Mike Reviews – ECW Heat Wave 1998 (2nd August 1998)

Hey there Gang!

Back with some more ECW this week, with a special Stinker review scheduled for next week, so if you like those then keep a look out.

Heat Wave 98 is often regarded as one of the best shows ECW ever put on, with it featuring a bunch of well-built issues and some quality wrestling for good measure. Even Scott likes this one, so that’s a good barometer of how good it is!

Our big issue in the Main Event is Tommy Dreamer gunning for revenge on The Dudley Boyz after they broke the neck of his girlfriend, but we’ve also got Taz looking to avenge his defeat to Bam Bam Bigelow at Living Dangerously 1998 and the final bout in the Summer Series between Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible.

So yeah, lots of good stuff on the docket, so let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!

The event is emanating from Dayton, Ohio on the 2nd of August 1998

Calling the action are Joey Styles and ECW Champ Shane Douglas

Joey does the in-ring intro and then welcomes Douglas and Francine to the ring. Douglas compliments Joey on his suit, which Joey muses is double breasted, just like Francine. Francine thinks Joey’s suit probably didn’t cost as much as her medically enhanced flowery baps though, and is even nice enough to let Joey have a closer look.

Show Intro: Tonight’s tagline “Tonight The Rebels Take Over, As The Counter Culture Revolution Gets Hotter”

Opening Match
Justin Credible w/ Jason, Chastity and Nicole Bass Vs Jerry Lynn

Credible and Lynn had been wrestling one another in a series of matches over the summer, with this match designed to be the blow off for now. The matches had been of good quality and it had helped in elevating Lynn from generic undercard guy to well considered in-ring talent. Credible hadn’t yet switched to the Grinspoon version of “Snap Your Finger, Snap Your Neck” yet, and I must admit that I quite like the Prong version. Why not share your favourite version in the comments section?

Credible was kind of the new Raven here, in that he had a gang of lackeys to help him win matches and he was already causing Tommy Dreamer bother, although we were having a bit of a break from that feud at the moment whilst Dreamer dealt with The Dudleyz. I think it might honestly be impossible for these two to have a bad match when they’re actually given some time, and this match adheres to form in that regard. They had a run of matches in TNA that weren’t great, but that was mainly because they weren’t given a lot of time in those matches and the feud was treated as an afterthought.

Here both men go at it heck for leather and it’s good action, with lots of nice counters and some impressive high spots from Lynn, including a big dive out to the floor in the early going. Douglas is actually quite a good colour commentator, although Francine doesn’t say a lot. Lynn shines a bit in the early going, but Credible gets a very slick reverse DDT counter to take over for a bit, whilst both Joey and Douglas put him over big on commentary. You can definitely tell from watching this that they had plans for Credible going forward, and to his credit his performance has been very good in this match thus far, whilst Lynn has entered his usual strong effort.

Lynn sells well in the heat, and they throw in some chair based spots to show any possible new viewers that such a thing is allowed in ECW. Justin’s Flock get involved at certain points, which makes him look like more of a jerk whilst making Lynn look like more of a sympathetic babyface due to having to fight against such unfair numbers, which all adds to the story being told. You can definitely tell that they’d had quite a few matches prior to this one as their timing is on point and they have some really good chemistry going on.

Lynn makes the occasional attempt at a comeback, but Credible is always able to cut him off again, however it shows that Lynn that is still alive and gives you a reason as a fan to stick with him. Credible brings in another chair, but this time Lynn DDT’s him onto it to give him a taste of his own medicine, but Chastity puts Credible’s leg on the rope to break the count. Because it’s ECW, we get a wild high spot here in the opener where Lynn gives Credible a rana off the top rope through a table at ringside, thus meaning he’ll get over now even if he doesn’t win, which is so smart.

We get the big Flock Finish following that, as Lynn takes out all of them one after the other, including a moment where he clocks Bass right in the Stern’s before clobbering her with a chair shot to the back. It was super safe that but it still got a pop, so job done. Chastity ends up taking a Tombstone as well, which the misogynistic crowd loves, but this has given Credible enough time to recover so that, when Lynn tries to finish him with another rana, Credible is able to counter it into a Tombstone off the second rope for three. I think that might have been the first time someone did that particular finish on a pay per view outside of Japan.

WINNER: JUSTIN CREDIBLE
RATING: ***1/2

We get a video package for the next match between Lance Storm and Justin Credible. Basically they fulfilled Paul E’s favourite storyline trope of Tag Team Champions who hated one another. They have since split up for good, and Storm would appear to be the Heel of the two due to him walking out on Candido in a match, but it’s ECW so you never know.

Match Two
Lance Storm Vs Chris Candido w/ Tammy Lynn Sytch

Tammy had been in the WWF since 1995, but I think she had been okey-doked by them at this stage so ECW had picked her up due to her mister (Candido) working for them. Tammy lays a big smooch on Candido before the match, although Joey thinks she might possibly turn on him later due to her previously teasing a thing with Storm.

The crowd isn’t really as hot for this one as they were for the opener, but the wrestling on display is good and Storm shows off some good intensity as he was continuing to develop more of a Heel persona. Candido has protective headgear on due to almost losing his ear at one stage in a match with RVD and Sabu, so Storm takes it off in the early going. The problem with this one I think is that the crowd kind of wants to cheer for Candido and boo Storm, but they work it a bit too back and forth and neither guy really fills the role of a traditional babyface.

Had they had Candido work this as a typical babyface whilst Storm worked it as a straight up Heel then it might have had better heat because the fans would be getting behind Candido in hope that he would make the big comeback. That all being said, the work in the ring is good for the most part and Tammy does a good job at ringside, which was normally the case as she was a skilled manager/valet. The match just kind of feels like an exhibition of moves, whilst the opener felt like it told more of a story with Lynn trying to overcome the unfair numbers to win.

Some of the moves and spots here are great though, especially when Storm suplexes Candido to the floor, throws him into the front row and then follows with a big springboard plancha. That looked awesome and the crowd loved it. The hot moves continue back inside, with Storm getting a spinning wheel kick from the top rope for two, whilst Candido counters a cross body from the top into a powerslam for a two of his own. Outside of a few of them though the crowd isn’t really biting.

Tammy gives Candido some white powder to throw in Storm’s face (That fruit is hanging too low even for me. I do have some standards you know. Okay…I kind of don’t, but STILL) but Storm ends up kicking it in Candido’s face instead and that leads to Candido clocking the ref whilst blinded. Lance heads up top for something, but Tammy grabs his bum for the distraction and then shoves him forward so that he crotches himself on the top rope. Tammy’s dress ends up getting ripped (because ECW) but she manages to successfully cover up her flowery baps whilst Candido finishes off Storm with a powerbomb off the top.

WINNER: CHRIS CANDIDO
RATING: **3/4

Kind of just MOVEZ for the most part and the crowd wasn’t massively into it. The finish was a bit over complicated for its own good as well, but it wasn’t a bad match or anything and I mostly had fun with it

Tammy covers up with one of the security guards’ blazers following that.

We get footage from earlier, where New Jack’s promo is interrupted by Jack Victory (HIGH SPOT) and The Dudley Boyz, who leave him lying. This means that the Jack Vs Jack match has now been cancelled, although I’m sure we’ll see New Jack again tonight.

Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Bill Alfonso have a promo backstage. Hayabusa and Hakushi (bless you) are their opponents tonight. RVD is his usual cocky self, and Sabu is unhappy about it, as usual.

Match Three
Mike Awesome (Complete with music that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dynasty Warriors game) Vs Masato Tanaka

Awesome combined 80’s look and promo’s with modern day wrestling style, making him a somewhat compelling if also rather annoying prospect, whilst Tanaka is probably the best overall in-ring performer ECW ever booked from this era of the promotion. These two had a big feud in Japan, where Awesome usually won, but Tanaka is looking to redress the balance here.

This match has some incredible action in it, and the crowd absolutely loves it. Of course, the big downside with it is that it’s filled with vicious unprotected chair shots to the head, and it always amazes me that Tanaka functions as well as he does these days considering all the punishment he took from Awesome in the 90’s.

In the early stages it’s mostly both guys trading strikes and power moves, with Awesome showing off his impressive athletic ability with moves like springboard shoulder tackles and his big Undertaker WrestleMania dive. Undertaker would save that till the end of the match and would use it sparingly so that it remained a big spot though, whilst Awesome would just throw it in there willy-nilly so that fans pretty much forgot it by the end of the match. There’s a lesson to learn there I feel.

Tanaka gets some cool spots in of his own, including one of my favourites where he grabs a chair and then sprints down the ramp to hit Awesome with it. That gets a big reaction from the crowd, and the eventual chair shot didn’t even look that stiff either. Just goes to show that you don’t have to kill one another all the time to get over if you know what you’re doing. We get the Star Wars styled chair duel following that (Sorry Night) and Tanaka wins it, but then gets back body dropped into the crowd, where Awesome follows with another big dive, which gets a huge reaction.

We do indeed get the sickening chair shots to Tanaka, which Tanaka no sells at first for a gigantic pop before finally going down. That series of chair shots makes me feel pretty queasy these days I must admit, although back in the day I thought it was awesome, but then you do tend to enjoy that sort of stuff when you’re an angst ridden teenage boy I guess. Awesome tries to powerbomb Tanaka through a table from inside the ring following that, but Tanaka fights him off and delivers the move himself, with Awesome taking an horrific bump through the table, which barely broke his fall.

Amazingly we still have some more match to go after that, as Awesome kicks out of the resulting pin at two, thus getting him over with the crowd regardless of whether he wins or loses at this stage, which again is pretty smart booking, although I’m not entirely thrilled with how they got there. Awesome gets another big kick out from the Roaring Elbow, but Tanaka decides he cannot sanction this buffoonery anymore and gives Awesome a Tornado DDT on some chairs for the blessed three count after an absolute WAR.

WINNER: MASATO TANAKA
RATING: ****

In some ways I have a problem with this match due to just how reckless it was at points, especially with the table bump and chair shots, but I also can’t deny that it was a thrilling bout that the crowd loved. Take the chair shots out and this match and it wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Smackdown or Dynamite either, which shows how ahead of their time these two were. Amazingly, it took over a year for Awesome to get a proper push out of this due to his Japanese commitments

Tanaka celebrates following that, whilst the referee and a medic check that Awesome knows what day of the week it is. Tanaka might actually have a Wolverine-like healing factor to be honest.

Taz cuts a promo on Bam Bam Bigelow, but Shane Douglas isn’t impressed.

The Dudley Boyz have a backstage promo following that, where they don’t believe anyone can save Tommy Dreamer tonight. Buh-Buh Ray was very good in that segment. Good intensity (Yes, I’m sure we’re all shocked that Bully Ray is good at being intense)

Match Four
ECW Tag Team Titles
Champs: Rob Van Dam and Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Jinsei Shinzaki and Hayabusa

According to Paul Heyman they originally tried to get Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi for this show but it fell through, so he brought in Shinzaki and Hayabusa instead as they’d recently been getting some bookings in All Japan as a tandem and had had some good matches whilst working with the usual top All Japan crew. This match would be the litmus test as to whether they were being carried in those good matches or whether they were actually an elite tandem themselves.

In a harbinger of things to come, RVD and Hayabusa try to do a wrestling sequence to start us out and it doesn’t appear like they are on the same page, with a couple of planned spots between them going awry. Shinzaki comes in and simplifies things with strikes and his praying rope walk, and that proves to be a good idea as his stuff looks tight and the crowd digs it. I dug Shinzaki in the WWF as Hakushi and I I’ve liked him in this one thus far too. I don’t think these teams are especially well suited to one another, but it’s been an okay match thus far, if a bit sloppy in places.

Sabu and Hayabusa eventually have the Derby Della Baggypants with one another, and let’s be honest that’s what most of us were intrigued to see back in the day, and it’s kind of just a match, and not a very good one at that. Shinzaki comes in to clear out RVD when he tries to help Sabu, and that leads to the match breaking down into a pure spot fest, at which point it kind of goes off the rails completely and they just never get it back.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the spots look excellent, especially when Sabu leaps into the crowd onto all three of the other men, but that’s also the fourth match in a row where we’ve seen someone doing that so it’s starting to lose its appeal. The Laserlight Digital version of the show I’m watching also seems to have some of the match cut out for whatever reason, so we miss some of it, and I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative.

The crowd do react to the spots that land, but the lull in between where they are setting them all up is an absolute momentum killer. Shinzaki continues to look like the best wrestler in the match, as he tries to hold things together as best he can and his execution remains solid, but Hayabusa is just not with it. In a botchamania moment, a table gets brought in but one of the legs breaks, meaning it can’t be set up properly and everyone kind of ambles around whilst they try to work out what to do, only for the table to then collapse when the challengers try to lie RVD on it, drawing murmured boo’s from the crowd. RVD and Sabu win it soon after by putting the challengers through a different table with stereo moves from the top, and Sabu steals the pin to keep his issue with RVD cooking.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: RVD & SABU
RATING: **

This match was half high spots half disaster, and it alternated between being entertaining to being a mess. Probably the wrong style of match to have with the wrong combination of guys, but the finish looked spectacular and it was a win over a name team for The Champs. They could replay that finish over and over again to help get them over, so it was job done in that sense I guess

We get a video package to hype up the Taz Vs Bam Bam Bigelow match next. Bigelow defeated Taz at Living Dangerously 98 by putting him through the ring. Since then Taz has created his own Title belt, called the FTW belt, which stands for “Fudge The World”, and he’s now claiming that it means more than Douglas’ own ECW belt. Bigelow wants to take it from him now so that he can take Taz out of contention. Douglas is currently out injured, hence why he’s on comms.

Match Five
Falls Count Anywhere
FTW Title
Champ: Taz Vs Bam Bam Bigelow

Taz shows off his impressive strength in the early going by muscling Bammer up into a Samoan Drop, and they quickly head outside for a brawl, where Taz boots Bigelow off the ramp into the crowd, before following with our fifth stage dive of the evening with a cross body. Even Taz is at it! Bigelow catches him though and rams him into the ramp and we have a brawl out amongst the people. Even though we’ve had multiple dives into the crowd, this is the first time anyone has actually brawled over the building like this, so this actually feels fresh, especially as a lot of the matches have involved high-flying technical guys.

This is actually a really entertaining wild brawl, and it’s a perfect use of both men. Paul E has mostly got the wrestler combinations right tonight, and it’s led to good matches as a result. It’s not just the ingredients but the cook that’s important at the end of the day, and Paul certainly had a penchant for making lemonade during this period. Both guys are actually going for pins out there as well, so they’re not just brawling aimlessly they’re actually trying to win the match, which is good to see. It makes you think that they’re actually brawling for a reason rather than just doing it to fill time.

We do eventually head back to the ring, where Bigelow gets a big powerbomb on Taz before bringing a table into the ring. They’re probably getting a bit overkill with the tables at this stage, as this is the fourth match to use one, but if there was ever a match on the card that has earned the right to use one then it’s this one, and Bigelow flings Taz through the table in the corner in a brutally simple bump that looked great. Taz keeps coming though, and suplexes Bigelow through the remains of the same table. Waste not, want not, I guess!

The finish is just as spectacular as the Living Dangerously 98 match, as Bigelow goes for a slam out on the ramp and Taz counters it into a DDT, sending both of them breaking through it to concrete floor. Bigelow seems to have recovered from that first, but Taz pops up as well and chokes him out for the win in a great finish. That looked great and the crowd LOVED it.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TAZ
RATING: ***1/4

This was a fabulous brawl and set Taz up nicely as a challenger for Douglas, but sadly by the time Douglas was healthy enough to wrestle him, Taz had cooled off a bit

Douglas has a freak out following that and destroys a monitor.

We get super slow motion of The Dudley Boyz hitting Beulah with 3-D like it’s the Zapruda film or something. Joey cuts an angry promo on The Dudleyz following that.

Main Event
Dudleyville Street Fight
The Dudley Boyz (Buh-Buh Ray, D-Von Dudley and Big Dick) w/ Joel Gertner, Sign Guy Dudley and Jeff Jones Vs Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman and Little Spike Dudley

This would be The Dudleyz Vs the three main babyaces that hate them. Dreamer hates them for what they did to Beulah, Sandman hates them because they broke his neck and Spike hates them because they are his abusive half-brothers who betrayed him back in 1997. Buh-Buh of course insults the crowd prior to the match, also it’s a bit tamer than he would be at the event in 1999 when he nearly started a riot. Jones is a dodgy referee who has a blow-up doll dressed as Beulah for extra heat.

They actually tease that this is going to be a proper tag match in the early going, and the wrestling actually is actually fun, but it’s weird that they’d start a hatred filled feud-ending bout like this, especially as they’re just going to do the big brawl anyway. Just get to firework factory already! Buh-Buh flinging Spike around with reckless abandon is almost always entertaining though, and I don’t think Spike really gets the credit for the calibre of worker he was. He if wasn’t good then WWE would not only have never signed him but they also wouldn’t have actually let him win Titles and get reasonably well pushed.

We do finally get the brawl after some heat on Spike, and it’s the usual wild stuff you’d expect. The crowd enjoys it and it’s good action for the most part. Again, outside of Taz/Bigelow they’ve kept the arena wide brawling to a minimum tonight, so it doesn’t feel totally overplayed here like it sometimes would this late into an ECW pay per view. The big highlight is Spike climbing a ladder in the ring and diving onto everyone else outside the ring, which gets the expected big reaction from the crowd. If you’re not into bloody wild brawls then his won’t convert you, but if you like this kind of organised mayhem then you should enjoy this just fine.

All of the hangers on get involved too, with Jones getting a genuinely funny spot of piledriving the doll and mocking Dreamer’s pose, only for Dreamer to then deliver the genuine article to him. Even referee Jim Molineux gets involved by dropkicking a chair into Gertner’s face for a pop. Big Dick gives Dreamer a Baldo Bomb on the ladder at one stage, but he’s nice enough to take most of it on his own legs, which I’m sure Dreamer appreciated. He’s an absolute hero for that in my opinion, that’s properly taking care of someone. Dreamer catches Buh-Buh with a DDT onto the ladder not soon after and that’s enough for three.

WINNERS: DREAMER, SANDMAN & SPIKE
RATING: ***

A good brawl to close things on

Jack Victory and The Dudleyz try a post-match beat down, but New Jack does indeed return to make the save and the babyfaces stand tall to close us out.

In Conclusion

This is probably the best ECW pay per view ever (It’s either this or Anarchy Rulz in 1999) and was one of the better pay per views in the entirety of 98 when it came to the “Big Three” American promotions. I certainly enjoy watching it more than Bash at the Beach 98, although there wasn’t a match as good as the Rock/Triple H ladder match here so SummerSlam 98 probably just edges it out when it comes to being the best pay per view of the summer. Heck of a period for the wrestling business though when you take into account how good this show was from an in-ring perspective and how good both Bash and SummerSlam did at the box office (I think BATB 98 was WCW’s second highest buy rate ever)

Easily recommended show, check it out if you want to understand why so many people liked ECW back in the day. Hot crowd, good matches and solid booking. What more could you ask for?

Hopefully see you all next Saturday when we hit the road with WCW. It’s going to be wild!