ECW Hardcore TV: January 4, 1997

Our final addition to the 1997 timeline is ECW; the “Big 3” that was
never really Big. ECW is likely the biggest “Indy” promotion of all time,
garnering a cult following in the mid-90’s with its irregular seedy
programming. ECW Hardcore TV aired whenever the hell the stations could slot it
in, regularly changing days, but you could be damn sure it was in the middle of
the night.
With the punch-drunk WWF, and the arrogant WCW as its main competitors,
ECW literally took a niche that didn’t previously exist, and exploited the hell
out of it. Owner Paul Heyman was more in touch with the ripped jeans headbanger
grunge rebellious youth of the mid 90’s than Eric Bischoff or Vince McMahon
could hope to be; no matter HOW many focus groups they held. Paul could smartly
take underutilized talent from the big stage, or unknown talent from the indy
world, and give them a pulse. In-ring ability was second to connecting with the
Kool-Aid drinking, rowdy Philadelphia locals, and as long as you had the right
attitude, you were set for life.
On the cusp of entering pay-per-view in late 1996, Heyman showed the
kind of bad judgment that would have had him castrated in the social media era;
by allowing a 16-year old kid to wrestle without conducting any background
checks, and watching New Jack nearly murder him (legitimately) in front of the
blood thirsty locals. His initial PPV offering was cancelled, and ECW seemed to
be back to square one.

Of course, Paul Heyman wouldn’t lie down like that. Doing the socially
responsible thing and owning your actions wasn’t necessary without an outraged
community hounding you with torches and pitchforks, so Heyman managed to smooth
talk the distributers into getting “Barely Legal” put back on the schedule to
air in April of 1997.
Now with his first chance at real, moneymaking, national exposure just
months away, I’m adding ECW to the rotation of shows I recap, so we can watch
the highs and lows of all 3 companies working through the last pro-wrestling
gold rush together.
JOEY STYLES welcomes us to
the ECW Arena; and we have a changing of the guard. The Eliminators captured
the tag-team titles at a live event this week, ending the 4 month reign of the
Gangstas. Yes, even after an unjustified homicide attempt, it would take
another month to get the title off New Jack. THIS is ECW.
New tag-team champions THE
ELIMINATORS
brag about their path of destruction. They’ve defeated, in no
particular order, the Bruise Brothers, Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck, the
Pitbulls, 911 and Rey Mysterio Jr., The Samoan Gangster Party, Rob Van Dam and
Sabu, Dr. Death and Terry Gordy, and now the Gangstas. They’ve been out of
their element for months, chasing them in street fights where they’re major
underdogs, but Total Elimination is the great equalizer. Same strategy as DDP,
focus on the explosive finisher, and push the hell out of them. Not rocket
science.
ROB VAN DAM vs. CHRIS
CANDIDO
This is from an ECW fan-cam in Allentown, PA. It’s absolutely unbearable
footage. Taken on a grainy VHS camcorder by a shaky front row presence, the
fact this is on TV is embarrassing. Van Dam nails a jumping spin kick, and then
does a super convoluted process including a springboard to take us to an
eventual hiptoss. Springboard crossbody gets 2. Candido charges his opponent,
but gets backdropped to the floor. Chris slowly gets to his feet, missing Van
Dam’s somersault plancha.
We zip ahead to a series of pinfall reversals, before Candido just
flattens Rob with a nasty short arm clothesline. Chris starts to stalk Van Dam
around the ring, but misses a corner charge and eats a springboard jump kick to
the chops. Rolling Thunder gut punch sets up a front suplex for 2. A scoop slam
sets up Van Dam’s ultra-fast top rope guillotine, scoring 2.
Another flash forward has Candido back in control, with Van Dam perched
on the top rope. He fights off a powerbomb attempt with a backdrop, and hits a
big crossbody – but Candido rolls through for 2! A bunch of standing switches
are won by Van Dam, and Candido is laid out crotch first on the top rope. A
springboard back elbow knocks Chris off, and gets 2. Van Dam attempts to do
more, but is backdropped over the top rope where he hits the guardrail. A
frustrated Van Dam grabs a giant wooden chair, tosses it to Candido and tries
the Van Daminator. Candido ducks and throws the chair in Van Dam’s face. He
goes for another, but the Van Daminator is waiting for Candido, knocking both
he and the referee who was a little too close, out. And, a knocked out referee
is all SHANE DOUGLAS needs to hit
the ringside area and wrap a chain around his Triple Threat buddy’s arm. He
punches Van Dam in the face, as LOUIE
SPICOLLI
enters the frey in a referee’s shirt. Spicolli takes the place of
the downed referee, so when Candido goes to try and wake him up, he’s given a
big surprise to see his current nemesis lying there. A Death Valley Driver is
delivered, and Van Dam dives on top as the referee recovers for the win at 8:02 (at least of what aired).
Recently, a camera caught up to TAZ
as he left the ECW Arena. He’s pissy because Rob Van Dam needed to bring a
chair into their match, when all the weapons he needs are his fists. However,
he’s not a complainer, because he knew he’d one day choke him out. And now,
he’s going to teach him something else … disrespect.
JOEL GERTNER claims he was
recently hand-picked by Bryant Gumble to replace him on “Today”, but he chose
to stay back in ECW. Also, he’s allegedly pantless and fully erect. Like,
that’s literally it. Glad he’s here.
JOEY STYLES announces that
some 20 years after losing the NWA World Title, Terry Funk will return to ECW
to … face Brian Lee? I’m not drawing the connection, but we’ll roll with it.
Would you like Brian Pillman’s new t-shirt that will allegedly get them
thrown off TV if they air it because it’s so controversial? Well you can have
it, sight unseen, for only $20! I don’t hate the marketing, even if the only
thing that’s controversial here is the fact that they’re making money off a WWF
guy instead of their own talent, but bottom line is bottom line yo.
TV champ SHANE DOUGLAS and FRANCINE gloat about their killer 1996
run. Of course, I imagine the number of men that Douglas put down pales in
comparison to Francine; so really she’s probably deserving of the promo time.
He tells Tommy Dreamer he isn’t allowed the belt, because it’s all his – just
like Francine and her 2 inch vertical gumline.
MIKEY WHIPWRECK vs. RAVEN
(with Lori Fullington) (for the ECW world heavyweight title)
Mikey Whipwreck is of course the former job guy, who went on an
unprecedented run of success without so much as knowing how to perform any
moves. As one might expect, Mikey managed to grow into role, and learned a few
things along the way. With an offensive repertoire now at his disposal … his
days as a champion were over. Go figure. These days he’s kicking around in the
loser gimmick, and somehow inspiring clones in his likeness over in WCW (wassup
Jimmy Graffiti!). Raven works a headlock, but releases it to take issue with
the fans paying more attention to his lackeys (THE BWO, who are looking on from Raven’s Nest) than him.
Cutting ahead, Raven nails the Evenflow DDT, which somehow injures
Mikey’s knee, and Raven retains at 1:29
of what aired. Lori throws in a couple of extra shots after the match, as THE SANDMAN rushes the ring. Raven DDTs
him quickly, and hands the Singapore Cane to Sandman’s ex-wife. Lori happily
belts the Sandman in the eye. Mikey tries to save, allowing Sandman back to his
feet … where he takes another Evenflow. Raven breaks the cane in half, and
poses for the fans, missing the fact Sandman’s on his feet again. Raven takes a
DDT, and Sandman leaves with the World Championship belt as ECW heads off the
air.
I didn’t promise it was the most intelligently written show on the
planet; but it’s got plenty of violence, and for the hungry fans who’d never
seen anything like it before, it wound up being the perfect storm of Right
Place, Right Time. They never really had a legitimate chance at taking over one
of the big 2, due to the graphic nature of their shows, but as long as they’re
able to accept their niche role as the Alternative, they’ll be alright.

We’ll be seeing lots of them throughout this year.