Mike Reviews – ECW November to Remember 1997 (30th November 1997)

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Back with another ECW review today, as I fill in the holes in my ECW pay per view review archive. November to Remember 97 was ECW’s third pay per view event, and N2R was generally the equivalent of their WrestleMania. The big storylines coming into this one were Tommy Dreamer feuding with the WWF aligned Rob Van Dam, Sandman looking for revenge on Sabu after the latter had thrown fire in the eyes of the former, and the big Main Event is Shane Douglas trying to regain his ECW World Title from Bam Bam Bigelow.

The event is emanating from Monaca, PA (which isn’t too far from Brittsburgh, PA) on the 30th of November 1997

Calling the action is Joey Styles (with Paul E. Dangerously popping in at one point)

Joey does the in-ring intro to start us out. They apparently have the biggest crowd in ECW history tonight at 4500+

We get the show intro, complete with TAG LINES. Tonight’s tag lines are “It’s Sunday Night November 30th, You Are Watching The November To Remember 1997, Live on Pay-Per-View”

That’s some pretty dull tag lines if I’m being honest…

Opening Match
Chris Candido Vs Tommy Rogers

Candido is a cocky Heel who was tagging with Lance Storm at the time, whilst Rogers used to be in the tag team known as The Fantastics with Bobby Fulton but at this stage he was tagging with Jerry Lynn. Candido actually gets a decent pop for his entrance as he’s aligned with Shane Douglas, who is basically the hometown hero tonight due to how close were are to Brittsburgh.

They work a decent match here, but the crowd is kind of hostile to start. The fans outright call some of the mat work boring, which seems unfair to me as it really isn’t. Rogers was never really that over during this ECW run and was kind of just a roster filler, so sticking him in the opener of the biggest show of the year and asking him to put in nearly 13 minutes probably wasn’t the best of ideas, even though his wrestling is fine here.

Rogers works the traditional babyface shine on Candido, bumping him around whilst Candido sells it all well. Rogers even suplexes Candido from inside the ring to the floor at one stage, which succeeds in winning the crowd over somewhat, and they chant “EC-DUB” as a result. Candido cuts Rogers off with a power slam not too soon after that though and works some heat, with Rogers also selling well and Candido’s work being good.

Aside from the crowd having moments where they haven’t really been into the action, this has been a solid opening match in all honesty, with both men clearly working hard and the crowd slowly being won over the longer it has gone. They deliver some big moves such as suplexes and rana’s off the top at one stage too, as they’re almost going for a bit of a New Japan Junior Heavyweight style of match in some ways.

Because this is ECW, Lance Storm runs down to help Candido when it looks like his partner is going to lose, which leads to Jerry Lynn running down to help Rogers. The referee decides “what the heck, let’s just make it a tag match” and that’s what we get, which gives Storm and Lynn a pay per view payday at least. The tag stuff is genuinely pretty entertaining too, with everyone hitting dives and the crowd enjoying the anarchy of a singles match just becoming a tag match like that.

This was something you didn’t really get outside of ECW at the time, and represents the general madhouse vibe of the company pretty well. They work it more like a tornado match than a straight up tag match, with everyone going at it in the ring and the action being fought at a quick clip. There are some nicely executed double team moves and some nice tight near falls for good measure, with the whole shebang being a lot of fun. Candido and Storm have some moments where they don’t really get on, but eventually everyone crashes and burns, leaving Candido to pin Rogers with a Northern Lights Suplex.

WINNERS: CANDIDO & STORM
RATING: ***

This turned into a pretty hot opener once the tag match portion began and the singles match leading up to it wasn’t bad either

Candido hogs the limelight once the match is over and barely seems to care about Storm, who is still down following The Tomikaze from Rogers. As this was ECW and Paul Heyman was booking, Candido and Storm would eventually end up fulfilling his favourite booking trope of “wacky mismatched tag team partners who hate each other but still manage to win the tag belts anyway”

We get a video package to hype the next match between Justin Credible and Mikey Whipwreck. They of course show footage of Mikey Whipwreck pinning Steve Austin at the 1995 N2R show, which they would always break out now and then.

Match Two
Justin Credible w/ Jason Vs Mikey Whipwreck

Justin was still pretty new to ECW at this stage and had been on a win streak, even pinning The Great Sasuke in Queens, New York. Mikey hadn’t really been doing much since the beginning of the pay per view era in ECW, so this was a chance to give him a proper feud and storyline again. Justin bumps all over the place for Mikey in the early going, with Mikey even busting out a dive at one stage and a rana out on the floor.

Justin catches Mikey with a swinging DDT back inside the ring though and then works some heat. I like how Justin didn’t need to cheat to cut Mikey off, because it’s Mikey. Mikey’s whole appeal was that he was a loveable underdog, so you shouldn’t necessarily need to cheat to cut him off, but you know Mikey isn’t going to back down when he is cut off and that he will do his level best to fight his way back into the match from underneath.

Mikey of course sells well during the heat and Justin does a good job of being an unlikeable Heel. Jason even manages to get some cheap shots in, in a nice call back to the previous feud the two had over the TV Title back in the mid-90’s. The match doesn’t have quite a lot of heat or anything, but the crowd does like Mikey and gets behind him to fight back.

Mikey does eventually make a comeback, leading to our second rana off the top rope in subsequent matches, which tended to happen in a place without any real road agents making sure stuff like that didn’t happen. Mikey ends up battering Jason for good measure, which leads to some Heel miscommunication between Jason and Justin, leading to Mikey catching Justin with The Whippersnapper (Stunner) off the top rope to pick up the upset win and snap Justin’s undefeated streak, leading to more matches between the two men.

WINNER: MIKEY WHIPWRECK
RATING: **1/2

This was decent. Mikey sold well and Justin played the Heel role well, so it was watchable throughout and the crowd really enjoyed seeing Mikey win

Al Snow is backstage with The Head for the first time ever, as he yells at The Head about it stooging off his injury, meaning he can’t do the J-O-B on the P-P-V. Nova and Blue Meanie are in there with him and don’t really know what to make of it all. Snow had been doing a crazy man gimmick for a while and it hadn’t quite been clicking, but now he had The Head he had the last bit of the puzzle that was missing and he ended up getting some decent mileage out of it. Joey then has to go for the low hanging fruit once they come back to him of course, which kind of cheapens it a bit. His shocked “what the heck was that?” expression when they came back to him was pretty funny though.

We get a video package hyping up the Sabu Vs Sandman match later. Sabu threw fire in Sandman’s face, so we’ve got a Tables and Ladders match tonight. Oh yes, it’s THAT match!

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

The Pitbulls had gone Heel and called out Taz, so Taz is looking for some payback tonight, which is bad news for them. Paul E joins Joey on commentary for this one. It’s a pretty quick match, with Taz weathering all of Pitbull #2’s big moves and then suplexing the bark out of him before locking in the Tazmission for the submission win.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TAZ
RATING: N/A

Barely a match, although what we got was energetic and fun at least. It was all about letting Taz do a Golberg-job on someone to make him look like a star and it worked in that respect. Paul E doing the hard sell on commentary helped massively in that regard as well

Brakkus from the WWF shows up following the match and Taz tries to goad him into a fight. A security guard tries to break that up, so Taz clobbers him as Paul E frets about getting sued on commentary. You can take most of what Paul Heyman says with a bag of salt, but when it comes to litigation you know he’s very much on the ball.

We get clips of Bam Bam Bigelow defeating Little Spike Dudley at the ECW Arena to distract us from Taz mauling a minimum wage worker to death live on pay per view. That leads us into a video package for the ECW World Title match later on. Rick Rude instilled Bammer as the next challenger for Shane Douglas’ belt in Queens, New York and Bigelow won the Title. Tonight Douglas is getting his rematch.

Match Four
ECW World Tag Team Titles
Four Corners Elimination Match
Champs: The FBI (Little Guido and Tracy Smothers) w/ Tommy Rich
Vs
The Dudley Boyz (Buh-Buh Ray and D-Von Dudley) w/ Big Dick Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley and Joel Gertner)
Vs
Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten
Vs
The Gangstanators (Kronus and New Jack)

The FBI’s thing is that, outside of Guido, none of them are actually Italian but they act like they are. The Dudleyz you will have probably heard of, and Gertner gets a slew of funny gags and punchlines in during his smutty intro. Balls and Axl were perennial challengers for the tag belts but never won them together, whilst New Jack and Kronus had been members of Da Gangsters and The Eliminators teams respectively, but their partners have now left ECW and they have decided to tag with one another instead.

New Jack and Kronus are fashionably late, but when they do show up the match becomes the usual New Jack extravaganza of hitting everyone else in the match with a big bin full of weapons whilst Natural Born Killaz plays over the sound system. The crowd loves New Jack and enjoys his weapon filled antics, so the match has good heat at least, even if it isn’t an especially good bout from a purely wrestling perspective. We haven’t had a big wild brawl yet tonight though, so this works as a bit of palette cleanser.

All of the assorted corner men get involved throughout the match, and there are some pretty impressive spots, with Buh-Buh even diving out onto everyone at one stage in an impressive move for a guy at 300+ pounds to do. Big Dick even tries heading up top for a moonsault at one stage, but Kronus is able to move out of the way and then takes Dick out with a heavy looking 450 Splash. He just flattened Dick with that one.

For some reason they decide to eliminate The Gangstanators first, but not before they smash a guitar over Rich’s head, which he sells fantastically. I guess they wanted to give Balls and Axl a bit of a rub as the top babyface team in the division, but the fans clearly like New Jack and Kronus more and seeing their favourite team go out first really flattens them out, especially as the music stops at that point, which only punctuates the matter all the more prominently.

The way Kronus gets pinned is pretty cool at least, as Guido hits him with a flag to send him flying off the top rope right into a Buh-Buh Cutter for three. At this stage you could predict that The Dudleyz would win the belts now, but they try and give Balls and Axl a rub by having them eliminate The Dudleyz. The way they do it is pretty clever too, as Buh-Buh gets blinded by powder and accidentally gives D-Von a 3-D, allowing Axl to pick up the three count for a big pop from the crowd.

They pretty much managed to win the crowd back over with that spot and if they then followed it up with Balls and Axl winning the belts then it probably would have succeeded in elevating them, but for whatever reason they decide they want to keep the belts on The FBI for now, so they have Heel ref Jeff Jones screw the babyfaces out of the win, leading to Guido getting a roll up and fast three count to give The FBI the victory.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE FBI
RATING: **1/4

The belts would end up on Storm and Candido about a week after this so they probably didn’t want to make Balls and Axl lame-duck transitional Champions, but still, this was probably the worst possible finish they could have done as far as the crowd was concerned

The crowd chants about what a load of a bull that was whilst Joey is apoplectic on commentary.

Earlier today, Tommy Dreamer and Beulah show up. Dreamer says the doctors have told him he shouldn’t be wrestling tonight due to his litany of injuries, but his love of ECW will see him through.

Match Five
Extreme Flag Match
Rob Van Dam w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Tommy Dreamer w/ Beulah

RVD was doing a pro-WWF gimmick at the time, which put him in direct competition with Mr. ECW Dreamer. You don’t need to grab the flag here, but rather the winner will get to raise their flag high once the match is over, which could lead to the unthinkable prospect of the WWF flag flying on an ECW pay per view event. RVD gets a funny line in during his entrance telling Stone Cold not to steal any of his stuff tonight.

Dreamer has a special boot on to protect a broken heel, making him literal walking wounded, but he guts it out here and they have a pretty good match as a result. RVD and Dreamer always had surprisingly good chemistry together when you consider the fact that their styles don’t exactly match up that much with one another, what with RVD and his flippy high spot style and Dreamer with his wild brawling antics.

A lot of the match is RVD bumping all over the place due to the fact he’s the one who has two properly functioning feet whilst Dreamer’s mobility is pretty limited. It’s kind of amazing that Dreamer is able to drag himself through this to be honest. I would rather be in bed eating crisps and watching telly if I had a similar gnarly collection of injuries. I certainly wouldn’t want to be taking bumps in a wrestling ring.

RVD ends up busting open his eye at one stage, so at least he’s got some kind of impairment going on as well. Maybe he was feeling left out? Dreamer shines on RVD for a decent amount of time but RVD manages to turn the tables by kicking a chair into Dreamer’s head a few times, which Dreamer of course sells really well. Brawling, selling and looking sad were always Dreamer’s biggest attributes and he’s had plenty an opportunity to deliver all three in this one.

Dreamer does manage to fight back and that gives RVD a chance to take some big wacky bumps, including nearly folding himself up on a Dreamer neck breaker and an iconic spot where he takes a piledriver from Dreamer and ends up bouncing up WAY in the air. That might have been one of the first gif’s I ever saw come to think of it. Sadly we get a lame No Conest finish, as a bunch of guys run in including Jeff Jones, Phil LaFon, Doug Furnas, Stevie Richards and Sabu, leading to the match just kind of ending.

NO CONTEST
RATING: ***

It’s such a shame because they were having a fun match there and the terrible finish just left a really sour taste in the mouth, as no matter how screwy a match in ECW was you could usually at least be guaranteed to get a pin or submission finish. I get that they probably didn’t want to have Dreamer win and then not deliver on the stipulation, but I would have preferred that rather than the lame non-finish we got

Tommy Dreamer gets destroyed by RVD and his buddies, which leads to The Sandman ever-so-slowly making his way down to the ring for the rescue, doing his entire entrance routine whilst the Heels just get kind of bored and wander off. Yeah, you might not want to have Sandman as your back-up, especially if the bar is still open.

Semi-Main
Tables and Ladders
Sabu w/ Bill Alfonso Vs The Sandman

Tables and Ladders surround the ring for this one and you win by pin fall or submission. This match has a pretty infamous reputation and definitely divides people, with some finding it to be a fun wild spot fest, whilst others think of it as a sloppy botch fest and one of the worst matches of 1997. I remember hating it back in the day, but I’m willing to give it another chance as it’s been a while since I watched it and maybe some time away from it will have allowed me to develop some new perspective?

The quality of the props doesn’t seem to be that high, as Sandman lays Sabu out on one of the tables early doors and it just collapses under his weight, meaning that Sandman has to barely lay Sabu on the edge of the next and leg drop through it. The tables look to have clearly been pre-broken as they snap neatly in half. I get wanting to make sure the tables actually break, but it kind of negates the bonus of tables breaking your fall if they just neatly disintegrate upon impact. It doesn’t help that guys are going through tables here and are up seconds later because it’s time for the next spot.

There are so many botches in this one too that it could probably put Maffew’s kids through college, with one of the more notable ones being Sabu riding a ladder down in order to put Sandman through a table, but then changing his mind mid-move, leading to the ladder landing on Sandman and knocking the table over. That is then immediately followed up with Sandman putting Sabu through another table with a Swanton Bomb, which is instantly no sold so that they can do more spots in the ring.

This is honestly one of the messiest and most ridiculous matches I’ve ever seen on a pay per view from a “major” promotion. So much goes wrong and the selling is almost non-existent, so even when they do nail a spot correctly for once it utterly means nothing because both guys are up again straight after. It’s like watching someone have a TLC match on one of the old Smackdown games, where putting someone through a table was about on par with giving them a body slam. The crowd is mostly patient with them, but eventually the boo’s do start creeping in, especially when Sandman tries to dive out to the floor and cause a ladder to fly back and hit Sabu in the face, which just looks lame and super contrived, and the crowd lets them know it.

There is finally some semblance of selling as the match reaches the latter stages, but honestly I think that’s more because both men are legitimately knackered. More tables get broken, with Sandman mostly tumbling off a ladder to put Sabu through one outside the ring, although the table was already buckling under Sabu’s weight. Sabu tries throwing fire again, but Sandman dodges it this time. At least, I think that was the plan. The fireball might have legitimately missed and they just did their best to cover it.

Alfonso gets involved for the distraction, allowing Sabu to regain control and yet ANOTHER table is broken. Honestly I should have kept a running tally as to how many tables got broken in this one because it’s frankly ridiculous. Thankfully that leads to the finish at least, as Sabu puts Sandman back into the ring and leg drops a ladder on Sandman from up top, which is enough for three.

WINNER: SABU
LOSERS: THE REST OF HUMANITY
RATING: DUD

Sorry but this match is still a debacle in my mind. It’s riddled with botches and whenever spots do land it ultimately leads to guys popping right back up without selling so that they can do the next scheduled spot, which means the spots end up not really meaning anything. It was utter amateur hour and I’m amazed the cynical ECW crowd didn’t turn on it any more than they did. If anything they were particularly generous considering how bad the match was

We get some replays following that, as Joey does his best to put the action over.

Taz joins Joey Styles in the commentary area, where he challenges Bam Bam Bigelow to a match at Living Dangerously on the 1st of March 1998. That ended up being pretty good if I recall.

Main Event
ECW World Title
Champ: Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Shane Douglas w/ Francine

Shane Douglas is a notable critic of Ric Flair, but ironically he basically rips Flair off here by trying to do the Ric Flair Vs Vader match from Starrcade 93. If you haven’t seen that match, what basically happened was that Vader was wrestling Flair in Flair Country and clobbered him for the majority of the match whilst Flair sold until Flair finally started getting some offence in the latter stages on route to an upset win. That’s essentially what happens here as well, with Bigelow taking the lion’s share of the offence and just pummelling Douglas from pillar to post.

Of course Douglas isn’t Flair, which means the execution of the match isn’t as good, but they tell the story well enough. The match probably goes on for too long though, as they have 25 minutes to work with, which is probably 10 minutes too many considering the ability of the participants involved. I like Bammer and rate him as a good big man worker, but he’s not as good at working longer matches as Vader was. For those that will understand this reference, this match is kind of like Aldi/Lidl equivalent of an existing product. It might taste and look similar, but at the end of the day it’s a cheaper non-brand version of the thing you already like.

Douglas does sell well and Bigelow’s offence looks okay, but this match is clearly a step below the one it is imitating. I actually enjoyed it more this time around than I did in the past, but I can completely understand why some could find this boring, as it really is just Bigelow destroying Douglas for 20 minutes and Douglas just isn’t as entertaining in that role as Ric Flair is. The crowd does pop when Douglas gets some flurries of offence here and there at least, so the story is connecting with them to a certain degree.

There’s actually a great spot where Bigelow lays Douglas on a table and heads up, but Douglas is able to catch him with a powerbomb through the table for a big pop. This would be a great moment for Douglas to really start taking the fight to Bigelow, not unlike how Flair finally started motoring on Vader when he hits him in the leg with a chair, but instead Bigelow shakes it off and we’re back to Douglas selling again, flattening out the crowd at a moment when it seemed like they were ready to get into the match.

Bigelow accentuates the point that he’s back in control by powerbombing Douglas through a table outside the ring, but he does sell his ribs a bit at least to show that going through the table earlier did at least have a long term effect that might pay off later on. I have to say that they’ve done a good job telling a story here, and both men have sold where they’ve needed to in order to get that story over. It may have been a bit slow paced, but I can appreciate what they’ve tried to do and the crowd is into Douglas whenever he shows signs of life.

Lance Storm and Chris Candido try to help Douglas out, but Bigelow flings Douglas onto them and they are taken out by security, leaving Douglas on his own again. Francine tries to help as well, but Bigelow chases her off and continues to clobber Douglas, with Douglas getting a moments respite with a Belly to Belly Suplex. Bigelow comes up selling his mid-section again following that, but he manages to shrug it off and get back in control, making a contraption of a chair and table piece in the ring. Douglas manages to catch him with another Belly to Belly through the table/chair thing though and that’s enough for a flash three count and a big pop from the crowd.

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

This was okay in the end, although it probably would have been a better match if they’d shaved 10 minutes or so off it. The story of Bigelow being in control and Douglas having to fight from underneath all match was well told and the finish made sense as Douglas had been targeting a particular part of Bigelow’s body all match and eventually managed to catch him with a big move to that part of the body in order to win. It was no Flair/Vader, but as a discount price equivalent I’ve certainly seen worse

Douglas is so beat up that he can barely celebrate following that and the pay per view goes off the air with Candido, Storm and Francine checking on him.

In Conclusion

Aside from the debacle that was Sabu Vs Sandman, most of the stuff here was okay. There weren’t any blow away matches, but the show was watchable for the most part and they did a good job making guys like Taz and Rob Van Dam come across as genuine stars. I can kind of see why ECW was firmly in third place at this stage though, as they were essentially doing an Attitude Era styled WWF show with lesser production values. Of course the WWF had stolen the very concept of the Attitude Era from what ECW had been doing for the past couple of years, but most fans didn’t know that, so ECW kind of just looked like a more ghetto version of the WWF and this was an issue that would plague them until they died in 2001.

Mildly Recommended Show