?
TERRY FUNK vs. BRIAN LEE
Funk’s still a bloody mess from Tommy Rich’s attack earlier in the night, barely able to walk, though his mouth is running as usual. Douglas, it’s announced, isn’t going to defend his TV title tonight since all the potential opponents have been killed. Lee wants to start the fight in the crowd, and Terry obliges since he doesn’t really have a personal preference regarding WHERE he gets his ass kicked. Lee takes the kneepads off Funk, and starts whipping away with the steel chair. Of course, knowing what we learned in Beyond The Mat about Terry’s lack of … well, leg joint, makes it just that much more difficult to watch. Back in the ring, Lee plants the old man with a spike piledriver, but he refuses to stay down. In fact, he takes Lee to the floor and gives him a stuff piledriver THROUGH a chair! That’s followed by multiple chair shots across the back and face of the Underfaker, with the kind of force that would probably have him arrested in 2014. In fact, Funk completely loses what’s left of his marbles, and starts throwing all sorts of chairs at Lee in the front row. Terry starts to crawl back towards the ring, but Lee stops him as he crossed the guardrail, and gives him an atomic drop ON the guard rail! After a 10-count of face plants into a ringside table, Terry’s so out of it that he starts swinging at the air. He climbs to the apron, and passes out, falling backwards to the unprotected floor. Styles starts thinking that this comeback might have been a mistake for the 55-year old; but Funk finds just enough wind to slam Lee’s face into the table. In a bit of a convoluted spot, Funk sets a chair up on top of the table, stands on it, and tries to drop a guillotine across Lee’s head to break the table – except with the 3 feet of height and the fact Funk’s completely blown up, he barely gets any momentum and the table doesn’t even crack. Lee recovers as Terry rolls into the ring, so the Bulldozer throws the table over the top rope ON to Terry. Then he shows Funk how to put someone through a table. Funk sits up, still ready to brawl, as Styles apologizes to anyone watching an old man who didn’t know when to give it up. SHANE DOUGLAS runs down now, with CHRIS CANDIDO in tow, and both guys take to beating Terry by the guardrail, JUST in case that wasn’t already a big enough beating for poor Funk. Terry climbs to the safety of the apron, where Lee grabs him by the throat and gives him a Primetime Slam through a new table that the Triple Threat has just set up for this occasion! Douglas rolls him back in, and Lee gets the easy pin at 12:43. **1/2
Funk, drained of blood and thoroughly beaten, shakes and convulses on the mat. Lee figures Funk’s old man is spinning in his grave, watching his “little girl get her ass beat”. Funk gives him the finger, and tells him “I’ll beat the shit out of you, you son of a bitch!” Lee starts headbutting him in the face, which gets him bitch slapped. “YOU’RE A GODDAMN PUNK, I’LL BEAT THE HELL OUT OF YOU!” And so he does; pounding away and trying to choke the life out of him. In fact, Lee starts turning purple and Terry won’t relent, so he’s DAMN lucky that Candido and Douglas are still nearby and able to save his life.
JOEL GERTNER starts his hype central, but notes a hair out of place. Of course, it’s a chest hair, which is taken care of by his comb.
Back in the ring, SHANE DOUGLAS and FRANCINE decide it’s high time to attack the referee; presumably because there’s no one left? A LUCHADORE hits the ring, and Douglas asks “who’s that, Juventud Guerrera?” The masked man promises to change the noise around here, and fuck Douglas up. Shane demands he take off his mask, but he refuses because a) Douglas will shit his pants, and b) the fans are gonna have to deal with the smell. A former NWA champion used to say that “to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man”, and he has someone in the back who’s ready to do JUST that. Douglas demands to know who – and is given the shock of his life when a returning PITBULL #1 rushes in and just obliterates Douglas! Of course, it was Shane who broke his neck months ago, and it’s payback time. Just classic, old school booking here, and the fans explode as Pitbull works his Ultimate Warrior routine all over Shane.
This is more of the ECW I like to see, and it’s easily the best of the Hardcore TV’s we’ve seen. Good week for wrestling all the way around; it’s not often (well, at THIS point) that WCW puts on the weakest of the 3 products. Everyone’s putting their best hand forward, and that’s all we as fans can ever ask for.
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