The SmarK Rant for ECW Wrestling on TNN – 08.27.99
I feel like a ship rudderless at sea now without Superstars and Heat and Mid-South ’85 to guide me. So let’s try something completely different, with the third column of the Attitude Era: Paul Heyman’s attempt to make ECW into a national TV promotion through an ill-fated marriage to The Nashville Network. And since it’s helpfully in its own section of the WWE Network now, I can start working through it.
The first episode was a recap show because they were unable to get usable tapings done in time for the scheduled debut, so that’s already a bad sign. But at least there’s some good stuff here, so we might as well start from the start.
The opening of the show is already a pretty damn good summation of what the promotion is all about.
Your host is Joey Styles.
And what better way to kick off ECW’s new show on a new network than with…
ECW World TV title: Rob Van Dam v. Jerry Lynn
This is from Hardcore Heaven 99, the show where they probably should have just pulled the trigger on Jerry Lynn and been done with it. It’s also a pretty atrocious show with this one match as the highlight, generally speaking. “Walk” is of course excised from the show, although I’m shocked they didn’t overdub with “One of a Kind”, since it usually fits so easily over top of Pantera’s original. At this point, RVD had been champion for a Honky Tonk Man-like 18 months, with no signs of stopping. RVD and Lynn do their usual gymnastics stalemate to start and Rob slugs away on him, but Lynn backdrops him to the apron and dropkicks him to the floor. He follows with a dive and guillotines Rob on the way back in, for two. They fight to the top and Lynn brings him down with a top rope bulldog for two. We take a break and return with Lynn in the crowd, and Rob diving onto him over the railing. They head back into the ring and Lynn tries a tornado DDT, but Rob turns it into a bridge for two. Back to the floor and Lynn ends up in the crowd again, so Fonzie tosses him a chair and Rob hits him with the Van Daminator as we take another break. Back with Rob dropkicking a chair into Lynn’s face in the ring. They fight on the top again and Lynn tries a tornado DDT, but Rob clotheslines him from the apron into the ring and slingshots in with a legdrop for two. They slug it out on the apron and Lynn manages to powerbomb Rob through a conveniently placed table, and both guys are out on the floor. Back from the replay with Lynn going up and Rob cutting him off, but both guys fall down in a major blown spot and Rob gets two. Considering how much was edited out of the match for TV here, why would they leave that in? Lynn gets his own Van Daminator for two. Lynn with an ugly sunset flip and Rob reverses into a cradle for two as Rob looks like he’s either blown up badly or concussed. Probably the concussion. RVD with a split legged moonsault for two. Five Star frog splash, but Lynn reverses to a cradle for two. Rob gets his chair back and hits another Van Daminator, and then finishes with the frog splash at 15:25 aired. I’d call the edited version about ***, but I wasn’t a big fan of the full length original either.
Joey shills some RRRRRRRRRRRRRROLLERJAM in between segments, which turned into a longtime running gag before long. Next up, he lists all the big stars who DIDN’T hold the ECW World title, including Steve Austin! So it must be the best!
Next up, Joey lists the people who HAVE held the title, including Sandman, “who you now know as Hardcore Hak”. Oh man, this is coming off as SOOOOOOO second-rate. It’s no wonder this episode has the rep that it does.
ECW World title: Taz v. Rhino
From Anarchy Rulz 98. Kind of hilarious that they’re putting Taz over so big in this show, just before he jumps ship for more money. Rhino is hilariously young and skinny here compared to the human fire hydrant he turned into just a year later. Also funny to hear Joey put Rhino over as a “rookie” when he was doing jobs on WWF TV years earlier. Taz immediately cuts off Rhino’s stuff and suplexes him all over the place, then brings in a table and suplexes him through it. Tazzmission finishes at 3:05 to complete the squash. I actually don’t think I ever did a rant on this show, because no one in the city was showing it at the time. *
And now we take a look at Sabu. He’s BANNED from competing in the US, you know! Aside from the million indy dates a month he was working at the time.
Little Spike Dudley v. Sal Graziano
Spike with the boot and Acid Drop at 0:15.
Meanwhile, we meet the Impact Players, complete with Jason, Cyrus and Dawn Marie (still called Tammy Lynn Bytch or Dawn Marie Bytch at that point, I think). Just a goofy promo to introduce everyone, because GOD FORBID we go one show without Justin Credible getting put over.
Next up, we get a montage of various people, and then finish with a promo from Taz, who runs down all the current midcarders from other promotions who he has tapped out. Yeah, they hitched their wagon to the wrong horse there.
So yeah, a legendarily terrible episode of television, literally thrown together at the last minute, that came off as a third-rate promotion desperately trying to compete with the big boys with a clip show IN THE FIRST EPISODE, and unfortunately they never really got any momentum back after this bad start. Thankfully the show does get better and turns into a fascinating meta-textual battle between ECW and “The Network” with some good matches here and there, but this was no “AEW exploding on the scene”. I look forward to continuing this trainwreck next time!