What the World Was Watching: ECW: Return of the Funker

Joey Styles is doing commentary for the show, which took place at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 25.  According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the card attracted a crowd of 1,100 fans, the best attendance for an ECW show to date.

Opening Contest:  The Pitbulls (1-0) defeat Chad Austin & Joel Goodhart when Pitbull #2 pins Goodhart after a superbomb at 4:33:

Austin was a long-time ECW jobber, joining the company in October 1993 after some appearances in the USWA and Smoky Mountain.  His ECW run would extend into 1996 when New Jack shot on him during a match and injured his face and broke his leg in five places.  Goodhart was also a long-time ECW jobber, first wrestling for the company in June of 1994 in a losing effort against 911.  He usually wrestled under the name Joel Hartgood, but is renamed for this squash, bearing the name of the promoter of Tri State Wrestling Alliance (TWA), which was the predecessor of ECW.  This squash is a metaphor for ECW’s rebellion against 1995’s pro wrestling establishment since the Pitbulls have a rougher look and Austin sports multi-colored tights akin to what a midcarder in a major promotion might wear.  The jobbers are tossed around and Goodhart gets the worst of it as Pitbull #2 murders him with a clothesline when he steps between the ropes and Pitbull #1 breaks a crutch over his back on the arena floor.  Like their six-man tag appearance at Double Tables, this match could be shorter, but it gets over the Pitbulls ferocity since they were bigger than their opponents and use out a lot of power moves.

Styles interviews Raven and Steve Richards.  Raven chastises Richards for failing to take down Tommy Dreamer and waxes poetic about how he will make Dreamer bleed.  Dreamer interrupts and tells Raven to put up or shut up.  Raven responds that now is not the time and place for them to fight, but vows to take a beating from Dreamer if Dreamer feels motivated.  Dreamer walks away instead, prompting Raven to tell Styles that Dreamer will never escape his past.  Richards admits he let Raven down when he last faced Dreamer and introduces two guys who beat him up in the past that Raven and he can use to beat up Dreamer.  The two men are former ECW Tag Team Champions the Broad Street Bullies (Johnny Hotbody & Tony Stetson).  Stetson promises that they will to be loyal to Raven and he can count on them, only to have Dreamer return to the ring, beat them up, and lay waste to Richards.  Raven, as he promised earlier, refuses to engage as Dreamer chokes him in the corner in between beating up his three allies.  However, he later changes his mind and starts brawling until JT Smith and other members of the locker room break it up.

Jason & Paul Lauria (w/Masked Man) defeat Mikey Whipwreck & Hack Myers when Lauria pins Myers after a Masked Man interferes at 15:00:

Whipwreck’s feud with Jason and Lauria continues here, with Myers serving as the third wheel so someone can do the job without stifling the feud’s heat.  Lauria must love showing his naked rear end as he has pulled the famous Ric Flair spot where his tights get pulled down on the last two ECW Arena cards.   Whipwreck and Myers make for a fun team, with Whipwreck spamming headscissors and Myers providing the power.  The heels do some sloppy cooperative double teams off the ropes onto Whipwreck, with the ECW crowd showering them with whistles as if they are about to make out.  Jason busts out an inverted Razor’s Edge that sounds better in theory than execution because taking a good bump from the move would be impossible without breaking one’s neck.  A masked man is in Jason and Lauria’s corner throughout and as expected, he makes his presence known at the end by running in, nailing Myers with a right hand, and helping the heels prevail.  A lot of reviewers do not care for this match, but the action is very free flowing and engaged the crowd, which overcame some sloppy sequences on the heel side.  It was perfectly fine for a midcard tag bout.  Rating:  **½

2 Cold Scorpio (1-1) pins Hector Guerrero after the Scorpio Splash at 11:22:

Guerrero was the son of Gory Guerrero and brother of Eddie, possibly achieving his biggest fame in wrestling under a mask as the Gobbledy Gooker in the WWF.  He was brought into ECW for a few matches to put over its main talent, especially ECW Champion Shane Douglas.  Scorpio is still a top contender for Dean Malenko’s television title, so he needs to keep winning to retain his status in that division.  Guerrero works as a heel, getting into arguments with referee Jim Molineaux and even poking him in the eye.  After a slow start where Guerrero works a lot of submissions, each man exchanges a quick, albeit sloppy series of near-falls and a stun gun and Scorpio Splash to the back allows Scorpio to prevail.  The sloppiness got in the way of this getting into “good” territory as these two had very little chemistry.  Rating:  **

Barbed Wire Baseball Bat on a Pole Match:  Axl Rotten (0-1) defeats Ian Rotten (1-0) after a pancake slam onto the bat at 12:16:

In an interesting twist, the barbed wire baseball bat never gets on the pole as Ian attacks the ring attendant placing it there and grabs it before Axl can make his entrance.  Axl decides to counter with a chair, so it is sort of like matching up Sting and La Parka in the WCW/NWO Revenge video game.  They brawl into the crowd after Ian has been bloodied by the bat and make some teenager’s day when he gets to hold a chair in place so Axl can toss Ian into it.  Both end up a bloody mess as they use the barbed wire as a weapon.  They go back into the crowd, with Axl suplexing Ian on the raised bleachers and Ian taking fan interaction to a whole new level by taking a fan’s belt off to whip his brother with it.  What hinders the match is the time it is given.  The sick spectacle ends when Axl pancake slams Ian onto the bat.  As a seven-minute brawl this would have been fine, but they ran out of things to do by the nine-minute mark.  Still, this was miles better than their match Double Tables.  Rating:  *½

After the match, Ian attacks Axl with the bat and smashes it into his brother’s right leg.

ECW Championship Match:  Shane Douglas (Champion) beats Marty Jannetty after a powerbomb at 18:20:

Jannetty was scouring the independent scene after leaving the WWF in 1994, likely due to the WWF litigating the Chuck Austin injury case where Austin was injured wrestling the Rockers and broke his neck on a Rocker Dropper in a 1990 squash.  Austin received $10 million from a settlement and Jannetty was ordered to pay $500,000 in the original verdict.  Like 1989-1991 Tito Santana, Jannetty could never let his former tag team glory go as he sports Rocker gear for the match.  These two also worked as the New Rockers in 1990 WWF when Shawn Michaels was put on the sidelines after SummerSlam with a knee injury.  After a slow opening, Jannetty starts bouncing off things to get the match over.  He takes a chest-first bump across the guardrail from a suplex, does his 360 degree sell from a Douglas clothesline, somersaults into the guardrail, flies into the ring post, and takes a back bump across several chairs on the floor.  The “are we in or are we out?” nature of the bout hurts its flow, though.  A Rocker Dropper and DDT score close near-falls for Jannetty but the champion catches his leapfrog with a powerbomb to retain.  Jannetty was the star here, making this good through sheer force of will.  It also quieted some vocal detractors who were trying to get under his skin who were chanting for Shawn Michaels.  Rating:  ***¼

Styles interviews the Public Enemy, with Rocco Rock confined to a wheelchair.  The crowd works up a “You were robbed!” chant when Rock says he put Sabu through a table first at Double Tables.  At the end of their appearance, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko came out and Malenko spit on Grunge.  In the midst of the brawl, Benoit hit Grunge with a chair and Malenko pushed a wheelchair-bound Rock into a Benoit clothesline.  Rock is then put back in the wheelchair and tossed into the guardrail, with Grunge later whipped into a Benoit chair shot.

ECW Tag Team Championship Match:  Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko defeat Sabu & Taz (Champions) (w/Paul E. Dangerously & 911) (1-1) when Benoit pins Sabu after a superbomb to win the titles at 10:31:

ECW cannot make up its mind about whether it wants to call Taz “Taz” or “the Tazmaniac.”  The normal chaos of an ECW tag team match results, with the challengers working over Sabu’s neck with brainbusters and a reverse bulldog-powerbomb combination.  Taz gets to show off his suplex arsenal but fighting two-on-one is not easy and Malenko clips him when he lifts Benoit for an electric chair drop.  The heels work the left knee until 911 carries Taz to the locker room, leaving Sabu alone.  Sabu gives it the old college try, nearly botching a somersault plancha onto Malenko, hitting Benoit with a suicide dive and Asai moonsault, flooring his opponents with a flying body press to the floor, and then using a chair to catapult himself into another somersault plancha onto the challengers.  However, when Sabu gets cute by putting a table and chair on the top rope, Benoit knocks him off in a spot that could have easily busted Sabu’s knee.  Benoit follows with a superbomb off the table and even though Malenko is decked by Dangerously’s phone, Benoit covers to earn the three count and the titles.  A lot of smoke and mirrors were used to put this match together, but it was very entertaining.  Rating:  ***

After the match, Benoit gets on the house mic and taunt Public Enemy.  The Enemy hit the ring, with Grunge clearing house as 911 brings Taz back to the ring.  As the Enemy and the new tag champions brawl on the floor, 911 lifts Taz and tosses him on top of the two teams.  And 911 chokeslams the referee as the three teams brawl to the backstage area.

Cactus Jack (3-0) defeats D.C. Drake (w/Woman & the Sandman) after a double-arm DDT at 4:08:

Drake was a local independent wrestler who competed for the Pennsylvania-based National Wrestling Federation (NWF) in the 1980s, winning the promotion’s heavyweight title.  He wrestled on the first two Eastern Championship Wrestling cards in 1992 before retiring due to injuries.  Drake appears out of a giant box that is near ringside, glad in black eye liner like Alice Cooper.  Styles says “It’s D.C. Drake!” as if the fans know who he is.  Most of those in attendance are underwhelmed, booing the reveal.  The match is awful as Drake is out of ring shape, not able to get his boot up to effectively meet Cactus on a blind charge and throwing some weak right hands.  The only highlight is when Drake makes superfan Hawaiian Shirt Guy upset by knocking his hat off.  A double arm DDT mercifully finishes after the Cactus Elbow from the apron.  Rating:  DUD

After the match, the Sandman attacks Jack with a Singapore cane and Drake joins in.  Jack fights back and he throws the Sandman into the big box at ringside and rolls a man covered in a big black sheet into the ring.  However, when the sheet comes off it is revealed to be Terry Funk in the Sandman’s pants.  The crowd pops and cheers for Funk as he and Jack exchange shots until the Sandman comes in to aid Funk in the encounter.  Mikey Whipwreck’s save attempt is thwarted and when Jack gets the Singapore cane, Funk does not sell the headshots.  A double caning of Jack by the Sandman and Funk ensues, with jobbers trying and failing to make the save.  Tommy Dreamer tries his hand and takes out the Sandman, but he cannot bring himself to take out Funk, who slaps him until the Sandman recovers and cracks Dreamer over the head with a cane shot.  Funk gets on the house mic and says he no longer cares about the ECW fans, inciting the crowd to come to Jack’s rescue as he begs for someone to save him.  Eventually, Shane Douglas comes out since he and Jack were Dominic DeNucci trainees and Woman tries to entice him into joining she, the Sandman, and Funk as a new Four Horsemen.  Douglas initially agrees before turning on the heels by hitting the Sandman with the ECW title belt, earning a loud reaction.

The Last Word:  The last segment was really well done, with a big reveal, the formation of a new heel alliance, Cactus Jack begging for his life on the mic after taking a hellacious beating, and Shane Douglas coming to the aid of an old friend.  The other two major bouts for the ECW title and ECW tag titles were good too, so this was another awesome outing for the promotion.

Backstage News*:        Terry Funk and Cactus Jack’s feud is supposed to get them a lot of press for a big match in Japan, possibly hair vs. hair at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium, in August.

*When asked about Douglas at an autograph signing in Durham, North Carolina, Ric Flair said that Douglas was primarily a schoolteacher now and said you have to do what you can to make a name in professional wrestling.  Douglas has reportedly been offered a tryout by the WWF to do color commentary for Monday Night RAW.

*ECW has cancelled a house show at Cheney College in Pennsylvania that was scheduled for March 4.

*Backstage news courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for March 6 and 7.

Up Next:  ECW Hardcore TV for February 28!

My third e-book recently dropped on Amazon, which recaps WCW from the first Monday Nitro in September 1995 to December.  It is $2.99 and covers all of the matches, angles, and events of the beginning of the Monday Night Wars.  My author page also provides links to my other works on the WWF and WCW in 1995.