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It would probably be an understatement to call ECW's build towards Hardcore Heaven 1997 disrupted. As of about May, plans called for a card that likely would've looked something like this:
Tommy Dreamer vs Raven
Terry Funk vs Stevie Richards
Sabu vs Taz II
The Dudleys vs The Eliminators
Along with perhaps one or two more matches including any of the names from the following: Shane Douglas, Rob Van Dam, Chris Candido, Bam Bam Bigelow, The Sandman and even Jerry Lawler – who's run within ECW began in May as an aside to the ECW storyline that had started and was soon to fizzle out on Monday Night Raw.
As it was, Dreamer vs Raven was shunted forward to June as Raven's ECW run was coming to an end, while the split with Raven and ECW wasn't exactly amicable, owing to contention regarding a non-compete deal in Raven's ECW contract that should've, but didn't, prevent Raven from showing up on WCW's Bash At The Beach pay per view in July.
More surprising though was the departure of Stevie Richards. Richards' rise in 1997 had been quick, transitioning from comedy character to one of ECW's best all around performers. That was all going nicely until Richards suffered an injury that seemingly ruled him out for the rest of the year. He cut a heart-felt promo in the ECW Arena then within a few weeks appeared on Nitro, joining Raven in a slightly clunky reprisal of the pairs 1995 debut storyline in ECW. As for Richards' supposed serious injury, his first match on Nitro shortly after this pay per view.
The Eliminators match was blown wide open when Perry Saturn suffered a leg injury so serious it would see him ruled out for likely 12 months (although, like with Richards, this seemed to vanish once ECW came calling). Of course, that didn't stop Saturn doing stupid shit with his leg in a serious brace – stupid shit like neckbreakers and elbow drops from the top rope. With Mustafa in cold water with the company, neither of ECW's two best tag teams were in position to oppose the Dudley Boys – and while they'd soon solve that problem by teaming New Jack and Kronus together, the job for this show was left to PG-13, the rappers from the Nation of Domination.
As for what ECW actually built. The lack of Dreamer and Raven was, from a spectacle standpoint, handled pretty well by the Dreamer and Jerry Lawler feud – built up over a couple of months on both Hardcore TV and on Raw, the exclamation point coming during an angle in June where Jim Cornette turned up in ECW alongside Lawler, and Dreamer testicles took a serious beating as Lawler and Cornette found some allies in the form of Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Bill Alfonso.
Terry Funk's opponent was decided to be Shane Douglas. Funk's reaction had been waning a little in the build up to it (at the show itself, all three of him, Douglas and Sabu would get booed prior to the main event). The Richards story set it self up so well that ECW didn't really have anything to fill it with (without Lawler it could've easily been Funk vs Dreamer) - but Douglas was treading water a little as TV Champ – although I'm not sure claiming the belt was "Gold-plated copper that was turning Francine's skin green" was all that brilliant a way to talk about ECW's secondary championship. It was the same BS pivot that Douglas went through in 1996 so I guess it makes sense.
Sabu's own inclusion in the main event owed to an injury to Sandman. That played out with Sabu and Funk having a brutal barbed wire rope match at the ECW arena the week prior to the show, one so bad that Sabu was having to tape up cuts he was sustaining while the match was going on, and even saw him superglue some cuts shut after the match to stop the bleeding (which, so I read, actually isn't as terrible an idea as it might sound). The match with Funk was exactly what you'd expect, and you probably won't be surprised to hear how it ended: Sabu wrapped himself in barbed wire, threw himself through a table Funk (who was also wrapped in barbed wire) was laying on, then couldn't get himself free so they decided the simple solution was just to have Sabu pin him. The title switch explaining Sabu's inclusion in the main event.
But other than that... it was all business as planned! ECW's second show came from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, at an 1,800 capacity venue, although one that saw the bulk of the fans opposite the hard camera on a high rise bleacher section. One criticism that came through from a lot of people after the show was how poor the lighting was – even by ECW standards it was bad.
We start the show with Joey Styles mid-ring. He name checks all three competitors in the main event (who all get booed) then introduces Rick Rude. Rude's run in ECW has been bizarre to say the least, but he's finally a heel now which is a big improvement. The big change with Rude was him appearing on Monday Night Raw as the bodyguard for Shawn Michaels. While the Michaels pairing quickly unravelled as the genesis of Degenaration-X formed on Raw's screens, questions in ECW were being asked as to how it made sense for Rude to be seconding Michaels on Raw, yet seconding Shane Douglas in ECW. There never really was a good explanation for that. Rude eventually gets seen off by Tod Gordon, but not before he tells him to "fuck off".
Chris Candido vs Taz for the ECW Television Title
The big impact of the card that was kind of patched together was that a lot of the matches really went in cold. While Taz did win the TV title off of Candido's stablemate Douglas, this wasn't a match of big significance and it felt it. Still, both of these guys are good and they both worked hard in front of a mixed crowd reaction. Candido gets a hurricanarana in from the top, then follows that with a big powerbomb. Taz rallies with his usual split of suplexes, then finish sees Candido sit Taz on the top rope, then cockily turn his back, Taz jumped on him with a Tazmission for the win. A nice match, but a crowd flat for a cold build and an opener with only one likely outcome.
Spike Dudley vs Bam Bam Bigelow
You may look at this match with a bit of confusion, you wouldn't be the only one. It was built with the shock victory of Dudley at the previous weeks ECW show, but it didn't really translate into interest for the rematch. Bigelow pummeled Spike, catching him off of the top and nailing him with a powerbomb. The match took a turn as Bam Bam dropped Spike on the ring post – when Spike returned to the ring he was bleeding after a blade job on the outside. So Bam Bam sees this, picks him up in a body press position – where his forehead starts *pouring* blood, then launches him into the second row. Nothing says ECW being third-rate quite like a guy bleedy everywhere then being thrown into the fans. Bam Bam wins it with a moonsault, and they cut to Joey Styles, but not before we see a stagehand stepping into the ring with a mop to sweep up the bloody. Decent match, ugly consequences.
Rob Van Dam (w/ Bill Alfonso) vs Al Snow
So yeah... one of the ramifications of the deal with the WWF was an agreement to "loan" Al Snow (aka Leif Cassidy) to ECW for 12 months. He was doing bugger all in the WWF of note, and the time away offered him a chance to show what he could do and rehab himself a new gimmick. For Van Dam, who complained about not being on the first pay per view, this was hardly a big step up in billing.
Still – this was probably the best match of the night. That's a pretty low bar, admittedly, but while their timing was off at points and the match had little heat it was easily the best of an uneven bunch. Snow does a pair of runs down the aisle way, the first one connects but his second, later in the match, preposterously involved him running straight into a steel chair that he saw Van Dam pick up as he charged at him. Snow kicks out of a Frog Splash (at this point Van Dam's ECW finisher is the Van Daminator) - which he duly hits to win. Decent match, little heat or fanfare, but both men came out of it the better.
The Sandman Stuff
So, before the show went on the air, the Insane Clown Posse came out only to be attacked by Van Dam and a (suited) Sabu. Sandman ran out and got the piss beaten out of him and got taken off in an ambulance. This parlayed itself into segments split in throughtout the show of Lance Wright in an actual helicopter (yes, no stunts/trickery, an actual helicopter). He tells us Sandman hi-jacked the ambulance and was now driving around Fort Lauderdale in an attempt to find his way back to the arena, all the while implicating he was driving under the influence. The story is rubbish, only saved when you find out Sandman is literally driving the ambulance. Anyway, these segments don't really go anywhere but it does give them an excuse for having Sandman wait until the main event to get back at Sabu.
The Dudley Boys (Buh Buh Ray and D’von w/ Big Dick Dudley, Sign Guy Dudley, Joel Gertner and Jemma Jameson – I guess) vs PG-13 (JC-Ice and Wolfie D) for the ECW World Tag Team Titles
Yeah... so porn star Jenna Jameson is in the building. She's in the ring with the rest of the Dudleys, and Gertner has the mic. Gertner is great here, introducing Big Dick as the “the man with the 25 inch arms and the 14 inch cock – phallic and metallic – Big Dick Dudley”. Otherwise the intro is nothing much, but Jameson remains at ringside for the match.
PG-13 are still a bit, rubbish – I mean they're competant but not really over at all and not a particularly credible challenger. Still, JC Ice dropping to the floor and kissing Jameson early on got a big reaction, as did (from me, at least) Gertner stepping in to be Jameson's bodyguard only after the danger had cleared. The match was fine, they contrived a spot where D'von was blindly wrenching on Wolfie's arm, only for Wolfie to put Buh Buh's arm in there instead and D'von started working it.
But that was really the extent of the match – at one stage the crowd just start chanting "Bounce, bounce, bounce" at Jameson, who's only wearing a bikini top and has a bust (how can I say) typical for someone in her profession. She obliges which gets another big pop – come to think of it most of the fan interest in this match revolved around her. After a big pile on on the outside we get a 3D in the ring and the Dudley's retain.
Jerry Lawler vs Tommy Dreamer (w/ Beulah McGillicutty)
Lawler cuts the usual pre-match promo you'd expect. He gets a good long promo in about WWF's Ground Zero PPV before claiming to have spoken to Undertaker, Bret Hart and Steve Austin ahead of the match with Dreamer, before telling everyone what they told him. Yikes.
This was a predictably plodding ECW arena wide brawl, if you like that stuff then you liked this – which is probably a big reason as to why the perception of the show in the arena was far stronger than it was watching at home. They brawled deep into the crowd – twice – and the match saw about 4 or 5 nut shots as Dreamer and Lawler went to every trick in the book to carry a match probably a lot longer than it should've gone. Lawler rips off Dreamer's ECW shirt, then wipes it under his arm pits and on his arse, again one of the better reactions on the show.
The conclusion of the match was just, weird... ECW had been searching around for some kind of surprise just to give the show an extra newsworthy line. Reports were at one stage they'd attempted to make contact with Hacksaw Jim Duggan – possibly the least ECW-friendly act I can think of. In the end they settled on Jake Roberts although, of course, Roberts' track record in being reliable at anything was ropey as such that even when he arrived (later than planned) they still couldn't fully trust him to be able to do what he needed to do. Their plan B was Sunny, Chris Candido's girlfriend – in the end they went with both her and Roberts.
So the lights go off, when they come back on Jake Roberts is in the ring, he hits Dreamer with a DDT, then clotheslines Lawler who falls into a pinning position onto Dreamer, who kicks out. The lights go out again, this time it's Sunny! She sprays hairspray into Dreamer's eyes, before getting into a fight with Beulah. Lawler gets involved, Beulah kicks him in the balls, Dreamer hits a DDT and picks up an obvious win in a match that some considered the best of the night. Not the biggest praise, but a very "ECW-style" match that probably matched people's surely low expectations.
Shane Douglas (w/ Francine) vs Terry Funk vs Sabu (w/ Bill Alfonso) for the ECW World Heavyweight Title
We rejoin Sandman, who's returned to the building and is swinging at policemen with a cane. Usual ECW Three Way Dance rules apply, although unlike this match from three years ago all three started it. That didn't stop Funk from quickly dropping to the floor to let the other two go at it, which was probably the story of the first half of the match, the usual three-way fare with different people taking it in turns to be double teamed. They did even manage a repeat of the infamous three-way sleeper from three years ago, Sabu went from the end of the chain to the start, but fortunately none of the action felt convoluted, even if you were waiting for the aciton to build up, which it eventually did.
Sabu hit a triple jump moonsault onto Douglas in the ring, then tried the same to Funk but had to abandon when the chair buckled from underneath him. Then it gets confusing – we get a table in the ring and Sabu puts Funk onto it. Tod Gordon runs out, pulls Funk off and puts Fonzie on it. Sabu messes around on the turnbuckle attempting to set a chair so he can jump off that too, and we eventually end up with Sabu crashing through a table with Fonzie and Gordon on it.
Sandman comes out, hits a slingshot leg drop onto Sabu, who then gets pinned by Douglas and Funk. Sandman gets held back by loads of security, which just gives Sabu a pile of people to dive on – but we're down to two and, in ECW style, the champ has been eliminated first. Douglas hits a belly to belly suplex, then Funk kicks out. Then, from nowhere, it's DORY FUNK JR! Of course it is. Douglas sells for him, Douglas and (Terry) Funk fall through the timekeepers table, then Douglas hits another belly to belly for a flat finish. Douglas wins the title, which is good, Douglas' finisher – not so good. The match was good, busy and about the quality you'd expect from three guys willing to go so deep.
Still, that wasn't the end of the show. Heyman decided he didn’t want a heel victory to close the show, so we ended with a rather convoluted finish of the Dudleys coming out and asking Douglas to join them, who rejected. Then Douglas and the Triple Threat bugger off before the babyface lockerroom come out and beat up the Dudleys to close the show.
Score Rating: 3/10
Go Back And Watch: It's... there. People in the building seemed to like the show, as did many ECW fans, but this show does not stand up at all well. The Sandman story was bizarre, the lighting bush-league and the in ring action not at the standard ECW would want.