ECW The Doctor Is In 1996 8/3/1996

Written by: Shinobi M. from Hardcore Theater

Extreme Championship Wrestling
The Doctor Is In
August 3rd 1996
ECW Arena
Philly, PA

What doctor?

Dr. Death Steve Williams is a guy I don’t know a whole lot about outside of the Brawl for All debacle to be 100% honest with you. His name was always one of those like Terry Gordy, in that I always read about them being big deals, but never really seen why with my own two eyes. He was just one of those guys that was before my time. After doing some quick research he was at his best in Japan where he was a perennial main eventer, as well as being one half of the famed “Miracle Violence Connection” with Terry Gordy(awesome name for a tag team). His most successful run in the US was with the Universal Wrestling Federation where he was World Heavyweight Champ until Jim Crockett Promotions bought them out in 1987. I never had access to Japanese wrestling back in the day so I missed the boat on what made Steve Williams such an important figure. I do remember reading a lot about him and Gordy both during their Miracle Violence Connection heyday in Japan.

As far as this show, it’s one of those ECW shows that I’ve never really seen all the way through. I watched a match or two back when I first bought it, but for the most part I’ve saved it for tonight. Just from looking at the back of the case this looks like it could be one of the best ECW Supercards ever. The main event is the fourth match between Sabu & Rob Van Dam, this time a Stretcher Match. Honestly 96 ECW is still kind of new to me for the most part, so I’ve never really gotten into the 96 series of RVD vs Sabu matches. I do remember this particular match, and if my memory serves me correctly, I think it’s one of their best ever. We’ll have to take a closer look here tonight.

As for the rest of the card we get the Four Way Dance for the tag team titles, Dr Death & Dreamer vs Taz & Brian Lee, as well as head to head meetings between the four competitors from the epic Four Way Dance from Heatwave. Jericho will face Scorpio, and Douglas defends the TV title against Pitbull 2. I’m fairly certain this is Chris Jericho’s final match in ECW. Douglas and Pitbull 2 have a pretty heated rivalry going now with Francine turning on Pitbull 2 at the last show.

The Sandman vs Raven rivalry continues on this show with the Sandman taking on Raven’s right hand lackey Stevie Richards. The undercard looks tolerable as well with D-Von Dudley, Louie Spicolli, and Mikey Whipreck. I got a good feeling about this one, lets get it going.

Interview: JT Smith/”Kiss”

JT Smith comes out without his FBI goons. He fucks with the front row guys, pointing out a WWF shirt on one of them(the sunglasses guy), and violently snatching Straw Hat Guy’s hat off of his head(looked legit pissed about it).

JT Smith says that he’s not going to sing tonight. Instead he brings out KISS!

Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, Nova, and Don E. Allen come out dressed up like Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss.

If you go back and look at the catalog posted by Kilgore, in the ad for this show they just advertise “KISS ROCKS THE ARENA!”. I thought this was the real Kiss back when I seen that. I would have been pissed if I had bought this tape and seen this.

This is actually a pretty funny little segment though. They sing I Want to Rock & Roll All Night together. The crowd has a blast.

I don’t know if Stevie Richards gets enough credit for the comedy stuff though. You weren’t seeing this type of slap stick, parody comedy in wrestling if I remember correctly. I may be wrong, but it seems like all of these Stevie Pre-BWO parodies were pretty influential on how bookers looked at how comedy could be used in a pro wrestling show. Comedy in the WWF/WCW in 1996 consisted of someone getting dumped in slop, or a guy that disco dances, I don’t know.

What was comedy in wrestling like before ECW?

This thing gets good when The Sandman comes out to cane the fuck out of everyone. I guess he’s not a Kiss fan.

Huge pop from the fans. Raven comes out with Sandman’s ex wife Lori, and his 6 year old son Tyler. Raven’s foot is in a cast. He gets in the ring and distracts Sandman long enough for Stevie to drop him with a kick to the back of the head. Raven gets Sandman’s cane and cracks him in the eye with it.

Pretty interesting opening.

Mikey Whipreck vs Devon Storm

Devon Storm is with his manager Damien Kane, who is accompanied by Lady Alexandra. Lady Alexandra looks pretty damn hot here.

Mikey has a belt of some sort. Bob Artese(ECW Ring announcer) says that he won it last night at the LuLu Temple(somewhere in Pennsylvania) from the Dirt Bike Kid(a jobber that usually hovers around the 490’s of the PWI 500 for these years). The belt is the European Juniorweight Championship? Huh?

They go for some chain wrestling sequences early on. Not bad, but not great either. Devon Storm works Mikey over as the heel early on. They exchange some decent looking headscissor takedowns. Mikey dumps Devon to the outside and hits him with a sloppy ass corkscrew somersault(if I can even call it that). Damien Kane interferes with a kick on Mikey while he’s down.

They work some decent heel/face psychology to keep the crowd into the match after a rocky start. Devon grinds on Mikey with some not so good looking submissions for a little while. A weird looking variation of the Figure Four/Indian Deathlock, and a Gory Special.

Devon acts like he’s going to do a Rana down into a chair, but he changes his mind? Alright. He goes for a clothesline instead and we get a sloppy series of nearfalls. There is a small pocket of THIS MATCH SUCKS chants in the crowd at this point.

Damien Kane interferes again to keep the psychology going. Devon takes it to the outside and hits Mikey with his Somersault Plancha as Mikey is seated. Awesome looking spot. Joey lets out an intense OH MY GAAAWWWD! The crowd starts getting back into it as Mikey starts his comeback.

Damien Kane orders Devon Storm to break the pinfall and hurt Mikey some more. Devon listens to him and lands a sloppy moonsault splash. Damien Kane again orders him to break the pinfall and inflict more punishment. Devon listens again and goes for a Belly to Back suplex from the top rope. Mikey rolls out and lands on his feet. Mikey lands a Hurricanrana for a 2 count. The crowd is really behind Mikey at this point. Damien Kane tries to interfere again, but it backfires on him. Mikey hits him with a dropkick, then finishes Devon Storm off with a hurricanrana from the top rope for the 1, 2, 3 after what felt like around 10 minutes(didn’t hear the official time).

6.7/10

Not a bad match at all. It was almost good. Devon Storm and Damien Kane played the heels nicely, helping to get the crowd into Mikey’s comeback into the match. They weren’t into the match at first, but through that heel/face psychology they were able to capture the audience by the end. Devon’s somersault suicida onto a seated Mikey on the outside was a sick spot, and really got the crowd into the match. Overall though, I don’t know, for me it just seemed to lack that rythm, or chemistry. Still a decent undercard match for sure.

Johnny Smith vs Louie Spicolli

This is Louie Spicolli’s second big ECW show. He wrestled Sabu in his last show in a decent match. Louie played “Madona’s Boyfriend” in AAA, and he also had a brief run in the WWF as Rad Radford. Some time in early 96 Louie was found unresponsive, overdosed on pain pills. The WWF supposedly released him, but I have my suspicions that he was sent to ECW for a little probationary run. I’ve also read that he was going through a pretty bad depression before he started working for ECW.

This is Johnny Smith’s ECW debut. I haven’t seen much of him, but the first thing that comes to mind is that he was the originally planned opponent for Rob Van Dam at Anarchy Rulz 99, he got taken out by Balls Mahoney and was never really seen again if I remember correctly. Johnny Smith actually wrestled in Stampede Wresting for a bit, as well as a brief stint as Dynamite Kid’s replacement in The British Bulldogs. Smith was also a regular in All Japan. He was trained in the UK by Ted Bentley.

These guys both come out and really work a sharp, well executed, on point match. Some really sharp, crisp exchanges early on. A very realistic clinch struggle.

Just a really fast, explosive pace for both guys. Wow.

Johnny Smith gets backdropped to the outside and they brawl into the steel railing a little. The pace slows down a bit as they re-enter the ring. Louie dominates Johnny Smith with power, landing a really nice German Suplex. Louie gets overzealous and goes for a running splash, but Johnny Smith gets the knees up. He goes up top and lands a nice dropkick.

The crowd responds very well to this match. Johnny Smith works Louie over with some really well executed moves. Louie catches him with a Lateral Press to take the momentum back. The transitions back and forth have been pretty good. Nice back and forth battle.

Louie lands an excellent Northern Lights Suplex with an outstanding bridge. The crowd reacts to everything like a Japanese crowd would. Not so much vocal cheering, just some really nice applauses for everything these guys are doing. This is a surprisingly good technical wrestling match.

Louie goes to the outside and brings in a steel chair. Johnny Smith cuts him off and knocks the chair out of his hands before snap maring him to the canvas. Smith lands an Elbow Drop. Louie suprises him with a Small Package. Johnny Smith kicks out and takes to Louie with some European Uppercuts. Louie counters the third uppercut and hooks Smith in a backslide. Smith kicks out and goes into the ropes. Louie goes for a backdrop, but Smith rolls off his back ala Sabu.

Johnny Smith lands the Tiger Driver for the pinfall at around the 6 minute mark.

The crowd chants both guys names at the end with a nice standing ovation.

8/10

I hate to give it such a high score because it was so short, but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t a surprising little ECW hidden technical gem. Everything was on point and really sharp from both guys. It’s interesting to see Johnny Smith bring that Regal/Finlay style to ECW and actually get a good reaction from the fans. This match was really good and would have been a whole lot better with a couple more minutes.

D-Von Dudley vs Axl Rotten

Here we go with WMS’ Newcastle homeboy Axle Rotten. He was randomly jobbed out on the last show to an FMW guy that will never be seen again in ECW.

D-Von debuted earlier in 1996 and has been a pretty nasty heel from the start. He pretty much brought the heat to the Dudleyz, who were over as faces(and still are up to this point).

We get some stalling for a while as the referee tries to get the chair away from D-Von.

This gets stretched out for some time with Axl walking around on the outside looking for a steel chair. He gets back in the ring and we finally get it going with a pretty intense dueling chairs exchange.

D-Von and Axl beat the fuck out of each other’s back with chairs until Buh Buh Ray comes out(with Sign Guy and Chubby).

D-Von drops all of the Dudleyz with the chair and fights with Buh Buh for a while. Some pretty stiff chair shots to the head here. A lot of them.

Axl just sits back and watches everything.

Big Dick Dudley hits the ring. D-Von threatens to hit him, but he pussies out and runs. D-Von and Axl talk with each other for a while and agree to partner up in a makeshift tag team I’m guessing.

They make their exit and BUH BUH HITS A PLANCHA OVER THE TOP ROPE! FUCK!

He almost kills D-Von by flying into him and pancaking his head into the steel rail. Damn that was nasty.

E! C! DUB!

6/10

Well, that crazy bump at the end definitely bumped this score up a bit. This was some pretty sloppy stuff with enough unprotected head shots to go around for everyone. I’m just glad they got the FBI out of the picture. D-Von and Buh Buh are still feuding against each other, and now D-Von is partnered with Axl. Lets see how long this lasts.

The Sandman vs Stevie Richards

Raven’s entourage is just crazy here. He has Sandman’s ex wife Lori Fullington, Sandman’s 6 year old son Tyler, and……Kiss.

Raven comes to the ring with his motley crew. He says that he won’t be defending his title tonight. Todd Gordon(ECW “Commissioner”) comes out and tells Stevie to tell Raven the news. Stevie breaks it to Raven that he will be defending his title for him against The Sandman. Raven loses it on Stevie, dropping him with a DDT. Todd Gordon tells Raven that he promised these fans a title match, and that if Raven can’t defend it, Stevie must do it for him. Gordon ques the music. Enter Sandman hits the speakers.

Sandman hits the ring and drops Kiss with the Cane. Stevie’s already KO’d with his face painted like Paul Stanley.

Raven pulls Tyler in front of him in the corner. The Sandman’s stops dead in his tracks. Stevie recovers and drops him with a superkick to the back of the head.

Stevie beats on Sandman with the cane. Sandman recovers and drops him with a DDT on the cane.

Sandman is bleeding from the forehead and selling the whole “emotionally distraught” angle very well. He just looks deeply disturbed.

Sandman lands a few of his trademark moves, his Guillatine Legdrop while Stevie teeters over the railing on the outside, as well as his Slingshot Somersault Legdrop upon re-entering the ring.

Stevie hits The Sandman with a low blow. Raven throws the belt into the ring and Stevie uses it to deck The Sandman in the face. The Blue Meanie comes in and tries to hit the Moonsault, but Sandman quickly recovers and knocks Stevie down in his place. The Meanie accidentally hits Stevie with the Moonsault for 2.

Stevie surprises Sandman a little later with another Superkick to the face. The Meanie comes in again, but this time The Sandman blinds him with a shot to the face. The Meanie accidentally gives Stevie a Tiger Driver. Sandman gets a close 2 count. The crowd gets more and more hyped up with each nearfall, with the backfiring interference making it look like Sandman is about the capture the gold finally. Nova comes in and accidentally hits Stevie with a Legdrop. Stevie barely kicks out again.

Sandman lands some good chest chops before both guys collide with the referee, knocking him out cold.

Here we go with one of those trademark Raven/Heyman 12 step finishes.

Raven hits the ring limping around on his bum foot. Missy Hyatt runs into the ring and jumps on his back, pulling his hair. Lori Fullington comes in and loads up a boot before taking Missy out.

Raven loads up a boot in the corner(I’m guessing this is some old school heel stuff, they take a boot and slam it into the turnbuckle a few times, I’m assuming to pack a piece of steel or a roll of dimes, or some other object in the boot). Raven swings the loaded boot at The Sandman, but Sandman ducks it. Sandman drops Raven with a DDT!

They have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands now.

The Sandman is just overflowing with emotion. I really like it. Raven see’s it in his eyes and backs away. This is a great scene, like from a movie or something.

Sandman collapses under his own mental duress. He pulls himself back up and gets the cane, but now Raven has himself shielded by Tyler in the corner, sitting with him in his lap.

Stevie loads up the boot and cracks Sandman in the back of the head. Raven quickly pushes Stevie away and steals the pinfall just as the referee recovers. Raven gets the pinfall over The Sandman.

Crazy finish. Great booking.

8.2/10

The overall storyline really bumps this up probably .3 of a point for me. This was a great scene. The emotion was there. The psychology was there. Modern day ECW haters can nitpick the 12 step booking and call it clusterfucked, but what this did was keep this crowd(a crowd that’s seen it all) on the edge of their seat. Raven’s retained his title all through 96 with a lot of lackey interference. In this match it all backfired on Stevie, but Raven still managed to get inside Sandman’s head for the victory. Some really good moments in this match with Sandman’s emotions pouring out in the scene. This all went beyond pro wrestling and was pretty much like a live action movie scene.

Chris Jericho vs 2 Cold Scorpio

Scorpio is ripped up and in great shape. This is indeed Jericho’s final ECW match.

We get a great staredown before the match. This is such a dream match.

Jericho gets a good reaction from the fans during intro’s, even though everyone knows he’s on his way to WCW THE ENEMY!

I hear the first dueling chants I’ve ever heard in an ECW show before the match starts, with chants of both YOU! SOLD! OUT!, and LIONHEART!

These guys lock up in the best chain wrestling I’ve seen on this show yet by far. Jericho transitions from a Leglace into a Bow & Arrow, but Scorpio rolls out into a pinfall attempt that doesn’t even get a 1.

Scorpio takes Jericho to the canvas with some nice mat wrestling of his own, locking him into a Surfboard variation, then transitioning into a version of the Camel Clutch. Jericho escapes and locks Scorpio in a crazy fucking submission that I just have to show you a picture of.

Scorpio escapes and catches Jericho’s arm in a nice looking submission. Some great technical wrestling going on right here. Great match so far.

They go back and forth in a test of strength that turns into an exchange of Monkey Flips. Some really good chemistry here between these two.

BISCHOFF SUCKS(DICK) chants. Joeys says he loves these honest fans in the ECW Arena.

Jericho continues to shine for a bit in the role of the babyface, but Scorpio begins heeling it up with some low blows. Scorpio purposefully slows down the pace of the match. Scorpio does the dumb bit where he goes up top for an aerial strike, but changes his mind perhaps to spite the fans. I get that he’s trying to draw heat as he works the heel psychology, but stuff like this really just hurts the flow of the match. I’ve learned recently that this is the entire purpose of a heel in a match though, so I guess that’s what he wants.

Scorpio lands some really stiff running push kicks to Jericho’s face and chest that look like something from a hardcore puro match. The kick to the face was god damn brutal.

Jericho stalls for a bit on the outside to recover. He gets back into the ring and backdrops Scorpio to the apron. Jericho goes for his Adjacent Springboard Plancha, but the ref was in the way. By the time Jericho lands the move Scorpio see’s it coming and moves out of the way. I don’t know if that was planned or not. It worked though.

Scorpio drops Jericho to the floor with his awesome Handspring Backflip Kick. I love, love, love moves like that.

Scorpio continues to dominate Jericho back in the ring with a powerbomb and a Guillatine Legdrop.

Scorpio gets backdropped to the apron again, this time Jericho lands his Adjacent Springboard Dropkick, knocking Scorpio down to the floor. Jericho then lands a sloppy looking dropkick to the outside. They take it back into the ring and it’s starting to get a little on the sleepy side for me. The crowd is really getting into it though.

Scorpio lands his awesome Sunset Flip/Powerbomb off the top for 2 and a standing ovation from the fans. Jericho lands a DDT before going for his Lionsault. Scorpio rolls out of the way, but Jericho lands on his feet before immediately leaping up for a quick Hurricanrana for a 2 count.

Jericho goes for a Tiger Bomb, but Scorpio counters it with a sloppy looking headscissor type of maneuver. 2 Cold goes for the Moonsault, but Jericho moves out of the way. Jericho hits a pretty lame splash from the second rope. The crowd is really digging this match. They take it back outside with some more sloppy looking dives. Jericho takes it back into the ring and sets up the Lionsault.

They bring it home after 19:57 with Jericho missing a weird spinning plancha of sorts. Scorpio hits the tombstone and finishes Jericho’s ECW career with a Shooting Star Press.

8.8/10

The match got off to an awesome start with some outstanding chain wrestling/submission grappling. It hit some spots where my short attention span started to wander off, but overall this was a fantastic match. Perhaps one of Jericho’s best out of the 20 or so that he worked in ECW. The ending got really sloppy, but that’s expected when you’re wrestling at such a fast pace in a tin box with no air conditioning in August. Definitely one of the better technical/clean ECW matches out there and worth looking up. I’ve heard Jericho tossed into that “Cup of Coffee” group often, and I guess it’s justified since he really wasn’t there long at all. He definitely made his mark though. He got over as a clean technical babyface, and he wrestled some of the best matches of 1996 while there.

One counter point that I got to throw at the “Cup of Coffee” argument that ECW haters use as evidence that I’m wrong(or stupid) for thinking ECW was ever good. Why wasn’t WCW and WWF knocking these guys doors down before ECW? Dean Malenko is a pretty good example of this seeing that he was a wrestling for decades before he hit ECW, then all of a sudden he’s being courted by WCW in the twilight of his career. Same goes for a lot of guys. Public Enemy, all of the guys from the AAA “When Worlds Collide” show in 1994. WCW and WWF could care less about guys like Eddie, Benoit, Dean, Rey, Jericho etc until they seen what ECW did with them.

ECW World Television Championship: Shane Douglas(C) vs Pitbull 2

The Pitbulls come out together first with Pitbull 1(Gary Wolf) in a Halo neckbrace. The Single Arm DDT that Shane Douglas gave him at Heatwave actually broke a bone in his neck. Shane Douglas claims that it was Wolf’s fault in the Forever Hardcore documentary, saying that he took the bump like a traditional DDT when he was specifically instructed not to before the match. Regardless of who’s fault it is this is pretty terrible to see a guy get that seriously injured in a worked match. The sight of him in the halo here is just, man. I don’t know.

Joey Styles is in the ring to interview Pitbull 1 with a very somber, grim, serious demeanor. Pitbull tells everyone about the specifics of his injury, saying that the doctor told him to never wrestle again. The crowd sits silently listening.

Shane Douglas and Francine come out together laughing and making fun of Pitbull 1. This is borderline tasteless, but it kind of helps to know that Pitbull 1 did indeed make a comeback.

Shane Douglas greets Joel Gertner at ringside, shaking hands and smiling at each other. This is where Gertner begins his short stint as Shane’s personal ring announcer ala Alberto Del Rio & Ricardo. I like Gertner a lot better. He was actually a really good bi-lingual ring announcer.

Joey Styles on commentary before the match really puts over Pitbull 1 as one of the pioneers of ECW, saying that Douglas took out a member of Team Extreme and it’s going to be hard for ECW to go on without him if this is indeed the end of his career.

Everybody, including Joey Styles, wants to see Shane Douglas get his motherfucking ass whooped. It’s an almost dangerous level of tension that you can feel between the crowd and Shane Douglas where it feels like they could just snap and lynch the guy for real at any moment.

Joel Gertner gets on the mic and insults Bob Artese for max heat. He introduces Shane Douglas and Francine who are just really milking the heat out of this crowd with some great, smug acting.

Before we get into the match, I’m looking at these hot shots of Francine, and I’m thinking that she deserves some credit for her heel turn at the last show. She could have easily botched her role in the finish of that match, but she pulled everything off perfectly, including the table bump at the finale. She deserves a lot of the credit for this heat that they are both getting right here. Contrary to popular belief, Women in ECW were often more important in the storylines than just being eye candy or sexual props.

Pitbull gets it going by beating the shit out of Shane Douglas all over the ring and the crowd loves every fucking bit of it. Pitbull 2 targets Shane Douglas’ neck with some really devastating looking moves. He lands a Brainbuster and a Neckbreaker.

The crowd all starts chanting BREAK! HIS! NECK!

That’s heat.

Pitbull 2 lands a fucking brutal Spike Pildedriver and the crowd eats it up. They legitimately want to see Douglas get his neck broken here I think. That’s both disturbing and wildly intriguing to me. It’s horrible to wish that on anyone, but at the same time it’s interesting that they were able to get the crowd to wish that on Shane in the first place with this angle. Some serious human nature psychology being exposed here that is perhaps a bit too deep for me to go into here.

Pitbull 2 cranks on Douglas’ neck with a Guillatine Choke as they both stand. He’s just being ruthless here. Douglas gets spiked again with a DDT. Some good psychology here with PB 2 targeting Douglas’ neck with some really brutal looking offense.

Pitbull 2 continues trying to twist Douglas’ head off of his body as the crowd starts chanting BREAK! HIS! NECK! again.

They brawl on the outside for a bit with some chair shots. Shane threatens Pitbull 1 with a chair and the crowd can’t believe it.

Shane keeps the momentum for a while in and out of the ring. Pitbull 2 gets cut open pretty badly, bleeding all over the place. Shane lands a Vertical Suplex in the ring and gets blood all over him. Pitbull 2 starts to hulk up and the crowd loves it. Francine tosses her bracelet to Shane, who wraps it around his knuckles and cracks PB2 with it. Pitbull 2 kicks out of a cover attempt.

Franny distracts the ref as Shane Douglas pulls a chain out of his boot, wraps it around his hand, and decks Pitbull 2 with it. Shane goes for the pin, but Pitbull 2 kicks out!

The crowd really starts to rally behind Pitbull 2. Shane lands a piledriver on a chair for the pinfall, but Pitbull 2 kicks out again! THE CRIMSON MASK!

Pitbull hulks up bleeding all over the place. He Press Slams Douglas 2 times, but he drops him on the third attempt due to the blood loss. Shane Douglas gouges his fingers into Pitbull’s cut, making it bleed worse. He’s using it as psychology in the match, rather than just some gratuitous bleeding. The loss of blood wears down the Pitbull because after all, he’s only human.

Shane manages to block the Super Bomb due to the blood loss effecting PB’s strength. Shane drops Pitbull with 2 Belly to Belly Suplexes for the win.

Joel Gertner props his foot up on Pitbull 2 after the match as he announces Shane the winner. The crowd is pissed. They thought this was going to be the feel good title win for PB, but it wasn’t to be.

Pitbull 2 sends the fans home happy when he recovers and Superbombs the ref and Joel Gertner(who Shane just left in the ring ).

7.3/10

As is the case with most of the previous Shane Douglas matches I’ve reviewed from his 96 run, this match had some pretty good storytelling going on. One could question the humanity of a storyline that capitalizes on such an injury. It was a bad accident that shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and they made the most of it by generating some serious buzz with this angle. Shane Douglas was getting some dangerous white heat. The psychology of the match with Pitbull 2 trying to break Shane’s neck for revenge, then losing due to Shane taking advantage of a bad cut, made for a pretty good match. A purist wrestling fan has enough ammunition here for some major criticism, but to me this is all something that kind of goes beyond the pro wrestling boundaries and goes into movie territory with the way this angle suspends the disbelief. Vastly intriguing stuff no matter what side of the fence you stand on. The bingo hall fans here are a really good microcosm of what American society was like during this time. People say that ECW desensitized the wrestling fans, and I think that’s total bullshit. The fans, and American society in general was getting more and more desensitized through the 90’s due to a lot of different factors. ECW was just the first pro wrestling promotion to see it and cater towards it.

Tommy Dreamer & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams vs Taz & Brian Lee

Taz’s walkout was years ahead of it’s time. It’s a strait up MMA walkout, with the crew of “Team Taz” students behind him, his annoying coach, the big “Team Taz” banner that fighters hold up during their intros these days. I love this character. A full decade ahead of his time. Had this character debuted in the WWE in 2006 he would have shot strait to the top and maybe even drew some good numbers in that time period where the sport was arguably at it’s peak in popularity, even with Taz’s physical shortcomings. He was a very believable MMA character.

Joey still pushes Taz as an “Ultimate Fighter” on commentary. Very interesting to me.

Bill Alphonso gets on the mic before the match and cuts a great promo, reminding everyone that Taz is still undefeated. He calls out Paul Heyman and Sabu to bring it on.

Beulah leads Dreamer and Dr. Death to the ring. She’s gorgeous. Where’s Kimona?

Dr. Death just looks like the perfect matchup for Taz here. I can’t wait to see them hook it up. They way they stare across the ring at each other with Alice In Chains “Man in the Box” playing kind of gives me goosebumps.

DR. Death gets a great reaction from the fans during the intro’s, similar to Terry Gordy’s reaction a few shows back. I just thought about it, Dreamer was getting some really good rubs here in late 95 on into 96, tagging with Funk, Gordy, and now Steve Williams.

Everyone wants to see Taz and Williams hook it up, including Joey Styles on commentary. Brian Lee starts it off with an attack on Tommy Dreamer from behind.

Dreamer hits Lee with his Neckbreaker. Lee tags out to Taz, who comes in and challenges Dreamer to bring the wrestling. Dreamer goes move for move with Taz in a nice exchange. Taz lands a FUCKING BEAUTIFUL Northern Lights Suplex with an awesome bridge, one of the best bridges I’ve ever seen in wrestling. Holy shit that was nice.

Taz calls out Dr. Death. Dreamer gets the tag and it’s on!

AWESOME! MOMENT!

Taz vs Williams!

Brian Lee blindsides Tommy and this turns into a two on two melee. Brian Lee fights Steve Williams in the ring as Tommy takes Taz out of his element in a wild brawl outside the ring through the crowd. Dreamer takes Taz up to the sound stage where they setup three tables side by side by side.

Tommy takes Taz up to the top balcony over the Soundstage(I’ve been calling this the Eagles Nest in past reviews, which is wrong. The Eagles Nest was the small balcony over the front doorway). Tommy slams Taz through the sheetrock wall!

Brian Lee drops Dr. Death and heads up to the soundstage with Dreamer and Taz. Dreamer starts to Suplex Taz off of the balcony through the tables below, but Brian Lee strikes again! Lee blocks the suplex, allowing Taz to T-BONE TAZPLEX DREAMER OFF THE STAGE THROUGH A TABLE!

OH MY GAAAAWWD!

E! C! DUB!

Meanwhile back in the ring Fonzie drops Beulah with a clothesline like the punk bitch pussy motherfucker that he is. Just the way he does it and his little celebration pose made me laugh pretty hard.

Beaulah drops Fonzie with a kick to the balls! Beulah kicks Fonzie’s ASS! CLASSIC!

Fonzie rolls her over and starts slapping her in the face. Dr. Death comes in and gets his hand on him and the crowd goes NUTS!

Fonzie gets press slammed out of the ring onto all of the Team Taz guys.

Taz finally makes his way into the ring for a one on one showdown.

TAZ VS WILLIAMS!

They circle each other for a bit before Williams gets a side headlock takeover, which gets countered into a headscissor by Taz. Taz lands a side headlock takeover, which in turn gets countered into a headscissor by Williams. Tit for Tat in a quick little feeling out exchange.

They get back up and tie up in a collar and elbow. Taz goes for a waist lock, but Williams counters with a standing switch. Williams takes Taz down with a trip takedown. Taz rolls through into a hammerlock, but Williams picks his ankle for a single leg takedown. Taz seizes an arm, and locks on an armbar. Williams hits him with a punch, a chop, then a slap to the face as they stand near the ropes. Taz slaps Williams back multiple times in a pretty awesome little scene where Taz stands up to the one man that he fears(as they built it up during the promos on HCTV).

Williams whips Taz into the ropes, but Taz comes back and catches him into the position for a T-Bone Tazplex. Steve Williams counters the T-Bone with an awesome Dr. Bomb!

Brian Lee comes in and attacks Steve Williams. Taz recovers and helps double team Williams. Dreamer brings a trash can into the ring and goes for the DDT on Brian Lee. Lee counters it with a chokeslam for the win.

9/10

This was an awesome match. Taz vs Dr. Death was awesome. The way they built up to the one on one moment was really good. Taz’s T-Bone off the stage on Dreamer is classic ECW highlight reel material. Fonzie’s fight with Beulah was hilarious. This was a good, short, chaotic, exciting match with more than a few all time classic ECW moments. Highly recommended.

ECW World Tag Team Championship 4 Way Dance: The Eliminators(C) vs The Gangstas vs The Bruise Brothers vs The Samoan Gangsta Party

The Eliminators come out first with the tag team titles. Joey plugs this as the first ever four way tag team elimination match.

The Bruise Brothers come out next to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. The Bruise Brothers(Harris twins) battle with the Eliminators for a bit before The Samoan Gangsta Party come running out with their hands cuffed. They show a short clip of earlier in the night when they were arrested for an attack on The Gangstas. They are still wearing the handcuffs.

Saturn does land a really nice Diving Headbutt from all the way across the ring. Natural Born Killaz hits, and the crowd goes crazy.

The Gangstas come out with a trash can full of weapons, beating the fuck out of everyone.

This is a trashfest brawl. All over the Arena.

The Gangstas and Eliminators are dominating this. New Jack lands the 187 Chair Shot on one of the Samoans to eliminate them first.

Music stops.

New Jack and Saturn hook it up in a pretty heated fight that goes out the front door to the street in front of the Arena. So crazy, there’s a huge mob of fans outside already. Where these fans that were turned away due to sellout? If so, that’s insane that they wouldn’t start doing some bigger venues. I’ve noticed this at another previous review where there would be a big mob of fans outside the front door just trying to peek in and see the show.

Saturn hits New Jack with a flying knee off of a truck before they brawl their way back through the crazy mob and into the Arena.

Things slow down a lot. The Eliminators hit one of the Bruise Brothers with one of their best Total Eliminations that I’ve ever seen them do. They just hit the guy out of nowhere. Really nice. The Bruise Brothers are eliminated.

It’s down to the Gangstas and Eliminators. Pretty good booking so far. This hasn’t been nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be.

New Jack is bleeding everywhere. Both teams fight each other inside the ring. The Eliminators set New Jack up for Total Elimination, but New Jack evades it by pulling Saturn into Kronus’ high kick. Really awesome counter.

The Gangstas make a really dramatic comeback with New Jack selling pretty well as he bleeds everywhere. Mustapha hits the Powerslam to setup New Jack’s 187 Chair Dive.

GANGSTAS WIN! NEW CHAMPS! YES! YES! YES!

Saturn and Kronus argue with each other for a bit before the Gangstas jump them out of the ring. The crowd goes bananas. We have new Tag Team Champions.

7/10

This was surprisingly good. There was a lot of ugly trash brawling, and the whole deal with the Samoans coming out handcuffed was beyond stupid, but overall the booking, and the pace of the action was nice here. The Samoans and Bruise Brothers were just used to enhance the Gangstas vs Eliminators rivalry, which just heated up with a nice title change that I honestly didn’t see coming. The Eliminators were built up masterfully on the recent episodes of Hardcore TV so this was a huge win for the Gangstas, and one that keeps this great tag team rivalry going strong. Hopefully now we’ll see these other fodder tag teams fade out because they are god awful.

Stretcher Match: Sabu vs Rob Van Dam IV

Sabu gets the Japanese streamers thrown at him during intros. Nice.

Van Dam and Sabu go back and forth in a feeling out period early on. Van Dam steadily works the cocky, disrespectful heel role, flipping Sabu the bird.

Sabu works RVD’s legs early on. He then lands a Slingshot Legdrop followed by a Slingshot Headbutt. Van Dam fights back by going after Sabu’s neck with his Double Underhook Piledriver. There just kind of going back and forth with moves here so far. Some targeting here and there, but the selling has been rather lackluster on both ends.

The action starts to pick up early on with Sabu hitting RVD with a dropkick in mid air as he tries to springboard into the ring from the apron. Sabu follows it up with a fucking awesome Slingshot Somersault Plancha. Sabu sets a table up from the apron to the ring.

RVD hits Sabu with a few nice springboard kicks before they brawl around the ring and into the crowd for a bit. Sabu tosses chairs into RVD’s face. They bring it back to the ring where Sabu goes for his Triple Jump Hurricanrana from the top rope. Van Dam causes him to lose his balance and rack himself on the ropes. Van Dam quickly hits Sabu with a really nice spinning back kick from the top rope as he sits racked on the ropes.

Van Dam drops the axe kick onto a chair on Sabu’s face from the top rope as he’s draped over the apron on the outside. Van Dam calls for the stretcher, but Sabu quickly rolls off of it. Van Dam continues to dominate Sabu, hitting him with a nice looking Jacknife Piledriver.

Van Dam mocks Sabu by offering him a handshake as he’s down on the canvas in pain.

Van Dam continues dominating Sabu, going back to his neck with chokes. Sabu gets dropped with a nice legsweep, followed immediately by a Standing Moonsault Splash. Van Dam has improved a lot since the beginning of this series.

Van Dam goes up top for something, but Sabu follows him up. Van Dam falls out of the ring, pulling Sabu’s neck across the ropes on his way down.

Sabu sells it up for a bit before he counters a Suplex attempt from RVD. He drops RVD across the ropes and hits him with his Flying Guillatine Legdrop as he’s teetering on the middle rope, with a chair setup under his head.

Van Dam rolls out to the table. Sabu goes for his Triple Jump, but RVD springboards himself back into the ring to hit a counter lariat. Van Dam falls short and hits face first into the canvas. Sabu immediately drops a leg across the back of his neck. Sabu hits Van Dam with two Arabian Facebusters before calling for the stretcher.

Van Dam gets stretchered down the isle before rolling off and returning to the ring. Sabu drops him and lands his Triple Jump Moonsault. Van Dam recovers and tries to counter another Triple Jump move, but Sabu changes it up in mid air to hit RVD with a flying clothesline. Van Dam goes back to the stretcher, but this time Sabu hits him on the outside with an Asai Moonsault! Sabu’s legs crash down into the steel rail on his way down into the stretcher. HOLY SHIT!

Both men are carted off on the stretchers. Sabu is the first to roll off. He climbs up to the top of the steel rail and hits Van Dam on his stretcher with a Legdrop. They both make their way back to the ringside area where Van Dam hits Sabu with a hard Van Daminator. Van Dam follows it up with an excellent moonsault press off the rail. Good battle right here. The psychology has kind of gone out the window, but the athleticism, and the arsenal of moves that these guys are hitting each other with is just really fun to watch.

Sabu’s chair throws to the face of Van Dam are BRUTAL!

Sabu sets Van Dam up on the top rope and hits his Triple Jump Rana. Van Dam rolls out to the table where Sabu goes for the Triple Jump DDT. Van Dam counters it by putting Sabu in the position for the Fisherman Buster before he leaps off the top rope. Van Dam spikes Sabu through the table to the concrete!

I really like how they built up to this table spot, and using the Fisherman Buster this way ties into their previous three matches. Great stuff.

Sabu gets setup on the stretcher, but he fights to stay alive, rolling off of it and returning to the ring. Van Dam attacks Sabu with the chair with some really sloppy strikes.

Another awesome spot that I really like is when they both simultaneously springboard off of the ropes on opposite sides of the corner. Van Dam quickly beats Sabu’s Leg Lariat with a side kick in mid air. Really well executed spot.

Van Dam goes for another Fisherman Buster to finish it. Sabu counters and spikes Van Dam in the center of the ring with a Fisherman Buster Suplex.

Sabu goes for the finish with another Triple Jump Moonsault, but Van Dam quickly recovers to his feet and shields himself with the chair just in time for Sabu to come crashing into it. AWESOME!

Sabu’s done. He gets rolled to the stretcher and wheeled out. Van Dam did it again.

Or did he?…..

What’s this?

Van Dam gets greedy and goes for one more splash. He flies off the top rope to the outside with a Somersault Plancha, but Sabu rolls off of the stretcher at the last second. Van Dam crashes into the edge of the stretcher, knocking it over and tumbling down into the concrete HARD! FUCK!

Van Dam gets rolled out on the stretcher the cocky son of a bitch. The Hardcore Hero wins after a 24:16 long battle. The show ends with a brief, modest celebration from Sabu.

9/10

This was the best of the Van Dam vs Sabu ’96 series. A really good finale to the rivalry with a few elements being carried through from match to match, such as the psychology around the Fisherman Buster, which was what Van Dam used to defeat Sabu after being tipped off about his previously injured neck by Taz/Fonzie. Van Dam evolved from match to match and is much better here than he was in their first match a few reviews back. The evolution was fun to watch. Sabu really made him.

The stretcher match concept itself is a bit of a goofy gimmick match, but when you consider the overall storyline here it worked well in this match. Sabu went up on RVD 3-1, with the only loss coming because of Taz & Fonzie’s inside info on his neck.

Something else I really liked about this match. There was only 1 table spot, and it was built up to really well. At the end of the day my final thoughts on this series of matches is that it’s a bit like Bo Jackson. They were hyped up, and built up by magazines, and word of mouth among fans until they reached this legendary status that was even a bit mythical. Like these guys were doing things that just wasn’t even humanly possible. When you watch through the actual matches there’s just no way in hell they could ever live up to these impossible expectations that you have for them, but the fact that something could get your expectations that high in the first place itself is quite an accomplishment. With that said though, they were all highlight reel quality matches, and really revolutionary compared to what else was going on in pro wrestling during this time. There was a certain style to the extreme stuff Van Dam and Sabu did that was lost on a lot of other hardcore wrestlers that followed in the 90’s.

Overall: 10/10

This was the best overall show of 96 so far, and really one of the best ECW shows up to this point. Every match was pretty good from top to bottom, and there was a vast variety of wrestling styles represented nicely here. You had the suicidal spot fest main event, a nice street fight trash brawl(with a tag title change that I really liked), some good clean technical wrestling in Jericho vs Scorpio, some good storytelling from Pitbull 2 & Shane Douglas, a little bit of the European Style brought in with Johnny Smith vs Louie Spicolli(Gem), the whole dramatic Sandman vs Raven rivalry unfolding, I mean there was just a lot here. This show is highly recommended by me. One of the best overall wrestling shows of 1996 period in my opinion. This is a must see ECW show. Everything was clicking for this promotion here at this point in 1996 and it’s starting to look like their ready for the big lights of Pay Per View. It’s just crazy to me to see how much ECW improved from show to show from 93 to 94 to 95 to where we are now in 1996. It’s crazy. Heyman’s booking is much tighter here than it was in those 95 tapes. This was a great show.