Mike Reviews ECW Living Dangerously 1998 (01/03/1998)

Hello You!

Originally this was going to be posted on Saturday, but that was before I agreed to team up with Rick for G1 this year, so I decided to move it to Monday instead so as to not over-saturate the place with too much Mike.

I decided to review this show next as I recently picked up the RF Video version of it, which means a distinct lack in video quality from the version on the WWE Network but does at least mean that I get the real music, which you kind of need for this show otherwise two matches in particular become close to unwatchable.

This was ECW’s fourth foray into pay per view after a solid start with Barely Legal and two so-so follow ups in the form of Hardcore Heaven and November to Remember. The two big bouts going into this one were Taz defending his ECW TV Title against Bam Bam Bigelow and Shane Douglas teaming up with Chris Candido to take on Lance Storm and a mystery partner.

Next week we’ll finally be getting around to watching some more Classic British Wrestling, as the last review I did got some very nice feedback (Thank You to all who read it), and we’ll be looking at a very famous show from 1981 that featured a rather notorious bout from two of the biggest stars of the era (Both literally and figuratively). I would have got to it sooner, but I’ve been shockingly productive recently and actually had three other reviews already scheduled by the time that one went live. Don’t expect this to last but enjoy it whilst you can I guess!

Incidentally, if you enjoy reading about ECW then feel free to check in with my reviews of Hardcore TV from 20 years ago every Wednesday here on the blog. We’re currently building up to Anarchy Rulz 2000 (Which you can also expect a review of) so jump right in as we take things TO THE EXTREME!!!

This event is emanating from Asbury Park, New Jersey on the 1st of March 1998

Calling the action is Joey Styles

We open up with a pretty cool quick Taz promo, as he enters the empty arena the day before the show to say that he’s ready.

Joey does the intro in the ring to welcome everyone to the show.

We get the show intro, and because this event is from 1998 we get the return of TAGLINES! Oh how I missed them! Tonight’s are “Sunday Night, March 1 1998, Wrestling’s Most Controversial Promotion Returns To PPV, ECW’S Living Dangerously”

Opening Match
The Full Blooded Italians (Tracey Smothers and Little Guido) w/ Tommy Rich Vs Jerry Lynn and Chris Chetti

The gag with The FBI is that, outside of Guido, none of them are actually Italian, with Rich in particular cutting hilarious promos in his thick southern drawl. Chetti’s gimmick was that he was “The Rookie” here, which is always hot flaming death for the overness of anyone who gets it here in the West because we don’t have the same “Young Lion” system over here like they do in Japan. Lynn had come in during 1997 and was gradually getting over due to his high wrestling ability. This is your standard opening tag match, with the heels doing comedy and cheating whilst the faces do some nice pacey moves in the shine. Lynn looks great and you can see why they decided to give him more of a push as 98 rolled on.

Rich cheats and that allows The FBI to cut Chetti off and work some heat. The FBI do some good tandem offence in the heat and Chetti sells it all well. I really enjoy Rich’s work as a heel manager too, as he distracts the ref and Lynn when required so that his men can get up to their nefarious acts. The crowd is a bit subdued for parts of the heat but do eventually get behind Chetti. Chetti manages to leg drop both heels when they go for a double back body drop and its hot tag to Lynn! Lynn does a really nice comeback and the crowd is into the cool moves. Lynn decks Rich as well, which gets a good pop from the crowd. Eventually heel miscommunication sees Rich hit Smothers with the Italian flag by accident and Lynn picks up the three for a good reaction.

WINNERS: LYNN & CHETTI
RATING: **1/2

Good opener that achieved what it needed to and didn’t overstay it’s welcome

The FBI begin a near yearlong tease of splitting up, but eventually stay together.

Joey tells us that W*ng Kanemura hasn’t been seen in the arena today, even though he’s due to wrestle later, but we still get a video package to hype him up.

Lance Wright, a backstage interviewer who did a lame “I work for the WWF” gimmick, joins us in the ring to say that “Vince” told Kanemura to stay home because he wants Doug Furnas to get the match instead. That promo was pretty generic and the delivery wasn’t great either.

Match Two
Doug Furnas w/ Lance Wright Vs Masato Tanaka

I like both guys but they aren’t really on the same page here, which makes the match a bit rough to watch even though it has some impressive big moves. Furnas in particular gets a super impressive dropkick for a man his size at one stage. Tanaka works over Furnas’ legs at one stage with a Dragon Screw and a Figure Four, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and serves only to give the ECW crowd a chance to “Woooo” like the bunch of Flair marks they’d never admit to being. We get our first big notable botch when Tanaka goes for a Tornado DDT and ends up pretty much spiking Furnas.

Furnas returns the favour with a Ganso Bomb and then ups the ante by spiking poor Tanaka on his head with a German Suplex. It’s like they are actively trying to kill one another and the crowd is starting to turn on the match. The big story point of the match is that Furnas has it won on a few occasions but Wright demands he keep beating Tanaka up for whatever reason, which should then lead to the finish of Tanaka catching Furnas with a last gasp Roaring Elbow to pick up the pin. However, they sadly botch the elbow spot at the end and boo’s rain down from the crowd after the three count.

WINNER: MASATO TANAKA
RATING: *

Maffew needs to see this one and put it in an episode if he hasn’t already. Some nice moves that actually hit save it from being lower, but it was a poor match all considered, especially when both guys are capable of more. On the Brightside for Furnas, my mum is in my support bubble and I happened to be round her house when I watched this match and she was impressed with his flexibility considering how muscular he was, so he can console himself with that at least.

Furnas turns on Wright post-match and decides to join up with ECW, which gets a pop but I’m not sure if it actually went anywhere.

We get plugs for the hotline and Wrestlepalooza in May.

Joey tells us that the pay per view company wouldn’t allow them to show us the Sabu Vs Sandman match due to it being too violent, but he says ECW will make it up to us and show as much of the match as they can on syndication. Jason and Nicole Bass join us and demand that footage of Tommy Dreamer arriving alone be played, with the insinuation being that Beulah isn’t with Tommy and has instead joined up with Justin Credible.

Match Three
Rob Van Dam w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Too Cold Scorpio

We get a Bill Apter sighting at ringside during Scorpio’s entrance. RVD was also doing a pro-WWF gimmick at the time, but it was kind of running its course and they would tone it down a bit as the year wore on. Scorp was still a WWF guy at this point, but they weren’t really doing much with him so they allowed him to work the pay per view. Scorp can do the RVD style flippy stuff, so they focus on that in the early going and it’s mostly okay, even though it has a bit of sloppiness here and there.

We get some brawling outside the ring and that’s done well, with both men keeping up the counters whilst also using the railings and such as weapon based aides. RVD gets the better of the brawl and controls things inside for a bit with spin kicks and the like. Some fans actually chant “boring” at one stage, but it really hasn’t been. It’s been a tad sloppy in places of course, but it’s also been watchable and RVD has done some good cocky character work, so I certainly wouldn’t class it as being boring.

Scorp quite literally folds RVD up with a powerbomb at one stage and the fans love that. That looked great and they smartly paused for a beat after doing it so as to soak up the pop. Scorp has looked good for most of this and the crowd is into him as he makes a comeback. RVD takes some fantastic bumps I must say, as Scorp busts out some cool high flying moves for some near falls. RVD replies with the Five Star Frogsplash, but it wasn’t really his finisher yet and it’s more of a double down spot that Scorp actually recovers from first.

They perhaps go a bit too long and the miss the peak, which is a shame as it takes the match down a bit for me. I think I understand why they have the length, as they want this to be the classic high work rate exhibition bout of the evening, but it’s the third match on the show and there’s no issue between the two, so it feels forced. There’s more matches to come that could probably use the time too. Aside from that though, the work gets a bit tighter as they become more familiar with one another, which is a positive to the elongation of the bout. They even fight on the ramp at one stage, with Scorp giving RVD two nice looking piledrivers out there.

RVD replies with a low blow back inside and the ref ends up getting bumped by accident when Scorp tries a splash in reply. RVD misses an attempt at the 450 splash (It looked good though) and Scorp nearly kills him with another powerbomb before getting a 450 of his own. This is Sabu’s cue to come down to the ring and leg drop a chair over Scorp’s face, which gets a two for RVD in a good near fall. Sandman chases Sabu off but RVD rolls Scorp up for three anyway, which makes me wonder why they bothered with the kick out from the Sabu attack.

WINNER: ROB VAN DAM
RATING: **1/4

Didn’t really need the run-in and it definitely went on for too long, but it wasn’t bad and had some cool spots

RVD cuts the cocky promo following the match and offers a handshake, but Scorpio tells him off and then clotheslines him for a pop. Sabu attacks, but Sandman makes the save and the two faces have a pint together followed by some hilarious white man dancing from Sandman. A basic angle to pop the crowd.

Paul Heyman does the voice over to update us on the feud between Lance Storm and Chris Candido. Both men are Tag Champs but they also can’t stand each other, because Paul Heyman LOVED that storyline for some reason, and thus they can both pick a partner for tonight.

Match Four
Buh Buh Ray and D-Von Dudley w/ Sign Guy Dudley, Big Dick Dudley and Joel Gertner Vs Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten Vs Little Spike Dudley and New Jack

As with other ECW three way dances, this one will be elimination rules. The gag of Gertner announcing D-Von at far less than he actually weighs is one that always gets me. Spike and New Jack are fashionably late, so we get a wild brawl between The Dudley’s and Chair Swinging Freaks until they finally arrive. Once they do this becomes the typical bloody arena wide brawl that ECW did so well back in the day, and it’s a really entertaining one too. Some of the unprotected weapon shots to the head haven’t aged well, but the rest of the brawling is done well and they don’t especially overdo it. This is also the first match of this style that we’ve seen on the show, so it makes everything have more of an impact because we haven’t already seen it earlier in the night.

We of course get the balcony dive from New Jack onto The Dudley’s, but with the added bonus of Spike doing one as well. It’s a great visual and the spots are carried off without a hitch, so we get a spectacular spot and no one gets hurt in the process. That’ll do me! Spike really is one of the best bump machines I’ve ever seen, as Balls gives him a Saito Suplex back inside the ring and it looks fantastic. However, The Dudley’s use the instance of the two other teams fighting as a chance to recover and end up eliminating Balls with The 3-D. It’s not long until they themselves are looking at the lights though, as Spike and New Jack clock them with guitars to pick up the three count.

WINNERS: SPIKE & NEW JACK
RATING: ***

Fun stuff. It’s not going to win any technical wrestling awards, but it was a good wild brawl that delivered on what you’d expect a match like this to offer on an ECW show

Joey gives Justin Credible the hard sell, saying that he’s spit on the wrestling business by insulting and injuring wrestlers, which leads to a video package detailing the injuries he dealt to Mikey Whipwreck and Great Sasuke. Tommy Dreamer is looking to teach him respect tonight. Joey also tried going all “insider” by mentioning that ECW tried to give Credible a “push”, indirectly addressing the criticism the company was getting at the time for pushing Credible too hard. I always hate “wink-wink we’re using insider lingo” stuff like that.

Jenna Jameson debuts as an interviewer, but Justin Credible blows her off on his way to the ring. Tommy Dreamer gives her a big smooch by comparison and Jameson shows off her adult entertainment acting abilities by selling how great it was.

Match Five
Justin Credible w/ Jason and Nicole Bass Vs Tommy Dreamer

This one is a brawl from the off, as they immediately head into the crowd. Credible wasn’t even bringing a Singapore cane with him yet at this stage as he hadn’t stolen it from The Sandman and he was still in the early stages of working this gimmick. As a result, Dreamer is much higher up on the pecking order and the match is played more as the established upper card face giving the young upstart heel a beating for his crimes. Credible sells it well, but this isn’t really the best match to follow the crazy New Jack match we’ve just had and I would have personally swapped them around. In a lot of ways this match feels like a buffer for the others still to come.

The work itself is fine, as both wrestler’s offence looks okay and they are both willing to bump and sell for one another, with Credible finally getting a foothold and working some heat. The crowd reactions are pretty disappointing actually, especially as the wrestling itself has been fine. Eventually Credible drops Dreamer with a Tombstone, which leads to Beulah coming down to tease that she has indeed dropped Dreamer for Credible. However, it’s all a SWERVE, as she hits him right in his Portuguese Man O’ War. Bass rag dolls her in response to that, which leads to Mikey Whipwreck making his heroic return to rescue her. Credible attacks Mikey, but that leaves him open for a DDT from Dreamer, which leads to a three count.

WINNER: TOMMY DREAMER
RATING: **

Thus begins the trope of Credible getting “pushed” by losing a bunch of matches that they didn’t finally move beyond until later in 1999, when they finally realised that having him win might work better. Of course by that stage it was too late to get him to where they wanted him to be. The match itself was fine, but it lacked crowd heat

We get a TNA moment, as it’s “to the back” almost right after the winning pin.

We get a video hyping the Bigelow Vs Taz feud. Bigelow teased aligning with Taz, but it was all a SWERVE and he ended up turning on him to set a match up tonight.

Match Six
ECW Television Title
Champ: Taz Vs Bam Bam Bigelow

Taz’s whole thing at this stage was that the TV Title was bigger than the World Title, which was held by Bammers stablemate Shane Douglas, so Bigelow wants to take the Title from him so that whole thing can be nipped in the bud. Bigelow is of course super over in his hometown, and I’m guessing there may be some New York Vs New Jersey sentiment going on as well? This one is a good mixture of power stuff and a brawl, with both men treating each other as equals and going all-out to have as epic a big fight as they can. Bammer is willing to take a bunch of bumps for Taz, despite the difference in height between the two of them, and it ultimately leads to the height difference not mattering due to Bigelow being willing to make his opponent look like an equal. In a crazy spot, Taz actually suplexes Bigelow off the ramp into the crowd, whilst also banging the back of his head on the railings, thus leading to everyone hurting. This match is nuts!

We get some fighting in the crowd following that, which is fine for the story they are telling but is becoming an overused trope at this stage, which can be an issue with ECW sometimes. They aren’t out there for a huge amount of time though and eventually get back to the ring, where Taz flapjacks Bigelow through a table, thus winning him some fans from the previously hostile crowd, like this is Rocky IV or something. The action has been good and the hot crowd has really added to it, especially when some duelling chants start up. Taz shows good fire and it highlights how he was able to make this character seem believable when put in the right situation. Bammer tries to end things with the Greetings From Asbury Park, but Taz is able to counter into the Tazmission and seemingly has it won, with Bigelow tapping and ref missing it, only for Bigelow to fall back and send both men crashing through the ring in a memorable moment. Taz is clearly the worst for wear after that as he was on the bottom, and that allows Bigelow to drag him out of the hole and pin him for three.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BAM BAM BIGELOW
RATING: ***1/2

This was a great match that is definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it. It also set the stage for a rematch too due to the ref missing Bigelow tapping out. It gave Bigelow the big win but also didn’t take any steam off Taz either as the finish was so out of nowhere and crazy.

Joey and Paul E have a terribly acted (On Joey’s part) “argument” following that, as Paul needs them to fill time so he can try and fix the ring and demands they show the previously “banned” Sabu/Sandman match. Joey was totally unbelievable in that segment, although it will shock you all I’m sure to hear that Paul played an excellent raving madman. Apparently we are now also not going to get the John Kronus Vs Al Snow match. I’ll give you all a moment to come to terms with that

Better? Good, let’s watch Sabu Vs Sandman.

Match Seven
Duelling Singapore Canes
Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso Vs The Sandman

Their match at November to Remember 97 was an unmitigated disaster, so they decided to pre-tape this one and show it later in the broadcast so they could edit it down if needs be. Sandman and Sabu battle to start, but it turns out that “Sabu” is actually Rob Van Dam in a pretty convincing disguise, which we find out when the real Sabu runs down to take over. This match is much better than the N2R one, as they actually manage to hit most of their spots in this one and the brawling isn’t bad either. Sadly there’s nothing really in it to pay off the whole “It’s so violent were weren’t allowed to show it” storyline, which is an example of Paul E being a bit too cute for his own good.

One of the better spots involves Sabu getting a Triple Jump Moonsault onto the ramp, which is executed perfectly and looks cool. The canes don’t really get used that much to be honest, with chairs and tables seemingly the weapons of choice. Sandman looks like he might have it won, but RVD runs down again and together he and Sabu put Sandman through a table in order to win. My suggestion to make the match fit the storyline? Have Sandman cane Sabu in the “eye” before losing, which gives him something despite losing, pays off the storyline as it started with Sabu blinding Sandman with fire, makes Sabu look tough for still winning and gives us a gory spot that could possibly justify the “censors” wanting to ban the match whilst not actually crossing any lines.

WINNER: SABU
RATING: **

Not bad, but not great either. Too many brawls in general on this show lessened the effect another one would have.

Joey is still sulking when we come back and no one is buying it. It turns out they couldn’t even fix the ring either and have just taped it off like it’s a crime scene or something.

Main Event
ECW Tag Champ Chris Candido and ECW World Champ Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs ECW Tag Champ Lance Storm and a Mystery Partner w/ Sunny

Sunny was supposedly into Storm, which is why she’s siding with him instead of storyline and real life partner Candido. Storm ends up choosing Sunny as his partner, because there’s no way Candido will hit her himself and he won’t allow Douglas to do it either. All of the fans have Styrofoam heads in the crowd because the Al Snow match got cancelled, but I think even Stevie Wonder could see where this one is going. So of course Sunny turns on Storm and makes a real hash of hitting him with a cooking tray for good measure, which leads to Al Snow coming down to be the partner instead, complete with his headache inducing rave entrance set to “Breathe” by The Prodigy. Snow runs wild on the heels, knocks Douglas into the hole in the ring, and then finishes him with the Snowplough in order to pick up the three count and pop the crowd.

WINNERS: SNOW-STORM (COME ON WWE, THAT NAME WAS RIGHT THERE, HOW ON EARTH DID YOU NEVER TEAM THEM TOGETHER?!?!)
RATING: N/A

This was more of an angle than a match, but the fans liked it and it was certainly different from anything you’d see in the other major western companies of the time. You’d kind of want more from a pay per view Main Event, but Taz/Bigelow was the real Main Event in all honesty and this was just gravy to send the fans home happy and set up a new challenger for Douglas.

Everyone throws their heads into the ring as the rave continues and we are outta here.

In Conclusion

Two good matches, a collection of decent ones and only one especially poor bout isn’t a bad return for an ECW show, and the two good matches encapsulated a lot of why ECW was so popular in the first place. For that reason I think the show deserves a thumbs up and I certainly think Taz/Bigelow is worth a watch if you’ve never seen it and have WWE Network. The New Jack match won’t be anywhere near as fun with the dubbed music, but it’s still a good example of how to do the wild brawl genre well.

I’ll hopefully see you all next week when Joint Promotions heads to Wembley!