April 17, 2010
Alexander Settee

ECW Barely Legal 1997, April 13, 1997, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA
Announcer: Joey Styles

WWE Extreme Rules is coming up, so with that in mind and the fact that the anniversary of this show took place this week, itís time to look back at the first time Extreme came to PPV. Iíll preface this by saying that I didnít watch ECW during this period. I was aware of it and followed it online, but it was never on where I live and thus I didnít actually get to see any of it until the TNN era. In recent years, having gone back and watched some of their older shows, I havenít really been impressed or anything. Maybe itís one of those things where you had to be there at the time, or whatever, but I also donít care too much for hardcore wrestling in general, so maybe I wouldnít have even liked it anyways. Iíll never really know I suppose, but I can still see if the companyís biggest show ever up to that point holds up today.

Joey Styles starts out the show in the ring running down the card for this evening, but heís quickly interrupted by the entrance of the ECW Tag Team Champions, The Dudley Boys along with Sign Guy Dudley and Joel Gertner. They bully Joey out of the ring and then D-Von cuts a promo on the crowd which leads us to the opening montage. When we come back, Gertner does the official introduction for his team which leads us into the match.

Opening Match, ECW Tag Team Championship: The Dudley Boys (w/Sign Guy Dudley & Joel Gertner) vs. The Eliminators
The challengers clear the champs out of the ring to start. Sign Guy tries a sneak attack, which is no sold and he ends up taking Total Elimination. Dudleys attack, starting with a powerbomb/diving headbutt combo on Kronus for 2. Tilt-a-whirl slam/splash combo on Saturn also gets 2. Suplex/crossbody combo gets another 2 on Kronus. Saturn ducks a double clothesline, flips off the ropes and hits a double dropkick. He clotheslines D-Von, but runs into a side slam. The Dudleys try 3D on Kronus, but Saturn breaks it up. The Eliminators take over, dropping both D-Von and Bubba with a series of kicks. They then get stereo powerslams and twisting top rope splashes. The champs bail, so Kronus flips Saturn onto them, and then follows with the Space Flying Tiger Drop. Joey marvels about a man of Kronusí size pulling off that move, and sure maybe he is the only one of that size to do it, but that doesnít make him a great wrestler or anything. Another thing about Joey while Iím at it; Why does every damn move have to be named after the guy performing it? Itís one thing to have a move named after you if youíve actually innovated something, or even if youíre using it as a finisher, but calling something a ďSaturnsaultĒ as opposed to a moonsault, for example, as though heís the only guy in the world doing that move is just stupid in my opinion. So back in the ring, Saturn gets D-Von with a springboard spinkick, while Kronus nails Bubba with a handspring elbow. Kronus then slams Bubba to setup a top rope elbow by Saturn. Springboard moonsault by Saturn on Bubba. Kronus powerslams D-Von and then hits a 450 splash. They hit some double team kicks and then Total Elimination on Bubba for the 3 count and the Titles at 6:32. Gertner claims victory on points, but that just gets him a Total Elimination as well. This was six and a half minutes of these guys (mostly The Eliminators) doing every big move they could think of with no rhyme or reason whatsoever behind them. It came across like an exhibition where they just took turns doing stuff until it was time for someone to win. The subplot here was that both teams were claiming to be the best tag team in wrestling at this point, but even with WWF and WCW deemphasizing tag teams around then, I donít think either of them was based on this performance. * for the spots because thatís all there is to rate it on.

Over to Joey who hypes up the Three Way Dance later on which leads to a video package on The Sandman. Joey then announces that the scheduled match between Lance Storm and Chris Candido is off because Candido tore his bicep. Candido is here though, so Joey throws it to him in the ring. He talks about his career coming full circle as he was here for the first ever ECW show in this building, and then goes off about how pissed he is heís not in the main event. He runs down everyone in the Three Way Dance, and promises to be involved in the show one way or another tonight.

Lance Storm vs. Rob Van Dam
RVD comes out as the replacement opponent for Storm. They lockup and Storm gives him a clean break in the corner. Then they go again, and RVD gives him a cheapshot on this break. Storm comes off the ropes and somersaults over RVD before coming back with a clothesline. RVD kicks out of a wristlock and gets a springboard crossbody for 1. He then tosses Storm to the floor and nails a somersault plancha. Back in, a top rope legdrop gets 2. He whips Storm to the corner, but Storm leaps to the top and comes off with a back elbow. He dropkicks RVD to the floor, but misses a dive. RVD whips him to the barrier and then moonsaults off of it. He brings a chair with him as they get back in the ring so that he can whip Storm to the corner and then throw the chair at him, bouncing it off his face. He then dropkicks the chair in Stormís face in the corner. Five Star Frog Splash hits, but itís obviously not his finisher yet as Storm kicks out at 2. He throws the chair at Storm again, but then follows up by missing a somersault splash in the corner. Storm gets him with an inverted powerslam on the chair and then nails a spinkick. A handspring splash sets up a flying shoulderblock for 2. He then goes to a Boston crab, which is quickly switched to the single leg crab, but RVD makes the ropes in any case. What incentive there is for Storm to break the hold there when he canít be disqualified is another one of the questions you just donít ask. RVD holds on to the ropes on an Irish whip, so Storm charges, but gets backdropped to the apron. Storm comes back with shoulders, but RVD drops him and hits a guillotine legdrop. Storm ducks the Van Daminator and hits RVD with the chair. With Storm making headlines recently for his criticism of chairshots to the head it should be noted that he did just that to RVD here, but tapped him as lightly as he possibly could while still making contact. So chairshots to the head can either look great and be dangerous, or be safe and look terrible. Thereís no reason for them not to be banned altogether. Storm then gets a sitdown powerbomb on the chair for 2. He goes up, and legdrops RVD, again onto the chair for another 2. They trade go behinds, with RVD then kicking him low. He follows with a screwed up springboard elbow that the fans let him know about, but it still gets 2. Storm gets a German suplex for 2 and then uses a couple more lovetap chairshots. RVD basically no sells them and pops right up with the Van Daminator and that gets the 3 count at 10:12. The post match sees RVD make Jim Molineaux come back in the ring and raise his hand properly. Storm then wants a handshake, but RVD isnít here for respect. Heís mad about being nothing more then a fill in here tonight, but says he took the match because he knew that a win here would make him worth more money ďhere and elsewhereĒ. His gimmick at this point was that he was just using ECW as a springboard to one of the big two. Ironically enough while many guys in the company were doing just that, RVD ended up sticking with ECW. As for the match, it actually had some semblance of being a wrestling match, unlike the opener, but was still mostly a collection of moves. *1/2

We get more Three Way Dance hype, this time focusing on Terry Funk as heís shown getting a Lifetime Achievement award last night, and then kneeling at his Fatherís grave as heís dedicating the match tonight to him.

Menís Teioh, Dick Togo, & Taka Michinoku vs. Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada, & Masato Yakushiji
Up next we have a match imported from Michinoku Pro Wrestling, of which Joey tells us to expect a very fast paced Lucha style. Teioh, Togo, and Taka, who would go on to all be part of Kaientai in the WWF, are here tonight as bWo Japan, just to ensure that ECW is spoofing every aspect of the nWo. Taka and Hamada start with Hamada hitting a sequence of armdrag, dropkick, snapmare, slam, and another snapmare. Yakushiji comes in off the op then slams Taka and drops a leg for 2. Tags to Sasuke and Teioh with Teioh elbowing him down and Togo coming in with a senton. Tags, by the way, are optional here, with a partner being able to switch off when the legal man leaves the ring. Teioh then hooks a camel clutch and Togo dropkicks Sasuke in the face. Togo then takes over with a senton for 2. Yakushiji is in and gets worked over by Togo. Tag to Teioh who gets a delayed vertical suplex for 2. Back to Togo, who gets his backdrop countered to a rana, and then is armdragged to the floor. Taka takes the same armdrag out. Hamada and Teioh go next, trading shots. Hamada takes him down with an armbar, but Taka comes in and dropkicks him in the face. A backdrop try sees Hamada land on his feet with Teioh grabbing hold of him, but he avoids Takaís charge and Teioh get s nailed. Hamada nails a back suplex and tags Sasuke so they can hit a double elbow. Sasuke and Teioh go though a crazy acrobatic display that ends with Sasuke getting a 2 count. Yakushiji and Taka switch in with Yakushiji nailing a dropkick, but getting caught in the wrong corner in the process. Teioh keeps trying to toss him to the floor, but he keeps getting back in before Teioh can join him. Finally Teioh is too slow getting in, and Yakushiji gets him with a baseball slide headscissors. In the ring, Togo dropkicks Hamada, but Hamada comes back with one of his own and a rana for 2. Teioh gets cradled for 2 and then the tecnicos work over Taka with a triple team. Taka fights out of Sasukeís single leg crab and hits an ensiguiri, and then nails a running forearm in the corner. Now the rudos have a chance to triple team, with Togo and Teioh bulldogging Sasuke and then holding him upside down for a dropkick from Taka. They showboat for a bit and then Taka dropkicks him in the face again. Togo gets a suplex for 2. Sasuke kicks off Teiohís spinning toehold, but still takes a DDT. He does escape allowing Yakushiji in, but he takes the Michinoku Driver from Taka which only gets 2. Now Yakushiji is cut off for awhile, taking a top rope kneedrop from Taka for 2 and the a somersault senton from Togo. Teioh hits a back suplex for 2. Hamada gets in and eats a spike piledriver, but gets out and Yakushiji gets back in. He takes a triple team powerbomb and is covered, but Sasuke makes the save at 2. The bWo tries the powerbomb on him now, botching it the first time, and then on the second try Sasuke counters to a rana on Teioh for 2. Sasuke then comes off with a Quebrada on Taka and Teioh for 2. He knocks Togo to the floor with a handspring elbow, and then follows up with an Asai moonsault. Hamada gets atomic dropped to the floor by Taka, who then gets him with a plancha. Yakushiji gets a top rope dropkick on Teioh for 2 and then a suplex and moonsault for another 2. Teioh reverses a whip and gets a tornado DDT to take over. Powerbomb gets 2 before Hamada and Togo take over. Togo hits a powerslam for 2. Hamada gets the boots up on a corner whip and then hits a swinging DDT for 2. Rana is countered to a powerbomb for 2. Togo goes up, but Sasuke crotches him and Hamada ranas him from the top. Yakushiji goes up and gets another rana, and then hits a suicide dive to the floor. Taka and Sasuke are in next with Taka getting a belly to belly suplex and a top rope dropkick. Michinoku Driver hits, but it only gets 2 again with Yakushiji making the save. Taka goes up again, but this time Sasuke dropkicks him coming down. Quebrada gets 2, so then he follows with a powerbomb and a dragon suplex which finally gets the 3 count at 16:56. Great match here, and easily the best thing on the show. I hope that the ECW guys were watching this because then they could have learned how to build a match around doing highspots instead of just doing an exhibition of highspots. ****1/2

Thatís followed by a promo from Stevie Richards who basically says that tonight will validate his entire existence when he wins the Three Way Dance and then goes on to beat Raven.

ECW Television Championship Match: Shane Douglas (w/Francine & The Riot Squad) vs. Pitbull #2
Douglas cuts a pre match promo running down the fans, proclaiming himself great, and taking credit for injuring Pitbull #1, who is shown at ringside in a neckbrace. Also, if Douglas wins, the masked man that has been hounding him lately must unmask as Ravishing Rick Rude. They didnít do a great job explaining everything here, so Iím just slapping the bits and pieces together as best I can. The Pitbull charges in, but Douglas is on him. They trade for a bit until Pitbull sends him off the ropes and hits a backdrop. He then gets a spinkick and clothesline before going to a front facelock. Douglas low blows out of that and they continue trading basic stuff for a bit. Itís apparent pretty early on these guys donít have much chemistry. Douglas avoids a backdrop, but takes a low blow, followed by an atomic drop and clothesline for 2. Pitbull chokes him on the ropes and then sets up a powerbomb, but itís countered to a rana. Pitbull hits a clothesline anyways and tries the powerbomb again, and itís countered again, this time with the rana putting Pitbull on the floor. Back in, Douglas hits three piledrivers, trying to break this Pitbullís neck as well. He then gets a dropkick to the back of the head, and a suplex before hooking a camel clutch. The Pitbull elbows out and gets Douglas with a throat toss, and inverted atomic drop, and a clothesline. Corner whip sees Douglas leap back at him, but he catches him. After putting him down once, Pitbull picks him back up and drops him to the floor through a table. He whips Douglas to the barrier near Pitbull #1 who hops the rail and starts beating on Douglas until the Riot Squad intervenes and drags him to the back. Meanwhile, Pitbull #2 has tossed a section of guard rail into the ring, but he himself ends up getting dropped on it first. Douglas nails a couple of ballshots, and then rolls him to the floor so he can drop the rail on him from the ring. He nails Pitbull with a chair before getting him back in and working him over some more. Douglas comes off the top, but is dropkicked. They clothesline each other and then Pitbull hits a shoulderblock and a powerslam for 2. Back elbow also gets 2 as does a dropkick. He hits a press slam, but then we see Francine pass Douglas a foreign object which he nails Pitbull with twice. Francine then passes him a piece of the broken table, which he further breaks over Pitbullís head for 2. A shot with a chair gets another 2, as does a shot with the bell, as does another shot with the broken table. Pitbull gets up and whips Douglas to the corner, but itís the corner where the TV belt was hanging so Douglas grabs that and nails Pitbull with that as well. Douglas then charges into a boot and takes a pumphandle powerslam for 2. Pitbull then goes into Douglasí boot to find the infamous chain with which he nails Douglas. Douglasí Triple Threat ally Chris Candido runs in and gets nailed as well. Pitbull then goes for former manager Francine, but gets rolled up for 2. Irish whip is reversed and Pitbull nails a clothesline. Douglas ducks a second clothesline and nails the belly to belly suplex which gets the 3 count to retain at 20:44. Douglas seemed like he was trying to build up an epic classic here, but the Pitbull was not the kind of worker that was going to happen with as he seemed out of place for that style. It wasnít terrible or anything, although it was probably a bit longer then it needed to be. ** After the match, the masked man announces that heíll be a man of his word, but that he also wants Francine. He comes out wearing a Simply Ravishing robe, although itís clearly not Rude. He kisses her, which leads to Douglas attacking, but now one of the Riot Squad members unmasks as the real Rick Rude to make the save. The decoy turns out to be other Triple Threat member Brian Lee, who completes the turn on Douglas by chokeslamming him leaving himself and Rude to celebrate in the ring.

Taz cuts an intense close up promo letting Sabu know that he knows that Sabu fears him. He promises to choke him out tonight.

Taz (w/Bill Alphonso & Team Taz) vs. Sabu
So this is a grudge match of former partners taking place with well over a year of buildup. They start with a staredown and then trade slaps. Taz ducks a shot and nails a clothesline to put Sabu on the floor. Back in, Taz goes to work and quickly goes for the Tazmission, which Sabu blocks. Joey gets all excited about Sabu apparently being the first guy to ever block it. Taz goes to an ankle lock instead, which is broken, but he keeps control with a bodyscissors. He pounds away at Sabu, bloodying his nose up in the process. Sabu takes a break on the floor, and then returns to send Taz to the floor with a springboard kick. He follows with a baseball slide and then dumps Taz over the barrier to setup getting a chair in the ring and connecting with a double jump springboard plancha. They brawl in the crowd for awhile and we canít really tell whatís going on. They keep cutting away to Fonzie running around the ring for some reason while this is going on. Finally they make their way back to ringside with Taz clotheslining Sabu back over the barrier. In the ring, Taz maintains control on the mat, but Sabu fights up and nails an ensiguiri. He then hits a flipping legdrop, and then gets a chair and throws it at him. Sabu then uses it to hit Air Sabu in the corner, but a second try sees him get caught and flapjacked on the chair for 2. Clothesline gets another 2 for Taz. He hits a spinebuster, but Sabu then hooks the tight to toss him to the floor. This time the double jump springboard misses and Taz belly to bellies him over the rail. As he gets Sabu back in the ring, Team Taz helpfully sets up some tables straddling the ring and the barrier. They fight to the floor where Sabu gets Taz on the table. He stops short on a leap as Taz makes it to his feet. Taz tries a northern lights suplex, which is countered to a swinging DDT, which in turn is countered by Taz holding the ropes and Sabu goes crashing through the table to the floor. Sabu gets up and they trade shots on the floor, and then they get in with both guys selling the effects of the match so far. Sabu sets Taz on top and takes him down with a rana for 2. He then drops a leg off the top as well. After more trading of shots, Taz comes back with a Tazplex and a vertical suplex. Sabu blocks a T-Bone and hits one of his own, but then makes the mistake of mocking Tazís pose while Taz pops right up and does it behind him. Taz misses a clothesline though and Sabu hooks his own Tazmission. Taz suplexes him to break it and then hits a T-Bone Tazplex. Tazmission is hooked and Sabuís arm drops three times to end it at 17:48. After the match, Taz grabs the mic and says that he respects Sabu for giving him the fight of his life and wants to shake his hand. Sabu not only does that, be he also raises Tazís hand in victory. This show of respect pisses off Sabuís partner Rob Van Dam though, who runs in and attacks Taz. Taz fights back, but then Sabu attacks him and the double team beatdown is on including Sabu putting him through a table. Fonzie gets in the ring to confront them, but then reveals that heís actually with them, leaving Taz behind and calling him a loser. RVD lets us know that if we want to book him, we should go through Fonzie and by the way, he loves to work Mondays. I really liked this match. The story was good with each guy having their strengths and Taz eventually suckering Sabu towards his own style and then beating him with it. Iíll call it the second best match on the show and the best one from ECW itself. ***

Joey then brings out Tommy Dreamer and Beulah to do guest commentary for the next match, although Beulah actually says nothing the entire time and Tommy adds very little.

Three Way Dance: Big Stevie Cool (w/Da Blue Guy, Hollywood Nova, 7-11, & Thomas ďThe InchwormĒ Rodman) vs. The Sandman vs. Terry Funk
So the winner here gets an immediate shot at Raven for the ECW Title in the main event. The match originally had Tommy Dreamer instead of Terry Funk with the idea being that all three guys hated Raven and wanted a piece of him, but Tommy voluntarily gave up his spot so that his mentor Terry Funk could get one last shot at becoming World Champion. Sandman wants to share a beer with Funk, who declines so Sandman downs it himself and then spits it in Stevieís face. They start with a double headlock and Sandman being sent off the ropes and shoulderblocking Stevie. They trade chops for a bit until Stevie schoolboys Sandman for 2. Funk goes for the spinning toehold on Sandman, but Stevie takes him out with a flying forearm. They double team Funk with Sandman slamming Stevie on to him. They look to set it up again, but this time Sandman suplexes him instead. Funk gets up with four swinging neckbreakers on Stevie for a 2 count while Sandman goes to the back and grabs a ladder. He nails both guys with it, getting 2 on Funk. He then stands it up and starts climbing. Funk joins him, but then decides to hit a moonsault on Stevie instead. Of course by ďhitĒ I mean brush him with a leg, but the effort was there. Sandman works over both guys, slamming Stevie on the ladder for 2. Stevie comes back and dropkicks it in his face for a 2 of his own. Funk then gets a 2 count by headbutting Stevie. Sandman sets the ladder in the corner, but gets whipped into it himself and covered by Funk for 2. Stevie slams Funk for 2 and then he and Sandman hit a double elbow for another 2. They then climb the ladder for no apparent reason, so Funk just tips it over on them. Funk then does the helicopter spot with the ladder, knocking both guys over repeatedly. He and Sandman take turns ramming each other to the ladder until Stevie comes off the top and seesaws it into both of them. He then hits the Steviekick on Sandman, but it only gets 2. He also hits it on Funk, but Funk also kicks out at 2. Sandman tosses him to the floor and drops the ladder on him. He then throws Stevie in to the crowd. Funk nails both guys with a chair, and then gets Stevie in the ring where he nails a suplex. Sandman has found more plunder, this time a garbage can that has a piece of sheet metal wrapped around it. He throws this at Funk, and then Covers Stevie for 2. He beats Stevie with the can and then suplexes it onto him for 2. Funk joins him for a spike piledriver on Stevie. Sandman gets the ladder on Stevie and then drops a leg for 2. He then seesaws it into Stevie, but Funk throws a chair at him and covers Stevie himself for 2. Funk and Sandman rejoin forces for a double powerbomb and this time share the cover which gets the 3 count to eliminate Stevie at 15:44. The match continues with Sandman charging at Funk but getting backdropped to the floor. While there, Sandman pulls out a roll of barbed wire, but Funk nails him with the trash can. Funk then pulls Sandmanís shirt over his head and works him over with punches. He then whips Sandman with the wire. Sandman comes back with a can shot, then wraps the barbed wire around himself and hits a bodyblock. He goes up top and drops a leg for 2. Stevie, whoís still milling around, gets on the apron and Sandman runs into him too. Funk puts the can on Sandmanís head, with Stevie getting in the ring and nailing a Steviekick on him. Funk moonsaults, him and covers for the 3 count to win it at 19:11. Funk gets his shot at the World Title right now. *3/4

Main Event, ECW Championship Match: Raven vs. Terry Funk
The show is rapidly running short on time at this point so Ravenís music hits immediately following the bell and he comes out to get this one underway by hitting Funk with the belt. He then gets the drop toehold on the chair, followed by just hitting him with the chair. Funk is a bloody mess at this point with the doctor coming in to check on him, but it keeps going. Raven keeps working him over and then drops a table on him. He then sets Funk on the table and leap on him to put him through it. The Nest runs in now with large woman wrestler Reggie Bennett beating Funk up and nailing a piledriver. Tommy Dreamer remains at the commentary position, saying he promised that he wouldnít run in no matter what. Raven gets on the mic to address Tommy, letting him know that heís gonna end Funkís career and mocks Tommy. Tommy gets up, but Big Dick Dudley attacks. The Nest has stacked some tables near the commentary position for Dudley to chokeslam Tommy through, but Tommy blocks it and puts Dudley through them instead. He then fights off the Nest and makes his way ringside. Sadly they donít have a camera there and all we can see is Raven watching this happen from the ring. Tommy makes it in and nails Raven with a DDT. Funk covers, but it only gets 2, although the timekeeper thought it was the end and rung the bell. I donít get why it wasnít the finish though because Funk immediately small packages Raven and that gets the real 3 count to win the ECW Title at 7:45 (very little of which was actual wrestling). Iíll give the match ľ* because there was really nothing to it other then the storyline stuff, but it did seem like a big moment when Funk won the belt.

So, this was an okay show overall here. The biggest highlight was the M-Pro six man, although I wonder how ECW felt about the outsiders coming in and stealing the show on the companyís biggest night. Taz/Sabu was good on its own, but if I had been around for the entire buildup I may have felt differently about it. Nothing here outright sucked, but there were things that definitely didnít work for me and could have been done better, specifically the Tag Title match and the TV Title match. Thumbs in the Middle for ECW Barely Legal 1997 and Iíll call it a recommended show pretty much because itís where ECW peaked. After this they became too big for their own good and all the problems started popping up.

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