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It had been a transitional period for ECW in the time since we'd seen them last on pay-per-view. After a show that was widely derided for its low-level of in-ring quality and the even lower level of lighting quality Paul Heyman sought to freshen up a roster than had become desperately lacking in better than average workers.
Of course, that was before former owner Tod Gordon got involved in a deal with WCW that attempted to use Gordon's sway and contacts book as a way to attract essentially every member of the ECW active roster to Atlanta to help WCW expand from one weekly live show to two, as they would at the beginning of 1998. You can read more about how that all went down in the intro to my last ECW show review – As Good As It Gets.
The transition after the pay-per-view had seen Shane Douglas return to the main event and Tommy Dreamer start a feud with Rob Van Dam defending ECW's honour against Van Dam and the WWF – despite the fact Van Dam hadn't appeared on WWF TV much since the original angles earlier in the year. Sabu and Sandman were paired together in a battle of two of ECW's bigger names and the tag division was going through its own reset, dominated by the The Dudleys and increasingly the FBI.
The only major development since the September event was Shane Douglas losing his ECW Title to former Triple Threat stable-mate Bam Bam Bigelow. Bigelow's turn was as a result of Rick Rude – who's bizarre run in ECW in 1997 had finally found some kind of purpose, disassociating himself with Douglas and becoming the provider of a series of challengers subsequent to Douglas' title win. Guys like Phil LaFon and Al Snow were bought in by Rude as challengers. But Bam Bam defeated Douglas during a TV taping in New York. It was a strange match, strange in the sense that it was actually quite good – Bam Bam and Douglas seemed to pair well together, and the mish-mash of Douglas the heel and Bam Bam the face worked really well.
That bought us to this show. We're in Monaca, Pennsylvania – about 250 miles west of Philadelphia and, perhaps more importantly, around 4 miles from where Shane Douglas was born. It might be preposterous to say, but I'm going to say it anyway, having the usually hated Douglas in his-home town was ECW's version of having the anti-American Bret Hart in Canada. That is to say, it's quite fun.
Tommy Rogers vs Chris Candido
A reminder of what in 1997-ECW I've called the "new-normal" - good wrestlers having good matches and that being their ceiling. That is to say this match was perfectly fine, at least it was while it was 1 vs 1 – Candido isn't really capable of having a stinker and neither is Rogers. There's a big spot early where a Candido apron suplex gets blocked only for Rogers to reverse it and suplex Candido straight to the floor. Candido comes off the top, gets caught in a sit-out powerbomb but is still able to kick out. Then out comes Lance Storm (who's on Candido's side as the soon-to-be third wheel of the Triple Threat) and Jerry Lynn to back up Rogers. The ref sees all this interference, Teddy Long's the whole thing and just calls for a tag match. So...
Tommy Rogers and Jerry Lynn vs Chris Candido and Lance Storm
… we just carry on. We get a couple of "dive onto all the bodies" spots from the top. Candido hits a sueprbomb from the top which Rogers just about breaks up. Rogers hits a tomakaze (spinning spike neckbreaker) onto Storm which leaves us with the original two left. Candido hits a norther lights suplex – bridges a pin and wins the match. Nice, harmless, not especially memorable but file it under: good opener.
Justin Credible (w/ Jason) vs Mikey Whipwreck
Well, colour me surprised. Firstly, former ECW Champion Mikey Whipwreck is back after seemingly 18 months on the sidelines with a string of injuries. Secondly – he actually won, ending Credible's undefeated run since debut. The match wasn't much of note, the crowd were very flat for it for the most part. Credible hits a sunset flip from the top and Mikey channels former challenger Steve Austin by countering a sleeper with a jawbreaker. Mikey throws Jason into Credible who's on the turnbuckle, causing him to lose his footing. Mikey hits a sitout stunner for the three. Surprise.
We cut backstage to see Al Snow shouting at a mannequin. Snow says "the head screwed the head" and Joey Styles fumbles over a line suggesting that snow had just got a bit of head in the locker-room. Of course.
Taz vs Pitbull 2 (with Pitbull 1 and Lance Wright and his "entourage" - one absolutely giant-by-ECW standards guy)
Paul Heyman is on commentary, I'm not particularly sure why. A typical short Taz match, he gets beaten up for a bit, decides he's going to stop selling, hits a few suplexes and then puts his opponent down in the Tazmission. After the match, Taz picks a fight with a security guy (Heyman's appearance seemingly is for this bit). Heyman says "Oh great, another lawsuit" as Taz puts him in the Tazmission and Heyman quickly calls for them to air anything else.
The Dudley Boys (D’von and Buh Buh Ray w/ Joel Gertner and Big Dick Dudley) vs The FBI (Little Guido and Tracy Smothers w/ Tommy Rich) vs The Gangstinators (John Kronus and New Jack) vs Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten
This was... not great. After a typically long and quite funny intro promo from Joel Gertner, we start the match without Kronus and New Jack – who come out shortly afterwards. ECW give them the treatment they usually give the Gangstas where they play music right throughout their match (something that I suspect hasn't aged well in the overdubs of the WWE Network).
Rob Van Dam (w/ Bill Alfonso) vs Tommy Dreamer (w/ Beulah McGillicutty) in a Flag Match
Tommy Dreamer matches really do have a ceiling… they’re pretty predictable, pretty one dimensional but sometimes predictable is fine. And that’s what this was. The “flag” stip wasn’t actually a case of having flags on a pole, but more about marking your territory; Fonzie and Van Dam had been parading around with the WWF flag and obvious Dreamer was Mr ECW so who better to represent the force?
We get a lot of vintage Dreamer early doors, lots of guardrail spots as fans chant “Van Dam swallows”. Dreamer is wrestling with a protective cast on his foot – of course he is – it makes no discernible difference to his wrestling style as he puts Van Dam in a tree of woe and does a running dropkick into a chair. We get the dodgy ref involved, as are multiple others. Beulah gets involved, kicks him in the bollocks, the two refs put him down then Fonzie does a double low blow on them – Beulah takes care of Fonzie.
We that spot that’s been GIFd since when Dreamer piledrives Van Dam and Van Dam somehow gets huge air off of it. Despite Beulah counting the pin, Van Dam kicks out. Dreamer hits a DDT, then Doug Furnas, Phil LaFon and (of all people) Stevie Richards come out. Stevie busts out a superkick, Van Dam hits a frog splash from the top and wins.
Sabu vs The Sandman in a Tables and Ladders match
A properly barmy match. That’s not to say it was good, or to say it was bad just… fucking out there. We start the match with a table on each side of the ring bridging the gap between the apron and the guardrail – they’ll come in handy. Sandman dives off the turnbuckle through one of the tables, Sabu seemed to be on the move but they both go crashing through it.
Sabu lays Sandman on a table on the aisleway, then goes on the turnbuckle and attempts to use a ladder as a pole vault… he missed. Sandman, if I’m being polite by his own standards, isn’t all with it during this match. At one point Sabu gets on the top rope and sets for something, Sandman staggers into the ladder propped against the ropes and completely fucks the spot.
Sandman puts the ladder on top of Sabu, then hits the one move he’s shockingly good at (a rolling senton from the top) onto the ladder. We get another table spot with Sabu putting Sandman through one on the floor, then a fireball spot that Sandman apparently “blocked”. Sandman goes through another table, before Sabu finishes it off with an atomic Arabian facebuster using a ladder (rather than a chair). And absolutely crazy match. That’s not necessarily a compliment but it really was out there.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs Shane Douglas (w/ Francine) for the ECW Heavyweight Title
I’m perhaps overstating it, but I think after three pay-per-views in 1997 ECW had finally found a match worthy of the name. Watching Douglas in the weeks leading up to the show as the ultimate heel in Philadelphia, only for him to turn up as the babyface underdog in his home town. I mean, any match where the fans are chanting “We love Francine” is worthy of the mention.
The atmosphere was the match though, with Douglas the favourite it basically gave them cart blanche to have Bam Bam dominate most of the match. It’s only when Douglas is able to powerbomb Bam Bam through a table (throwing Bam Bam from the turnbuckle) where the match even has a semblance of parity. Douglas hits a belly to belly, but starts selling as the ECW fans rally behind him. Bam Bam assembles a broken piece of table across two chairs, Douglas hits a belly to belly through it and gets the quick pin for the win and once again to become the new ECW champion. This was surprisingly good. The perfect setting and the perfect match for what it was.
Score Rating: 5/10
Go Back and Watch: The final two matches.