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One month removed from ECW's second outing on pay per view, one that was undoubtedly less impactful than the first, and ECW had some rearranging to do. With Terry Funk, as it turns out, having wrestled his final match for the promotion, it was time to reset things a little bit a couple of months out from their third pay per view event.
The emphasis on reset was more about change – in the six months prior it really wouldn't be much of a stretch to say the work-rate in ECW had plummeted as Paul Heyman's overseas contact book had ran dry as WCW and the WWF had finally got around to scooping up all of the overseas talent that had made ECW so great down the years. Not to say it was the only thing that had made ECW great between 1994-96, but sometimes they were the counterweight to some angle/brawl heavy shows.
But a couple of things had begun to change – ECW's uneasy relationship with the WWF had turned to being a formal farm/redevelopment system for some under contract Fed talent needing somewhere to gain a little extra. Leif Cassidy was sent back down for the pay per view returning to his old moniker of Al Snow, Aldo Montoya debuted on this show as the preposterously named "Justin Credible" and, even if it was for a very short period of time, Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon would appear on this show as the WWF attempting to reboot an expensive tag team that had floundered since debut.
It was an in an attempt to raise the batting average of the roster, as was the move to bring back Lance Storm along with a WCW reject in Jerry Lynn. The best way to ensure that the big two wouldn't want any of your talent would be to sign guys they'd just rejected. But that, perhaps, brings us to the biggest story between the two shows and perhaps one of the most famous ECW stories ever.
September 1997 marked the month where ECW founder Tod Gordon was let go by the promotion. He'd long been bought out by Heyman on the financial side, but he still carried an involvement as a regular feature backstage, an on-screen character and even someone who helped out locally (tickets and other admin were done at his jewellery story in Philadelphia).
Gordon was contacted by WCW to act as a go-between to ECW's talent to sound them out about heading to Atlanta. WCW had recently formalised an extra show in the form of what would become WCW Thunder – a second live TV show per week that would add significant demands on WCW's roster, even if it would also provide greater financial rewards. The move essentially saw WCW go in for everyone ECW had to offer: from Shane Douglas to Rob Van Dam, from Chris Candido to even New Jack (oh the parallel universe where New Jack becomes a nationally televised wrestling character!).
It was strange really. Not in the sense of WCW making the moves but more how widely rejected those overtures seemed to be. It was said that ECW talent weren't exactly thrilled with the pay per view pay-offs from the first show, and the lack of buzz around the show surely should have suggested to some that perhaps pay per view wasn't the panacea that some had hoped.
But reject it they did, for various reasons. Sabu had a cup of tea in WCW 18 months prior and WCW found him difficult to work with, Shane Douglas demanded Scott Hall/Kevin Nash money – which was his way of saying: "I'm only coming in if I get the same level of influence as they do" (or, in English, "No"), others just didn't seem to like the opportunity. Tommy Dreamer got a call from Raven – said no and immediately alerted Heyman, although it's not impossible to imagine Heyman already had wind of this prior to that.
As it was the only mover was Perry Saturn. Saturn had long wanted a singles run but was convinced to stay with Eliminators partner John Kronus so Heyman could promote as the best tag team in the world. Still, that was the extent of the departures – Gordon's ties with the company were severed (the most mobster it got was apparently ECW "cleaning out" his jewellrey store – although I believe only for ECW related paraphernalia!). Whether there was an animosity from Heyman's side, it didn't show either in interviews or for that matter on television; the only mention of it was a respectful 45 second promo from Heyman saying that they had parted ways and that ECW would hope to continue on in his vision.
The only other major news of the month was the latest retirement match for Terry Funk. This show was in Amarillo, and wasn't really an ECW show (Paul Heyman introduced himself and ECW to the fans prior to the main event) but it was an event put on by ECW and featured many of their talents at a packed Fairgrounds in Texas as nearly 4,000 people turned out for what in theory was Funk's last match in the area. And for the occasion he was facing Bret Hart (you'll remember this as the match featured in Beyond The Mat).
Heyman and many of the ECW talents serenaded Funk prior to the match, proclaiming him the "Lifetime Heavyweight Champion of the World". The match itself was special in some ways, even watching 20 years removed this felt a throwback to a time beyond weekly live television and even pay per view as the pair wrestled a mechanical, methodical, old-school style that perfectly fit the environment it was in. In the end after a belly to back suplex turned double pin, Bret kicked out and Funk didn't. You'd expect nothing less from those two.
The Full Bloodied Italians (Little Guido and Tracy Smothers w/ Tommy Rich) vs Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney
As someone who really isn't a fan of the FBI and (let's be honest) Axl and Balls aren't up to much either – this is shockingly decent. A lively crowd and match that seemed to set the tone for the tweak in direction Heyman wanted (less unnecessary brawls outside the ring/in the crowd). We get a bionic elbow from Axl, a horrid Dusty Rhodes impression from Joey Styles, a kiss on the cheek celebration from the FBI (which, naturally, gets "Faggot" chants from the ECW fans) and the usual dualing "Balls"/"Nuts" chants when Mahoney is in the ring. Balls pins Guido with a sitout bodyslam and gets the win, but they decide his foot was under the ropes. Guido rolls up Balls for the win after the rushed restart and we end the segment with an odd segment involving an arrogant new ref getting nailed with a chair. ECW ladies and gents!
Justin Credible (w/ Jason) vs “Dynamic” Jerry Lynn
We get Jason come out – who's been back previously but always nice to see him. He introduces his new find "Justin Credible" - the usual puns out of the way he's facing another new ECW debutant in Jerry Lynn. Dare I say it, this was exactly what Paul Heyman wanted when he bought these two guys in – a properly competitive, good wrestling match. Sure both of these characters are cold as anything, but ECW fans and viewers give them a lot more leeway because you know that generally – even cold characters are likely to go somewhere (compared to say the WWF or WCW where they're just forgotten about).
Some action outside the ring as Credible hits the guardrail and Lynn hits a plancha. Back in the ring, the pair exchange rest holds, Lynn hits a lovely sit out powerbomb, Credible nails a sunset flip from the top, Lynn a very impressive hurricanrana. We finish it with a spinning DDT and a jumping tombstone from Credible for the win. This match is probably more significant than it is great, but given the lack of real quality in ring action this year in ECW this was a major plus.
Lance Storm vs Chris Candido
Not that these two would be far behind in the wrestling stakes. Storm has been here a few times before (including ECW's first PPV). He's still got that bloody rat-tail too! Another strong match – Candido catches Storm attempting a leapfrog and smashes him with a powerbomb (that was great), Candido slips attempting to dive into the first row onto Storm – he still makes it and the crowd chant EC-Dub in response. Really good action here, Candido hits multiple powerbombs, Storm a nice springboard back elbow before Candido picks it up with a superbomb for the three.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs Spike Dudley
This is, I think, the third time they've paired these two off, which is probably at least two times too many. The third edition exists solely, it seems, for the purposes of the crowd to crowd surf Spike – including early chants of "We Want Spike" from the Philly regulars. It’s the usual matches, Spike rallies after an initial beatdown, Bam Bam then hits a suplex, launches Spike into the crowd who do a pretty piss poor job of surfing him. Back in the ring, Bam Bam hits a splash from the top for the win.
Shane Douglas (w/ Francine) vs Phil Lafon (w/ Doug Furnas)
Lafon and Furnas are another act on loan from the WWF so they can get their shit in order. In theory, at least, this was meant to be a much shorter stay than guys like Justin Credible and Al Snow. This was good, a motivated Douglas against someone as good as Lafon was always going to be good even if nobody bought Lafon as a credible challenge. After a good amount of time Candido and Bam Bam come out, they get dealt with by both Furnas and Lafon but Douglas is the extra man and he picks it up with a spinning toe hold.
A weird last-minute segment is put together involving the Pitbulls, who are back after being phased out following some legal issues. They wheel out Lance Wright, who's turned heel (to save the company releasing him) after being attacked by Taz. Fans chant "Just say no" to the Pitbulls after their drug escapades. Quite what the plan here is I don't know... Taz comes out, sees off the Pitbulls, then ends up brawling with cops (ECW do a really good job of not exposing how short Taz is a lot more often). Taz eventually escapes, Sabu beats up what's left of the BWO and the whole thing doesn't really go anywhere. For now, at least.
Sabu (w/ Bill Alfonso) vs Sandman
Given the tenure of both of these guys, this match took a long time to get any kind of heat behind it. It was, exactly what you'd expect for a while – Sabu vaults off of a chair into a hurricanrana and Sandman is... well, Sandman. He suplexes a table onto Sabu, then buggers off and (like always) comes back with a ladder. And this was where the match got real good – Sandman's work with the ladder is shockingly good, including a remarkable rolling senton off of the apron sandwiching the steel between himself and the downed Sabu. Fonzie smashes Sandman with a chair, Sandman goes to hit Sabu with a cane and Sabu throws fire in his face... as you do. That brings the match to an abrupt end and the fans respond to the major angle by chanting "Sabu sucks dick".
Rob Van Dam and Bill Alfonso vs Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty
So, I think Dreamer actually gets hurt during this match (which given that he's a bit of a case means he probably was really hurt). He gets put through a table by Sabu and Van Dam and gets lead away, not to be seen again during the match. Van Dam then fucks off leaving Beulah and Fonzie to go through a shockingly good sequence which included Fonzie doing a ridiculous blade job. Beulah pulls an oven tray from under her tee-shirt, which she smashes over his head, before going through Tommy's greatest hits (DDT, guardrial shots, low blow). Fonzie attempts to powerbomb Beulah off the top, she counters it with a hurricanrana for a three. That was really great.
The Dudleys (Buh Buh and D'von w/ Joel Gertner, Big Dick and Sign Guy) vs The Gangsitnators (John Kronus and New Jack)
The intro for this match took... I dunno, ten minutes maybe? Felt like forever as the Dudley's went through their stuff before declaring there was no tag team in ECW that could hang with them. This was a weird match to watch, ECW went with their usual production decision of just playing music over the match – eventually Kronus hits a 450 splash onto D'von and the newly formed tag team are the new champs.
Score Rating: 6/10
Go Back And Watch: Decent show front to back, but very little remarkable. If you're a fan of "holy shit" wrestling I'd go with Sandman/Sabu and RVD/Fonzie vs Tommy/Beulah. The rest is good but pretty skippable.