Happy Extreme Saturday Everyone!
I decided to fire off a review of one of my ECW DVDs again, mainly because I haven’t watched this particular show in a while and I wanted to see how it held up. ECW was due to be on pay per view in April of 1997, so this Arena show was mostly used as a way to hype that up.
The event is emanating from The Arena in Philly, on the 1st of February 1997
Calling the action is Joey Styles
The show opens up with Paul E. Dangerously in the ring with most of the babyface roster, where he hypes up Taz Vs Sabu at Barley Legal. We see that the Heels are watching from the stage whilst this goes on. Paul E drops the bomb that Barely Legal will be live on pay per view, which The Arena likes very much. We then get a brief music video to accentuate the point set to “King Nothing”. The video focuses on Taz and Sabu looking dangerous by beating lots of guys up.
Balls Mahoney Vs Lance T. Storm
I don’t think Balls had his full on chair swinging gimmick yet and was still supposed to be a sadistic gay biker. Storm still has his blond rat tail here, and he tended to have good chemistry with Balls so they have a nice opener. Balls takes a spill to the floor at one stage and Storm follows him out with a dive from inside the ring. Balls manages to cut Storm off with a shot when he tries some more high-flying back inside though, leading to some heat.
Balls’ stuff looks decent during the heat, with Storm selling it well. Balls even comes off the second rope with a Pump Splash at one stage before Storm starts making a comeback. Some idiots in the crowd chant that the match is boring at one point, which it absolutely has not been, but then the ECW Arena crowd could be known for doing stuff like that. Storm gets a great spinning wheel kick off the top and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: LANCE STORM
Solid enough opener, although some of the crowd didn’t appreciate it
Joey informs us that Ricky Morton has brought his girlfriend with him tonight in an effort to get over with the ECW Arena crowd.
Ricky Morton w/ Austin Vs Big Stevie Cool w/ Da Blue Guy, Hollywood Nova and 7/11
This was pretty much at the peak of the Blue World Order’s popularity, so Stevie is over like rover with the crowd. Morton isn’t really here to work ECW style, so instead we get a more standard Heel Vs Face matchup, with Stevie getting the babyface shine whilst Morton bumps around a bit for him. Morton isn’t really over with the crowd, but they are into Stevie.
I’ve seen Morton wrestle as a Heel a couple of times and it’s amazing to me that a wrestler who was so entertaining as a babyface could be so dull as a Heel. You would think it would be a bit like watching Heel Shawn Michaels in there, but instead Morton just did basic stuff a lot of the time with little in the way of charisma being shown, leading to some pretty bleh matches. Morton works a little bit of heat, but Stevie mostly shrugs it off and then pins him with a Stevie Kick.
WINNER: BIG STEVIE COOL
Just a match
Stevie tries to get Austin to join the bWo following that and she sneakily takes a t-shirt whilst hiding it from Morton.
Axl Rotten Vs Dr. Death Steve Williams
I don’t expect Williams to give Axl much in this one, which was usually the case when they brought someone in from the outside to wrestle Axl. I remember the match he had with Tarzan Goto where Goto gave him very little and the match never really got going as a result. Williams takes some punches and a hard buckle from Axl in the early going, but he never really gives off the impression that he’s in any real jeopardy.
Williams fights back with football tackles and quickly snaps off the Oklahoma Stampede for two. Oh wow, I’m surprised he let Axl kick out of that. The reason becomes obvious soon enough though as Williams quickly follows up with the Homicidal Back Drop Driver and that’s enough for three.
WINNER: STEVE WILLIAMS
Williams challenges ECW World Champ Raven following that, with Raven accepting to give us an impromptu World Title match.
ECW World Heavyweight Title
Champ: Raven Vs Dr. Death Steve Williams
They quickly head to the floor, where Raven gets some chair shots to Williams in order to bust him open. Joey is putting Williams over big time on commentary by talking about his dominance in All Japan so that it makes Raven look like a big star for being able to hang with him. Raven tries to put Williams through a table with an elbow drop, but Williams moves out of the way and it’s Raven who ends up tumbling through it.
Raven comes up bleeding from a Williams chair shot to give us a double gusher, as both men continue to brawl around the ringside area before taking it back inside. Raven is excellent at selling and Williams likes to dish out the punishment, so in many ways they make natural opponents. Williams does sell more for Raven than he was for Axl so the match is better as a result, with it actually being possible to believe that Williams might lose.
They do some good near falls, with the crowd seemingly being more into Raven than they are Williams. The bWo joins us, with Lori and Tyler Fullington in tow, both sporting bWo shirts. Williams chucks Raven out onto the bWo B-Team before refusing Stevie’s kind offer to join. This leads to Stevie delivering a series of Stevie Kicks to Williams, only for Williams to keep popping up following them. This gets pretty over with the crowd, with Stevie finally firing off a third one that keeps Williams down for long enough that Raven has time to hit a DDT for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RAVEN
This was okay, if a little overbooked
Joey pushes on commentary that Williams hasn’t been pinned in the United States for a long time in order to make Raven’s big win seem even more monumental.
D-Von Dudley Vs The Sandman
D-Von was the black sheep of The Dudley clan at the time of this, with the rest of the assorted Dudley’s in ECW hating him. Joey sums up Sandman’s current storyline status succinctly with “He’s got no wife, he’s got no kid and he’s got no belt. All The Sandman lives for is a good fight”. D-Von clobbers Sandman with punches and chair shots early on, but Sandman weathers that and then makes a comeback with some punches and kicks of his own.
This is basically your standard ECW brawl, the sort of match Sandman regularly engaged in, where they spend most of the running time out on the floor. It’s not going to win any awards for technical proficiency, but it entertains the fans and it’s a decent enough brawl. Sandman busts out one of his favourite spots of suplexing a table onto D-Von at one stage, before finally taking things back into the ring for some Singapore cane shots. Sandman follows the cane shots up with a DDT and then leg drops a chair over poor D-Von’s face for the three count.
WINNER: THE SANDMAN
The crowd liked it, although there wasn’t much wrestling going on
Joel Gertner comes into the ring to declare that D-Von actually won via his weird scoring system, which leads to Sandman caning his lights out to a big pop. D-Von uses this as a chance to beat Sandman up a bit, which leads to Buh-Buh Ray and Little Spike Dudley running down to seemingly stop him. However, Buh-Buh actually turns Heel to side with D-Von and start The Dudley Boyz tag team. Spike tries fighting them off, but he gets overpowered and The Dudleyz debut the 3-D for the first time. They would soon be Tag Champs and would go on to win the belts many times before leaving for the WWF in the summer of 1999.
Da Gangsta’s of New Jack and Mustafa join us once Spike is laid out though and that leads to New Jack having one of his many fights with The Dudley Boyz. Da Gangsta’s get the better of things in the early going, but even they eventually get cut off and beaten up. This is how you put a new team over strong, as they’ve debuted and killed four guys, three of which are former Title holders. This was a very good angle and quite a historically important one for good measure.
ECW World Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Eliminators (Saturn and Kronus) Vs Rob Van Dam and Sabu
I think both teams were babyfaces by this stage, although The Elims had been Heel for a while there since forming in 1995. This is a bit like a Japanese tag match, in that both teams essentially take it in turns to control things for a bit, with no real heat segment or anything like that. The Elims will do some moves, the challengers will do some moves, and the match just mostly ebbs and flows. The moves on display are mostly good as well, although Sabu has the occasional sloppy moment (I know, how unforeseen!)
The selling is a bit spotty, which makes it slightly difficult to get into the match at points, with the crowd not really reacting much outside of popping for the nice moves. It’s almost like the crowd are reacting to a firework display or something. They pop when they see a nice move but they don’t seem to have much in the way of genuine emotional attachment. We eventually get some brawling outside the ring, which allows Sabu to dive into the crowd at one stage, but they’re soon back inside trading moves again.
There’s one frankly ridiculous moment where both Sabu and RVD come off the top with a Splash/Leg Drop combination on Kronus, and Kronus pops up pretty much immediately, which makes basically no sense and leads me to think Kronus was annoyed by something and didn’t feel like selling. Maybe Sabu landed on him weird and Kronus was angered by it? Regardless, Kronus shakes off a finisher level double team like nothing and the match continues, with Saturn coming in to seemingly calm things down a bit.
Things start breaking down after a certain point, with the challengers bringing a table into the ring and trying to put Kronus through it, only for Saturn to save him. Saturn then involves a ladder, as this match has essentially become a tornado match with all four guys going at it. Sabu dropkicks Saturn off the ladder, leaving Kronus to desperately try and catch his partner, which leads to the challengers leg dropping the ladder over both of The Elims. We then get a stupidly contrived spot where the challengers climb atop the ladder to pose, thus allowing The Elims to knock it over with TOTAL ELIMINATION. That would have worked much better in an actual ladder match where they were trying to collect the belts and didn’t look like idiots for climbing.
We get another almighty botched spot, as they stack the ladder on top of the table and Sabu then knocks Saturn off whilst he’s climbing to send everyone tumbling to the mat. I think the table was perhaps supposed to end up breaking there or something? Either way, that looked horrible. Sabu ends up accidentally moonsaulting his own partner and that allows The Elims to get TOTAL ELIMINATION on RVD for the three count.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE ELIMINATORS
This was an absolute mess, especially when the match broke down near the end. There was little in the way of selling and psychology, with some of the big spots looking beyond contrived, and it was sloppier than a Sloppy Joe wearing a tracksuit covered in bacon stains. It was pretty much completely the wrong sort of match for these four to work together and it showed
Sabu takes TOTAL ELIMINATION following the bout for good measure. This leads to RVD attacking The Elims, which brings out Taz with a chair. Taz clocks RVD with the chair a couple of times and puts RVD in the Tazmission whilst Sabu has to watch. I guess The Eliminators were Heels after all and I was wrong about them being babyfaces at this point in time? This was a decent heavy heat angle to build up the Barely Legal match.
Tommy Rich Vs Terry Funk
Rich had dumped Tommy Dreamer off a stretcher, which had angered Dreamer’s mentor Funk, thus setting this one up. Rich of course picks out the first African American he can find so that he can make racially insensitive gestures and suggestions, such as requesting that the fellow in question shine his shoes. Funk is hecka over here with The Arena crowd, as they loudly chant his name and boo Rich out of the building.
They start this one out in the crowd as a result of Rich going out there to jaw with them, leading to Rich possibly breaking the record for blading in a professional wrestling match. Funk of course targets the cut with punches and head butts, with Rich selling it all well, and then goes after the leg with a chair for good measure. Rich is one of those guys who was very good at working the Southern style both as a Face and Heel, so getting the cheese knocked out of him by a fired up angry babyface is very much his natural habitat.
Rich does eventually get to work some heat on Funk, with both men fighting over into the front row, where the fans are so behind Funk that they actively try and stop Rich from using chairs by taking them out of his hand. I do like how the usually “too cool for school” ECW Arena crowd have totally bought into this old school southern styled Heel/Face dynamic. They hate Rich and love Funk, so they’re watching the match just as fans for a change. Funk eventually starts bleeding as well and does an excellent job of selling for Rich in order to get the fans behind him.
Rich gives Funk a series of DDT’s and then delivers some to the referee for good measure before going after Funk with a chair, drawing more heat from the crowd in the process. Funk keeps bravely fighting back though and it’s great, with both men trading punches and head butts on their knees at one stage. I wasn’t expecting Tommy Rich and Terry Funk to steal the show on an ECW event from 1997, but blow me over if it hasn’t pretty much happened here. Rich tries to put Funk out with his own Spinning Toe-Hold, but Funk survives that and then applies the genuine article for the submission win.
WINNER: TERRY FUNK
This was a darned good match when you consider how beaten up both men were even in 1997. The ECW Arena crowd loved it and it was a really entertaining south style brawl
Funk kicks Rich down low before celebrating and leaving.
The Triple Threat (ECW World Television Champ Shane Douglas, Chris Candido and Brian Lee) w/ Francine Vs The Pitbull’s (Pitbull #1 and Pitbull #2) and Tommy Dreamer w/ Beulah
Douglas injured Pitbull #1 by breaking his neck, so tonight the babyfaces are looking for some vengeance whilst The Triple Threat are looking to finish the job. Lee and Dreamer also had their own issue going on at the same time. The Pitbull’s “Thunder Kiss ‘65” entrance music keeps playing as everyone heads outside the ring to start the match, which is another example of ECW feeling more like a rock concert with a wrestling show going on in the background most of the time, which was a big reason why it felt counter culture at the time, especially in comparison to the “Big Two”.
The crowd wants Pitbull #1 break Douglas’ neck so that he can get revenge and they pop big when The Pitbull’s destroy a piece of guardrail by flinging Douglas through it. This is actually a really entertaining wild brawl, with everyone fighting all over the place and the action generally being exciting stuff that the crowd is into. It should shock absolutely no one that Dreamer ends up getting dropped crotch first on the railing at one stage, as I think that spot was probably written into his contract during this period.
The Triple Threat eventually isolates Dreamer in the ring and works him over, with The Pitbull’s trying to get back in to help him but getting fended off whenever they get close to doing so. Dreamer sells all of that well, with the work from The Triple Threat mostly looking good also. Cloudy makes an appearance at some stage for whatever reason, which leads to Beulah attacking them with a cookie sheet before brawling to the back with them.
The Pitbull’s finally manage to fight back when Lee takes an errant double dropkick from Douglas and Candido, which leads to Douglas and Pitbull #1 being alone in the ring. Pitbull #1 hits Douglas with a chair, but before he can dish out any more damage Candido comes in to break it up, leading to triple Rude Awakenings from The Triple Threat on the babyfaces owing to Douglas feuding with Rick Rude at the time.
This leads to Rick Rude showing up in a mask to talk trash on The Triple Threat, and he’s clearly enjoying being able to swear. Rude distracts The Triple Threat long enough to allow the babyfaces to make a comeback, leading to Douglas taking a Rude Awakening from Pitbull #1, with the idea being that Rude has personally taught Pitbull #1 the move. The Pitbull’s decide they don’t want to win yet, whilst Rude brings Francine onto the apron and spanks her for one of the biggest pops all night from the misogynistic ECW Arena crowd. A table gets involved following that and Pitbull #2 powerbombs Pitbull #1 through Douglas on the table to pick up the win.
WINNERS: THE PITBULL’S & TOMMY DREAMER
This was your typical wild ECW Main Event, the sort of thing they specialised in before the WWF essentially stole it for the Attitude Era. Brawling, blood, swerves, you name it
Pitbull #1 is selling his neck again following that, whilst his teammates look on surprised. Err, lads, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that powerbombing a guy with a neck injury through a table in order to put someone else through said table is probably not the best thing to do for that persons recovery. I’m just saying.
The last two matches gave this a reasonably strong closing, but a lot of the show was throwaway outside of the forming of The Dudley Boyz as an official tag team. The Eliminators Vs Sabu/Van Dam match was an absolute mess but I could also see some people liking it as a crazy car crash exhibition. It’s barely a thumbs in the middle when all is said and done though and there are better shows from this period of ECW.
Show not recommended