Back again with another Stinker review, with us taking a foray into the world of Extreme for the first time with this feature (I have reviewed one of the WWE ECW shows before, but COME ON). For those of you who haven’t read one of these before, what I do is review a show that has a reputation for being stinky in an effort to decide whether it deserves that bad rap or not.
In January we did a reader request and we’ll be doing the same for March’s review as well when we look at WCW Bash at the Beach 1999. April will be my personal choice and then May’s review will be a reader request again, so if you have a show that you want added to the potential list then mention it in the comments and I’ll make sure it’s in the hat when I do the draw. I’ll reveal which lucky show has “won” in April’s review.
Wrestlepalooza was ECW’s fifth attempt at running pay per views, and to say their PPV output prior to this had been a mixed bag would be an understatement. Barely Legal 97 had been a good solid effort, whilst Hardcore Heaven 97 had been an okayish show marred by some poor production and a pokey looking venue. November to Remember 97 had probably been the most professional looking effort but had suffered from a boring Main Event and a catastrophic mess of a match between Sabu and The Sandman. Living Dangerously 98 is a show I’ve actually reviewed before and at least featured a couple of really good matches, including one between Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow.
That event had ended with Al Snow pinning ECW World Champ Shane Douglas in a tag match, which not surprisingly led to him earning himself a Title shot for Wrestlepalooza. Bigelow had defeated Taz for the TV Title at Living Dangerously but had since lost the belt to Rob Van Dam in a fantastic match from Buffalo on Hardcore TV (Well worth hunting that one down). This had sowed further dissension between RVD and his long time tag partner/hated rival Sabu, as Sabu was miffed that RVD had won the belt when he was really just supposed to have softened Bigelow up so that Sabu could win the belt from him at a later date.
Thus Wrestlepalooza had a Semi-Main of RVD defending the TV Title against Sabu and a Main Event of Douglas defending the ECW Title against Snow. If both those matches delivered and the under-card was mostly fine, then the show would be an easy thumbs up on the slightly more generous ECW sliding-scale. Let’s see if that’s the case!
The event is emanating from Marietta, Georgia on the 3rd of May 1998
Calling the action is Joey Styles
Joey does the in-ring intro, and the RF Video DVD I’m watching actually shows him warming up the crowd before he does it.
Intro Video: Tonight’s tagline “The Revolution Continues, On Enemy Turf!” (Because Georgia was traditionally known as WCW territory)
Tracey Smothers and Little Guido w/ Tommy Rich Vs The Blue Meanie and Super Nova
Smothers and Guido were known as The Full Blooded Italians, with the joke being that the only person in the team that actually is Italian is Guido, with Smothers and Rich clearly not being of European stock. Meanie and Nova had been heel lackeys for Raven but are now a babyface tag team. Meanie would shockingly get a run in the WWF in 1999, despite the fact he had the exact opposite look to what the cosmetically obsessed WWF wanted at the time.
This is a fun comedy opener to settle the crowd in, with the highlight being a dance contest between Smothers and Meanie, which ends with referee John Finnegan being declared the winner when he cuts a rug himself. The FBI takes exception to that, so Finnegan has to defend himself by giving them body slams in a wacky spot that the crowd loves. I’m not sure if the WWF writers in 2001 were watching ECW or not, but there are a lot of similarities between Nova’s character here and the one Hurricane would eventually use. He even tries a choke slam at one stage.
The crowd really enjoys the comedy in the shine and even starts chanting “EC-DUB” for it at one stage. Eventually though The FBI does start working some heat on Nova thanks to Rich getting in a cheap shot for the cut off. Nova sells that well and The FBI shows why they were a solid undercard tag act by doing some good tag offence and showing some charisma in the process.
Nova eventually catches Guido with an Electric Chair Drop and tags in Meanie, who does an okay hot tag segment, although it suffers a bit because he chases both of the heels around to hit them with stuff other than standing in the middle and waiting for them to come to him. Rich tries to help his men by throwing in the Italian flag, but whilst Guido hits Meanie with it Nova is able to catch him with the Novacaine (Complete Shot) to pick up the win.
WINNERS: NOVA & MEANIE
Finish was a bit sloppy, but the match itself was fine for a comedy opener, although I wouldn’t call it pay per view quality
The winners dance to the Y-M-C-A following that.
Joey sends to a video package to hype up the next match.
Justin Credible w/ Jason and Chastity Vs Mikey Whipwreck
The story here is that Credible was undefeated for a bit after coming to ECW but Mikey managed to catch him with a couple of upset victories. This enraged Credible and he decided to take Mikey out in Mikey’s hometown of Buffalo by attacking his leg. Mikey is back now though and is looking for payback. Credible was still using the Prong version of “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” here as opposed to the Grinspoon version most people probably remember from his ECW days. Mikey had stopped using “Loser” by Beck and had switched to “Pepper” by The Buthole Surfers, which never really made sense to me as both of those songs sound pretty similar, so it’s not like the change did much to freshen Mikey up.
Mikey is the old house of fire to start, rushing down to attack Credible from the opening bell and then flinging him into the front row, nearly knocking out a young fan in the process. He seems okay thankfully, but that was almost scary. Mikey tries to give Credible a Russian Leg Sweep off the apron, but Credible fights him off and sends Mikey flinging down onto the metal railings. Joey of course makes sure to crowbar in the fact that Mikey once managed to pin Steve Austin in an ECW ring (He neglects to mention that he did it with a roll up and grab of the tights of course).
Credible works some heat following Mikey’s spill onto the railings, and it looks good as Credible is a solid worker and Mikey is great at bumping and selling. The crowd stays with it too and chants for Mikey to make a comeback whilst also saying nasty things about Credible and his associates. There’s a really slick counter at one stage where Mikey goes for his Whippersnapper finisher (Stunner) but Credible counters mid-move into a reverse DDT. That looked great and it even managed to elicit a pop from the Credible hating crowd.
Credible tries to splash Mikey through a table from the railings, but Mikey recovers and then manages to superplex Credible off the railings through the table, which looked kind of rough as Mikey only just managed to heave Credible over with the suplex. The landing looked relatively safe though and both men are up for the subsequent chair duel back inside, which ends with Mikey hitting a chair into Credible’s face and following up with a neck breaker for two. This hasn’t been the best match from an execution standpoint, but it’s had a lot of energy and the crowd has dug it.
As it’s a Justin Creidble match from 1998, we get the full Dog and Pony show with Jason and Chastity getting involved as a makeshift Putty Patrol in order to distract Mikey when it looks like he’s going to win. Chastity actually takes a Whippersnapper from the top rope, but that allows Credible to give Mikey a Tombstone Piledriver onto a chair to pick up the dodgy win.
WINNER: JUSTIN CREDIBLE
Like the opener this was sloppy in places, but everyone was working really hard and it definitely felt like a heated end to a feud. I certainly enjoyed it for what it was
Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney are sick of ECW Tag Team Champs Lance Storm and Chris Candido and demand they come down to face them right now. They do indeed enter, although Candido does a funny spot of refusing to enter to Storm’s music and walks to the back so that they play his AC-DC theme. Rotten and Mahoney end up looking pretty dumb as they wait too long to head down and start the match, which means it’s totally flat when they eventually do.
ECW Tag Team Titles
Champs: Lance Storm and Chris Candido Vs Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney
Anyone who knows Paul Heyman as a booker will know that one of his favourite storylines is “Tag Team Champions who don’t get alone with one another”, so guess which gimmick Storm and Candido are working here? They ended up having a pretty lengthy reign as well, as did the Raven/Dreamer and RVD/Sabu tandems too. It seems that if you wanted success in ECW’s tag division the best thing to do would be to pick a partner you absolutely detested.
Storm is the only surviving participant in this match now, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he’s still in decent shape to this day and never indulged in the pro-wrestling drug scene like the other three reportedly did. Interestingly the best bits of this match are the sections where Storm and Mahoney work together, as their styles actually mesh rather well and Mahoney is spry enough on his feet that he can keep up with Storm’s faster paced offence.
The match itself follows the usual tag formula to start with, as the challengers shine on the Champs with basic stuff, and actually try to wrestle a bit rather than going for a brawl. Mahoney of course throws his usual array of punches so that the crowd can chant “Balls” along with each one, but aside from that there isn’t really much brawling going on and Rotten even does a sling shot dive out onto everyone at one stage, which gets a deserved “Axl” chant from the crowd.
Candido eventually manages to catch Rotten with a cheap shot and that leads to the Champs working some heat on him, which makes sense as Mahoney would likely have the better hot tag of the two challengers due to his superior speed and execution. Fans are more interested in chanting “Free Ric Flair” than chanting for Rotten though sadly (Flair was currently having contract issues with WCW at the time). They do start chanting for Rotten a bit once they get the Flair stuff out of their system at least.
Rotten eventually takes an accidental trip head first right into Candido’s Bodydonna and that allows him to catch the Champs with a double DDT before hot tagging Mahoney. Mahoney does a decent hot tag segment on the Champs, with them both bumping big for him in an effort to get him over. This leads to Sunny making an appearance, which leads to Storm and Candido fighting over which one is going to help her when Mahoney tries to attack her. Mahoney has it won with a Nutcracker Suite (Michinoku Driver) on Candido but decides to go for his chair instead, which allows Storm to kick it in his face and for Candido to steal the pin from his partner.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: STORM & CANDIDO
I’ve seen this match get utterly panned over the years, but it wasn’t the disaster I was expecting it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like it was especially good or anything, but it was a serviceable outing where they worked the formula and sprinkled in some dissension spots between the Champs in order to keep their angle chugging along. Storm and Mahoney were the undoubted stars of the match, but Candido was fine and Rotten even did a nice looking move or two here or there, so it wasn’t a complete wash
Storm and Candido fight to the back following that, with Storm eventually gaining custody of both belts. Strangely this would lead to Storm going full on heel and getting Dawn Marie as his manager, even though it was mostly Candido being a jerk here. I actually remember playing a 1998 mod on EWR back in the day where Storm and Candido’s tag finisher was just “Candido Steals The Pin”, which always got a chuckle out of me.
Hey, you want a FREE ECW march catalogue? Well then call a number that no longer exists!
We get clips from earlier in the day, where Joey Styles brings out local legends Junkyard Dog, Dick Slater, Masked Superstar and Bullet Bob Armstrong. They all get a good reaction from the crowd. This was a very nice segment and it was lovely to see the usually cynical ECW crowd get on board with it all.
We then get another talking segment, which seems like a strange thing to follow that with, but I’m guessing it was so they could make sure everything was set up correctly seeing as this segment has a few moving parts. Joey is in the ring and requests for ECW World Champ Shane Douglas to come down to the ring. Douglas is walking wounded here, with an elbow that needs surgery and a fractured palette amongst his many issues. He cuts his usual angry promo about how much he hates Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, with the crowd turning on him at the second part due to Flair being popular with them. Taz eventually interrupts Douglas’ rant as he sees himself as the uncrowned Champ due to being the one who injured Douglas in the first place. Taz says he’ll ruin the entire pay per view unless Douglas hands the belt over and then locks him in the Tazmission until security runs in to break it up. Bam Bam Bigelow brawls with Taz outside the ring following that, which also gets broken up and Taz eventually ends up getting dragged out of the building and arrested, where he kicks through the window of the car.
Bam Bam Bigelow Vs New Jack
I’m not exactly sure what the backstory was for this one, as it seems like a stylistic nightmare and New Jack isn’t close to being high enough up the card to justify a match with Bigelow on pay per view. They do something clever early on where Bammer keeps stopping New Jack from using the weapons, because that’s the only way New Jack will have a chance. However, when he tries to use a weapon himself, New Jack is able to dodge it and then starts hitting Bigelow with the assortment of weaponry. That’s dangerously close to a New Jack match actually having some psychology!
Of course, unless New Jack has a weapon in his hand, Bigelow has little to no interest in selling for him most of the time, so the match mostly comes down to Bammer battering New Jack whilst trying to avoid New Jack doing anything overly dangerous in reply. New Jack does eventually do his big silly high spot of the evening by climbing up to a balcony and jumping down with a guitar shot whilst his face is caked in blood. Sadly it takes him forever to do the spot, which means Bigelow has to stand around like a goof pretending he doesn’t know where New Jack is.
New Jack is ruined following that and can’t do anything, so Bigelow has to scoop him up and put him back in the ring, where he gets the Greetings From Asbury Park to pick up the three count. Bigelow played it super safe there by making sure New Jack’s head didn’t come anywhere near the mat, which is smart seeing as New Jack was knocked loopy and was in no position to protect himself, but it means the move itself looked like absolute cack.
WINNER: BAM BAM BIGELOW
This was an absolute disaster and Bigelow spent most of the match looking like he’d rather be in Timbuktu than working a match with New Jack on pay per view
It’s a Tommy Dreamer feud from 1998/99, so we of course get to see a video of Dreamer getting battered whilst “River of Deceit” plays over it.
The Dudley Boyz (D-Von and Buh Buh Ray) w/ Joel Gertner, Sign Guy and Big Dick Vs The Sandman and Tommy Dreamer w/ Beulah
The story here was that The Dudleyz beat the crap out of Sandman and Dreamer, with Sandman in particular getting clobbered so much that he needed to be taken out of the building in an ambo, so Team ECW is looking for some payback. Beulah wasn’t too long from stepping away from the wrestling business here, and it was in fact The Dudleyz who put her out of action in storyline with the Dudley Death Drop in between this show and the next one. If she was sick of wrestling by this stage she doesn’t let it show in her performance, aside from one notable bit during the entrance where Dreamer pours beer on her.
Dreamer and Beulah as a pairing together kind of reminds me a bit of Angel and Buffy actually, so maybe that period with Francine was just Tommy going through his Angelus phase? We get our opening botch with the first move of the match, as the faces try to clothesline Big Dick over the top rope but he doesn’t go, so they have to meekly send him out through the middle instead. After that it turns into your usual wild ECW styled brawl, which would feel a bit more effective if we hadn’t just had the New Jack match right before it. It’s a fun fight for the most part, with the faces controlling most of it and The Dudleyz selling all of their offence well.
The story of the match kicks in following the opening exchanges, as Sandman ends up selling his injury and has to be taken to the back, which leads to The Dudleyz ganging up on Dreamer. This leads to a shocking unforeseen and never again seen moment where Dreamer gets dropped crotch first onto some guardrail. Yes, I’m sure we’ll never see that spot ever again and Tommy’s lower regions need not worry about caressing some metal railings in the future…
Dreamer actually sells the heat well in all fairness to him and he’s eventually able to hold on long enough for Little Spike Dudley to run down and help him out. Spike Dudley fighting The Dudley Boyz on an ECW show? Well, I certainly didn’t see that coming! Spike is the best part of the whole match actually, as he was always kind of under rated as a worker and he really injects some life into things after the heel heat section of the match. Beulah gets to do her girl power spot by giving Sign Guy a DDT and that leads into Sandman returning with a neck brace to cane everything in sight. Sandman and Dreamer clobber The Dudleyz with weapons to get their revenge and then hit stereo DDTs for the three.
WINNERS: SANDMAN & DREAMER
Despite some of my snark at points, this was actually a fun brawl and I got a kick out of it
The next pay per view is Heat Wave 98 in August. I might just have to get to that one once the summer rolls around.
We get a video package to hype up Rob Van Dam with Sabu. As mentioned, Sabu was supposed to be getting the TV Title shot at Bam Bam Bigelow on this show, but RVD won the belt in the interim, so now the two tag team partners have to face one another for the belt. They don’t get on anyway, so it’s not like they’re going to mind battering one another.
Bill Alfonso manages both men, and cuts a promo saying he’s going to call it down the middle. They do a fun bit with the promo here where Fonzie keeps putting the belt up against the camera so that Sabu and RVD can leave the shot and appear next to him as if by magic.
Heel referee Jeff Jones is going to be reffing this one apparently, which shouldn’t make a difference as both of these guys are heels.
ECW TV Title
Champ: Rob Van Dam w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso
Fonzie is doing his best to manage both men and steps between them so that they can’t fight one another prior to the opening bell. These two have had some fun matches together over the years (Hostile City Showdown and Doctor Is In from 1996 are both excellent examples of this if you want to dig deep into the ECW archives) and I remember this one having its moments from back in the day, so let’s see how it’s aged. The opening exchanges are certainly good, with them trading counters before doing the old Central American standoff.
RVD grabs a mic following that and teases that they aren’t going to be wrestling one another after all, but it’s all a SWERVE from Sabu as he attacks RVD and starts working him over to start the match proper. Fonzie’s whistle soon becomes super annoying here by the way, and not in a heel heat sort of way but in an “I’d rather watch the match with the sound off” kind of way. RVD goes after Sabu’s legs for a bit, but then heads outside to set up a table and that allows Sabu to dive out onto him, at which point the work to leg is essentially forgotten.
That’s a big problem with the match actually, as they’ll throw in a section here or there where one of them works a hold or targets a body part because they’re going long and need to fill the time, but then it will have no bearing on the match going forward and doesn’t really explore any storyline aspects of it either. For instance, one of my favourite Broadway matches is the one between Barry Windham and Ric Flair from 1987, which was on the Ric Flair compilation DVD that WWE put out in the early 00’s.
There’s a section in that where Windham works a long headlock and Flair can’t get out of it, but it’s in there to show that Windham is technically proficient enough to hang with the World Champ and also acts as a way for Flair to get frustrated over the challenger potentially having his number because he has no answer to it for a long time and just can’t get a foothold in the bout. Here they’ll have Sabu work a camel clutch for a bit, but then he’ll just forget about it and will throw RVD outside for a dive. The dive will look cool, but the two segments aren’t really connected and it just feels like they are doing “stuff” for the sake of it rather than doing so because it’s part of a wider story.
The crowd heat isn’t really there for it either, with the fans popping for the high spots (Such as when Sabu sits RVD on the railings and then dives out on to him) but then they go quiet again once the two guys get back inside the ring and start wrestling. The spots themselves are mostly cool and they don’t actually botch that much either, so there’s enjoyment to be had from that perspective, but that sort of match works better in 10 minutes than 30 and the crowd continues to get restless, even chanting for “JYD” at one stage and then requesting a count out during one brawling segment.
Sadly we do eventually get a notable botch and it’s an absolute doozy too, as Sabu sets RVD on a table and then tries to give him a springboard DDT through it. However, he stumbles when trying to apply the DDT and the table doesn’t end up breaking because Sabu isn’t able to snap the move off properly to get the clean break needed. What follows though is one of the biggest pops of the match, as Sabu puts the tables’ remains back into the ring and then rana’s RVD through them in an admittedly cool looking move that the crowd loves.
Chairs of course get involved at one stage, with RVD getting the Van Daminator and then heading up with the Five Star Frogsplash. This was before that was his official finisher though, so Sabu kicks out and the match continues. Sadly another table refuses to cooperate and collapses before the two guys can do their planned spot with it, leading to murmured boo’s from the audience. RVD goes out to grab another table and brings it in before splashing Sabu through it for two. It really feels like they’ve just run out of ideas following that though, and things just get sloppier and sloppier as they continue to work through a series of near falls until the time limit runs out.
THIRTY MINUTE TIME LIMIT DRAW
This was one of those cases where a time limit draw made sense due to the story they wanted to tell but they didn’t have the right guys in there to execute it, meaning that the match dragged. Both men were clearly working very hard and did some truly thrilling spots at certain points, but they just weren’t cut out for this kind of match as they are both MOVEZ guys and you need something more to work a Broadway and keep the crowd into it for half an hour. Jerry Lynn worked much better as a foil for RVD in this kind of setting as he was a better-rounded wrestler who could work 30 minutes with him and keep it interesting, whereas Sabu was too similar to him for it to work. If they wanted a non-finish then they should have probably just had them go 15 minutes before crashing and burning somehow for a Double KO. It would have suited both men’s in-ring styles more and it would have got around one of them having to do a job
Jeff Jones declares the match a draw, so that any heel heat for the decision will go onto him as a heel ref rather than the company itself, which is pretty clever on Heyman’s part actually, and RVD scoots off with the belt before the fight can pick up again. Thus the issue between the two men is still going but they can always do a finish at a later date.
Shane Douglas runs through his injuries again, saying that doctors have told him he shouldn’t wrestle tonight, but he’s The Franchise and he’ll prove it again.
We get a video package detailing Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA Title and proclaiming the ECW Title a World Championship. Since then he’s added Francine to his side, as well as forming The Triple Threat with Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow. However, Al Snow is now threatening to turn everything upside down for Douglas.
Al Snow cuts quite a serious promo about how he’s been wrestling for 16 years with the goal of becoming the World Champion. He knows he’s going to win, because The Head told him so!
ECW World Title
Champ: Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs Al Snow w/ The Head
Snow’s entrance to The Prodigy with the fans waving the Styrofoam heads like it’s a rave is awesome and just one of those things that really doesn’t work without the real music. Snow had gone to ECW in 1997 as just a generic crazy heel, but once he started talking to The Head it finally got the gimmick over and he ended up turning face as a result. Douglas is genuinely injured here and according to The Wrestling Observer review for this show they had planned to work a match that was based around Snow targeting Douglas’ injuries, but when they got in the ring Douglas decided the crowd wasn’t going to go for it and called an audible, meaning they just have a normal match instead.
The match they do decide to have is okay, with them mostly throwing punches and whatnot before heading outside for some brawling. It doesn’t really feel like the sort of match you’d close out a pay per view with, but they can be cut a bit of slack in that regard due to how banged up Douglas is. In all honesty he probably shouldn’t have been working at all here and he’d actually been hospitalised two days before this event, so he quite literally dragged himself off his sick bed in order to work here, which is commendable commitment to the cause. In a world where RVD and Sabu delivered something close to the four star range, this would have been fine, as it’s a decent match in a bubble.
Douglas even comes off the top rope with a dive into the front row at one stage, which is the kind of thing he wasn’t known for doing normally, so he’s really going all out here to have the best match he’s physically capable of having. It’s interesting really as Snow is the big babyface but he’s been kind of overshadowed by Douglas here, which is probably why he wasn’t a regular Main Event level guy outside of smaller companies. Douglas starts throwing punches with his injured arm at one stage and doesn’t even sell them, which is the kind of lack of psychology you don’t expect from a guy like him. He does at least collapse holding his arm in pain after giving Snow a powerbomb at one stage.
Snow makes a comeback following that, which leads to Candido and Bigelow running in to help their boss. Snow fights them off, but turns around into a Belly to Belly Suplex for two in a good near fall. Sadly that move just wasn’t really over as a finisher, so the crowd didn’t react how you’d want them to do, but as a near fall it was executed well. Snow gets an Asai moonsault out onto Candido and Bigelow before heading in for the Snow Plough on Douglas for two. Francine comes in to interfere and Snow gives her a very nice safe Snow Plough of her own. Al totally took care of her on that, good for him. Sadly the finish is botched as Snow goes for a sunset flip and totally whiffs on it, but Douglas acts like it hit and does the British Bulldog Summer Slam 92 counter for the win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHANE DOUGLAS
Match had a lot of issues when it came to psychology and it felt like a Hardcore TV Main Event rather than a pay per view one. On its own in a bubble though it wasn’t too bad, with Douglas entering a pretty impressive performance considering how banged up he was. It just would have been nice if he’d actually sold his real life injuries more
The ECW locker room empties after that and carries both men aloft on their shoulders like they’ve just had a classic match. Snow would be back in the WWF not too soon after this and ended up being a fixture of the Hardcore Division there.
Is It Really A Stinker?
It’s certainly a contender for worst ECW pay per view ever, but it’s more middling than actively bad, with only one match I’d genuinely declare to be awful and the rest being a collection of matches hovering around the ** range with one fun *** brawl in the middle. Obviously that’s not a pay per view quality card, but it’s not a catastrophe either.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend the show or anything and it’s definitely a thumbs down overall, but it’s not a full on Stinker either. It’s the next level up, which still isn’t great but not the lowest reaches.
Final Rating: Stinky
(Ratings go Pleasant, Fragrant, Odourless, Stinky, Stinker)