The Law Reviews: ECW Barely Legal

ECW Barely Legal
April 13, 1997
ECW Arena
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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They were the little promotion that could. After years of scratching and clawing, ECW finally made it to the big leagues with their first pay-per-view in April of 1997. ECW’s influence had already been felt across the wrestling world, as both the WWF and WCW moved towards edgier, more adult products. It also had introduced international talents that went on to success in the big two: Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Konnan, Psicosis, and others. Now they were taking their talents to the “big dance” as Heyman said in his pre-show speech. Pay-per-view would never be the same again.

The show would be headlined by Taz and Sabu finally facing off to finish a feud that had been brewing for over a year, since Sabu was fired for no-showing a match where he was supposed to team with Taz. Also, a Three Way Dance featuring Terry Funk, Stevie Richards, and The Sandman, with the winner immediately facing Raven for the ECW Championship. Here’s a clip from “Beyond the Mat” about the show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdYmUcGjq9E

Joey Styles is our host tonight. He introduces the show in his typically great fashion. The Dudley Boyz interrupt to huge heat.

ECW Tag Team Championship: The Dudley Boyz (c) vs. The Eliminators

The Eliminators were Perry Saturn and John Kronus, two high-flying bad asses. The Dudley Boyz were the most vile, despicable heels imaginable in ECW. There were times where they nearly incited riots, something that was no longer common in wrestling in the 1990s. Sign Guy Dudley tries to take a cheap shot and gets nailed with Total Elimination (simultaneous Leg Sweep/Spin Kick). That allows the Dudleys to come in from behind and get the quick advantage. High impact offense from the Dudleys early includes a Powerbomb, Diving Headbutt, and Suplex/Cross Body combo. Saturn stops the 3D with a Spin Kick and he and Kronus go to work. Lots of simultaneous kicks.

Stereo Twisting Splashes send the Dudleys to the floor. Kronus assists Saturn in a Moonsault to the floor! Kronus follows with a Handspring Senton! That’s a concrete floor they’re falling onto, by the way. Back in the ring, The Elimnators run through some more high-flying offense. It’s cool, but starting to get tedious. Dudleys haven’t gotten in any offense since the very beginning of the match. 450 Splash by Kronus! Total Elimination on Bubba gets the win at 6:11.

Analysis: *1/2. Fun spots, but no psychology or build. They put Saturn and Kronus over super strong and popped the crowd, so I guess they did their job.

Saturn and Kronus hit Gertner with Total Elimination for good measure.

Sandman hype package.

Lance Storm vs. Rob Van Dam

This was supposed to be Storm vs. Chris Candido, but Candido is hurt and unable to compete. Van Dam is playing a heel here, as he was going by “Mr. Monday Night” and campaigning to be signed by the WWF. He had aligned himself with Jerry Lawler and wrestled a few matches on Raw during the ECW invasion in the early part of 1997. Storm has a hilarious ponytail mullet at this point. Van Dam dumps Storm and then connects with a Somersault Plancha! Joey Styles makes this easy by calling all the moves by their proper names. Top rope Leg Drop from Van Dam gets two. Storm connects with a Dropkick that sends Van Dam off the apron and into the railing. Storm goes for a Pescado but misses.

Moonsault off the guardrail by RVD! Van Dam brings a chair in with him and throws it into Storm’s face! Van Dam kicks the chair into Storm’s face. Five Star Frog Splash only gets two. That may not have been his finisher at this point. Van Dam misses a Moonsault and lands on the chair. Spin Kick by Storm, then a Flying Body Press. Storm locks in the Single Crab, which was apparently not his finisher yet. Storm ducks the Van Daminator and scores with a super weak chair shot. Tiger Bomb gets two for Storm. Leg Drop sends the chair into RVD’s face. German Suplex gets two for Storm. Storm hits Van Dam with the chair so weakly that the crowd boos. Then Van Dam kicks it into his face. Standing Moonsault gets three for Van Dam at 10:11.

Analysis: **. Decent match, but it was another case of them just stringing moves together instead of building to anything.

Storm offers a handshake, but Van Dam refuses. Van Dam says he doesn’t care about respect. He’s just in it to make money.

Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, and Masato Yakushiji vs. Taka Michonoku, Dick Togo, and Terry Boy

The wonders of talent sharing. ECW brought in six top guys from Michonoku Pro and let them do their thing on pay-per-view. Taka, Togo, and Terry Boy are part of “BWO Japan,” ECW’s parody of the NWO. The match is so fast-paced that it’s almost impossible to transcribe the action. They’re flying and slamming each other all over the ring. So I’m just going to sit back and enjoy watching it and encourage you to do the same thing, because it’s a really awesome match.

Analysis: ****. So much fun. Non-stop action for 15+ minutes.

ECW World Television Championship: Shane Douglas (c) vs. Pitbull #2

Douglas broke the neck of Pitbull #1, so this is a revenge story. There’s also a stipulation involving a mysterious masked man who had been stalking Douglas. If Douglas won, the masked man would have to reveal himself. Douglas comes to the ring with several masked riot police backing him for protection. Pitbull focuses on Douglas’s neck, trying to break it. He also hits him in the nuts a few times, just for good measure. Douglas takes over and hits three straight Piledrivers. That should be the wrestling equivalent of blasting Pitbull with a shotgun, but it’s not the end of the match.

Douglas keeps working the neck. There are some strange moments in this match where neither guy seems to know what to do and they just sort of pause. Gary Wolfe (Pitbull #1) jumps the railing and goes after Douglas but is restrained by the riot squad. Pitbull throws a guardrail into the ring. In an ugly botch, Douglas drops his leg onto it and luckily doesn’t break it. Douglas then throws Pitbull out of the ring and drops the railing onto him, which doesn’t seem safe at all.

Joey Styles takes a shot at Sting on commentary. At no point in his career could Shane Douglas have ever carried Sting’s jock. Sting is a better wrestler now in his 50s than Douglas was in his prime. Some stuff happens, eventually Douglas hits a crappy Belly to Belly Suplex and retains.

Rating: *. That was kind of the worst of ECW. Two guys who weren’t very good wrestlers hurting each other while the crowd was only partially interested. Oh, and it was the longest match of the night.

Rick Rude comes over the PA. Then the Masked Man comes out. He has the Rick Rude robe on. Douglas beats him up, then one of the riot cops get in the ring and unmasks himself…it’s Rick Rude. But who’s in the mask? It’s Brian Lee. Lee slams Douglas and Rude dances. That was a fun segment. Don’t really know the Lee/Douglas backstory, if there was one.

Raven promo. He trashes Terry Funk and promises to retain tonight.

Taz promo with Bill Alfonso. He’s going to fuck Sabu up. They play the promo over videos of Taz choking out everyone, which adds to the atmosphere.

Taz vs. Sabu

Grudge match over a year in the making. Sabu no-showed a match where he and Taz were supposed to team up and was legitimately fired for it. Taz spent months trashing Sabu, who finally returned at November to Remember 1996 and threw down the challenge. This is billed as “The Grudge Match of the Century,” and that’s less hyperbolic than you’d expect.

The presentation of Taz in ECW was so awesome. He’s like a tiny Brock Lesnar. Sure, he’s like 5’8. But in ECW he was the baddest motherfucker on the planet. Like Mike Tyson in a wrestling ring. Whoever got in there with him was going to get choked out.

Sabu just appears in the ring and it’s time to go. Taz nearly chokes him out in the first minute, but Sabu is able to block. Apparently the first man to ever block the Tazmission. Taz rides Sabu and busts his nose up with some crossfaces. Sabu gets a chair and runs through his signature spots. Taz takes over and destruction ensues, including a Belly to Belly Suplex into the crowd. Sabu tries for a Tornado DDT through a table but Taz blocks and slams Sabu. That’s the generous interpretation, I think they actually just screwed it up. Sabu fights back with a top rope Frankensteiner and a Guillotine Leg Drop, forcing Taz to the floor.

Sabu hits Taz with a T-Bone Suplex and mocks his pose…then locks Taz in the Tazmission! Naturally Taz knows how to escape his own hold and levels Sabu with a Belly to Back Suplex. Taz locks in the Tazmission and the referee calls for the bell.

Rating: **¾. Sloppy and a bit weird, but mostly worked. Their styles were worlds apart, which led to some issues. Sabu trying to do Taz’s realistic, MMA-style stuff doesn’t really work.

Taz gets on the mic and shows Sabu respect. Saying that was the fight of his life and offering him a rematch. They shake hands and Sabu raises Taz’s hand in victory. Rob Van Dam shows up and attacks Taz. RVD and Sabu put the boots to Taz, followed by an Arabian Facebuster. Then Bill Alfonso rips off his “Team Taz” t-shirt to reveal a Sabu shirt.

Tommy Dreamer joins Styles on commentary for the main event. He gave up his spot in the Three Way Dance in favor of his mentor Terry Funk.

Elimination Three Way Dance: Terry Funk vs. The Sandman vs. Stevie Richards

Richards is out first with the Blue World Order. Sandman is second with his signature entrance, albeit with “Enter Sandman” replaced by an instrumental knock-off on WWE Network. Oddly, Sandman actually comes out down the entrance ramp instead of through the crowd. He looks drunk as shit.

Sandman offers Funk a beer, which he respectfully declines. Funk gets tuned up by both Stevie and Sandman. Sandman leaves the ring and gets a ladder, meanwhile Funk hits four straight Neckbreakers on Richards. Dreamer’s commentary is horrific. Everything he says sounds totally fed to him by Heyman. Funk goes for a Moonsault off the ladder and totally misses Richards. Sandman works over both Funk and Richards until getting thrown into the ladder. Sandman and Richards climb the ladder so that Funk can throw them off.

Ladder helicopter from Funk. Funk and Sandman set themselves up for a seesaw move with the ladder by Richards. This is all extremely contrived. Stevie Kicks on Sandman and Funk get two. Funk hits some weak chair shots, because he’s a compassionate man and not a lunatic. Sandman brings a trash can into the ring and he and Funk Suplex Richards onto it. Spike Piledriver on Richards. Sandan puts the ladder on Richards and then hits a Slingshot Senton onto him. Another teeter totter sends the ladder flying into the crowd.

Double Powerbomb on Stevie gets three. He’s out of the match.  Sandman brings barbed wire into the ring and ends up getting whipped with it. Sandman wraps himself in barbed wire and hits some Body Avalanches on Funk, then a top rope Leg Drop. Funk puts a trash can on Sandman’s head, Richards returns and hits a Stevie Kick, then Funk follows with the Moonsault for the win.

Rating: **. Not a big garbage wrestling fan, and that was about as garbage as it gets. There were a few interesting spots and I like that they avoided the three way cliche of one guy getting knocked out so the other two could fight.

Raven’s there, and we’ve got out main event.

ECW World Heavyweight Championship: Raven (c) vs. Terry Funk

Funk is a bloody mess. Dreamer’s commentary gets better as he sounds genuinely anguished by the punishment Funk is taking. Raven sets Funk on a table outside the ring and Splashes him through it. The doctor tries to stop the match but Raven knocks him out. Raven’s Flock shows up and someone named “Reggie Bennett” (a woman) beats up Funk. Raven gets on the mic and promises to put Funk through three tables, just like what happened to Dreamer months ago. Dreamer gets up to help Funk but Big Dick Dudley appears and knocks him out.

In the ring, Raven hits the referee with an Evenflow DDT. Dudley goes to Chokeslam Tommy through the tables, but Tommy blocks and slams him instead. 10+ foot drop with concrete at the bottom. Totally nuts. Dreamer makes it to the ring and DDTs Raven, allowing Funk to cover for a super close two count. The bell actually rings, but that’s not it. Funk cradles Raven for the win.

Rating: *. Just a angle, but it was pretty well executed.

Funk jumps into the crowd to celebrate the win. The show goes off the air. I read a story somewhere that a generator blew right as they went out, which means that if they hadn’t ended the match just when they did the show would have gone dark before Funk won.

Overall: A show that doesn’t really hold up. The six man tag was pretty great, the rest of the show wasn’t anything special. Funk winning was a great moment and probably the right call for the main event. It wasn’t a great show, but ECW was so hot at this point that it wasn’t a problem that they didn’t deliver great matches. Their fans were bought in: Taz was the toughest SOB in the world, The Eliminators were the greatest tag team, and ECW was real wrestling.

Grade: B-

 

One thought on “The Law Reviews: ECW Barely Legal

  1. Evan says:

    I remember the Storm/Van Dam match. This was early Storm, and he looked very hesitant on that chair shot. It was almost like a love tap.

    Like

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