AXL ROTTEN & BALLS MAHONEY vs. THE FBI (Tracy Smothers & Little Guido) (w/Tommy Rich) - 4.5/10
The ECW Arena crowd is chanting "LITTLE CAESAR!" at Little Guido rather than the usual "where's my piazza?!" which is both more clever and less racist. A win-win!
They had a fine little babyface vs. heel opener. The finish saw Balls hit Guido with the Nutcracker Suite and get the pin, but Tommy Rich put Guido's foot on the ropes immediately afterwards and then pointed it out to referee Jeff Jones, who ordered the match restarted... at which point Guido immediately rolled Balls up and got the pin. The FBI then bailed as we moved on to the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Balls is angry and wants to hit Jeff Jones with a chair but Jones insists that Balls will not do so because "I made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes." While the other referees came out to try to calm Balls and Axl down, Jeff proceeded to cut a promo on all of the "mistakes" made by various fans, and by said fans' parents for not using protection.
Jeff continued his rant, claiming that due to there being no more commissioner, referees like him were now the highest authority in ECW, and he was best referee in the entire country. Senior Referee Jim Molineaux reminded Jeff that he was the senior referee and therefore in charge, and told him that he had made his point and should quiet down so the situation could be resolved. Jeff responded by mocking and then slapping Molineaux, who responded by flooring Jeff with one punch. When Jones got up he decided to charge at Molineaux, but Molineaux stepped out of the way... and Jeff ran right into a chairshot from Balls Mahoney. This segment was quirky, fun, and little over the top. In other words, it was very ECW.
One other interesting note here was something I knew coming into this show (part of the reason I picked it was because I wanted to see if the semi-main event lived up to the hype), but this segment made me aware of it in a much broader way. Jones' comment that there was "no more commissioner," means no more Tod Gordon, who had been ECW's on-air commissioner for several years (probably since the first time an angle called for there to be a commissioner). And that, in turn, means that this show took place right after the alleged "mole" incident. That's probably something that needs to be kept in mind as I watch this show to understand certain comments that might be made or any sort of general air of paranoia or perhaps camaraderie that might seep through the TV screen more than two decades later. It's always good to have context for such things, and doubly-so in a promotion like ECW.
JOEY STYLES INTERVIEWS JASON - Historic. As Joey breaks out into hives, Jason reveals his newest charge. He's not P.J. Walker and he's not the Man-o-War. "He's Justin Credible." "Yeah, but what's his name?" "OOOH! I get it. That's good name." I laughed my ass off at this. Justin then cut a promo on Joey where he came off very stiff (not in the wrestling way; I mean his delivery was awkward and choppy) and it felt a little too over the top. It was very much like he was still stuck in "WWF mode" and he would later learn to done things down a little bit to get to that more human-feeling ECW level.
JERRY LYNN vs. JUSTIN CREDIBLE - 6.75/10
Also making his ECW Arena debut tonight is Mr. Jerry Lynn. This was Justin's sixth match in ECW, but his first as "Justin Credible." He had wrestled a few times over the past month as first "PG-187," and then as "P.J. Walker." In his previous two matches, he wrestled "Dynamic" Jerry Lynn (with only medium-length flowing blond hair) two weekends ago, and actually teamed with him the previous night. But for all intents and purposes, this match right here is the beginning of the ECW careers of not one but two future ECW World Heavyweight Champions.
This was something of a "moves" match, but their intensity was great the whole way through, starting with some good opening spots to both ramp the intensity up and to establish Justin as the heel. The finish came when Justin hit what Joey Styles described as a "Corkscrew Tombstone" which was a move Joey didn't think he'd ever seen before. Then Justin sold until both got to their feet and Justin hit what Joey called a "swinging DDT" that looked a lot more like a swinging facebuster, and that got the three-count. Hey Justin? You might want to go with that Piledriver variation as your finisher instead.
LANCE STORM vs. CHRIS CANDIDO - 7/10
Candido's hair looks bad here, but Lance has a f*cking blond dovetail tacked onto the back of his usual close-cropped black hair. It might well be the worst hair I've ever seen in pro wrestling, and think of the ground that covers.
More great wrestling, but totally different than before. This was a bit of a moves match as well, but the moves flowed so perfectly from one to the other that it almost certainly had to have been called in the ring. This also had more of a "real sports" feel to it than the previous match, which I greatly enjoyed. Even while doing dives into the crowd, they managed to keep that all-business feel going strong.
SPIKE DUDLEY vs. BAM BAM BIGELOW - 4.25/10
Before the match Bam Bam cut a promo encouraging fans to catch Spike and body-surf him around the arena when Bam Bam throws him. Shouldn't Bam Bam want the fans to do the opposite of that and move out of the way when he throws Spike at them so that Spike will hit the floor and become injured, increasing the likelihood of Bam Bam emerging victorious?
Joey Styles informs us that the last time these two wrestled here (a mere six weeks ago), Spike pulled of a major upset and pinned Bam Bam Bigelow. Meanwhile, the fans are all chanting "WE WANT SPIKE!" because Bam Bam throwing Spike into the crowd became thing, reducing the biggest victory of Spike's career to nothing.
Bam Bam whipped Spike hard into the turnbuckle and Spike went down... and then Bam Bam just fell down, too. Joey tried to claim that Spike hit him on the rebound, but it didn't look like they were even near each other. Then again, the fans didn't chant "YOU F*CKED UP" so maybe this was just an atrocious camera angle (though why they didn't use hard-cam footage for this shot instead is an entire different f*ck-up).
Other than that one spot this was a good but short (five and a half minutes) Big Man vs. Little Man weapons match. In all honesty, the "throw Spike into the crowd" spot at the end felt like it got in the way more than helping the match.
SHANE DOUGLAS PROMO - Good heel stuff
ECW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Shane Douglas(c) vs. Philip LaFon (w/Doug Furnas) - 5.25/10
The angle here is that LaFon was a mystery challenger that Rick Rude had been personally training for three months. He controlled the match until Francine hit him in the nuts and Shane started to work that injury over. Shane eventually transitioned to working the neck so Joey could tell us all how proud Shane is of breaking Pit Bull #1's neck. LaFon made his comeback but was thwarted by more interference. They did a good job of building up a future Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Doug Furnas match, but I thought they made Shane look a lot weaker than necessary here in the way he was almost completely dominated by Furnas when things were fair.
GARY WOLFE PROMO - Terrible. This was the Pit Bulls first appearance in ECW in two months. The last time we saw them they were complete and total babyfaces, and their feud with Shane Douglas for Shane breaking Gary Wolfe's neck was just winding down. Now they are randomly heels, and equally randomly aligned with Lance Wright, who is in a wheelchair with a neck brace on due to an attack by Taz on a recent show.
The internet tells me the that the reason they disappeared for who months was some drug-related legal trouble, which makes the fans chants of "JUST SAY NO!" make a lot more sense. Gary ranted for well over five minutes about everything from the fans to Taz attacking Lance Wright to having beaten Taz in 1994 to Taz never giving Pit Bull #2 a title shot to Taz not being a "company man" to claiming that Vince was going to pay them a bunch of money. Also, he called Taz both a "paper champion" and a "midget." Taz being Taz, you would have expected him to come charging out after having head that, but he waited several minutes so Gary could keep ranting, eventually claiming that no one the locker room had the balls to face them.
Taz finally came out to answer the challenge and mercifully end this boring and rambling promo. This then turned into...
A BIG, RANDOM BRAWL- Taz gets powerbombed by Pit Bull#2 and sells a bunch while Anthony celebrates. This gives Taz time to recover and he hit Anthony with a T-Bone Suplex that looked like it almost broke Anthony's neck. He locked in the Taz-mission but Pit Bull #1 ran in. He got taken out to, so Taz decided to go after Lance Wright. Wright begged Taz not to hurt him, offering to let Taz kick Vince McMahon's ass instead... or set up a shoot fight with Ken Shamrock, whichever one Taz would prefer. I laughed at that.
As Taz went after this wheelchair-bound man in neck brace, it occurred to me that I have no idea what Wright did to Taz to deserve the initial beating, never mind Taz now trying to put him through a table, even though the poor guy is already in a wheelchair and has a broken neck. Thankfully, some officers of the law stepped in to protect Lance Wright from the violent psychopath that is Taz. Taz put one of the cops in a Fujiwara Armbar.
Most of the undercard came out of the locker room to pull Taz off of the cop and restrain him. Sabu also came out, and took this opportunity to slap Taz in the face. Needless to say, this was a very counterproductive thing to do. Taz charged at Sabu and the wrestlers had to pull them apart. It took most of the crew that was out there, but they finally got Taz to go back to the locker room. The only guys left in the ring were the b.W.o., who Sabu beat up for no reason. Joey surmised that this means that Sabu wants Sandman to come out so they can have their match right now. We then cut the trademark ECW static-cut to the introductions for...
THE SANDMAN vs. SABU (w/Bill Alfonso) - 6.75/10
Yeah. They cut out Enter Sandman. These guys had a wild brawl that included hitting each other with weapons in ways that did not seem safe at all. Much blood was spilled. The shot of Sabu's face at the end was particularly gruesome. The match ended in what I guess was a referee stoppage victory for Sabu when he threw a fireball in Sandman's face and Sandman had to be "rushed to the hospital." They did a great job selling the angle at the end, and Sabu did an excellent job of selling his own exhaustion as well, to the point where you could almost buy Joey's claim that Sabu really did feel that Sandman could have ended his career here had ne not done something desperate like this.
TOMMY DREAMER & BEULAH MCGILLICUTTY vs. ROB VAN DAM & BILL ALFONSO - no rating, okay segment
Despite being billed as a tag team match, this was really just a singles match with managers, and Beulah and Fonzie stayed on the outside the whole time (not even on the apron) while Rob and Tommy did their stuff. Said stuff saw Dreamer hurt his leg early on, coming from the top turnbuckle to the floor and landing badly. He still tried to do stuff, but you could tell his leg was really hurting. Judge Jeff Jones tried to stop Tommy from using a chair but got taken out by an accidentally Van Daminator from RVD, leaving us without a ref. Dreamer came off the top rope again with a big splash and appeared to land right on RVD's head, exacerbating the injury situation.
At this point Sabu ran in and Fonzie also began to help Rob... and Beulah just stood there on the outside, not doing anything to try to help, or trying to get any help from the back (this was Dreamer standing up for ECW against "Mr. Monday Night," after all) or anything like that.
After their double-splash/leg drop through a table spot, RVD grabbed a mic and said that "unlike everyone else in this ring tonight... except for Sabu of course" he had better thing to do because he was a hot commodity, so he was just going to leave. He told Fonzie he could beat Beulah up if he wanted to, so long as he promised to tell himself and Sabu all about it later. Rob and Sabu left, at which point a gaggle of undercard wrestlers came out to check on Dreamer and he was ruled "unable to continue" by the medic. This is the second straight match where we've had a big injury angle. Why didn't any of these people who care about Tommy so much come out to help him when he was down two to one?
Anyway, one of the people who came out to check on Dreamer was a referee. Fonzie shoved Beulah (who you'd think would have gone over to check on Tommy but instead she got in the ring to observe everyone else checking on him, and this transitioned into...
BEULAH MCGILLICUTTY vs. BILL ALFONSO - 4/10, but excellent for what it was.
Fonzie got bused open badly by the first weapon shot. In a matter of moments it looked like he had Road Warrior Hawk's facepaint on, and it would only get worse from there. This whole thing didn't even go five minutes, but it was very intense and exciting while it lasted. Normally when two non-wrestlers go at it you get something over the top and cartoonish, and I understand that there are reasons why that is done... but I think these two deserve a hell of a lot of credit for trying to have an ECW-style match and succeeding. The "SHE'S HARDCORE!" chants Beulah got from the crowd and the lack of expected pink-slip for his supposed role in the supposed mole scandal that Fonzie received from the office were both well-earned in this match.
DUDLEY BOYS & JOEL GERTNER PROMO - Great! We got the standard heeling on the crowd for a while before Gertner started to a promo on the rest of the tag team division. He claimed that the Pit Bulls have had a pretty good year and were kind of impressive earlier tonight, but that they "ran out of juice." He also had some good lines on RVD & Sabu and the FBI, including claiming that the latter "can't tell the difference between chicken Parmesan and chicken pox." The general theme here was that the Dudleys are the only real team remaining in ECW.
ECW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Dudley Boys(c) (w/Big Dick Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley, & Joel Gertner) vs. The Gangstanators - 4.5/10
They brawled for about six minutes, during which they hit each other with a lot of stuff, bled a lot, and New Jack did a dive from a very high place. This was all completely routine in this company, and thus while this was good for the time it got, it really didn't feel like anything carried any real gravitas. Not even the title change at the end.
Despite the name, this show was most certainly not "as good as it gets" from ECW, or from anyone else, either. That being said, while the show was certainly sub-par in the ring, it did contain a lot of historical moments, so it's certainly worth watching you want to get a feel for how ECW worked... and how certain events get distorted over time. Even if you're someone like me who goes into these shows with that in the back of my mind, the reminder is often still important, and I frustrated and disappointed when the main event went a mere 6:16, after an entire night where only three matches went longer than ten minutes, only two went longer than ten and a half, and only one even came close to going fifteen.