ECW Hardcore Heaven 1996 6/22/1996

Written by: Shinobi from Hardcore Theater

Extreme Championship Wrestling
Hardcore Heaven 96
June 22nd 1996
ECW Arena
Philly, PA

Finally, we have arrived to what very may well be one of the greatest ECW shows of all time. I think maybe this show, the next show(Heatwave), and the show after that(The Doctor is In) is the absolute pinnacle, heyday, prime of ECW. If you just buy 3 ECW shows, you might as well buy those. Then come back and tell me about how bad ECW sucked. Otherwise keep your fucking mouth shut or else get hooked in the Kata-Hajime! BITCH!

Seriously though, this card was perhaps better built than any pay per view ECW ever put on. First of all the trilogy completing rubber match, Sabu vs RVD III with a phenomenal storyline behind it. A crazy weapons match with Dreamer vs Brian Lee that also had a pretty good backstory to it. A tag team title match between the two teams with the absolute best tag team feud in all of wrestling in 1996, The Gangstas vs The Eliminators. ECW World Champ Raven takes on the legendary Freebird Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy. Chris Jericho gets a shot at Pitbull 2’s TV title. Shane Douglas vs Mikey Whipreck(both of these guys have been putting on some great matches up to this point, this should be good). On top of all that we get a ECW vs UFC shoot fight with Taz taking on 6’8″, 300 pound UFC veteran Paul Varelans. God damn.

ECW was clearly ready for PPV, it was just a matter of exposure. Not enough people knew about ECW, and if ECW’s first PPV were to fail, it would have killed the entire promotion. I have to say that looking at the build up and the card for this show on paper, this is absolutely one of the most stacked ECW shows ever. Lets dig into it. If you really want to get the full story on the stuff going into this show pull that spliff out of your mouth and go back to read some of the past reviews you lazy fucker!

Intro

The show opens up with Joel Gertner, who’s been handling ring announcer duties for the past several months, fumbling and stuttering the “Lets Get Ready To RUUUUMBLE!” deal. All of a sudden The Sandman comes running out. Sandman canes the fuck out of him in the back of the head. Crowd goes ape shit. This is one hot, electric crowd. One of the more lively ones I’ve seen so far in all of these reviews. Massive E! C! DUB! chant breaks out as Sandman cracks open a beer.

Sandman canes Gertner again as he’s laid out on the canvas. Sandman gets Missy to bring back the old ring announcer, Bob Artese. The crowd goes crazy chanting his name. Bob Artese was the ring announcer going way back to the Tri States Wrestling days all the way up through Todd Gordon’s Eastern Championship Wrestling as early as 1992. He disappeared around the time of the November to Remember 95 show and this is his return. Sandman canes Gertner again at random before ordering Missy Hyatt to give Bob a kiss. Pretty fun opening. This crowd is ready for some fucking action god dam.

Shane Douglas vs Mikey Whipreck

Shane Douglas is in the absolute prime of his life here. Mikey has been putting on some great matches with Sabu in the previous shows. This aught to be good. Truth be told I’ve actually never seen this show all the way through, just a couple of matches on compilations/youtube. The past couple of HCTV’s have me pretty hyped to see it finally.

Shane went on a tirade at the last show calling out the entire ECW locker room to defend his ECW TV title. Mikey was one of the many opponents that came out to face him, but his leg was already hurt from an earlier match. Shane locked him in the Texas Cloverleaf and refused to break the hold, even after Mikey tapped out.

The thing with Shane Douglas here is that he was booked as a tweener earlier in the year. He was a flag waving face who was standing up for ECW against guys like Brian Pillman. He was helping Tommy Dreamer feud with Raven for a bit, but after failing to regain his ECW World Title from Raven, he pretty much has just gravitated back towards being a strait up heel. Shane is in the early stages of perhaps the greatest heel run in ECW history, and in my opinion anyways, all of pro wrestling in 1996.

Mikey shocks Shane early with a quick Arm Drag Takedown. Shane gives him a look like “You little fucker!”. Shane fires back at Mikey and hits him with a Lariat. Mikey flops around selling it beautifully. God damn Mikey could sell with the best of them. I think he should have been called up to the WCW Cruiser division a lot sooner than he did(99) what do you think?

Mikey reverses a move and hits Shane with several dropkicks, knocking him out of the ring. Shane’s frustrated acting here is really good. The fans just love fucking with him. So far so good with the psychology. Shane came in thinking he was going to be able to bully Mikey around, but he grossly underestimated the kid. Mikey’s character rarely wins, but he’s just all heart. I’m really falling in love with him.

Shane resorts to dirty tactics to take the upper hand on Mikey. The crowd starts to tear into Shane with the taunts, Shane feeds off of it and works the crowd very well, intensifying their taunting. Mikey gets kicked in the groin, racked on the ropes, and generally out muscled for a few minutes. Shane’s offense looks good. Side headlock takeovers, Corkscrew Vertical Suplexes. So far so good.

Shane tries to put it away with the Texas Cloverleaf, but Mikey fights through it and reaches the ropes. Mikey sells his leg really, really nicely. Some great selling from Mikey in this match. He limps across the ring, winces, and grimmaces as he tries to move around on it. Shane goes after the leg with a cross block style shoulder tackle. He continues to target the leg until Mikey uses a leverage move to send him through the ropes to the floor. Mikey knocks Shane into the crowd, and completely drops the selling of the leg in order to get back into the ring, springboard his way up to the top rope, and hit Shane with a Somersault plancha. I could nitpick and say that the way Mikey dropped the selling hurt the match, but I would much rather see guys doing flips out of the ring than watch them roll around on the floor selling their hurt leg. I just like to see action, so I don’t really harp on stuff like this. Nice spot.

Mikey whips Shane into the steel and chokes him with his boot to the throat. Mikey continues to look good, landing a legdrop on the floor by catapulting himself over the steel railing. Shane makes it back into the ring where Mikey does a really, really awesome looking Slingshot Rolling Neck Snap. Awesome move.

Mikey sends Shane into the ropes, but Shane holds on, causing Mikey to miss a dropkick. Shane locks Mikey into the Figure Four. The entire ECW Arena starts screaming out WHOOOOO!

Mikey gets free and does the same to Shane. He holds on to the ropes to cause Shane to miss a dropkick. Mikey locks on the figure four and the crowd goes crazy with the WHOOO’s. It gets to Shane Douglas, he snaps on the crowd as he cries out in pain, SHUT THE FUCK UP! Great moment. Mikey makes it better by hitting Shane with some chest chops all of a sudden. Shane’s facial expressions are priceless.

Shane sells his leg very nicely, unable to stand up on it. Mikey goes up top and hits a missile dropkick for 2. Mikey then lands a DDT for another close 2 count. Mikey tries to whip Shane into the ropes, but gets reversed. Mikey tries to reverse the whip again, but gets caught in Shane’s Belly to Belly for the win after 11:33. Damn fine match.

8.3/10

This was a pretty good match. It was a bit short, but the selling and action was nice. It was a good fast pace opener. Shane Douglas has been really good in the ring this far into ECW in 96. He pulled Axl Rotten of all people through a good match at a previous show. His match with Scorpio at A Matter Of Respect was a solid 4 star battle. This is another good one here. The way he works with the crowd taunting is phenomenal. The crowd really loved to fuck with Shane Douglas and he knew how to ag them on.

Joey Styles Interview: Baron Von Stevie & Bluedust

We cut to Joey standing in the ring doing his intro. Crazy hot crowd blowing the roof off. One of the hotter crowds of any of the shows I’ve reviewed.

Daniel Bryan’s entrance music hits and Baron Von Stevie & Bluedust make their way out to the ring. Stevie Richards is dressed up like Baron Von Rashke, imitating his mannerisms, holding up “The Claw”. The Blue Meanie is dressed up as Golddust, except with blue paint on instead of gold. He’s accompanied by a Marlena wannabe valet who smokes a cigar.

This is a running gimmick for Stevie and The Meanie so far in 96. First they were calling themselves “The Fabulous Ones”, then “The American Males”(a knock on the WCW tag team), then at the last show they were dressed up as Lord Steven Regal(Lord Stevie Regal & Sir Meanie) with British hats and matching accents. Stevie’s a total goofball here trying to sound like Baron Von Rashke as he talks to Joey. Everyone in the crowd is laughing and having a good time. Joey says if he wanted to work in a circus, he would have stayed home in Stamford.

Joey then says that the Meanie looks more like Dusty Rhodes than his own son.

Stevie puts over the storyline where Raven sent him forth on a quest to find the trashiest slutbag in the world to be by his side. Tonight Raven will be bringing out that girl. Bluedust creeps Joey out by getting down on his knees in front of him. Baron Von Stevie tries to lock Joey into the claw, but Joey no sells it, smacking his hand away before leaving the ring in disgust. Pretty good comedy skit. Crowd loved it. Stevie rides Bluedust to the back like a horse. WTF? This is just pure goofiness. I kind of like it I guess. We would see this type of comedy used a lot more in WCW & WWF through the next couple of years. The DX parodies, the NWO parody of the Four Horsemen. Stevie used a brand of slapstick comedy in ECW that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before he came along, but later in the Attitude Era it was like it was a major part of the shows. Maybe Stevie doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Maybe I’m an overly obsessive, overly biased, overly romantic ECW fanboy.

JT Smith & Guido(FBI) vs Buh Buh Ray & Big Dick Dudley

Man….Do I have to?

The Dudleyz are still just a low card comedy filler act here. Quite the cartoonish element to it, but D-Von has brought in some violence and a change of attitude to the family. The storyline is that D-Von is in a fight right now with Big Dick Dudley over who controls the family. Big Dick is the malevolent protector of the family, whereas D-Von is the sadistic, violent, forceful dictator.

Man, we get SEVERAL minutes worth of goofing off, singing, and all kinds of bullshit before this one even gets an opening bell. Jeez. JT Smith brings out an old school original from the Eastern days, Sal Bellomo. The crowd doesn’t look too pleased at all to see this guy. This is the third match between these two teams, both previous matches ended in DQ non-finishes after D-Von goes crazy and attacks a ref with a chair.

D-Von is nowhere to be found as the Dudleyz make their entrance. Buh Buh plays around on the mic for a bit and finally says his name without stuttering. RIP stuttering Buh Buh, you will be missed(1995-1996).

This is a god damn drawn out mess and the match still hasn’t even started yet. Buh Buh says that D-Von is a piece of shit, but he did get one thing right. He says Though Shall Not Fuck With the Dudleyz! Finally this thing gets going. Nothing to write about here. JT takes a Lariat and sells it like Marty Jannety used to with the corkscrew flip. I love it when guys sell Lariats like that. A bunch of sloppy brawling is pretty much all this is. One funny moment happens when Buh Buh takes Straw Hat Guy’s hat and puts it on to wear for the rest of the match. The crowd chants “WHERE’S YOUR HAT!”.

The Dudleyz beat the shit out of the FBI. Big Dick double chokeslams JT & Guido before press slamming Guido out of the ring through a table. Sal Bellomo takes a chair to Big Dick, but Dick lifts him up and carries him to the back. D-Von runs out and takes out the FBI with a chair. He gets the mic and works the crowd to get some heat, telling everyone to shut the fuck up. D-Von scolds Buh Buh for a bit before taking all of the Dudleyz(DW, Chubby, Sign Guy, I’m about ready for these guys to disappear already) out with a chair.

Big Dick comes out and chases D-Von out of the Arena. D-Von hops into a van and drives off down Swanson street as Big Dick just barely misses him.

3/10

This was ugly, and very worthy of a good ole fashion fast forwarding. Nothing redeeming or entertaining about this at all really. Pretty much just a waste of time. I think maybe a 3 is too high, but meh. The crowd at least was fun.

ECW vs UFC Shoot Fight: Taz vs Paul Varelans

Finally, the age old question will be answered on this show. What is the supreme form of hand to hand combat? Extreme Wrestling or Ultimate Fighting? Lets find out.

Before we even get into it, there is some interesting developments behind the scenes going into this. The major deal was that everybody in the back, Heyman, Taz, everyone, was scared that Varelans was going to actually shoot on Taz. Supposedly he told some of the boys in the back that he was. Perhaps as an insurance policy, (alledgedly)Heyman sent Missy Hyatt to Varelans dressing room to promise him a blowjob if he goes through with everything as planned. Varelans had 7 UFC fights under his belt. He was legitimately 6’8″ 300 pounds. Those were real stats, not wrestling weight. If a motherfucker like that wants to shoot on you that’s not good. I’m thinking Varelans could have really hurt Taz pretty badly if he wanted to.

First thing to notice here is that the ring is surrounded by ECW wrestlers. Shane Douglas, Saturn, Kronus, and Rob Van Dam are all out surrounding the ring to watch Taz’s back just in case Varelans did shoot. None of these guys are involved in any of Taz’s storylines or his character(who was a loner) at this point.

Bill Alphonso gets the mic and talks some shit to Varelans before the bell rings. He keeps throwing in the fact that Taz is undefeated in ECW.

Joey apologizes to the UFC fans watching for Fonzie’s mouth.

Joey then says that he’s no Don Wilson, Jeff Blatnic, or Bruce Beck, and your welcome. Jim Brown couldn’t make it either. Fucking smart ass. That was the UFC commentary team during this time. Those guys were actually pretty good. Joey was better though. I’d give my right arm to hear Joey or Jim Ross call MMA.

They start if off with some cautious circling. Taz shoots in low for a single leg takedown. He transitions into a fujiwara type armbar, but Varelans rolls out. Taz shoots in again, but Varelans manages to force him down to his back. Taz goes to the guard position(a defensive position used when fighting from your back). Joey calls it like it is. Nice. This is as close as I’ll ever get to ever hearing him call MMA I guess.

Taz gets free and they go through an awkward little grappling exchange. The crowd(everyone standing) is starting to realize that this is just another worked match. They go through more awkward stuff with Varelans landing some kicks and knees that are slow and soft.

All of a sudden Perry Saturn comes flying into the ring like a fucking heatseeker missile, drilling Varelans in the back of the head with a kick from the top rope. Stiff is an understatement. That looked legit to me.

Varelans goes down half conscious. Taz pulls him up and amazingly manages to lift his 300 pound ass up with absolutely zero assistance. He just jerks him up from his roots, dead weight, nailing him with a T-Bone Suplex. Varelans gets chokes out and rolled out of the ring for an elaborate celebration with Team Taz.

I’ve actually read quite a bit on this incident in a few books and seen the match covered in a Taz shoot interview. Taz claims that the kick was all part of the plan, but the stiffness of it was not. Saturn was instructed to try to knock Varelans out just in case he tried to change the finish and shoot on Taz. He succeeded. Taz said in the shoot interview that Varelans was knocked goofy from the kick and that he lifted him dead weight for the Suplex at the end. Pretty impressive feat of strength to suplex a 300 pound man like that.

Also, as Taz celebrated with Team Taz & Fonzie, Varelans was rolled out of the ring. The referee jumped on top of his unconscious body to keep him down and make sure he didn’t try to get up and ruin the end of the segment. Joey Styles on commentary:

“Taz has sent a message to every Ultimate Fighter.

Every martial artist.

Every amateur or professional wrestling today.

Taz will stop at nothing.”

Joey says Taz wants Sabu, and sooner or later we’re going to have to grant his wish.

The crowd explodes with massive, sweeping chants of bullshit. I think these Bullshit chants legitimately scared Paul Heyman, because 1). This would be the last ever “Shoot Fight” in ECW history, and 2). We would start to see the “Ultimate Fighter” element in Taz’s character gradually kind of disappear after this, with him just kind of evolving into “The Extreme Bad Ass”, or like a cheap version of Stone Cold. MMA would kind of fade out through the rest of 96-97 with the US Government pretty much outlawing it.

The thing is though that a lot of these fans were probably expecting a real UFC style shoot fight when they bought the ticket(which is interesting in itself to me). There had been 2 “Shoot Fights” in ECW prior to this, but this time Heyman brought in a real UFC fighter and hyped the match as “A Fight Of Ultimate Proportions!”. What these people got was a soft, sloppy, 3 minute fake shoot fight. A lot of these fans probably felt like they got ripped off, and that’s a death wish for a wrestling promotion to send a crowd home feeling that way. Especially if that promotion is already fledgling and in the 5 figures range of being in the red.

I don’t know if it was planned or improv, but if it was improv, Taz was a genius for the way he turned the crowd’s ire into some white hot heat for his character. He gets the mic and tells the fans:
“You know what?

You know what?

You’re right. That was bullshit.

..And you know what else?

I fucked you again!

Taz fucked you again!

You thought..You though you were going to see a shoot…

That WASN’T SHIT!

I fucked you again!

*Crowd chants YOU! AIN’T! SHIT!

Tell me when you’re done. Remember, you people pay to see me.

I don’t pay to see you.

So when I’m talking, you shut your fucking mouth!

*Crazy heat, entire Arena starts chanting for SA-BU!*”
6/10

The Shoot fight sucked. People think I’m this big MMA guy that wants to see a bunch of shoot fights in wrestling, but that’s not true. I like shooty wrestling characters, but when I tune into wrestling I want to see flashy characters acting like goofballs. Face flops & Chest chops. With that said though, I notice a lot of wrestling fans take offense to even mentioning MMA & Pro Wresting in the same breath. I don’t really get it. Art has always imitated Life. I don’t understand the “Keep your peanut butter out of my chocolate” sentiment at all really. I see subtle influences that MMA has had on wrestling all over the place. Things like the way CM Punk uses Wanderlie Silva’s pre fight mannerisms. The incorporation of Ju Jitsu into guys moves. Even “YES! YES! YES!” came from an epic MMA walkout. So many of the top guys that these kids go gaga for are cross training with MMA camps. A lot of the “Keep your peanut butter out of my chocolate” crowd has peanut butter smeared all over their faces, they just don’t really realize it because they are so closed minded. The influence of MMA on pro wrestling, and vice versa, is pretty strong if you just know where and what to look for.

Taz’s push continues, and that’s what saves this and makes it interesting. Altogether I was wildly intrigued by this entire segment. It’s just one of those classic pro wrestling backstage stories that you read all about. Supposedly Varelans went berserk backstage and destroyed the ECW dressing room. He went to collect his Missy Hyatt blowjob, and Missy allegedly informed him: “I don’t fuck jobbers”.

Poor guy. Varelans would go on to fight in the UFC Ultimate Ultimate tournament of champions in December of this year where he would lose a pretty good war to Kimo in the first round of the tournament(his weight ballooned up to 350). That was his last UFC fight. The interesting thing about this entire incident was how the ECW guys were all watching Taz’s back and being careful to make sure that Varelans went along with the plans, no matter what, any means necessary.

ECW World Championship: Raven(C) vs Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy

This is an interesting match. Terry Gordy was one of the original Freebirds and arguably one of the best big man wrestlers of the 80’s. He went through some hard times with the drugs(2 overdoses that almost killed him) and really fell off. Supposedly this short little run he had in ECW here really revived his career and sparked some interest in him from the WWF(who brought him in to play the Executioner later in 96).

Raven has been one awesome heel in these 96 tapes. He started his rivalry with Sandman at the last show. Nova & Stevie Richards come out with Raven acting like total goofballs as Raven sits down in the corner. Stevie gets a mic and says that he’s found Raven’s dream scag. He brings out The Sandman’s ex-wife Lori Fullington. Lori played “Peaches” as Sandman’s manager going way back to the Eastern days of ECW. She comes out and gets down on her knees in front of Raven.

The Sandman comes out and says he doesn’t care. He isn’t effected by Raven’s mind games. He already pimped her out to the entire ECW locker room he says.

Joey Styles is shown in the booth saying Raven has a mystery opponent for tonight as Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Freebird” plays in the background. Terry Gordy comes out and the crowd goes INSANE! He runs the ropes to warm up for the match and the crowd gives him a massive, massive pop. One of the biggest pops in all of the shows I’ve reviewed here so far(I should start a running list of biggest pops in ECW history).

The match starts and Gordy immediately turns this thing into a big bloody brawl by kicking Raven’s ass all over the ECW Arena. Raven bleeds all over the place as he tries to run away from Gordy, but Gordy stays close, clobbering him all through the crowd and up to the Sound Stage with chair shots. Pretty good brawl so far.

Joey Styles does a phenomenal job of putting all of this over on commentary. He says that Gordy is giving Raven one of the worst beatings he’s ever had. Joey brings up Gordy’s 2 overdoses and his fall from grace. He says that Gordy is making a comeback tonight like a Pheonix from the ashes. It’s the Pheonix vs The Raven. “We are witnessing the resurrection of a career”.

They take it back to the ring where Raven gets bounced around like a bloody pinball. Gordy is just dominating him until Stevie comes in to distract him. Raven drops him with a low blow and pulls out a strand of barbed wire. Raven tries to wrap the wire around Gordy’s head, but Gordy drops him with a nice Lariat. Gordy then puts Raven in his “Oriental Spike” submission where he jabs his thumb into his neck. Raven’s going out and about to lose his strap until Stevie and Nova come in and jump on his back.

Tommy Dreamer comes out and drops both clowns with a double DDT. Crowd is white fucking hot.

Brian Lee comes out and drops Dreamer with a chokeslam. Gordy takes Brian Lee out with a powerbomb and that is officially the loudest crowd pop I’ve heard in all of these shows up to this point. Gordy had to be loving this. Great moment.

The crowd continues to go wild as Gordy wraps the wire around Raven’s head, tangling it up into his hair. The ref keeps trying to intervene for some reason, and Gordy drops him with a punch. Stevie comes in and hits him with a Superkick. Raven wins and retains his title. MOTHERFUCKER!!! Somebody beat this slimy, chicken shit motherfucker! GOD DAMN!

Dreamer drops Raven with a DDT onto the chair, but Brian Lee is right there with another Chokeslam immediately after. Brian Lee, Nova, and Stevie Richards do Raven’s dirty work for him, beating on Dreamer & Gordy until The Sandman comes running out canning everyone down. Raven runs. Sandman chases Raven down around the ring slowly in great camera shot.

Lori Fullington comes back out wearing clothes similar to Raven’s. The Sandman’s son Tyler is with her. They stand in between Raven & The Sandman and the look on Sandman’s face is priceless. Such a common misconception that Sandman was just a worthless performer and that couldn’t be any further from the truth in my opinion. The guy was a great entertainer and this angle is some of his best work.

Raven passionately screams something at Sandman as he just gazes at his son heartbroken and shocked. I love the emotion.

Raven puts the mic in front of Tyler’s face for him to tell his father: “Daddy, you’re a drunk, now I worship Raven.”

Tyler does the Raven crucifix pose as Sandman looks at him completely gutwrenched with sorrow. Raven screams at Sandman, “HE WORSHIPS MEEEE!

This is such a crazy scene. It’s a little over the top, but I like it. We’re seeing The Sandman’s character develop a bit more depth and emotion here with his son being involved. Plus Raven’s David Coresh type of heel character goes into overdrive with the mind games. God damn.

Raven and his entourage retreat the scene as The Sandman is going crazy like a father would do in this situation. Tommy stands in the ring with Gordy as the fans give him a massive standing ovation as they chant TERRY! TERRY! TERRY!

All of a sudden Bluedust comes out.

He says some goofy Goldust shit on the mic. Kimona grabs him by the balls. Beulah drops him with a DDT and the crowd eats it up. SHE’S! HARDCORE! SHE’S HARDCORE! SHE’S HARDCORE!

8/10

I actually like the Sandman/Tyler angle. It’s some pretty deep stuff that may be a bit over the top for a pro wresting show, but back during this time an angle like this hadn’t really been done before. This all looked and felt like something out of a movie as opposed to a wrestling show, so I can understand why wrestling purists would hate on it. With that said though, the actual Raven vs Gordy match was pretty fun. The crowd reactions were great and its cool to see a guy like Gordy make a comeback like he did after what he’d been through. All in all this was a fairly entertaining segment all the way around.

ECW World Tag Team Championship: The Eliminators(C) vs The Gangstas

The Gangstas vs Eliminators rivalry in ECW is by far the best tag team feud in all of wrestling in 1996 in my opinion. Here you had 4 guys that weren’t all that great in the ring, yet they were all interesting characters. 2 of those 4 guys were actually not all that bad on the mic, so what do you do? Simple. You tell everyone that ECW’s insurance provider won’t cover a Gangstas vs Eliminators match, therefore, ECW can’t get it sanctioned. You know the match isn’t going to be that good, so why not milk the feud for all it’s worth? Pretty genius booking if you ask me. These guys still haven’t had a single match aired on TV, yet the feud is still highly compelling to someone like me. They take turns trading barbs in promos, and viciously attacking each other, sending each other to the hospital. New Jack and Saturn made for great adversaries. I could definitely see that evolving into one of the major rivalries in ECW history had Saturn stuck around.

The Gangstas come out and this is pushed as their last shot at the Tag Titles.

Ah shit, The Samoan Gangsta Party attacks The Gangstas in the entrance isle before they even make it to the ring. We get a sloppy fight around the ring as The Eliminators stand and watch. The Bruise Brothers come out and attack The Gangstas along with the Samoan Gangsta Party. Natural Born Killaz keeps playing at The Gangstas get jumped and beaten into a bloody pulp by four men. EMT’s help The Gangstas to the back. Saturn tells The Bruise Brothers that they didn’t do them any favors. He calls them a couple of inbred motherfuckers.

The Bruise Brothers come in and take The Gangstas place and this crowd doesn’t look to happy about that at all.

ECW World Tag Team Championship: The Eliminators(C) vs The Bruise Brothers

We get a 2 on 2 brawl around the ring with The Bruise Bros and Eliminators. Nothing pretty going on at all. Saturn lands a really stiff superkick to one of the twins. Saturn also lands a really nice Elbow Drop in the match. I always thought he had a great elbow drop.

Truth be told the Eliminators have improved quite a bit at this point in 96. It’s interesting to see them gradually get better from show to show. They were really green in those late 95 shows. Same with Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley, The Dudley Boyz, a lot of guys really. ECW was a great place for a lot of guys to learn their chops and you can see their evolution from show to show as you watch through these old tapes.

But really man, this is one ugly, brain dead brawl around the ring. Shit. I find myself daydreaming as I watch this.

Kronus does land a really nice looking Handspring Elbow. Always liked Kronus moveset. Him and Saturn were perfect for each other as a tag team. This thing goes on for a bit primarily outside of the ring. The Bruisers slam Saturn and Kronus into a table that refuses to die. Takes 3 slams until Kronus finally goes through it.

The Gangstas come back out with bandages around their heads and trash cans in their hands. Garbage everywhere as this turns into a sloppy 3 way. The crowd is dead. Referees come out and we have a bunch of standing around. Good lord. This is a huge mess literally and figuratively. The Eliminators and Bruise Bros are pulled to the back by Refs, leaving the Gangstas standing tall. This was all dead to the crowd.

3/10

Damn, right when I start singing praises for something I get it shoved right back in my face with one really shitty, overbooked segment. This was like some really bad Fan Fic booking(I’m not going to say any names…). It really took the excitement out of the crowd when they all realized that we were going to see The Bruise Bros come into the picture. They just couldn’t get over in ECW for the life of them. There’s nothing I can really say to save this, it was just bad all around. With that said though, I’m still pumped to see Gangstas and Eliminators finally have a fucking match. I still like the overall concept of dragging the feud out for as long as possible, just the execution of it here was way off, especially the way they were coming off of a big schmozz shoot fight and a heel cheating his way to a title retention. At some point this crowd needs something to get happy about to keep them in the show.

Axl Rotten & Hack Myers vs The Samoan Gangsta Party

SHIT! God damn. Can I at least do this on 2X speed? NO!?! Fuck. You motherfuckers better be glad I love you so much.

Axl’s entrance music is pretty cool.

Manson from 94 to 97 had a unique grunge/industrial/metal hybrid sound that was pretty cool. Once he started straying away from that sound I lost interest. That first album was pretty good though. Maybe my favorite of his.

Samoan Gangstas come out to a really nice hip hop song with an awesome beat. 90’s hip hop had better actual music imo. Today’s beats and actual music in hip hop is really flat and generic to me. At’ least the stuff they play on the radio anyways. I wish I knew the name of this song because it’s pretty good.

Oh man, the Samoan Gangstas get lynched by this crowd during the intro’s. Artese announces their name and the crowd blows up with chants of “WHO! GIVES! A! FUCK!”.

“YOU! FAT! FUCKS!

“YO-KO-ZUNA! clap-clap, clap-clap-clap”

Just close your eyes and imagine a bunch of fat guys punching each other. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Feel my pain.

Natural Born Killaz hits and The Gangstas come out. Thank god. The Eliminators follow them. The Bruise Brothers follow them and we have a massive 8 man clusterfuck.

Entire locker room empties and we have pretty wild, chaotic scene. Fans are actually throwing trash into the ring. That’s a first for ECW.

This looks like a Royal Rumble at this point with about 20 guys in the ring. Trash EVERYWHERE!

2/10

Eek. This makes me want to go back and edit my opening paragraphs about how this is one of the best ECW shows. I won’t do it though. Like I said previously in this review I haven’t seen this one all the way through yet. So far it got off to a promising start, but man. It’s kind of turned into a disaster really at this point. This was a terrible segment. The crowd chants were hilarious. The crowd was throwing trash into the ring, but then they turned around and chanted E! C! DUB! at the end of it when it degenerated into full on chaos. Not a big fan of this segment really.

ECW Television Championship: Pitbull 2(C) vs Chris Jericho

I haven’t seen Jericho on ECW TV in a while, but he was active on the house show circuit at the time. Pitbull 2 just won the TV title on the last show that I reviewed. Good god almighty FRANCINE!

She’s upset about something. It’s as if there’s some friction between her and PB 2(Pitbull 2, I’ll refer to him as PB 2 for the remainder of this review).

We get a good staredown between Jericho & PB 2. Jericho isn’t intimidated by the bigger, more powerful man. I like it. Chris Jericho gets mixed reactions from the fans during the intros. They get it going and this is a classic Power vs Speed story here. They tie up and PB2 shoves Jericho completely out of the ring. Power.

PB2 shines early completely overpowering Jericho. He lands a fucking beautiful Press Slam into a Tombstone Piledriver. Shit that was awesome.

Chris Jericho uses his speed to catch PB2 with a nice spinkick to the face. Jericho quickly goes for a Spinning Heel Kick, but he gets caught in mid air and slammed to the canvas. Jericho tries to trade punches with PB2, but he gets worn down by his power. PB2 backdrops Jericho high up into the air and slams him into the canvas face first. He’s looking like a total fucking monster here. Jericho counters a move with a Victory Roll for 2. He stuns PB2 with a Yakuza kick to the head.

PB2 goes for another Press Slam, but Jericho counters it with a Headscissor takeover sending him to the apron. Jericho then lands his classic Springboard Dropkick from Adjacent Ropes. Jericho hits PB with a really stiff spinkick to the mouth before landing a really nice looking Springboard Moonsault splash to the floor. PB2 tries to keep Jericho grounded and slow the pace down, but Jericho makes his comeback. The fans start chanting Lionheart.

All of a sudden Shane Douglas comes out. He tries to get his belt back from Francine, but she won’t give it up. Shane grabs Franny and forcefully kisses her. PB2 comes out to help her, but Shane throws Franny in front of him. PB2 accidentally drops Franny with a Lariat. Chris Jericho tries to hit Shane with a Splash from the ring, but he accidentally hits Francine. She’s out. Pitbull 1 comes out and carries her to the back on his shoulder as Shane tries to make out with the TV belt.

Jericho and Pitbull 2 get back into the ring and go through a really nice series of moves. Pitbull 2 snatches Jericho in mid air during a Lionsault. Jericho reverses a Tombstone attempt, but Pitbull 2 reverses it again, throwing Jericho backwards as he falls to his back. Shane Douglas tries to leave with the TV title, but the referees stop him and get it back. Pitbull continues dominating Jericho in the ring with power moves. He counters all of Jericho’s aerial offense with slams.

Chris Jericho gets Pitbull 2 stunned and goes for a Superplex. Pitbull tries to rip him up into a Superbomb similar to how he won the tltle from Shane Douglas, but Jericho counters the Superbomb with a Super Rana. Jericho pins PB2 to win his first major singles title after 12:17.

Shane Douglas throws a big tantrum crying for the belt. PB2 takes the belt and hands it over to Jericho. Jericho really won the crowd over during this match. He was getting mixed reactions at the start, but they are all behind him here at the end. He gets a pretty loud “LIONHEART!” chant. PB2 shakes Jericho’s hand out of respect and the crowd loves it.

8.1/10

This was a really cool match. There were a lot of good moves, counters, reversals. I liked PB2’s Press Slam into a Tombstone, and loved the way he caught Jericho in mid air during a Lionsault attempt. Also pretty cool how Jericho won the crowd over through the match. He didn’t get a very good reception during the intro’s, but they were all giving him a nice standing ovation at the end. The big powerful man vs the small, quick underdog story that the match told really won the crowd over here. I also liked how they got Shane Douglas involved with the booking. One thing that Heyman was best at was booking 3 and 4 way feuds. We’re seeing the early stages of one of the all time great 4 way feuds(culminating in the greatest 4 way match ever imo). Some good stuff here. I wasn’t overly impressed with the match, but it was good and it was definitely worth tracking down if your a big Jericho fan.

Weapons Match: Tommy Dreamer vs Brian Lee

This one opens up with Beulah and Kimona pushing shopping carts full of weapons to the ring. I don’t think this one is going to be very pretty. If I may steal a line from Joey himself, I don’t think we’re going to see too many drop toe holds or arm drag takedowns in this one.

Alice In Chains “Man in the Box” plays through as these guys proceed to beat the shit out of each other in your typical, cliched ECW match. The crowd isn’t really into it at the beginning. They take it throught the crowd pretty early, going all the way out the front door of the ECW Arena to the corners of Swanson & Rittner streets.

One interesting thing that I noticed as they made their way through the front door to the street. There was a crowd of about 30 or 40 people just standing at the front door trying to look in and watch the show. WTF?! I’m assuming this show sold out and these guys were turned away? Some diehards. Pretty cool that they are getting a little taste of the show here out in the street. They are all marking out hard.

Dreamer and Lee give the fans outside a pretty good show. They take it all the way across the street to some other building. Crazy camera work as all the fans swarm the fight across the street. This shit is crazy. One awesome shot happens when Brian Lee slams Dreamer into a steel garage door in the building across the street from the ECW Arena. Dreamer’s head slides down the door slowly, leaving a smear of blood. Good god almighty. Fans all swarmed around them marking out crazy.

Brian Lee slams Dreamer’s head into the wall multiple times, leaving blood all over it. One of the fans hands Dreamer a chair! Dreamer busts Lee with the chair before slamming his head into the nearby wall. They take the fight back across the street to the rundown, shithole, god forsaken, world infamous bingo hall. The camera shot gets lost in a sea of 20 year old smart mark wrestling fans. They all try to get out of the way of the shot, screaming at each other “Get out of the shot!”. Talk about some smarks. This is a fun match.

Joey calls it the Massacre on Swanson Street.

E! C! DUB! out in the parking lot. These guys just beat the shit out of each other and bleed all over the place. Just as good as the crowd brawling in the Austin vs Bret match. Same level of emotion. Both of these characters have put each other through quite a bit at this point in their storylines. They bash each other into various vehicles out in the parking lot before making their way back into the Arena.

They make it back to the ringside area and it degenerates back into a sloppy, slow weapons brawl again. Everything gets real sloppy as fatigue sets in on both guys. It’s been a pretty fast paced brawl up to this point in the match, with both of them going out of the arena, across the street and back within just a couple of minutes. Its taken it’s toll on both seemingly out of shape big guys.

Time to bring it home with a big 12 step finish. Step 1), Brian Lee brings in a cinder block and a baseball bat. He goes to finish off Dreamer’s manhood, but Step 2), Beulah comes in and saves the day. Step 3), Brian Lee goes to chokeslam the bitch, but Step 4), her lesbian lover comes in to help her. Kimona opens up her shirt and gives Brian Lee a shot of her ta-ta’s. He’s mesmerized. Step 5), Beulah drops his ass with a frying pan. Step 6), Dreamer comes in and hits him with a stop sign, followed by a DDT on said sign. Dreamer pins Lee for the win after 9:02. Step 7), The Bruise Brothers come out and beat the fuck out of Dreamer.

The match clips ahead to a shot of 3 tables stacked up directly under the Eagles Nest balcony. Step 8), Brian Lee chokeslams Dreamer off the balcony through 3 TABLES HOLY SHIT!

OH MY GOD!

Classic ECW spot.

Anatomy of an 8 step ECW finish. Book it Paul E!

7.4/10

Well it started ugly, but it picked up nicely when they “took it outside”. It was a crazy street fight with a bunch of crazy action starved fans getting a nice little taste of the show. They brought it back home with some more sloppy weapons brawling before the big dramatic finish. Dreamer finally gets a victory in his ongoing torment from Raven’s henchmen, but Raven’s guys would have the last laugh. Dreamer vs Raven would make an awesome movie. The triple table spot was one of the most brutal in ECW history. Man alive.

Something that didn’t make the commercial release of this tape was Kimona’s infamous striptease atop the ECW Arena. One of the ropes broke on the ring and they needed to buy enough time for someone to drive across town and get a replacement part. Kimona, an experienced valet dancer, went up to the top of the Eagles Nest and did a provocative striptease down to her panties and some body paint(ala Sable in WWE 98) covering her breasts. The scene did make the cut of the Extreme Warfare Vol. 2 VHS compilation.

So this is where the Attitude came from without a doubt. It’s crazy how far ahead of the curb ECW was compared to where WCW and WWF were at this time in 96. The big two were starting to catch on though.

Supposedly there was an hour long delay between the two final matches due to the ring. I can only imagine Paul E. panicking backstage after what has been pretty much a disappointment of a show so far.

Sabu vs Rob Van Dam III

Van Dam is much more over here than his previous ECW shows. The push has worked so far. He’s getting some good cheers and the kind of heat that a heel would want. Sabu is wearing a neckbrace. RVD laughs about it. Sabu pulls it off and throws it out of the ring. Sabu immediately goes after RVD’s leg with some good targeting. Right from the start. I like it.

Sabu’s just all over the leg with strikes. He hits RVD with his Springboard Leg Lariat while he sits on the canvas. Sabu’s just grinding on this punk. Sabu goes into the ropes and attempts his twisting backslide counter to a backdrop, but…

The rope snaps…FUCK!

The move is botched. RVD & Sabu kind of look at each other like SHIT! The crowd lets out a moan of disappointment.

There’s a weird moment in the match where RVD and Sabu are kind of wondering what to do. Joey apologizes to the fans on commentary as everyone in the crowd is kind of wondering if they are even going to finish the match or what. Then all of a sudden Sabu sets a chair up and hits a Triple Jump Moonsault OFF OF THE BROKEN ROPE!

The crowd lets out a collective gasp of relief as they cheer. Fuck the ring. Lets have a fucking match!

Sabu beats on RVD with a chair and the crowd all cheers as they come to the realization that these guys are going to go ahead and do it. RVD gets racked on the rail. Sabu gets back in the ring and flies through the ropes with a fucking awesome Suicide Plancha, hitting Van Dam into the crowd. I hear a woman screaming bloody murder in the background. Awesome move.

E! C! DUB!

The crowd comes to life. Sabu and Van Dam are saving this show.

They beat the shit out of each other through the crowd, tossing chairs into each other’s faces. They take it all through the bleachers. RVD lands a legdrop onto Sabu holding a chair like a goof. We get some awkward crowd brawling where RVD tries to hit Sabu with an umbrella. That’s twice now in this series where RVD kind of kills the momentum by fucking with some goofy object in the crowd that wasn’t necessary at all(it was a cooler in another match).

It gets even uglier from there as Sabu stands and waits awkwardly while RVD climbs up the ropes and hits him with a somersault senton with a chair. It’s getting ugly.

Sabu recovers and goes back to targeting RVD’s knee. He sets a chair up and hits him with a nice Air Sabu leg lariat. RVD does his monkeyflip onto the chair, but shit man. The chair doesn’t land right. It kind of opens up with the prongs sticking up. Sabu see’s it, but he goes through with the move. GOD DAMN! That was dangerous and a sick bump.

Van Dam does some really goofy looking grappling with one of the most half assed armbars I’ve ever seen. Good lord man, learn how to do it right. Van Dam does a standing moonsault and continues to dog on Sabu. The crowd rallies behind Sabu chanting his name. RVD is actually still selling the leg nicely believe it or not. Sabu catches him with a dropkick to the injured leg. He sets RVD up teetering on the middle rope with his upper body hanging into the ring. He does a move that I’ve never seen him do. It’s a Slingshot Arabian Press Guillatine while Van Dam hangs into the ring teetering on the ropes. Really nice move.

Sabu goes to the outside to bring a chair into the ring and eats it after an awesome Van Daminator. Sabu goes to the outside and gets hit with RVD’s classic Somersault Suicida. This is some good action right here man. Shit. They got off to a really sloppy start, but they are picking it up here.

RVD still sells the leg nicely as he whips Sabu into the steel railing. Sabu hits Van Dam with a really awesome Parkour style move where he springs off of a chair, runs across a table, and then hits him on the rail with the Air Sabu leg lariat. I love moves like that and I love the way Sabu used the environment around him this way. This is the Sabu that I fell in love with.

Sabu continues to steal the show with his comeback into the match. He lands a fucking sick Splash out into the crowd. He follows it up with his Triple Jump DDT through a table propped up from rail to ring. That’s a receipt my friends. The crowd goes crazy. He sets Van Dam up to finish him off with another Triple Jump Moonsault, but the broken ring comes into play. Sabu racks himself on the broken rope(it was obviously done purposefully). Nice psychology here. RVD immediately springs up with a really good leaping side kick, knocking Sabu out of the ring. Beautiful kick. I love it.

RVD beats on Sabu some more on the outside. He props a chair up caddi-cornered on the railing before Suplexing Sabu down onto it. Pretty sick bump. Van Dam tries to hit Sabu with the same Super Fisherman Buster that he used to beat him with at A Matter Of Respect, but Sabu pushes him down to the canvas. Sabu then flies from the top with a DDT. Sabu goes back up top, but RVD recovers and follows him up. Van Dam hits him with the Super Fisherman Buster. Sabu kicks out and the pace has really slowed down at this point. RVD goes for another Fisherman Buster, but Sabu blocks it, and counters with a Fisherman Buster of his own. Sabu goes up top and finishes the young punk off with a Somersault Guillatine Legdrop with a Chair.

Paul Heyman comes out and dramatically checks on Sabu’s neck as RVD get carted out of the Arena on a stretcher. EMT’s tend to Sabu as Heyman looks on with concern. Sabu resists at first, but eventually gets stretchered out of the ECW Arena. Serious business.

8.4/10

This was a damn awesome match and it really saved this show from being one of the worst disasters in ECW history. The shit they did with the fucked up ring was so dangerous I can’t even imagine. I absolutely loved some of the spots in this match and I loved the small bits of psychology here and there that tied into their first 2 matches. For me though really, I don’t know how to grade this match. The rope break no doubt caused some sloppiness in the match, but they eventually turned it around and used it in the match well. I guess for me this match comes down to being another one of those big ECW “What Ifs”, kind of like What If Pillman didn’t get hurt and actually had a match against Shane Douglas in the ECW Arena. What if the rope didn’t break in the Sabu vs RVD match at Hardcore Heaven? I think this was on it’s way to being one of the best matches ever if not for the fucked up ring. As it stands they made some great lemonade out of the lemons they were dealt with, and really in so many different ways that was what ECW was all about.

Overall: 8/10

What was one of the greatest hyped shows up to this point in ECW history really just didn’t live up to the hype. It was clear that ECW just wasn’t ready for PPV yet. The ability to build up the shows was there. This show was masterfully built up. You could tell with the build up to this show that ECW was aiming for PPV. The pieces were there for ECW, but with this show it was clear that they still had a bit of developing to do before they hit the big dance. Some of the undercard stuff on this show was total garbage. The Shane vs Mikey match quite possibly could have been the match of the night. The main event matches were decent. The Terry Gordy match was good. The Shoot fight was underwhelming but still wildly interesting considering the behind the scenes stuff behind it. Sabu vs Van Dam was a really good match too. All in all this show was pretty good and had a lot of great moments. Some of the undercard stuff keeps me from giving it anything higher than an 8, but I would still highly recommend this show if your interested or curious about ECW.