Repost: The Rise And Fall of ECW

(As requested, a repost of the ECW DVD review I lost a while back.  This is originally from 2004, so for fun we’ll do some 2012 Scott sez stuff too, if warranted.)  The SmarK Rant for the Rise and Fall of ECW – And so here we are, years after the death of the little promotion that could, with the hardcore alternative ironically chronicled by the mainstream survivors of the wrestling wars. I was never a huge fan, to say the least, but they had their moments and you can’t deny the impact.  (I believe this is one of the biggest-selling DVDs in WWE history, if not the biggest one outside of Wrestlemania.)  – We start with Paul Heyman coming into Eastern Championship Wrestling and helping out booker Eddie Gilbert with a show, because wrestling was becoming hair bands. So Paul invented The Public Enemy and Taz. We are also introduced to Sabu and get some comments from Heyman and Tommy Dreamer about him. – Paul talks about Terry Funk wanting to come in and make some new stars to ensure the survival of the sport. This leads into the three-way dance 60 minute draw between Shane Douglas, Terry Funk and Sabu, which I always thought was horribly overrated. We also get the “smash your knee to obliticree” promo from Shane afterwards, as he wants to be champion. – Paul talks about his relationship with WCW. Quote: “I told them to go fuck themselves when they treated people like shit.” Well, this is certainly an M-rated DVD.  (Don’t tell Linda McMahon’s PR team!) – Next intro, Tommy Dreamer, as he transforms from pretty boy into someone the fans respect. This leads into the Sandman v. Dreamer feud that introduces Singapore canes to the wrestling world and turns Dreamer into hardcore tough guy. That was pretty nasty stuff and RSPW went insane for it back in the day.  (Don’t forget that Sandman used to be a California surfer dude before ECW made him into a totally new character too!  It was actually a really interesting approach to the usual repackaging, because instead of just taking Skip Sheffield and making him Ryback, for instance, Heyman would actually maintain character continuity by having Tommy Dreamer the character change from one thing to another, or have Scotty Flamingo get disenchanted with the world and become Raven, rather than just introducing Scott Levy as a new character.  It was an interesting approach to character rehab that doesn’t really get done anymore outside of, say, David Otunga suddenly becoming a coffee-drinking lawyer.)  – Tommy Dreamer talks about the differences between WWE and WCW and what ECW was doing at the time, and Paul talks about how you have to respect the past, but find something new to present.  (Like what I was just talking about.  Rehab the character instead of just throwing it out and starting fresh.)  – Mick Foley talks about WCW wanting to establish relations with ECW, and getting sent over as a goodwill gesture of sorts. Funny promo with Jack spitting on the WCW tag title and then talking about losing his real title: “World’s ugliest wrestler”.  (Pretty sure Ryback beat him for that one a while ago.)  – Next up, we meet Mikey Whipwreck, the ultimate hardluck underdog. We bypass the TV title reign that went nowhere and get into the tag title reign with Cactus Jack that was much funnier.  (I was really disappointed in the payoff for the TV title reign, actually, with Mikey just losing the belt to manager Jason one day.  That was always Paul’s downfall, in that he was all build and no delivery.)  – In August ’94, Shane Douglas wins the NWA World title…and throws it down to create the ECW World title, thus destroying the lineage of the NWA title pretty much for good. This isn’t as huge today, but it killed the NWA dead back then and it was pretty huge at the time. (Nowadays Colt Cabana could burn the belt live on his podcast and I’m pretty sure even the NWA wouldn’t give a shit.)  On the next show, Eastern Championship Wrestling was dead and Extreme Championship Wrestling was born. This was actually a double-cross on Dennis Corralluzzo, who had no clue what was happening around him. – We skip ahead a year or so, with the Malenko-Guerrero-Benoit invasion, thus showing that ECW was suddenly the cool place to make a name. It also allowed them to expand their audience with a more pure wrestling viewpoint. – Paul and his producer talk about their production style and hiding the negatives, which was pretty much their philosophy all along. Another philosophy: If we fuck up, it stays in. (That’s like the entire writing style of RAW now.)  This leads into a discussion of the fans, and Hat Guy gets his five seconds of fame with a mention on the DVD. – Onto Raven, and the feud with Tommy Dreamer. This been covered to death already. – Tazz talks about the history with Sabu and how they didn’t get along backstage. Sabu no-shows one night and Paul fires him, leading to a short-lived “Fuck Sabu” movement among the fickle ECW fans. Tommy: “Paul never lied to the fans. He lied to the WRESTLERS. But not the fans.” (Tommy’s a funny guy.)  Tazz breaks his neck and takes nine months off, setting up a big showdown when he returns. – We get a funny three-way argument (via editing) with Heyman, Bischoff and Vince, as Paul accuses Eric of raiding Benoit & Eddie, Eric accuses Vince of raiding the territories years back and Paul of bouncing cheques, and Paul retorting that Eric is full of shit. And then Vince admits that HE raided the ECW roster. That’s awesome. – So with the roster depleted, Paul brings in the Mexicans. Rey does a rana off a fan’s car. Paul: “If my father wasn’t a lawyer, I could never have pulled off ECW. I got sued more times than Martha Stewart.” – And then Steve Austin gets fired, which allows Paul to do his Steve Austin impression here, and Steve to do his Hulk Hogan impression back then. Both rule.  (I find it funny that Hogan’s cliched interview style was parodied by Austin, who in turn went on to create his own cliched interview style that was in itself ripe for parody.)  Not to mention the Monday Nyquil promo. The producer talks about the Austin and Foley promos and how great they were. No shit. I actually have a tape from RF Video from years ago that’s nothing but their ECW promos and it’s awesome.  (What are these “RF Video” and “tape” things he speaks of?)  – OK, so nine months later Tazz returns as the mat-wrestling animal instead of the Tazmaniac. Paul talks about Tazz bringing the “big fight atmosphere” to the arena, which was missing from wrestling.  (Um…does Paul do lottery numbers, too?  And guess who he ended up managing?)  – On the other end of the spectrum, Raven steals Sandman’s son and wife, which I never really cared for. – The Blue World Order ends up being the culmination of Steve Richards’ series of parodies, but the people went nuts for it and it ended up sticking. Well, that was pretty random. – So back to the Raven-Tommy thing, with Beulah announcing her pregnancy, which led to the goofy lesbian angle that paid it off. Tommy’s “I’ll take ’em both!” reaction was the moment that pretty much made him a legend in the ECW arena. – So back in the WWF, Mabel is King of the Ring and the Philly fans there are busy chanting “ECW” to show their displeasure. So Vince listens and stages an ECW invasion at Mind Games in 1996, with Dreamer and Sandman annoying Savio Vega during a match with future WWE champion Justin Hawk Bradshaw. – So back in ECW, Raven crucifies Sandman with Kurt Angle in the audience, thus making him stay away from wrestling for another three years. Raven actually apologizes to the audience for doing it. Paul lied to Angle about it. I’m shocked. I’m pretty sure this was never shown anywhere before. – The PPV era begins, sort of, as Paul can’t break through to In Demand, but the fans petition them until it happens. And then…Mass Transit kills it all. Thankfully they don’t show it. So Paul begged and whined and finally they got back on the PPV schedule again. – So with the WWF roster overseas in February, ECW gets RAW for one night in Manhattan, leading to a mini-invasion angle to promote the PPV. Vince admits he was funding them.  (Pretty fun show, too.)  – Barely Legal went off pretty well, although unfortunately due to timing they were entering the PPV arena after the peak of their influence. RVD and Lance Storm talk about Rob’s bad attitude that night and how he created the Mr. Monday Night persona as a result. – Tazz talks about the big match with Sabu, which unfortunately didn’t live up to the hype at all. Terry Funk won the World title from Raven 10 seconds before the power supply blew up to cap off the evening. My thoughts on the show are that it was good for the time, but doesn’t hold up today and didn’t pay off the promise that the promotion showed. – So Raven leaves, and Tommy finally gets the win over him. That leads directly to Jerry Lawler showing up to invade ECW, which went on forever and went nowhere. – We move onto Tod Gordon being a “mole” for WCW and getting fired as a result. Bill Alfonso was almost on the chopping block too for talking with Terry Taylor, but actually saved his job by having a great match with Beulah. Seriously. – The wrestlers talk about doing other jobs behind the scenes to keep costs down. Very interesting stuff, especially Stevie doing the ECW hotline and making up a pseudonym for kayfabe purposes and Tommy personally doing t-shirt orders. – The wrestlers talk about Paul Heyman being the David Koresh of wrestling, brainwashing his guys into doing what he needed from them. They also talk about having the creative freedom to do whatever they wanted. – This naturally leads to Al Snow talking about finding Head and saving his career as a result. Paul spent a fortune buying up Styrofoam heads for the fans, thus creating one of the weirdest pushes in history. – Bischoff denies that ECW was ever the #2 promotion, and explains exactly why. He also questions trying to create a national promotion out of something with hardcore content, and I have to agree with that too. Vince never considered them a threat and denies taking the Attitude era from ECW. This leads to a series of clips showing all the stuff they obviously stole from ECW. There’s a lot more open editorializing going on here than usual for one of these things. – Tazz talks about the match with Bam Bam where they went through the ring. This leads him to invent the Fuck The World title to express his annoyance with Shane Douglas ducking him. Eventually Tazz beat Shane to “unify” the titles. – Moving along to the Dudley Boyz and their fan-friendly activities and abuse of tables. I wouldn’t really call the flaming tables stuff worthy of mention. Sadly, we don’t get a Joel Gertner introduction. We do, however, get Bubba’s “We’ve got a woman who taught her daughter how to suck dick” line from the Heat Wave ’99 PPV. – Next up, the guys talk about working for little money as the wrestling business starts to plateau. Lance Storm talks about bounced cheques and having to confront Paul about it. Tommy didn’t get paid for SIX MONTHS. That’s why ECW wasn’t the great wrestling promotion it’s often claimed to be — wrestling is about making money, and it never did thanks to Paul’s lack of business acumen. And lack of delegation skills, which led to things falling apart when he couldn’t keep up anymore and no one else knew how to run things. – So to continue surviving, they needed national TV. So in September of 99, ECW debuted on TNN. By this time, however, the promotion had lived past its expiry date and was running on borrowed time, especially with Paul’s weird ideas about who to push on top. However, with two weeks to go before their debut, WWF stole Tazz and the Dudley Boyz. Tazz felt like he had nothing left to prove and needed a new challenge. The Dudleyz, however, just saw the financial writing on the wall and decided to escape while they could. They wanted to stay, asking only for $1 more to stay, but Paul refused and they left. – Paul’s list of TNN’s grievances with the show is pretty funny, and it leads to the creation of Cyrus, representing “The Network”. And then they wonder why TNN never promoted them. And in 2000, they got kicked off the network to make way for RAW, leading to Paul doing a crazed rant against TNN on national TV. And that was pretty much it for the promotion, as the PPV buys dried up and the fans stopped watching. – But we continue, as Rob Van Dam was the only remaining star left, and when he broke his leg there was nothing left. – More people leave, as ECW champion Mike Awesome jumps to WCW and the cops have to collect the title from him so he can’t throw it in the garbage. So Tazz does a surprise appearance at a spot show in Indiana and wins the title from Awesome, which left a WWF wrestler against a WCW wrestler for the ECW title at an ECW show. Sadly, Tazz brought the title back to the WWF and got to job to HHH. Just because, you know. Vince apologizes here for that one. – So back in ECW, Tommy Dreamer wins the title from Tazz, his only reign with the title, which was then immediately ended by Justin Credible and his opening-match act. Tommy’s “The only reason I won titles was because guys left” is kind of a sad and profound summing up of his career. – Bischoff talks about trying to serve the hardcore audience and win over the mainstream at the same time, and how it couldn’t work. So Paul talks about trying to find a new network, but they couldn’t because TNN wouldn’t cancel them. And when they finally did, the ship had already sunk. The really sad thing is the roll call of guys who had no choice but to stay with the dying promotion because they were outcasts who couldn’t get work elsewhere. – And in January 2001, the promotion quietly folded after a small show in the middle of nowhere, with a scheduled PPV never produced and no alternative thanks to the death of WCW at the same time. – Everyone talks about what killed the promotion, and it’s the usual reasons: too much violence, not enough business sense. Thankfully they don’t try to blame anyone but Paul Heyman, who keeps beating the drum about surviving if they found another network. I wholeheartedly disagree, as the promotion was dead before it even got onto TNN, and they just didn’t know it. – The final shovel of dirt on the promotion comes as Paul Heyman replaces Jerry Lawler on commentary for RAW and all those in denial had to finally acknowledge that it was over. The Extras: – ECW World tag title match, double-dog collar: Raven & Stevie Richards v. The Pitbulls. Scott Keith completists will already know my feelings about this one, but for the rest of you, this is a fairly famous match that is an answer to a trivia question about myself I once posed in a previous rant. The stipulation here is that the Pitbulls have to split up should they lose. Stevie Richards is notably absent from the introductions, and Beulah explains that he has a “broken arm” and will not be participating tonight, so for the sake of fairness the match will be 2/3 falls. Pitbull 2 attacks and hangs Raven with the chain they’re connected with, while Pitbull 1 heads to the back. Vicious chairshot for Raven as #1 finds Stevie in the dressing room, and indeed he’s already a bloody mess. Raven brings a table in, piledrives Pitbull 2 THROUGH the table, and gets the pin at 2:07. Wild spot there. Raven & Stevie double-DDT #1 and get a two-count. Steviekick gets two. Raven and #2 bring another table in and it gets set up. Stevie gets superbombed through it for the pin at 4:17 to even things up. Okay, that was all just the warmup session for the REAL fun. Brawl into the crowd as Pitbull 1 KILLS Stevie, but gets chaired. Meanwhile, #2 and Raven head back in, where a third table gets involved and the ref gets bumped in the process. The Dudleyz run in to make it 4-on-2, and the heels pair off and superbomb both Pitbulls at once. However, since the law of heel-babyface relations says that a babyface having his own move done to him does not have to sell, they invoke it and pop right back up. DDTs for the heels, and the Dudleys get superbombed. Yet another table is set up for Raven, but he hits his head on the EDGE of the table and I’m shocked he’s still alive. That gets two, so he’s alive. They beat on Stevie, while Raven readies an ether-soaked rag to choke #2 out. That spot was intended as a rib on Jim Cornette’s booking. Raven puts him on two tables, legdrops him through the first one, and elbows him through the second one. This being only 1995, that’s devastating enough to require EMTs for Pitbull 2. In the ring, Stevie goes up and gets crotched, and #1 suplexes him through a table for two. Raven unhooks himself from the chain and makes the save. Francine & Beulah do the mandatory catfight, but Raven DDTs Francine to end that. Tommy Dreamer runs in to take Pitbull 2’s place and beats the hell out of Raven. DDT gets the pin at 14:41, but Joey’s not sure who actually gets the belts. Turns out to be a moot point, as Bill Alphonso comes in to overturn the decision since Dreamer isn’t legally in the match, and he was just being nice allowing it to go on under 2/3 falls rules anyway. And the pin on Raven doesn’t count, so he’s still never pinned him. Tod Gordon gets all indignant and comes in to argue with Fonzie, and Big Dick sneaks in to use the currently-banned chokeslam on Dreamer. Fonzie suddenly waffles and decides to un-ban the chokeslam so that he doesn’t have to suspend Big Dick, and with that 911 makes himself known. For those who didn’t follow this stuff back then, fans had basically been waiting since the day of Fonzie’s introduction as Evil Ref for 911 to chokeslam the shit out of him, but Fonzie countered by banning the move. So 911 comes out, gives Fonzie the BIGGEST CHOKESLAM EVER, holding him up there for like 10 seconds, and the place is just going apeshit. Pitbull #2 rejoins things, and they set up Raven for the superbomb, then put Stevie on HIS shoulders, superbomb both guys at once, and Tod Gordon personally counts the pin at 19:40 as the Pitbulls finally beat Raven & Richards to win the titles. Whereas normally overbooking is done too often in the wrong place, this was exactly the right amount of excess done in the right match, with the right finish. And given the total insanity of everything after the 5:00 mark and all the intricate storylines weaved into one 20:00 match, this became the one and only match in ECW history that I ever rated *****, so for those of you who still e-mail me asking about it, there you are. This match was also voted #1 in the DVDVR awards for the Best ECW match of the 90s, so many agree with me on it. Of course, many also disagree, most notably Dave Meltzer (albeit in a nice way). This is definitely a match you need the right context to fully “get”, but I’d recommend checking it out at least once to see what Paul is capable of with the right motivation and guys. – Rey Mysterio Jr. v. Psicosis. OK, proper match this time. From Oct. 95, 2/3 falls. Rey sends Psi out of the ring quickly and follows with a springboard plancha into the first row. Another crazy dive, this one over the top, lands in the first row again. Dangerous area tonight. Back in, Rey snaps off a rana for the pin at 1:20. Second fall, as Rey dodges Psi and gets a leg lariat to send him into the corner, but charges and hits the apron. He recovers with a flying rana that sends Psi to the floor, and he follows with a rana from the apron now. Rey goes back in and Psi stops to recover. Back in, Psi gets an enzuigiri and whips Rey into the corner for a nice upside down bump. Into the other corner off an inverted body vice, and he spears Rey, who is hung in the Tree of Woe. He adds a running boot to the face and a powerbomb for two. Into a Sharpshooter, but he releases. Rey bails, so Psi follows and sends him into the railing, and adds a chair to the knee for good measure. Back in for a slingshot legdrop, but he misses a blind charge. Rey comes back with a handspring into another rana, but a quebrada is caught by Psi and turned into a tombstone for the pin at 7:05 to tie it up. Third fall sees Psi powerbombing Rey through a table on the floor to start, and slamming him into the first row. Nice bump. Psi goes back in and follows with a tope con hilo. Crazy. Back in, Psi misses a blind charge and takes another crazy bump, into the post, and Rey follows with a springboard plancha to the floor. They throw chairs at each other and Rey chokes him out with one, then sends him into the post with a chair around his neck. Back in, Rey gets a flying rana from the top for two. A headscissors puts Psi on the floor, and he follows with a springboard cannonball. They fight on the floor and Rey gets put on a table, and Psi follows with a senton from the top to put him through it. Back in, Psi gets another powerbomb and goes up, moonsaulting onto a chair to finish Rey at 13:53. That was a truly crazy and sick spotfest, and I loved it. Maybe it’s the recent toned-down attitude of the WWE, but this held up really well. ****1/2 – ECW World title, ladder match: Sandman v. Mikey Whipwreck. Sandman’s music is tactfully edited out by the production guys, for what should be obvious reasons. So is Mikey’s, since Beck costs as much as Metallica, I guess. The belt isn’t hanging anywhere, it’s just a match with a ladder involved. Entrances alone burn 10 minutes of the 18 allotted to the chapter, by the way, including Steve Austin’s saunter into the ring during the introductions and hilarious verbal attacks on both guys. Mikey hits Sandman with the ladder to start and they brawl outside, but Mikey gets dropped headfirst on the ladder as they head back in. Ouch. Sandman does his somersault legdrop (nearly slipping off the apron in the process) and Mikey bails to recover. Sandman throws the ladder at him, and then puts it on the apron and suplexes Mikey onto it. He follows with a legdrop that puts Mikey on the concrete. He finally gets some offense with a chairshot and a rana from the apron that allows Sandman to showcase his, ahem, awesome selling skills, and they fight into the crowd. Sandman jumps over the top, onto the ladder, hitting Mikey in the face with it as a result. That actually came across as improvised instead of horribly contrived for once. Back in, Sandman misses another legdrop and Mikey comes back by hitting him with the ladder, a couple of times. That gets one. Mikey goes up and splashes Sandman under the ladder for the pin and the title at 6:30. The pre-match promo was way better than the match. * – TV Title match: 2 Cold Scorpio v. Sabu. Sabu goes for the chair really quickly and takes Scorp out. Scorpio bails and Sabu follows with a chair-assisted tope con hilo. Back in the ring, and Scorpio reverses a powerbomb into one of his own, then a legdrop off the second rope. He rams Sabu face- first into a chair. He tries it again, and Sabu reverses. Air Sabu and we’re back on the floor again. Running somersault off the apron and back into the ring. Scorpio with a crescent kick to waylay Sabu and then he nails Sabu with a running chairshot. Scorpio on the offensive with a Stinger splash, but Sabu reverses an Ocean Cyclone Suplex attempt into a rollup for two. A wrestling sequence leads to Sabu going to the rear chinlock, then a regular chinlock. C’mon guys, GST. Get your Shit Together. Scorpio punts Sabu in the boys to send him outside the ring, then suplexes him in for two. Sabu doesn’t appreciate that and smacks him around, then hits a slingshot legdrop for two. Sabu works the armbar, but Scorpio escapes and misses a moonsault. Man, eh got so much hangtime he nearly overshot. Sabu the Arabian Facebuster for two, but he hurts his leg. Scorpio takes advantage with a pancake and a standing moonsault for two. He crotches him on the bottom rope for good measure. Tumbleweed misses, and Sabu goes to the top, but get powerbombed off for two. Scorpio to the top, and Sabu with a victory roll from the top for two. Scorpio misses a dropkick and heads out, and Sabu follows with a top suicida. Back in and a slingshot clothesline gets two. Sabu goes back to the armbar. Scorpio escapes and drops him on the mat face-first. He tries what looks like a TKO, but Sabu grabs the top rope and back out we go. Sabu moonsaults off the apron, almost breaking his knees on the railing in the process. He sets up a ridiculously intricate spot, putting Scorpio on the table in the front row, then setting up a chair in the ring. He jumps on the chair, onto the top rope, and dives onto the table, just as Scorpio moves, and goes through the table. Pretty cool spot, but out of place. Joey: “I think he may be dead”. Back in the ring and Scorpio gets a two out of all that. Scorpio with an ugly powerbomb, reversed to an uglier rana by Sabu. Either Sabu is a great actor or he’s really messed up. Sabu with a moonsault for two. Another one misses badly, and Scorpio hits a powerbomb and Da Bomb for two. Kind of a uranage thing sets Sabu up for a legdrop off the top with a chair across his face. It gets two. Back to the top, but Sabu smacks him with the chair and hits a rana for two. Double-KO spot with two minutes left. The fans smell the draw. 450 splash from Scorpio, but he won’t cover. He goes to the other corner and misses whatever by a mile. Sabu drops a couple of legs with a chair in the middle, but time runs out. Spotty, but pretty much the best Sabu match I’ve seen in a long time. **** – Tommy Dreamer v. Raven. This is what was supposed to be the “final” match between them, although Raven’s departure for WCW proved to be less final. Tommy and Raven immediately fight into the crowd and Tommy gets the best of that. This has commentary from Coach and Tommy on the secondary track, by the way. Yes, COACH, bastion of hardcore wrestling. Raven comes back with a piledriver on a table, which doesn’t break, and Tommy offers a self-deprecating comment about it. Up to the stage, where Raven rams Tommy into the wall and sets up another table, but that backfires on him. Coach and Tommy taking shots at Raven is pretty funny. Back down to the floor, as they whip each other into the guardrail and Raven gets crotched on it. Because it’s not a Tommy Dreamer match unless someone’s getting cracked in the nuts with a steel object. So back into the crowd with more funny comments from Dreamer and reminiscing about Heyman ripping him off. Back to the floor, as Raven chairs Tommy, and they finally get into the ring, where Raven gets the DROP TOEHOLD OF DOOM. And as expected, Tommy takes a shot in the nuts. Up to the top, but Tommy fights him off, only to get tossed onto a chair for two. He comes back with the hiptoss DDT, but the ref is bumped via a sign from the crowd. It turns out to be a road sign (which Tommy takes credit for inventing), and Tommy piledrives Raven on it for two. Lucas the lackey gets involved and Beulah gets rid of him, but Raven rolls up Tommy for two. Tommy rolls up Raven for two. Chastity sprays him in the face with something and Raven gets two, and we’ve got a catfight as the overbooking kicks in something fierce. Tommy gets a DDT onto the sign for two. The ref is bumped again as Tommy gets a millionth DDT, but now Louie Spicoli runs in and DDTs Dreamer and puts Raven on top for two. Tommy comes back and gets rid of Louie, but Raven DDTs him for two. Enough with the DDT. Tommy obliges by changing to a Death Valley Driver, then another DDT for the pin at 15:08. But the lights go out and RVD appears (doing the WWF invader gimmick) and beats up on Dreamer. Then lights out and Sabu appears for more beatings. Dreamer comes back again, so lights out a third time and this time it’s Jerry Lawler, and that was huge. It turns into a giant brawl with the heels just kicking the crap out of Dreamer and no one able to get into the ring and save. It would lead to Jerry Lawler v. Tommy Dreamer at the Hardcore Heaven PPV in a match was given rave reviews at the time, but pretty much sucks these days. Much like this one, which was brawling and a million DDTs and nothing else. Great commentary, though. *3/4 – ECW TV title: Tazz v. Bam Bam Bigelow. Michael Cole & Tazz are doing alternate commentary here, ‘natch. This is more famous for the finish than the match. Tazz takes him down with an armbar to start, but they quickly fight out and Tazz gets sent into the railing. Back in, Bammer gets a powerbomb for two. He sets up Tazz in the corner, but charges right into a lariat that looked pretty darn stiff. Tazz tries a suplex, but Bam Bam falls on top for two. Bigelow charges and gets dumped on the ramp, and Tazz follows with an exploder that results in him knocking himself silly on the railing as he takes the landing wrong. Tazz is loopy and talks about it on the commentary, so Bam Bam clotheslines him back to the ringside concrete again. Because that’s the best medicine for concussions. Back in, Bam Bam gets a DDT and goes up for a bad moonsault that gets two. Bammer grabs a table (which proves to be pre-broken) and can’t really set it up, but Tazz fights out of a powerbomb and flapjacks Bam Bam through it. Cole claims that Bigelow was sandbagging him on that one, which is kind of weird coming from Michael Cole. Tazz gets two. They fight outside and exchange shoot punches over a piece of wood that didn’t break right (according to Tazz) and it’s back into the crowd. BBB hammers on him, which only gets Tazz more fired up, and Bigelow slips and falls on his ass doing a low blow. Back in, Bigelow tries Greetings from Asbury Park, but Tazz reverses to the choke and Bigelow falls back…and the ring breaks, as they fall into a hole in the corner. Tazz reveals that he’s unconscious down there after hitting his head on the way down, and Bam Bam pulls him out and gets the pin and the title at 13:34. Didn’t like it back then, still don’t like it, although the commentary reveals a lot of hidden entertainment value. ** – ECW TV title: Rob Van Dam v. Jerry Lynn. This is from the Hardcore Heaven 99 PPV, and RVD provides commentary along with Michael Cole. They trade wristlocks to start and take it to the mat, but it’s a stalemate. Another reversal series and another stalemate follows. Rob does some stalling and talks about how Fonzie’s whistle didn’t actually bother him. He’s the only one. Another stalemate and Rob gets a mouse on his right eye, and it’s more stalling. Lynn bails and Rob follows with a plancha, but misses. Lynn dropkicks him on the apron and follows with a guillotine legdrop for two. They head up and Jerry gets a nasty bulldog from the top for two. Back up for Lynn, but Fonzie crotches him and holds up the chair. Lynn ducks tries a springboard dropkick, but Rob counters that and crotches him, then kicks him down to the floor, as Lynn takes the bump wrong and knocks himself out. That seems to be a theme for this disc. Rob picks up the dead weight JL (literally, not like Kevin Nash) and knocks him into the crowd again to buy some time. Jerry finally recovers as they head into the ring, and comes back with a rollup out of the corner for two. Rob hits him with a piledriver counter and Rolling Thunder, but another try misses. Into the corner, as they counter each other’s DDT attempt and Rob gets a bridge for two. Lynn powerbombs him out of the corner for two. Lynn heads out and sets up a table on the floor, but gets backdropped into the front row. Fonzie tosses a chair at Lynn, who stupidly catches it and eats a Van Daminator. Lynn recovers and they fight on the apron, however, but now Lynn gets backdropped off the top and through a table on the other side. Rough luck tonight. Rob puts him on the railing and drops the leg on him, and back in he gets two. The chair gets involved again as Rob kicks the chair at his head after 15 flips, and back to the top they go. Lynn goes down first and Rob follows with the legdrop, but Lynn fights back and they battle on the apron, which leads to Lynn powerbombing RVD off the apron, through a table. Back in, Lynn misses a blind charge, but comes back and kills Fonzie with a chair, then follows with a german suplex for two. To the top, but Rob kicks him down, and they fight over a suplex. No one gets it, as both fall off and the fans get on them. Rob picks up the chair, but Lynn hits him with a Van Daminator for two. Sneaky. Another reversal as they’re running on fumes, but Lynn goes for the cradle piledriver and then opts for a rollup for two. Back to the top and Lynn goes down this time, which allows Rob to follow with a split-legged moonsault for two. Lynn comes back with an inverted DDT attempt, but Rob reverses out and legdrops him, then goes up with the frog splash, but Lynn reverses the pin for two. They fight for a suplex, but Rob opts for the Van Daminator instead and finishes with the frog splash at 26:56. Started slow with a lot of stalling, but they really won me over by the end with all the counters and false finishes. **** Lynn should have gone over here, though. – Stevie Richards talks about suffering a serious neck injury in 1997, and then lying about it and going to WCW as a result. That didn’t last long, as he had heat with Raven and went back to ECW briefly before jumping to the WWE for good. So this is basically his apology to the boys for doing such a dillweed at the time. OK then. – Next up, Tazz talks about trying to get Paul Heyman’s blessing for his WWE career. It was always his dream to work in MSG, and he called Heyman from the train after not speaking to him for months. – Jericho talks about Paul’s travel booking skills, or lack thereof. Most notably, Heyman buying a bereavement fare for Jericho and Johnny Smith because “brother in law” Chris Benoit had “died”. – There’s also a couple of Easter Eggs here, the best of which is Mikey training with Public Enemy to prepare for his World title match with Sandman, as Rocco Rock sounds drunk off his ass. Funny stuff. The Inside Pulse: This was probably one of the best “history of” bits they’ve done, as Vince’s “ECW is not a threat” attitude meant that they had the freedom to basically paint history as it was rather than how the WWE wants it to be remembered. At three hours, it’s a bit much for casual fans, but if you want to know pretty much everything about ECW there is to know, this is for you. I think it also works as a sad chronicle of how wrestling is a business and not a grand fairy tale, summed up by the renegade promotion having its last gasp as part of a DVD released by the winners of the war. The extras disc is a mixed bag, but there’s pretty much something for every aspect of ECW here aside from the REALLY hardcore element, and it’s hard to find fault with the match selection. And hey, there’s always that 24/7 channel anyway. Highest recommendation.