Welcome to BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series’ first look at ECW. Last month’s terrible show made me make sure to pick something that looked great on paper, so we’re going to be looking at Anarchy Rulz 1999.
First, however, a fun story. For this show I am watching the original version for the first hour and twenty minutes and then switching over to the WWE Network version for the rest of it. Why? Part of the purpose of this column is to force me to get around to watching the many DVDs that have been sitting around on my shelf, unwatched, for the better part of a decade now. So imagine my surprise when I finally popped in my copy of Anarchy Rulz 1999 purchased (secondhand) from RF Video, only to discover that the disc stamped “Anarchy Rulz 1999” was actually Hardcore Heaven 1999. Good job, Rob.
So I found the first half of this with the original music on YouTube, and have to switch over to the Network for the rest of it. At least there is no Enter Sandman for the Network to not let me hear.
STEVEN PRZAK INTERVIEWS MASATO TANAKA AS HE ARRIVES AT THE BUILDING - Bad. Judge Jeff Jones interrupts Tanaka before he can answer the question about being the #1 contender to the ECW World Heavyweight Title. Jones thinks that only Mike Awesome deserves this title shot. “Fans” show up and start chanting for Tanaka to kick his ass so Tanaka shoves Jones over his car, the shouts something that had to be bleeped into the camera and walks off. Jones got back up and cut a bad promo full of forced catchphrase stuff that even today’s WWE writers would be ashamed of. Then the “fans” started chanting “ECW!” This was embarrassingly bad, and they would have been better off not airing it and saving these ninety seconds or whatever to add to one of the matches.
JOEY & CYRUS DO THEIR IN-RING INTRO - This, too, was pointless, and is time that could have gone to a match.
JERRY LYNN vs. LANCE STORM (w/Dawn Marie) - 7.5/10
I love how instead of being the usual heel who would respond to a “SHOW YOUR TITS!” chant by teasing it and then not doing it or by just insulting the fans, Dawn comes across like she is actually happy to do it until Lance instructs her not to, after which point we saw Dawn pantomiming to Lance several times that she understood that she was not to show the fans her tits. It’s a more entertaining dynamic and then the usual, and Dawn playing up the goofy bimbo character made for a much better comedic contrast with 100% serious Lance Storm than if she was just some run of the mill female heel who took delight in angering the fans.
Also on that front, I can’t help but laugh at how Dawn his proud of herself for kayfabe thinking up the idea of being announced Lance’s “own personal Bytch,” and Lance doesn’t acknowledge it in any way.
Jerry’s ribs are taped up due to an attack by the Impact Players last week. That was the story of the match, as these two had a fantastic wrestling opener that still holds up twenty years later.
SIMON DIAMOND PROMO - Everything is peachy keen and Simon has no problem at all. Just kidding. His problem is that he doesn’t have a tag team partner. He teases letting Tom Marquez from ringside be his partner but Marquez didn’t play the game right so he wasn’t chosen. We got the “no man in the back” is willing to be his tag team partner line, so out comes Jazz. Simon is a misogynist so Jazz goes to throttle him when Tom Marquez attacks Jazz, leading to…
JAZZ vs. TOM MARQUEZ (w/Simon Diamond) - DUD!
If you’re trying to have Jazz get over as an ass-kicker who can hang with the male competitors, you really shouldn’t have her not get any offense in on her opponent before she goes low. Marquez managed to hit a thumb to the eye to remind us all that he’s the heel, but Jazz quickly hit her finisher for a false finish that was broken up by both Simon Diamond and, for some, reason, Tony DeVito, running in to attack her. Chris Chetti and Nova ran in to make the save, and without the Jazz vs. Marquez match ever having a finish, this turned into…
CHRIS CHETTI & NOVA vs. TONY DEVITO & SIMON DIAMOND - DUD!
Joey Styles laments that “Nova’s problem is that he’s most ripped-off wrestler in the business. Every time he invents a new hold or a new move, you see it on Monday nights within a matter of days.” So what? Why does that stop Nova from performing these maneuvers and accumulating victories with them?
Apparently the reason DeVito joined in on the beat-down with Jazz is that he wants to get on PPV and Chetti & Nova vs. Simon & a partner was the booked match and he figured this would make Simon choose him as his partner… which is actually foolish, as if there has been one thing Simon has been consistent on it’s that he won’t let you be his partner if he doesn’t invite to be so with a “Simon says” (he specifically listed this as his reason for not choosing Marquez, and it was the first thing he said to Jazz before he started with the misogynist stuff).
Other people apparently desperate for PPV time include Danny Doring, Roadkill, and Miss Congeniality, as they hit the ring and Doring and Roadkill beat everyone up, including Jazz. Roadkill was about to squash Jazz with a top-rope splash when the also-desperate C.W. Anderson and several others (Rod Price, Bill Wiles, The Skull, Spanish Angel) ran out to make the save and then they all started fighting each other just because.
Then New Jack’s music hit and the fans suddenly started to care. New Jack did New Jack things to people for several minutes.
Maybe this is the bias of hindsight, or maybe it’s my more work-rate and storyline-focused sensibilities, but I don’t understand why Paul thought any of this was a good idea. I understand that he was looking for that next wave of stars to replace everyone he had lost by this point, how the hell was this supposed to help anyone? Jazz came off relatively well, but even she didn’t get to actually show much of what she could do. Everyone other than Simon was treated like just another replaceable undercard dork, and Simon came off like a goof. Doring and Roadkill got to do some stuff, but their motivations seemed completely arbitrary, and it was New Jack who stood tall in the end, which did nothing for any of the young guys. This was an absolutely terrible use of fourteen minutes of precious PPV time.
Super Crazy vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Little Guido (w/Sal E. Graziano) - 7.5/10
An excellent well-paced action match that got a standing ovation from the crowd. Matches like this are A LOT more effective at getting up-and-comers over than whatever the f*ck the previous segment was supposed to be. Joey and Cyrus’ commentary put this over as a big moment in Tajiri’s career that showed that he was ready to take a step up to the next level.
STEVE CORINO (& JACK VICTORY, & RHINO) PROMO - Fine. The gist of this is that Corino was bringing in ICP in to face Dreamer and Raven for the tag titles tonight but they chickened out when they found out who they would be facing (in reality, and, as Joey would explain to us, they decided to resign with WCW at the last minute), and therefore Corino- not wanting to disappoint the fans- has no choice but to announce that a replacement team: Rhino and himself.
JUSTIN CREDIBLE PROMO - He claims he has a restraining order that prevents Sabu from even entering the building tonight, so he demands to be announced as the winner by forfeit. Referee John Molineaux confirms to the crowd that Justin does, indeed, have a legitimate, legally-binding restraining order against Sabu… but then says that because tonight’s show is called “Anarchy Rulz,” “there is no law” and thus Sabu will be allowed to wrestle Justin tonight.
Well that’s f*cking stupid. First of all, if the name of the show can override legal contracts then why didn’t Heyman call this show I Get to Keep 100% of the Revenue and the Cable Company Doesn’t Get Squat or something like that. Secondly, if this is true and the law is powerless to enforce anything, why are Joey and Cyrus clearly refraining from cursing and acting like doing so would get them in trouble?
Molineaux orders Bor Artise to start the introductions for Justin vs. Sabu. Justin threatens to hurt him if he does. Artise does so, and Justin hits him in the head with a Kendo stick very hard. The lights go out and Sabu magicks himself into the ring so that we can finally start…
SABU (w/Bill Alfonso) vs. JUSTIN CREDIBLE (w/Jason) - 8/10
I will admit to have not seeing too much of his stuff from 2000, but this was the first time I really understood what people mean when they say that Justin Credible’s push didn’t work. This was a big weapons match full of dives and broken tables and chairs and creative spots and I thought it was awesome… but at the same time, there was just something about it Justin’s performance that didn’t quite feel like it fit. I can’t put my finger on what it was, but it just felt like there was something there that felt a little bit out of place.
THREE-WAY DANCE FOR THE ECW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Taz(c) vs. Masato Tanaka vs. Mike Awesome (w/Judge Jeff Jones) - 7.75/10
Taz got “YOU SOLD OUT!” chants and some fans even threw things at him. Then, when Mike Awesome showed up in the crowd and Taz said he wanted Awesome in the match, too, the fans started chanting “LET HIM FIGHT!” along with him, and a t least half of them were saying his catchphrase along with him. Heyman came out to try to get Awesome out of there but Taz cut a promo demanding to fight him so Heyman cut a promo back officially making this a three-way dance.
This is the match with the famous quick elimination of Taz… and even though the locker room came out to show Taz respect, the crowd are all chanting “F*CK YOU, TAZ!” Props are due to Joey for coming up with a kayfabe reason why everyone came out (they wanted to see a new champion crowned, and were also so shocked that Taz was eliminated so quickly. I understand the reason for the quick elimination, but the short bit we got with all three guys in was so great that I can’t help but feel disappointed that we didn’t get a full three-way with these guys.
Awesome and Tanaka were their usual greatness together, and this match didn’t have too many unprotected chairshots to the head so you can enjoy it even if you’re squeamish about some things. This was a match full of big moves and weapons spots, but they made sure each one counted, and built to one heck of a “that’s gotta be it” finish.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Taz presents awesome with the belt. The fans started out chanting “F*CK YOU, TAZ!” when he got into the ring, but were all cheering him by the end. More because they’re fickle than anything else, but Taz fulling his promise to shake the hand of the man who could beat him and Joey putting him over for doing such did make Taz feel like a total babyface by the end of this.
RAVEN PROMO - Awesome. This was long and maybe shouldn’t have been shown on a PPV, but I loved the way he spun the entire feud in an amazingly egocentric way that could only fit into the martyr-complex of the Raven character, and incorporation of past promos and moments, both in Raven’s own words and with video clips, worked wonderfully and gave me the feeling as a fan that this was something Raven spent a LONG time coming up with, and probably even went back and watched some of his old promos to figure out which ones to incorporate. I’ll take this over the Firefly Funhouse any day.
JOEL GERTNER INTERVIEWS TOMMY DREAMER & FRANCINE - Dreamer cut a big babyface promo before getting interrupted by Corino and his crew. Corino told Dreamer “I’m gonna make you bleed. Rhino… go get him!” I laughed my ass off at that. Great chickensh*t heel stuff.
Rhino charged at Dreamer, which turned into what appeared to me to be Dreamer vs. Rhino but after some interferences happened from Corino, Franny, Victory, and Raven, ending in Raven and Dreamer simultaneously pinning Corino and Victory, it turned out we had been watching…
ECW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Raven & Tommy Dreamer(c) (w/Francine) vs. Rhino & Steve Corino (w/Jack Victory) - 2/10
The stuff Rhino and Dreamer did wasn’t bad, but the fact that I thought I was watching a singles match is pretty damning. Why not just do the actual f*cking match?
After the match, Raven flipped Tommy off and headed to the back with his buddy Mancow (not to be confused with Mantaur).
AXL ROTTEN PROMO & SEGMENT WITH THE IMPACT PLAYERS - Bad. Axl comes out and tells us all that he “isn’t the best worker” but “I can bleed like a bitch.” He somehow thinks this entitles him to be first in line for a shot at the world title, even though that same description probably applies to most fans, too. The Impact Players came out with Johnny Smith, who is apparently scheduled to challenge RVD for the TV Title in the main event of tonight’s show. They tell him to get out of the ring or else.
Axl replies that he doesn’t want to be a “mark” like them, so he is going to tell them the truth “these fans are cheering for the tits, not the talent.” The fans popped for this line, and Dawn Marie was also quite pleased about it, but it really just exposes that Axl is a f*cking idiot. Lance and Justin are HEELS. They don’t think the fans are cheering for them! They don’t WANT the fans to be cheering for them. This whole segment came off like “oooh! Look at how inside we’re being by breaking kayfabe!” (while both other major companies are doing it constantly, no less), and exposed why Axl Rotten is best known for the likes of the Taipei Deathmatch while Lance Storm and Justin Credible are known as great workers whose careers didn’t take a nosedive the moment slicing yourself open stopped being all the rage.
Axl attacks the Impact players but gets felled by a cane shot from Justin. The fans all chant for Balls Mahoney and eventually they get him as well as Spike Dudley. Spike hit Jason in the nuts, then hit Dawn with the Acid Drop, which got the standard “woman takes a bump” cheer from the ECW crowd. Balls cleaned house on everyone else, ending in a chairshot on Johnny Smith, who had to be taken to the back after just one chairshot, which makes him a huge wimp by ECW standards. Axl then cut a promo demanding that RVD come out and defend his title against Balls instead of Smith. Again… why not just book the match you intend to deliver instead of wasting time on a segment to kayfabe explain your bait-and-switch?
ECW WORLD TV TITLE MATCH:
Rob Van Dam(c) (w/Bill Alfonso) vs. Balls Mahoney - 6.75/10
This was mostly big moves and the crowd loved, it, but very much felt like it was missing something to me so I can’t quite give it the 7/10 necessary for the bare minimum of an PPV main event on a show with several high-quality undercard matches (shows with a worse undercard require a better main event). Maybe the outcome never being in doubt hurt it for me, but I have also just plain never seen Balls Mahoney as a main event-level guy or even a TV Title-level guy, so the match never really felt like a main event to me.
This was a very up and down show from ECW. The stuff that was good was great, but the stuff that wasn’t was bad enough (and mostly due to the booking) that I wonder what possessed Paul to put it on a PPV in the first place. Still, I think the good outweighed the bad, so I’ll call BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series’ first foray into ECW a success. Next month, you all get to learn how neurotic I really am.