October 22, 2007
Before we dive headfirst into the review, a quick shout out to Graham for giving me a try on the ECW reviews. I hope everyone enjoys these little excursions through the extreme back catalog, as I’ll be highlighting TV shows, PPVs, the major Arena shows, and, as we have today, the ECW House Show. So sit back, put on some music, grab a drink, and let’s take a look, from ringside, at the type of live events that made ECW a home video and worth of mouth phenomenon.
ECW Fancam 4-26-97
We’re thirteen days removed from Barely Legal, which by all accounts, was a success. A sold out ECW Arena and 20,000 viewers on PPV watched Terry Funk wrest the ECW title away from Raven, Sabu and Taz finally meet after a year of build, and Shane Douglas took on Pitbull 2 in a match that feels like its still going. It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and on this night in Revere, Mass at the fabulous Wonderland Greyhound Park, and the fire of Barely Legal rages on, let’s go to the show!
As with all the ECW House Show videos, we’re right at ringside and thusly treated to some pre-show shots of the crowd. “ECW” chants, signs, and middle fingers are plentiful, it’s all part of the charm. The shot is what separates these tapes from any of the WWE or WCW handhelds that are out there in the world. It’s incredibly more intimate, which fits along with the vibe Paul E. created during the run.
Ah, and for the record, I’ll be scoring these matches on a quick 1 point system, if I liked it and think it’s worth the time to watch, it gets a point, if not, no point!
Match One: The FBI vs Super Nova/The Blue Meanie
The FBI at this point is the regular team of Tracey Smothers and Little Guido, with “The Don” Tommy Rich running interference. Tracey has the first of many choice words for the fan, before the building erupts when the BWO music hits. Oh, it’s a super rare appearance by their Dennis Rodman parody “Inchworm”! Not that he does anything, but it’s still interesting.
Nova starts out with Guido, and we get some basic headlockery, hair pulling, and general basic action, to start us off. These two, and these two teams, probably wrestled each other 529 times from 1997 to 1998. The BWO takes an early lead with a Meanie splash and a Nova second rope crossbody, which is the least “innovative” highspot he’s ever done. Sadly, with no commentary there’s no Joey Styles to give it some great name like “The Speed Force” or something. Smothers tags in and Nova bring the Meanie into the ring legally for the first time. They run through the same basic headlock/shoulder tackle sequence and it’s incredibly obvious that while Nova and Guido are doing the moves, and they’re hitting them fine, Tracey’s taking the time to work the crowd into it, do his dancing shtick, and bumping huge to get over some aspect of the Meanie. And in the end, both use up less energy while controlling the crowd more. It’s all Tracey Smothers, and it’s great. Meanie fires off a few arm drags, delivers another splash to Smothers and Guido, does his Razor Ramon pose and…falls over. He’s blown up, he crawls to corner, and Nova comes into check on his winded partner and gets double teamed by the FBI. Let me simplify it: the transition was based off Meanie getting blown up five minutes into a tag team match. FBI thrown Nova outside of Rich can give him the Tommy Dreamer atomic drop on the guard rail. The FBI heat segment is really basic, lots of clubbering while the ref pushes Meanie back to the corner and a ton of mugging for the crowd by Smothers and Guido, who seems a lot more into his role than he was even five minutes ago. FBI get a few near falls that don’t have much heat, either cause the crowd is warming up, or because they are so into just yelling at the FBI, they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing. It’s like a promo where the crowd is chanting “WHAT”, so they seem involved, but they’re really not. Meanie gets the hot tag finally, resulting in punches and a double clothesline. Meaniesault attempt on Smothers hits, but Rich clobbers Meanie with something, rolls Tracey on top for the pin.
Thoughts: Very basic. These four, again, probably worked each other on every other house show for the next year. But you should at least watch one of these, for the heat Tommy Rich and Tracey Smothers can get, and to see Guido grow as a heel with them. 1 for 1
Match Two: Extreme Battle Royal
It’s Royal Rumble style with over the top, submission, and pitfalls counting. Sabu and Taz are advertised as being the first two entries, which is what they did in 1996 for these matches with the idea that they MIGHT fight. Of course, they never did, but we’re based Barely Legal so you now get excited cause they WILL fight. But will either win, let’s see. They slug it out for a minute, and Taz’s shots look a million times harder. Huge T-Bone by Taz, and it takes me a minute to remember that, yes, Taz was a face now. I think these guys are going to come in once a minute. Sabu takes over with some punches and one of those nearly missing leg lariats, then gets caught with a big half nelson suplex. Taz just doesn’t care. Rob Van Dam is number three, and of course Taz gets the beat down. Luckily, Van Dam’s punching, so Taz should be safe. Chris Candido is next and goes for Van Dam. And he’s out already, the camera missed it. Though he might have been still injured, and wasn’t supposed to be in the match. Who knows? Taz finally comes back and t-bone’s Rob, then belly to bellys Sabu. The comeback doesn’t last too long before Dreamer comes in to even the odds, until Taz says decides he doesn’t need any help, and dumps Tommy on his head with a T-Bone. He is the meanest guy in ECW. Raven is next, and Taz goes for him, because hey, he’s the next big star in this company. Raven gets away from Taz and goes for Dreamer as Sabu kinda hugs Taz on the ground. Raven gets dumped by Dreamer, and Sabu gets kicked in mid Air Sabu by Taz. Tracey Smothers is next, as is Guido, who gets promptly dumped on his head by Taz. Rob then charges and Taz backdrops him out, but his then pushed out by Taz, and all three start fighting to the back. If I was in the ring, I would be breathing a sigh of relief. Shane Douglas is next and um, oh yeah, he’s a heel this week, so it’s a three on one against Tommy. Corporal Punishment is next, I think he still runs Maryland Championship Wrestling, and the FBI goes to work on him while Dreamer takes a beating from the Franchise. Dreamer fires back and bulldogs Douglas, then Smothers. Louie Spicolli is next and goes after the FBI. He and Dreamer run the Italians into each other, but then Louie jumps Dreamer. They’d be feuding in a month or so. Punishment gets one punch in before Axl Rotten comes in and starts to lay in a beating. Dreamer on the other side fights off Douglas and Smothers. Balls Mahoney comes in, he’s going on his third month in the company but is slowly dropping the leather daddy biker look he had in his first appearance. He goes after Douglas, and then slugs it out with Spicolli. Obviously on a handheld tape, it’s a bit hard to follow. Axl stomps on Dreamer, in a battle of two guys who were in ECW a long time but never crossed paths. Punishment got eliminated at some point, but the fans didn’t even care enough to jeer him on his way out. Now that’s sad. Nova is out next, and he picks up right where he left off, rag tagging Smothers. Spicolli tosses Nova fairly easy, then the Meanie, who I think was in for about ten seconds. Chris Chetti appears out of nowhere, and obviously ECW couldn’t afford a clock to time out these entries. Chetti schoolboys Guido, then releases it, even though pinfalls count. Oh well, I wasn’t paying attention. Smothers and Douglas exchange some heated shots and its’ AWESOME for about fifteen seconds. Pitbull 2 enters, and I’m sure you know who he attacks. Guido’s gone. Pitbull 1 is also in, but Smothers catches him before he can get to Douglas. He finally gets his hands on Shane, and it’s not half as heated as I thought it would be. Spike Dudley comes in and goes into the mess of people crowded in one half the ring so the Pitbulls have room to destroy Shane. Axl and Balls work over Spike, sowing he seeds for their amazing tag team! A “Tables” chant breaks out. Who they want to be put through one, I’m not sure, they just want a table. Perhaps they’re hungry and enjoy a proper dining experience. Someone else gets eliminated off camera, and then Chetti gets dumped. Douglas dumps Pitbull 2. Stevie Richards, on his way to the world title push, comes in and nails anything the moves with a Stevie kick. I think Dreamer got dumped earlier. Pitbull #1 is gone. I believe we’re left with Stevie, Axl, Douglas, Balls, and Spicolli. You can hear Sandman’s music, who knows when he’ll hit the ring. As Sandman stares at Louie, Stevie superkicks Douglas out, really displaying the push he was getting as a homegrown star finally becoming the serious wrestler he was capable of being. Axl and Balls team up on Stevie, as Sandman stays on the outside taunting Louie, its very entertaining. Balls hits a superkick on Stevie, which they really should have stopped people from doing, but it’s ECW, they don’t have control on that stuff. Axl gets dumped as Sandman is still outside enjoying his song. It’s kinda like when Jimmy Hart would wait under the ring in a battle royal, only now, he’s just obviously waiting, its fun. He finally enters and Louie gets an early advantage. Lots of punching, so much that Louie is eventually punched out by Sandman and Balls. They hug, Stevie kicks Sandy, Balls accidentally clotheslines him out, and we’re down to Stevie Richard and Balls Mahoney. I think you can tell whose winning. Balls controls for a while, before missing a splash, getting Steviekicked, and flying out of the ring.
Thoughts: Decent battle royal, incredibly hampered by Sabu and Taz going out early. No huge confrontations or anything, though Stevie winning a big match is nice, he won it by eliminating Balls, so there’s a bit less impact.
1 for 2
Match Three: Shane Douglas vs Stevie Richards
The Franchise is out and goes right for the mic. At Barely Legal, Brian Lee turned on Douglas and the Triple Threat and aligned himself with Rick Rude, who had been screwing with Douglas most of the year. Candido comes out and have some choice words for Douglas, and they get into a bit of a hissy fit until Rude makes an appearance. I’m kinda surprised he’s on a house show. Rude reminds us that his New Years resolution was to “Fuck with the Franchise”, makes some less than gentlemanly remarks towards Francine, and brings out Douglas’s opponent, Dancin’ Stevie!
So we have the match, and Richards hits a Steviekick about two seconds into it, and then goes to work with a series of fiery babyface atomic drops! Douglas bails, and I’ll take this moment to say this is why I love these house shows. There wasn’t a Douglas-Richards feud on TV; in fact, they hadn’t ever seriously met in a match, so it’s nice to have it recorded here on handheld. Richards works over the arm for a bit while the crowd amuses itself with a “She’s a Whore Chant” at Francine. At least she’d be doing it for money then. Douglas punches out of that, but get caught with an arm drag, and it’s like a Randy Orton match…but with arm bars! Douglas comes back in control for a moment and connects with a piledriver. Chris Candido has come out as well, and he lays it into Stevie on the outside. Moments like this probably make Stevie wish his back up wasn’t headed up by the Blue Meanie. Luckily, Rude comes out and chases off Candido. Stevie and Douglas exchange shots on the outside, and I notice there’s a TV camera filming, though I’m sure this never aired. Douglas chokes Stevie and jaws with the fans before taking the action back inside the ring. Double ax handle connects for a one count. Shane settles in on a long Chinlock, which is ok cause the fans are having fun just jeering at him. Stevie makes a brief comeback before getting cut off by a swinging neckbreaker. He eventually catches Douglas coming up top again and delivers a huge superplex to lead us to our double knock out spot of the match. Once both our one their feet, it’s a series of explosive babyface punches, a dropkick, and an inside cradle. Stevie hits a sidewalk slam for two and connects with a Steviebomb (which he really should just stop doing now that his character was slowly becoming more serious). He loads up for a Steviekick, which gets caught, and Douglas belly to belly suplexes him for what we can assume would be three, until Raven shows up, throws Douglas off and gives Stevie a DDT to cause a DQ. Douglas is not happy. I’m completely baffled by Raven’s interference, other than wanting to protect Douglas and Richards, but it’s a house show, so that makes no sense.
Thoughts: Decent match, the feeling is that Stevie, still coming into his own after years of being a stooge, was a bit over matched against ECW’s franchise. He never gets any huge near falls, and his finish was pretty easily countered, so in that respect, he got less against Douglas than say, Chris Chetti would working open matches with Douglas later in the year. Still, a fine worked match, and you don’t see them wrestling each other often.
2 for 3
Match Four: Sabu/Rob Van Dam vs The Pitbulls
The Pitbulls charge the ring and go to work. Pitbull 2 hits a huge spin kick and a powerbomb on RVD, which is kinda impressive, while #1 gets a suplex on Sabu. Pitbull 1 of course spent most of 1996 out with the Shane Douglas caused neck injury, and never really got a blow off for it. Sabu and RVD eventually take over, bringing a chair into the mix. Rob recklessly chucks it at Pitbull 2 and then dives onto him on the outside. Pitbull 1 counters an Air Sabu with a clothesline on the inside. He tries another, but Sabu ducks and jumps over the top, on a prone Pitbull 2, who RVD had put on a table. It’s done with the kind of Sabu recklessness that makes him so charming. Back inside, RVD goes after Pitbull 1 with a Rude Awakening. Well, it’s a little bit of psychology. Sabu locks on a Boston Crab and RVD drops a leg on Pitbull 1. Number 2 comes in but gets met with an Arabian Facebuster, set up top, and Sabu does his top rope victory roll, onto a chair, for the win. So much shorter than I thought.
Thoughts: Yep, much shorter. The Pitbulls’ time as main stars in ECW was dwindling, and they’d work the FBI a lot over the summer, before Pitbull 1 injured his neck again and Pitbull 2 jobbed out to Taz in the fall of 1997. RVD and Sabu just looked like devil may care ass kickers, and it’s really the kind of match they needed to have at this stage anyway. I enjoyed everything Sabu did, and always will. Bill Alfonzo’s post match tirade is fun. Overall, an enjoyable semi-squash
3 for 4
Match Five: Sabu/Rob Van Dam vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Eliminators
Alfonzo’s ranting eventually brings out D-Von, Bubba Ray, Big Dick Dudley, and Joel Gertner. Everyone agrees that Boston sucks, but no one can agree on who will beat the Eliminators. Sabu and RVD had feuded with Saturn and Kronos earlier in the year, working series of ladder and table matches with them. This becomes a brawl, with Big Dick and D-Von representing the Dudleys. Dudley’s control for the most part, allowing RVD and Sabu to go back to playing faces. No one is more hated than those damn Dudley’s. Big Dick beats on Sabu while D-Von drops Van Dam with a reverse DDT. They switch parings for a bit and the crowd gets on Bubba, a trend that would continue for pretty much the rest of his career. Surprisingly, there’s a lack of flow and smooth transitions, and RVD scores his first moves of the match, a legdrop and some punches, before the Eliminators music hits. Saturn’s trainer, Killer Kowalski, is out with them, and it’s a good old fashioned three way dance! A bunch of unfocused brawling occurs, as the crowd decides to sing a song to Bubba about how he likes to use his rectum, it’s quite offensive. The Dudleyz end up in the ring with Kronos, but a double team is foiled by Kowalski, giving the Eliminators time to come and go to work. RVD and Sabu return, and the ring is entirely too full of people for anyone to do anything. This is one of those times where, ya know, rules might help structure the match better. Kronos gives Big Dick an awkward urnage for two. Saturn and Sabu trade shots in the middle, which is probably the best 1 vs 1 pairing that could come of this. In fact, I’m sure I have a show where they face each other. Air Sabu hits on Saturn and Kronos crushes Big Dick with summersault leg drop. Kronos drills Sabu with a back kick and Saturn superkicks his head off, and they give RVD some martial arts based double teams, you can feel the tempo pick up when the tag teams work as they should. This doesn’t last too long as the Dudley’s come back into the picture. Big Dick double chokeslams the Eliminators and Sabu hits a triple jump moonsault on D-Von, followed by a RVD split legged moonsault. RVD and Sabu survey the destruction, until Rob mocks the Taz pose long enough to bring out the Human Suplex Machine. He dumps Van Dam with a german suplex, and then brawls with Sabu to the back. Seconds later, Rob takes an awesome total Elimination and his team is out. The Dudleyz attack The Eliminators from behind, and actually bring some offense in the form of a D-Von top rope headbutt and a big Dick powerslam. That’s honestly more than I’ve seen Dick do in a match. Despite these newfound offensive assault the crowd still thinks “they suck”. D-Von hits another reverse DDT, which would actually morph into his finisher in WWE, under the “Reverend D-Von” gimmick. He does another one, making it his finish just based on “it’s the only move he knows, so he must do it well”. Crowd chants for New Jack. Eliminators finally come back, slamming around the Duds until Saturn nails a huge splash on D-Von. Dick tosses Saturn out, and Bubba taunts him until Saturn just kicks him in the little dick Dudley. Some up the aisle brawling, and then back around ringside. D-Von and Saturn end up in the ring and Perry sells big time for D-Von spinning jumping elbow move. It looks cool, and is just a forerunner to the “every move needs a flip” offense perfected by Ron Killings. Saturn vs D-Von is now, easily, the best 1vs 1 paring of all remaining wrestlers. Kronos vs Big Dick is now, well, a future XPW main event. Double spin wheel kick on Big Dick, which looks awesome, Kowalski stops some Bubba interference to a HUGE pop, and The Eliminators hit Dick with the Total Elimination for the win. Everyone is very happy about this.
Thoughts: This was one of those really polarizing matches. On one hand, it’s hard not to enjoy the Dudleyz going at it with the crowd, but it’s also one of the few things they were great at during this time period. There were some flashes here of a much better match, especially the stuff involving Sabu, RVD, Saturn and D-Von, but the structure of “no structure” really hurt it. Cut 10 minutes off of this and it’s instantly a better match, but that was never the ECW way. Heat never died though. Post match claw by Killer and Total Elimination on Gertner was fun too, but there was just too much before it that could be summed up as “punch, stand, and punch”.
3 for 5
Match Six: Axl Rotten vs Balls Mahoney
Axl is kind of in a rut in between teaming with D-Von in 1996 and eventually teaming with his opponent tonight, Balls. Balls is back to working the leather hat and jacket, which doesn’t look right at all. Balls compliments Axl pre-match, which in ECW is some kind of heel move I think. After some time, they decide to make it a street fight, and I’m totally puzzled as to what kind of match they were originally scheduled to have. They go outside, and the brawling is heated if nothing else. Crowd is more behind Axl because he’s been there longer, and Balls was still proving himself in matches against Axl and The Sandman. They brawl down by a concessions stand that looks like a Checkers/Rally’s drive through, before Axl gets a chain and chokes Balls with it. Balls comes back and drag Axl towards the ring and over another guard rail. They trade painless beer cup shots. Balls takes unprotected chairshot #1, you can just see his gimmick start to evolve! Back in the ring, Axl continues the onslaught, hitting a splash in the corner. The crowd chants “Table”, and Balls goes downstairs, hit a slam, and a second rope elbow drop for….the win?! Well that was sudden.
Thoughts: Ok, I got it: Axl gotten distracted by the random “Table” chant, and in the moment he considered appeasing the fans, Balls made a quick comeback, hit a few sudden moves, and won. Honestly not a bad structure to put Balls over and he totally looks like the smarter competitor. Post matches see Axl come at Balls with a chair, miss, and take a shot himself to the head. One gets the idea this feud will continue. For what it was, I enjoyed it.
4 for 6
Match Seven: Raven vs Spike Dudley
Raven’s Nest is just Lupus for tonight, and a blow up doll. Spike is still in his first year of ECW, becoming the eternal foil for the his brothers. Raven is winding down his tenure in ECW, as he would leave in June and show up in WCW in July. That doesn’t mean he’ll put over Spike, but we’ll see. Lupus struggles with some mic work and volunteers to fight for Raven. He trips jumping over the top into the ring, and ends his poor 1995 Stevie impression. “Johnny Polo” chant, which was a lot funnier in, again, 1995, when the Raven gimmick was new. Raven gets a single leg and rides Spike amateur style, but Spike counters and grabs a headscissors. That was bizarre, but looked good. Raven gets another take down and Spike sits out of it, prompting “Boring” chants. A fine moment to hate the normal ECW crowd. Spike’s background, being a Dudley, is so mysterious I totally buy him knowing how to wrestle on the mat. Raven gets caught with a backslide for 2, and retreats to the corner. Spike gets some mounted punches in the corner, and some forearms, and then slams Raven’s head into the buckle. No one counts along. Poor Spike. Sunset flip looks to win it for Spike, but Lupus as the ref distracted. Spike knocks him off the apron and turns into a clothesline. Raven gets a chair, then gets rid of it, just to piss of the crowd. That’s a sure way to be a heel in ECW, something Steve Corino would master when he arrived. Raven changes his mind, again, and cracks Spike across the back with the chair and does the drop toe hold spot. He’s worked the crowd so much though, that when we does it, he gets booed. It’s really interesting him to watch build up the heat for himself, just to make sure the fan’s don’t cheer any of his “hardcore” based offense. Raven sets the chair in the corner and just throws Spike’s head into it, it looks great, and if Spike does anything great, it’s selling. He does it again in the other corner for equally brutal results. Bodyslam on the chair gets two, which is a simple but painful looking move. Raven punches Spike down and taunts. A nut shot prompts the comeback by the runt of the Dudley litter. Hip toss and Spike gets the chair, giving Raven his own drop toe hold into it for two. Lupus grabs Spike, but Raven misses a forearm and gets rolled up for a close two. Spike goes to pick him up, but Raven busts out the inside cradle for three! Huh?
Thoughts: You could almost make a case, based on the beginning wrestling sequence and the finish, that the story of the match was Raven deciding to employ his under appreciated wrestling talents, and it worked. It’s a sure fire heat getter with this crowd. Oddly there’s a “We want our money back” chant, so I’m not sure if there were problems with this show, or they just really were pissed at the lack of table breaking. Still, an odd little match during Raven’s last few months in ECW, and a fine super underdog face vs super heel match.
5 for 7
Match Eight: Louie Spicolli vs Chris Chetti
Spicolli gives a shout out to “his boys down in Atlanta” playing off his b-team Clique member status. Crowd is either really jeering Louie, or they’re getting restless. The placement of this match is certainly odd. Match wrestling early on, with Chetti controlling. Louie bails after taking some arm drag and a drop kick, all of which look fine. Spicolli gets back in and ducks a Chetti crossbody off the second rope to get control. He busts out a spinebuster and does some jumping jacks, which is funny for those who were fans of Bodydonna wannabe, Ran Radford. Louie misses or totally whiffs an enzuguri and just takes Chetti down and punches away. We hit the chin lock to kill some time, along with rope assistance. And finally, after chanting all night, Louie goes and grabs a table. It wouldn’t be so odd if he had a hot blood feud with Chris Chetti, but no one outside of Danny Doring did that, so it just looks weird. Louie teases slamming Chris through the table, decides against it, and then tosses the table outside. Yep, that’s the one sure way to get heat with the ECW faithful. Another chinlock. Louie taunts the crowd and the pace has really slowed down. Chetti gets whipped in, ducks a clothesline and hits a weak leg lariat to the stomach, not even lifting his feet. He corrects it a minute or two later with a spin wheel kick and a backdrop, and I think it’s the comeback. Except no one cares about Chris Chetti. Louie halts this with a belly to back suplex. He drives Chetti with a DVD and pulls him up at two, but it doesn’t rile the crowd. There’s just a low hum going on. A second DVD on Chetti brings out Tommy Dreamer, and the place comes alive. Dreamer DDT’s Louie and get a chair. He smashes it over Spicolli’s hand and Pillmanizes the dang thing. Tommy must be a big Chris Chetti fan. Chetti is helped from the ring; I’m guessing it’s a no contest.
Thoughts: Bland, Louie’s heel work is ok, but relies a lot on doing the Clique hand sign and looking smug, which just doesn’t get it done. Chetti’s offense was very bland, even for a guy just starting out, and no one bought him as winning. The run in really looked done just to save the match. Nothing to see here
5 for 8
And that’s it, the show just ends. In no way did this feel like the end of the show, and a quick look at the result for this show have the Tag Title 3 Way Dance being the last match on the show, which makes a lot more sense. So while things were a bit out of order, it’s not a big deal. Overall a fine show, my enjoyment of ECW might be a bit higher than some, but there’s no doubting this was a nice look at the pro and cons of the promotion. Stevie-Douglas and Raven-Spike are the type of odd matches the house shows were good for, and the Tag Title match had some good moments. Things could have been a bit shorter, and the crowd could have been a little more open minded to the style of wrestling they wanted, but it doesn’t affect the quality of the matches. An enjoyable time. Guess I could assign a grade.
Final Grade: B!
We’ll work this out more in the future, thanks for reading!