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ECW since Barely Legal had been a bit... flat. With no major shows lined up in the weeks follow and (by design) no real major events immediately prior, TVs were a bit flat for most of April. The other thing that worked against them with a lack of momentum was how static they were coming out of the pay per view. Douglas vs Pitbulls died a death (as it did at the show), Funk winning the title left no real viable option out of the gate as challenger, and despite the massive pivot in the Sabu/Taz feud, that had quickly become more about Rob Van Dam (who abruptly appeared on Monday Night Raw before this show) than it had about their rematch,
Things away from TV were moving along however. At the end of April it became all but clear that Raven would be on his way to WCW, the only stumbling block in the weeks that followed seemed to be exactly when and exactly what ECW could get out of him before he did. The other interesting point of note was the inclusion of Rob Van Dam on Monday Night Raw, where his moniker of "Mr Monday Night" kicked off. Quite how the WWF had Van Dam on their show and never signed him is anybody's guess.
This was ECW's first show in Buffalo, in front of a crowd of 1,800 people (close to their overall record). It's said that talent were very happy with the setting, and felt that it came across as major league. It's hard to disagree with this assessment.
The Full-Blooded Italians (Little Guido & Tracy Smothers w/ Tommy Rich) vs The Pitbulls
At times this was incredibly flat, but it cannot be argued that – for an opening match – this got a decent amount of heat. Tommy Rich, while incredibly awful, has been around long enough to know how to do the basics well. The match itself was very little of note, other than a reminder that ECW's tag division probably needed the Pitbull's back in it. Eventually Guido eats a superbomb and the 'bulls win it.
“Wild” Bill Wiles vs Balls Mahoney
They say usually the best way to get someone over is to put them against someone the crowd are invested in, in this case the opposite may be true. Balls' positioning against a guy the crowd hadn't heard of probably ensured they were more behind him. Match wasn't much of note, some brawling, Balls doing a Flair chop & strut before just smashing Wiles over the head with a chair for the win.
Taz vs Spike Dudley
Every now and then is does pay for ECW to remind us that Taz isn't the smallest man on the roster. This was pretty good, very little drama – as with a lot of Taz matches like this even while he's giving his opponent a lot of offense the crowd are just waiting for him to win. That being said, wrestling a smaller opponent meant Taz could easily demonstrate his arsenal of moves, Spike rallies with a couple of turnbuckle bulldogs – the second of which Taz reverses. Taz hits a couple of huge suplexes, then drops Spike into a Tazmission for the easy win.
“The Rookie” Chris Chetti vs Shane Douglas (w/ Francine)
Douglas is still Douglas, not satisfied by comparing himself to Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, as he did in his promo at the pay per view, he compares himself to Babe Ruth and Mohammed Ali. Fortunately, this match was nowhere near as bad as his one at the pay per view. The action itself is fine, but things very quickly took a left turn when Rick Rude came out.
Rude walks to ringside, looks up Francine's dress (who's stood on the apron), then picks her up into a ¾ powerbomb position before burying his face between her ass-cheeks and carrying her to the back. Can't make this shit up. We get a couple of nice near falls as Chetti rallies before he misses a moonsault, Douglas hits a belly to belly suplex and that'll do that. His programme with Rick Rude continues to be one of the most bizarre things in wrestling in 1997.
Raven and Stevie Richards vs Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk
This is a "dream" tag match, where Raven and Dreamer were allowed to pick their partners. Raven picking Richards is a weird one, the latest chapter in their rivalry seems to involve Raven wanting Richards to end Raven's career. Anyway, fuck it – we need a tag match involving name guys, so there we are.
Not surprisingly, this was a match about storyline probably as much as it was substance. Much of the action was Raven and Richards not getting along. The match breaks down and we end up spilling into the crowd. We return to the ring, Richards puts a leg lock in on Funk before Raven says “how the hell are you going to beat him with that? Tag me the fuck back in, idiot” over the mic. After a ref bump and interference from Louis Spicolli, Stevie Richards hits the best superkick in wrestling and picks up the win on Funk. More on that later.
The Eliminators (Perry Saturn and John Kronus) vs The Dudley Boys (D’von and Big Dick Dudley w/Joel Gertner and Buh Buh Ray) vs The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa) for the ECW Tag Team Titles
Exactly the wild, unco-ordinated brawl you'd expect from these six, seven if you include Buh Buh Ray who essentially played a full part in the match despite formally being out with an ankle injury. We had a croquet mallet, a guitar and even an umbrella in play as the Elimintaros did little to argue against the idea they're the best North American tag team by this point. After a mid-ring collision between Mustafa and Big Dick, the Eliminators hit a double Total Elimination on the pair and a stereo pin for the quick double elimination to retain the titles.
Louis Spicolli vs Tommy Dreamer (w/ Beulah McGillicutty)
They might just be feuding over the Kliq hand gesture, but for the first time in a long time it feels like Tommy Dreamer is working a fresh programme – still, Spicolli did call Beulah a cunt in his pre-match promo... as you do. This was a proper arena wide brawl, as the pair took advantage of the setting and a steep empty section of bleacher for Spicolli to throw Dreamer down. Nice match this, ends with Beulah giving Spicolli a low blow and Dreamer hitting the DDT for the win. After the match Spicolli hits Beulah with a death valley driver.
Raven vs Terry Funk vs Sandman vs Stevie Richards for the ECW World Heavyweight Title
Dreamer wasn't the only one pulling double duty for this show. We start with Sandman going after Richards early doors, before Richards hits Raven with a superkick and Sandman pins him for the first elimination. Funk and Sandman double team on Richards, who really is the the guy getting the big push at this stage. Stevie eliminates Sandman with the superkick too before Funk whacks Richards with a piece of guardrial for the win and, what it should be said, were some boos. As it turned out, the guardrial shot did temporarily cause Richards some issues with feelings in this legs, but it seems like after a few days he was fine.
Score Rating: 5.5/10
Go Back And Watch: A fine if forgettable show. Nothing overtly bad but most things have the ship pointed in the right direction.