Mike Reviews – ECW The Doctor Is In (3rd August 1996)

Happy Extreme Saturday Everyone!

Today we’ve got some more ECW action from 1996, as Rob Van Dam takes on Sabu in the Main Event whilst Chris Jericho and Scorpio go at it in the under card. Steve Williams also appears, hence the name of the show

The event is emanating from the 2300 Arena in Philly on the 3rd of August 1996

Calling the action is Joey Styles

We open up with JT Smith joining us in order to introduce KISS. It ends up being Stevie Richards, Blue Meanie, Super Nova and someone else who I don’t recognise. Meltzer in the Observer seemed to think it was Don E. Allen, so we’ll go with that. The crowd doesn’t seem to mind and still has fun. This was an entertaining segment and yet another well observed parody from Stevie and Meanie. Sandman eventually interrupts things and beats everyone down with his Singapore cane, all whilst singing along on the mic much to the amusement of the crowd. ECW Champ Raven joins us following that, although he’s on crutches due to a foot injury and can’t wrestle. I know he had gout at some stage in 1996 but he apparently needed surgery for this injury which would suggest it was worse than a gout flare-up. He still goes into the ring but Stevie jumps Sandman from behind and Raven canes Sandman in the eye for good measure.

Opening Match
Devon Storm w/ Lady Alexandra and Damien Kane Vs Mikey Whipwreck

Devon would eventually go on to be Crowbar in WCW. Mikey had previously defeated Dirt Bike Kid to win his European Junior Heavyweight Title, which DBK had basically leveraged as a way to get some ECW bookings. This is a decent opener, as they trade moves and counters in the early going until it ends in a stalemate. There are moments where the work isn’t exactly crisp, but it works as a way to warm up the crowd for the rest of the evening’s action.

Mikey sends Storm out to the floor at one stage before following with a pretty sloppy looking springboard styled dive, but his Victory Roll attempt back inside is countered into a reverse Electric Chair and Storm takes over for a bit. Mikey of course bumps around and sells well for Storm when it’s time for the latter to work some heat. The crowd alternates between reacting to hot moves and giving verbal’s to Storms entourage.

Eventually Storm decides to deny giving the crowd an exciting move by refusing to give Mikey a rana, which leads to Mikey making a brief comeback with a clothesline off the top and some roll-ups. Storm quickly takes over again though and sets Mikey up in a chair before heading into the ring for a wild flipping dive to the floor. That looked like it killed poor Mikey and Storm should have it won back inside but Kane demands that Storm keep beating on Mikey.

That protects the crazy move at least as it’s presented that Storm would have easily won if he had just made the cover. Storm’s refusal to win of course leaves the door open for the Heel to be hoist by his own arrogance, as Mikey snaps off a rana and makes his proper comeback. Kane even comes in to clobbered as well, leading to Mikey getting a rana off the top for three.

WINNER: MIKEY WHIPWRECK
RATING: *3/4

Sloppy in parts but it had good energy and worked as a way to get the crowd warmed up

I’m not sure if Storm made it to 1997 but he definitely worked some more shows during 1996.

Match Two
Louie Spicolli Vs Johnny Smith

Smith has “Sad But True” as entrance music here, which is what I believe Lance Storm used for a bit when he was new to the company. Spicolli worked quite a bit in Mexico whilst Smith had worked up in Canada as well as over in Japan. Smith was never really a regular in ECW as he always prioritised his All Japan bookings, but he’d drop in now and then to work some matches. Spicolli is the more heelish of the two but they mostly work this as a straight match with neither one really being the bad guy.

It’s a solid outing from both men, as they trade holds on the mat and have a nice believable looking bout. It feels like two guys actually trying to out-wrestle and out-fight the other, with the ECW Arena crowd responding well to it for the most part. It’s quite Japanese-like in a lot of ways, with plenty of suplexes, heavy hits and some tight near falls for good measure. It wouldn’t look out of place on the under card of an All Japan show, which is what I think they were going for with it. It’s mostly back and forth, with both men having chances to win it.

Spicolli actually introduces a chair to proceedings at one stage and the crowd boos him for it (yes, the ECW crowd booed a wrestler for introducing a weapon) as they are enjoying the match and don’t think it needs the chair. Smith quickly knocks it out of Spicolli’s hands anyway and we get a few more near falls until Smith wins it with a sit-out powerbomb.

WINNER: JOHNNY SMITH
RATING: **1/2

Decent action there with both men looking good

Both men get cheered following that and shake hands in a show of mutual respect.

Match Three
D-Von Dudley Vs Axl Rotten

D-Von was feuding with the rest of The Dudley Family at this stage, something that Rotten can sympathise with due to his long running feud with brother Ian Rotten. D-Von brings a chair to the ring with him and refuses to get rid of it, meaning the match can’t properly start as a result. Rotten heads outside for a chair of his own and brings it into the ring with him, leading to the old chair sword fight. Rotten gets the better of that, teeing off on D-Von with some safe chair shots to the back.

D-Von goes low and hits Rotten right in the John Lydon’s to cut him off and delivers a few chair shots of his own, which leads to Buh-Buh Ray Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley and Chubby Dudley joining us so that Buh-Buh can brain D-Von with a sickening chair shot to the head. D-Von goes low again to regain control of things though, leading to chair shots for all of The Dudleyz. Buh-Buh fights back and is doing well until D-Von goes low for the third time. The match seems to have just been thrown out but it didn’t ever really properly start either.

NO CONTEST?
RATING: N/A

This was more of an angle than it was a match

D-Von chairs everyone but Rotten, who begs off and seems to actually take D-Von’s side in the dispute, which would constitute a Heel turn on his part I think. He was kind of meandering nowhere as a babyface anyway and this at least lets him get involved in an ongoing storyline. Big Dick Dudley eventually joins us, but D-Von doesn’t want any of him and bails along with Rotten. This was leading to D-Von and Rotten against Buh-Buh and Big Dick I believe.

Match Four
ECW World Title
Champ: Raven w/ Lori Fullington, Tyler Fullington, Stevie Richards, Blue Meanie, Super Nova and Done E. Allen Vs The Sandman w/ Missy Hyatt

This was during the feud where Raven stole Sandman’s family from him, with Sandman now having his eye bandaged due to Raven’s earlier attack. Raven says that he’s far too injured to wrestle due to his foot being all taped up. Stevie brings Todd Gordon out to the ring though and reveals that he has stupidly agreed to defend it in Raven’s stead. Raven is of course furious about this and DDT’s Stevie, which leaves the man defending the belt for him already on the defensive.

Raven using Tyler as human shield is next level scumbag heeling, and the glee he takes in doing it just makes it all the more entertaining. This at least distracts Sandman long enough to allow Stevie to cut him off, leading to Stevie targeting the injured eye of Sandman. Sandman soon fights back though and the match settles into its main story loop of Sandman trying to put Stevie away with Stevie only just surviving each time, either by kicking out himself or having help from Raven’s lackeys at ringside.

It’s not exactly an in-ring classic or anything like that, but the match does tell a good story and both men play their respective roles well, with Stevie being great as the overwhelmed Heel trying to find a way to survive whilst Sandman is great as the injured babyface trying to find a way to overcome both the injury and the numbers disadvantage in order to pick up the big win. Meanie comes in more than once and almost always bungles things up somehow in comic fashion, ditto for Nova.

The ref ends up taking a bump, as they are just loading this one up with dog and pony stuff. Missy tries going after Raven at one stage, but Lori takes her out and Raven tries to hit Sandman with a loaded boot, only for Sandman to cut him off with a DDT. Sandman is just great as the fired-up defiant babyface looking for vengeance here, with Raven once again using Tyler as a human shield to save himself. This allows Stevie to hit Sandman with the loaded boot so that Raven can pick up the pin.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RAVEN
RATING: ***

I’m not sure of the legality of Raven getting the pin there seeing as it was Stevie who was actually wrestling the match for him, but in ECW stuff is kind of just allowed to happen sometimes so it’s not quite as jarring when the same stuff happens in WCW and the WWF. The match itself was pretty entertaining just because of all the hijinks going on and an excellent performance from Sandman

Joey says Raven has managed to do it again but he will eventually pay, which did indeed happen later in the year when Sandman was able to win the belt and get a measure of revenge.

Match Five
Too Cold Scorpio Vs Chris Jericho

Jericho was on his way to WCW by this stage and this was his farewell match in ECW. Some of the crowd boo him and say that he sold out, whilst others cheer him and wish him luck. The second group are what I like to call the reasonable ones, whilst the first are closeminded berks. Sadly ECW tended to have more of the first group than they did the second group in their fan base sometimes.

This is a very well worked match, with both men looking good and the match itself having a good atmosphere due to the fans knowing that Jericho is on his way out. There’s lots of nicely executed fast-paced offence, with things eventually settling down as it’s clear that it’s very warm in the building due to both men sweating like French cheese after the early exchanges. Credit has to go to both of them for working so hard in such abrasive conditions. I bet it was a positive for Jericho to go from buildings like this to nice air-conditioned ones whilst working for WCW.

Both men trade the momentum, with the match gradually building to bigger and bigger moves, as both men take turns to do dives to the floor. The crowd continues to be into the bout and they’ve pretty much forgotten that Jericho is leaving now and are just enjoying the match. The finishing stretch is similar to one from a big Japanese bout, with the near falls being well done and both men having chances to win it. Eventually Scorp gets a Shooting Star Press and that’s enough for three.

WINNER: TOO COLD SCORPIO
RATING: ***1/2

Joey calls that one a “nip ‘n’ tuck thriller™” as Scorpio celebrates.

Match Six
ECW World Television Title
Champ: Shane Douglas w/ Francine Vs Pitbull #2 w/ Pitbull #1

Douglas won the TV Title at Heatwave 1996 when Francine betrayed The Pitbull’s and helped Douglas defeat #2. During the match, Douglas gave #1 a DDT onto the belt and broke his neck in the process. It was a legit injury, so they decided to work it into the storyline, with #1 doing a promo in the ring with Joey Styles prior to the match. #1 lists his injuries, saying he’s part paralysed but he’s not going to give up wrestling. He’s actually in a surgical halo here, complete with a back support, which I believe was also genuine.

Joel Gertner comes down to specially introduce both Douglas and Francine, and he of course goes overboard in praising them for cheap heat. Gertner is very good as an insincere smug Heel, with the line of “you’re hero, and MINE” being one of the funniest parts of his introduction. Douglas stalls like mad in the early going in order to ramp up the hatred from the crowd, and it works. Eventually Francine distracts #2 by going after #1, and that allows Douglas to attack him from behind.

This is one of those matches where the actual wrestling isn’t great due to #2 being kind of sloppy and awkward sometimes, but it has great heat from the crowd and they tell a good story of #2 going after Douglas’ neck with a number of big head based holds and moves so that he can avenge the broken neck of his partner. Douglas does a good job of bumping and selling all of this, whilst the bloodthirsty ECW Arena crowd demands that #2 break Douglas’ neck.

The fight soon heads to the floor, where someone has brought a pie of some kind to the show with them and passes it to #2 so that he can use it as a weapon. Douglas finally manages to get some offence of his own in whilst outside the ring as he wears #2 down with some chair shots. #2 manages to shake those off though and we head into the crowd itself for some more brawling. They’ve rationed the crowd brawling so far tonight in a rare show of restraint, so it really adds to the match that it’s included here as the crowd hasn’t been burnt out on it yet.

They eventually fight back to the ring, where #2 ends up missing an attack in the corner and that leads to him tumbling over the top rope through a ringside table. Douglas takes over for a bit following that, with #2 eventually coming up bleeding when he goes face first into the metal railings. They tease doing the blood stoppage off of that, but #2 of course won’t hear of that and eventually starts Hulking Up, surviving a bunch of weapon shots from Douglas and continuing to kick out, drawing cheers from the crowd in the process.

It’s funny watching the too cool for school ECW crowd going nuts for old school babyface stuff like this, but #2 has done it well to be fair to him and most crowds would be getting behind him at this stage, especially with him being close to a 0.8 Muta as the result of a gory blade job. Francine wraps a chain around Douglas’ fist and Douglas gets a number of unanswered shots with it, but #2 keeps coming, leading to Douglas having to get a pair of Belly to Belly Suplexes for the three count.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHANE DOUGLAS
RATING: ***

This was way better than the awful match they had at Barely Legal 1997, with the blood playing a big part in it. It was a good intense brawl, with #2 getting pinned but also getting protected in the process due to how much it took to keep him down

#2 destroys both the referee Pee Wee More and Joel Gertner following the match to get his heat back, as Joey declares that the feud will continue.

Match Seven
Dream Partner Match
Taz and Brian Lee w/ Bill Alfonso Vs Tommy Dreamer and Steve Williams w/ Beulah

Lee had been feuding with Dreamer for a while prior to this and he’s picked Taz as his partner for this match due to Taz being possibly the best guy you could choose if you needed a special partner owing to him being on a near yearlong Path of Rage as at the time of this show. Taz and Dreamer would continue to feud a bit following this show as well, as they were real life friends and it gave them something to do between other feuds.

Williams was known as Doctor Death, hence the name of this show, and he’s being presented as such a dangerous dude that even Taz might be worried about wrestling him. The crowd is of course jazzed at the thought of seeing Taz fight Williams, but Lee attacks Williams before it can happen, thus leaving it on the table for another time as Lee and Williams fight in the ring whilst Taz and Dreamer head into the crowd.

Lee and Williams eventually head into the crowd as well, as this has become a wild brawl. It’s entertaining, but we have just seen crowd brawling in the previous match so it’s less effective here in this one. Dreamer ends up getting thrown off the stage through a table by Taz, whilst Fonzie and Beulah go at it inside the ring. Williams brings and end to that though and flings Fonzie out onto Taz’s trainees at ringside, which finally leaves us with Taz against Williams.

They trade stuff on the mat for the most part, with it being done at a pretty sluggish pace actually, but things do pick up when they start throwing strikes and going for bigger moves. Williams gets the Doctor Bomb on Taz, but Lee shows up to break up the pin whilst Dreamer drags himself back to the ring whilst armed with a metal bin. Lee ends up Choke Slamming Dreamer on the bin though and that’s enough for three.

WINNERS: LEE & TAZ
RATING: **

They present that as it being more Taz’s win than Lee’s as Taz’s big suplex was the move that softened Dreamer up. It was a decent brawl for the most part that kept the storyline chugging along, but Williams could have probably done more to make his appearance feel special

Williams checks on Dreamer following that whilst the Heels retreat happy with the victory.

Semi-Main
ECW World Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Eliminators (Saturn and Kronus) Vs The Samoan Gangsta Party (Mack Daddy and Sammy The Silk) Vs The Bruise Brothers (Ron and Don Harris) Vs Da Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa)

This one came about because all four of the teams hated one another so we’ve got them all going at it here in an effort to settle the score. The Samoans had been arrested earlier in the evening, but they’ve somehow broken out of the pokey and they are here to fight, complete with handcuffs. Cuffing The Samoans limits what they can do somewhat and it takes away from the match a bit. I’m not sure why they bothered with that, especially as The Samoans are Heels so it’s not like you really need to present them as underdogs. Maybe it was something they themselves demanded to make them look tougher and potentially explain away a defeat if they were to lose?

The match is a wild brawl from the very beginning, with Natural Born Killaz of course playing in the background due to New Jack being involved. It’s messy in parts but it’s generally entertaining. The Samoans are not surprisingly the first team out, with New Jack braining Sammy with a chair from the top rope to eliminate him.

The Samoan Gangsta Party eliminated by Da Gangstas (1)

The three remaining teams fight to the outside of the building, slamming one another onto cars and whatnot. Back before WCW and the WWF had proper hardcore divisions this sort of stuff was ground-breaking and really helped ECW stand out from the crowd. Sadly by the time they got national TV the WWF had already taken these sorts of matches and implemented them into the Attitude Era package, meaning that ECW had lost one of its unique selling points as the biggest company in the world was doing it with better production to boot. Eventually every gets back to the ring and The Elims take out one of The Bruise Brothers with TOTAL ELIMINATION!

The Bruise Brothers eliminated by The Eliminators (1)

So now we have The Elims taking on Da Gangstas, which was the main feud most of the fans cared about anyway. The Elims look to put a bloody New Jack away, but he manages to dodge TOTAL ELIMINATION, leading to Kronus accidentally kicking Saturn. With Saturn out of the way, New Jack comes off the top with a chair onto Kronus and that’s enough to give Da Gangstas the tag belts.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: DA GANGSTAS
MOST ELIMINATIONS: DA GANGSTAS (2)
RATING: NEW JACK MATCH

This was entertaining for the most part, even if there wasn’t much actual wrestling going on for the majority of it. The crowd were really into Da Gangstas and it gave the match good heat, whilst the brawling was mostly done well. It was a satisfying payoff to the four way feud

The crowd pops big for the Title change, whilst The Eliminators argue with one another. This would lead to the two teams facing off again inside a steel cage.

Main Event
Extreme Stretcher Match
Rob Van Dam Vs Sabu

This feud came about because Rob Van Dam disrespected Sabu by refusing to shake his hand, leading to a series of matches between the two. Both men went out on stretchers in a previous meeting, so we’ve got the two men going at it in a stretcher match here, where you have to stick your opponent on a stretcher and then drag them to the back in order to win.

They waste no time getting into this one, as both men are soon fighting outside of the ring with Sabu doing a wild flip dive to the floor onto RVD. The feud had been raging on for a while at this stage so it makes sense that they don’t really attempt to build this one patiently and instead go straight to the big moves more or less. It’s a fun match for the most part, with the crowd being invested in the action and RVD doing a good job of being a cocky Heel.

We of course get teases of both men getting wheeled out before they manage to get off the stretcher and keep fighting. Interestingly they don’t really do a lot of spots where the stretcher itself is used as a weapon, such as grabbing the backboard and using it to wallop one another etc. Instead they mostly focus on fighting in the ring and around ringside, with standard weapons such as tables and chairs getting used.

They do eventually work the stretcher into things, with some big moves onto it including Sabu delivering leg drops and moonsaults. They do the tease of it ending in a draw with both men getting carted off on separate stretchers following the moonsault, but Sabu gets up before that can happen and keeps the punishment going on RVD by dropping the aforementioned leg, leading to RVD slowly sliding off the stretcher to the floor in quite a funny visual. It was almost like something out of a Road Runner cartoon how he slowly slid off there.

There is definitely some sloppiness at points, but in general this is an exciting bout with a lot of big spots and the crowd gets into it. It’s a suitable payoff to the feud between the two, including a moment where RVD fights off a Sabu attack and gives him a Fisherman Buster through a table that is propped up between the railings and the ring. They tease that this will be the ending with Sabu getting carted off, but he manages to survive again.

One very cool spot is RVD countering a Sabu springboard attempt with a flying kick, as the timing was spot on and it looked great. The match has had a desperate sloppy feel to it for the most part, which suits the vibe they’re going for in some ways, but there have been some slick sequences like that as well. RVD does maybe have it won at one stage, but instead goes for a senton onto Sabu whilst he is on the stretcher and Sabu is able to move, leading to RVD crashing an burning. RVD gets carted off following that and Sabu ends up winning.

WINNER: SABU
RATING: ***1/4

I did like the finish there as RVD almost defeated himself with Sabu being presented more as the survivor than the winner, which suited the wild vibe of the match in general. It was a fun match for the most part, although instances of sloppiness kept it from being rated any higher

Sabu just about manages to pull himself to his feet in order to soak in some cheers as the tape comes to an end.

In Conclusion

This didn’t have that one top level classic match on it but it had a lot of good action and the storyline advancement was on point as well. ECW was on a hot streak during this period and this show kept the momentum going.

Recommended show!