Mike Reviews – ECW As Good As It Gets (20th September 1997)

What’s Up Docs!

Back to ECW again this week, as I haven’t watched this one in a while and it features a pretty famous bout between Bill Alfonso and Beulah McGillicutty. There’s also the debut of a certain more than credible gentleman…

The event is emanating from The Arena in Philly on the 20th of September 1997

Calling the action is Joey Styles

Opening Match
The Full Blooded Italians (Tracy Smothers and Little Guido) w/ Tommy Rich Vs Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten

The joke with The FBI is that Guido is the only actual Italian in the crew, with Joey Styles quipping that Rich in particular is about as Italian as frozen pizza. The FBI are comedy Heels whilst the babyfaces are chair swinging nutters and hadn’t started coming out to Big Balls by AC/DC yet, coming out to some kind of satanic sounding metal song that I don’t personally recognise. After a bit a Google I think it’s a track from Marilyn Manson called “Antichrist Superstar”.

This is a decent opener, with the babyfaces shining on the The FBI to start, complete with Axl doing a Dusty Rhodes impression with some Bionic Elbows. The FBI sells all of that well, with even Rich taking some shots, but eventually they manage to cheat to cut Axl off and start working some heat whilst Balls gets all hot and bothered on the apron about it. Axl isn’t a great seller or anything, but he does what he needs to and The FBI keeps most of the heat pretty simple.

A missed Rocket Launcher leads to Balls getting the hot tag, leading to a fun hot tag segment where The FBI bumps around again to make him look good. Balls gets The Nutcracker Suite on Guido and that appears to be three, but Rich puts Guido’s foot on the rope, causing referee Jeff Jones to restart the match. This allows Guido to catch Balls with a quick roll up and that gets the real three count.

WINNERS: THE FBI
RATING: **

Solid opening tag outing. The finish probably put more heat on Jones than The FBI really; although it was never presented like he was in on the ruse and he just made an honest mistake

Balls and Axl are angry about the finish and threaten Jones with chairs. John Finnegan and Jim Molineux come down to calm Balls and Axl down, which leads to Jones grabbing the mic and cutting a Heel promo. Even the other two referees get angry at Jones now; with Finnegan reminding Jones that he’s the actual senior official around here. Jones clocks him following that, so Finnegan punches him back and Balls adds a chair shot for good measure. That was a decent Heel promo from Jones actually and the chair shot got the expected pop.

Joey Styles is in the ring cutting the TV intro promo, which leads to him bringing Jason down to the ring. Jason says he has a new protégé, which leads to the debut of the former PJ Walker/Aldo Montoya as Justin Credible. Credible cuts a quick Heel promo and it’s time for a match, although some of the crowd are still chanting “Aldo” at him.

Match Two
Justin Credible w/ Jason Vs Jerry Lynn

Credible and Lynn are pretty much incapable of having a bad match when they’re given the time to have a good one, and this match is no exception, although the crowd doesn’t give them much of a chance. There are a few cool moments, such as Lynn bulldogging Credible off the guardrail to the concrete and Credible getting an impressive spinning powerbomb back inside. Lynn gets enough offence in that the match isn’t a squash, but it’s also kind of obvious that the focus of the match is more on making Credible look like the star of the two.

Both men sell well when the bout calls for them to do so and the wrestling itself is on point, although a decent length chin lock does slow things down a bit in the middle. Lynn eventually manages to catch Credible with a DDT and makes a bit of a comeback, coming off the second rope with a nice looking guillotine leg drop for two. The heat still isn’t really there for this from the crowd though, even though they continue to have a solid match. Lynn tries to finish things with a Tombstone Piledriver, but Credible counters to one of his own, before following up with a swinging DDT for three.

WINNER: JUSTIN CREDIBLE
RATING: **3/4

Good match with a flat crowd who didn’t seem to want to like it for whatever reason. Credible would of course switch the two big moves around so that the Tombstone was his finisher going forward

Credible celebrates after a solid debut performance, with the Prong version of “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” playing for the first time.

Match Three
Chris Candido Vs Lance T. Storm

This is blond rattail generic babyface period of Storm’s career, whilst Candido is a cocky Heel who was a member of The Triple Threat stable along with Shane Douglas and Bam Bam Bigelow. This one is a good technical battle, with Storm getting the better of things in the early going with some nice counters and quick offence. Storm’s wrestling is on point here, but he was lacking that certain something to move him above being “just a fella”, and he’d eventually get that in 1998 when he started becoming a self-satisfied arrogant jerk and added Dawn Marie to his act.

Candido eventually manages to catch Storm with a desperation powerbomb whilst Storm is going for some kind of Victory Roll, and that leads to Candido working some heat as a result. Storm sells well for that and Candido’s offence looks solid too. Candido also throws in little touches like eye gouges and sly punches to get across the idea that he’s the bad guy here. Interestingly Candido is keeping most of his offence pretty basic, possibly because he wants to leave all the cool looking moves to Storm seeing as Storm is the babyface.

Candido does eventually decide he can’t fight the urge to do some MOVEZ as well though, sending Storm into the front row and then following with a dive from the top rope. Candido is in decent shape here and still reasonably lean, which I think just looks better on him than when he got too roided up and bloated by the time the decade came to an end. The size he is here is just about right I think, as he still has an impressive physique but he also looks way more mobile than when he was when his body looked like it had been filled full of air.

Storm eventually makes the comeback, hitting some more nice looking moves, with the crowd still being kind of flat. They are at least more into the near falls here than they were in the previous match. Candido is excellent at stooging and stumbling around so that he is in the right place for all of Storm’s big moves without it looking too contrived. Candido eventually manages to get Storm with his Blonde Bombshell powerbomb off the top rope and that’s enough for three after a game effort from Storm.

WINNER: CHRIS CANDIDO
RATING: ***

Good match, with Storm looking impressive

Candido sells that he had a really hard fought win there in an effort to put Lance over even in defeat, which is a nice touch.

Match Four
Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Little Spike Dudley

Spike managed to score an upset win over Bammer at the ECW Arena back in the summer. Bigelow avenged that defeat at the Hardcore Heaven 97 pay per view event, so this bout here is the rubber match between the two. Bigelow essentially cuts a babyface promo to start, promising to fling Spike into the crowd so that they can bodysurf him around the building. This of course makes him mightily over with the demented ECW Arena crowd, with sections chanting “over here” because they want to be the ones to catch him.

This is mostly just a squash match for Bammer, but the atmosphere is incredible because the fans are so desperate for Bigelow to fling poor Spike into the crowd. Spike’s offence actually gets booed at points because the fans just want their bodysurfing fun and don’t really care about the result of the match outside of that. Bammer even takes some pretty big bumps for Spike, including tumbling over the top rope through a table at one stage following a Spike dropkick.

Spike’s offence proves to just be a bit of a flurry at best though, as Bigelow does eventually fling him into the crowd and the fans surf him around the building like this is some kind of wild rock concert that just happens to have a wrestling match going on in the middle of the arena. Spike finds his way back to ringside following that, and Bigelow puts him back into the ring for a top rope splash, which gets the expected three count.

WINNER: BAM BAM BIGELOW
RATING: SQUASH

This was all about one spot, and we got that one spot, so it delivered

Bigelow throws Spike into the crowd again following the match and Spike gets surfed around again whilst “Welcome to the Jungle” plays. This was a good example of something you could see in ECW that the “Big Two” weren’t providing, even though the WWF was in the midst of stealing most of ECW’s ideas for the Attitude Era by this point.

Match Five
ECW World Title
Champ: Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs Phil LaFon w/ Doug Furnas

Douglas mocks the crowd for cheering for his entrance, calling them a bunch of turncoats who would all be worshipping Terry Funk if he were still Champ, which does the job of turning them against him. That was pretty masterful promo work from Douglas to turn the “too cool for school” ECW crowd against him there. LaFon is here as a handpicked opponent from Rick Rude, and Douglas tries to weasel out of it by challenging Furnas instead because he was recovering from a car accident at the time. Furnas insults him in response and Douglas agrees to face LaFon.

Steamboat and Douglas against Furnas and LaFon in 1992 would have probably been a great tag match actually, and this isn’t a bad match from a technical perspective, but the crowd kind of sits on its hands again. This has probably been one of the worst Arena crowds I’ve seen actually, as they’ve spent most of the night not really being that invested. LaFon shines on Douglas to start, but a cheap shot from Francine allows Douglas to cut the challenger off and start working him over.

Douglas focuses most of his attacks on LaFon’s head and neck, with LaFon selling that well and Douglas’ offence looking decent. The crowd still doesn’t really care that much, but the wrestling hasn’t been bad. It hasn’t felt like a World Title calibre match, with neither man really seeming to have much in the way of chemistry with the other, but it’s not like it sucks or anything. It’s just two guys having a match in front of a crowd that isn’t really that bothered.

Francine eventually comes in to the ring to take a Tiger Bomb, which at least garners a reaction from the crowd, which leads to Chris Candido running down to help his stablemate. Furnas deals with Candido relatively easy, and he even manages to take out Bam Bam Bigelow with a DDT for good measure. However, whilst that is going on, Candido clips LaFon’s leg, which leads to Douglas getting a sloppy looking pinning hold for three.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHANE DOUGLAS
RATING: *3/4

It was an okay match but the finishing sequence was pretty messy and dragged it down for me

Bigelow wants more of Furnas following that, but Douglas and Candido talk him out of it.

We get clips from before the show, where Lance Wright gets beaten up by Taz and Tommy Dreamer has to talk him down.

Following on from that, The Pitbulls wheel Wright down to ringside, with him now sporting a neck brace. The Pitbulls going Heel was certainly a choice I’ll give Paul E that, although they had been babyfaces for a couple of years so their act probably did need freshening up. Pitbull #1 going Heel because he’s bitter over breaking his neck and the bloodthirsty ECW fans not really caring about it is a pretty good explanation for it though. Pitbull #1 talks about The Pitbulls signing with the WWF and moving to Dallas, which I don’t think ended up happening. This was a decent bitter promo until the Vince McMahon references started making it feel bush league. Pitbull #1 calls out Taz for earlier and challenges him to come down to the ring and defend his TV Title against Pitbull #2. Taz does eventually join us and the match is on. The Pitbull #1 promo went on a bit too long for me to be honest and it started to drag after a certain point.

Match Six
ECW World Television Title
Champ: Taz Vs Pitbull #2 w/ Lance Wright and Pitbull #1

Taz has it won pretty quickly with the Taz-Mission and them heads outside to boot Lance Wright off his wheelchair before suplexing him through a table for good measure. He makes the mistake of shoving a fan though and that leads to a couple of cops trying to arrest him. Taz ends up putting one of them in an arm bar and that leads to the locker room emptying in an attempt to prise Taz off the cop before things get worse.

NO CONTEST
RATING: N/A

Sabu runs down to attack Taz whilst Taz is being held back by the rest of the locker room, which leads to Taz finally leaving to the back whilst Sabu beats up Danny Morrison, Super Nova and Blue Meanie in the ring until Sandman joins us for the next match.

Match Seven
Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso Vs The Sandman

This was the first big singles match between these two I believe. This match is very much a wild brawl, but because they haven’t gone overboard with the wild brawls already tonight it actually feels kind of special as a result. This is not the match to watch if you want to see some technically proficient wrestling, but if you just want to watch two crazed hardcore guys fighting around ringside and hitting each other with stuff like tables and ladders then this should scratch that itch.

Thankfully there aren’t that many noticeable big botches here and the crowd is into this match way more than they have been for most of other matches tonight, so it has some decent heat and the big spots mostly go off without a hitch. There is actually some backstory to it all as well due to Sabu previously injuring Sandman, so there’s a reason for these two guys to be doing all this stuff. They’re not just doing it for the sake of it, there is actually an overriding issue here that is motivating both men to fight like this.

Sadly they rip fans off on getting a pin fall finish, which is something you could usually rely on ECW to provide for you. Sandman has Sabu on the ropes and looks to finish things off, leading to Sabu throwing a fireball in Sandman’s eyes in a last gasp attempt to rescue himself, leading to the ref stopping the match so that Sandman can be helped to the back and taken straight to a hospital.

NO CONTEST
RATING: **1/2

Good brawl with a bogus non-finish, but the spot itself did get a big reaction and it logically set up a rematch (although that might NOT have been a good thing)

Sabu does draw genuine Heel heat from the crowd for that, so it worked as a spot I guess.

Semi-Main
Rob Van Dam and Bill Alfonso Vs Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicuddy

RVD and Dreamer were feuding at the time as RVD was doing a pro-WWF gimmick. They start this one hot, with Dreamer rushing down to the ring and brawling with RVD whilst his “Man In The Box” entrance music continues to play in the background. Dreamer gets a ludicrously stupid move in where he sits RVD on the railing and then comes off the top rope down to the floor with a chair shot, and not surprisingly comes up limping as a result. I think Dreamer legit suffered an ankle injury there and had to wrestle in a reinforced boot for a while as a result.

The early part of the match is all RVD and Dreamer, with Dreamer dominating and seemingly having it won with a big frogsplash. Sabu runs down however and teams up with RVD to lay Dreamer out, with the big spot being a combined splash/leg drop through a table. RVD decides he’s had enough of the match following that and leaves with Sabu, leaving Beulah and Fonzie to finish the match off.

They do a pretty darn great job considering neither of them is a full-time wrestler, with the usually misogynistic ECW Arena crowd really getting behind Beulah as she takes it to Fonzie, with Fonzie even doing a big blade job for good measure. It’s one of those matches where the actual wrestling isn’t that good, but it has such great energy and the crowd is so into it that it ends up being a really entertaining contest as a result.

Beulah doesn’t bleed herself, but she ends up getting some of Fonzie’s blood on her through the course of the match and it leads to a pretty visceral gruesome image as a result. I can see some people thinking of this as low rent amateur hour stuff due to the quality of the work and the exploitative nature of seeing a woman in this kind of environment, but I have a lot of time for this match due to just how hard both Fonzie and Beulah are working and the fact they hold nothing back in the quest to have as good a match as they can. Beulah eventually manages to counter a Fonzie powerbomb attempt into a rana for the three count and the crowd goes nuts.

WINNER: DREAMER & BEULAH
RATING: ***

That might be a tad high to some, but this was FAR better than it ever had any right to be and the two non-wrestlers busted their butts out there, which I really kind of admire

There’s a bit of an interesting story behind this match actually, as it was supposed to be Fonzie’s last night due to him going behind Paul Heyman’s back in order to arrange an ECW invasion of WCW with Todd Gordon and Terry Taylor. However, everyone liked Fonzie and he worked so hard in this match that Paul E decided to keep him on as a result. Fonzie was quite literally fighting for his job in this one and ended up winning that battle, even though he lost the match itself.

Main Event
ECW World Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Dudley Boyz (Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von) w/ Joel Gertner, Sign Guy and Big Dick Vs The Gangstanators (New Jack and Kronus)

New Jack and Mustafa were Da Gangstas whilst Saturn and Kronus were The Eliminators, so when you mash the two team names together that’s what you end up with. Joel Gertner’s pre-match promo actually focuses on that, stating that The Dudleyz are the only real team left in the company now they’ve destroyed the other two.

The match itself is a New Jack match. Guys hit each other with weapons whilst “Natural Born Thrillaz” plays over the sound system. If that sounds like a good time to you then you’ll like this. If it doesn’t then you won’t. The crowd are pretty blood and brawled out after those previous two matches though, so the crowd reactions aren’t there for this one like they were for the previous two matches.

New Jack of course leaps off something high at one stage in order to put D-Von through a table, because it wouldn’t be a New Jack match if he didn’t. Kronus hasn’t had a chance to really do much in this one, as his whole thing was doing big high spots that a dude his size didn’t normally do and there’s not really much room for doing something like that when you’re in a weapons filled hardcore match where hitting people with stuff is the order of the day.

Interestingly the match is mostly dominated by the challengers, with Big Dick getting guitared by New Jack, leaving Kronus to come off the top rope with a 450 Splash onto D-Von for the three count and the Titles to a pretty big pop from the crowd.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: THE GANGSTANATORS
RATING: NEW JACK MATCH

The New Champs celebrate and we’re out.

In Conclusion

There was some good stuff on this one but there wasn’t really a full on blow away match that would justify the “As Good As It Gets” name that was so indulgently bequeathed to it. It was nice to see the babyfaces win the two show closing matches and the undercard was mostly solid, so that’s enough for a mild thumbs up from me.

Mildly recommended show