Wow. This was 9 years ago. I guess without counting some of those weird 1997 Raws (also from Hammerstein) or that weird business where Tazz as ECW champion lost to HHH on Smackdown (which prompted some guy from back east to call into my college radio show at the time and rant about it for what felt like a very long 15 minutes), I think that most would agree that this is the first WWECW show. It's weird to think that this started a long, sad parade of ECW reunion nostalgia that is impossibly still being milked today on actual real television by a somewhat real wrestling company. I remember watching this show years ago when it came out on DVD, using the JBL commentary track which featured a drunk JBL throwing every ECW worker under the bus in hilarious fashion (and if you didn't think it was hilarious, maybe you would by the 8th time you heard one of his repeated jokes).
1. Lance Storm vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho is nerdily announced as "Lionheart" Chris Jericho, and is wearing his old tights and vest. Crowd is crazy hot for this, flipping out after an opening arm drag sequence. They also are so desperate to shit all over women that they immediately chant "She's a Crack Whore" at Dawn Marie, who decidedly looks nothing like a crack whore. Jericho levels Storm with a face high dropkick and this is starting really good actually. They're pretty good at working Storm ECW nostalgia spots (high dropkick, springboard back elbow from the turnbuckles) into the match with a more modern indy style worked in. Old ECW had a lot of exhibition style work, with guys doing their familiar spots without so much regard to segueing smoothly into those spots. One moment a guy would be taking offense, the next he'd be on his run of signature offense. Here Storm hits his long vertical suplex, but Jericho kicks his legs a bunch to try to reverse it, and when Storm runs up for his back elbow, Jericho dropkicks him on the way down. We do eventually merge back into classic exhibition style, and Storm's comebacks leave a lot to be desired here. His comebacks mainly just involve him standing up after taking moves, and then doing moves. Jericho plants him with a mean Tiger suplex and some nasty knees in the clinch, Storm just shrugs it off with a spinning heel kick. Jericho reverses a piledriver with a backdrop, Storm just pops up and hits a superkick. Jericho tries to glue this together, but Storm just wanted to hit all of his moves. He hit them all nicely, but his insistence on hitting all of his moves made the match mean less. Storm wins when Jason and Justin Credible interfere and Joey Styles hilariously starts using JR's Owen voice, talking about what a horrible shame it was that Storm had to win things that way, in what could possibly be his last match ever. Styles goes on for well over a minute. "Shame. Just a shame. Why did it have to be this way, Lance? You're better than this."
Pitbull Gary Wolfe gets a weird payday for showing up in full Pitbulls garb to introduce a tribute to the fallen stars of ECW, and shockingly there aren't too many at the time this show happened. I wish I knew what song originally played behind this package (since I assume most music has been changed for the Network airings) as I really want to hear some Sarah McLachlan playing while they show slow motion clips of Big Dick Dudley flexing through clenched teeth.
2. Tajiri vs. Little Guido vs. Super Crazy
FBI comes out to an instrumental loop of No Sleep Til Brooklyn, and Smothers is awesome waving the flag and doing all his weird Smothers mannerisms. This show needs more Smothers in the ring, but I'll settle for Smothers at ringside. Full props to Tommy Dreamer for managing to get JT Smith a WWE payday in 2005. Mick Foley is absolutely horrible on commentary here, playing up a folksy late career James Stewart persona. "Aw shucks Joey, they're going to be doing a lot of moves I've never seen here, but I-I-I I'll just try to keep up, best I can." Actually, now that I think about it, he may be just mimicking Terry Funk. Re-read that sentence in Funk voice. That adds up. That awful commentary is a running theme throughout the match (and the show) "you know I've known Tajiri for 11 years and he's just the nicest guy you could imagine". Kewl insight. This match is really fun for the first few minutes, as every single person at ringside (Sinister Minister, Mikey Whipwreck, Smothers, Smith, Tony Mamaluke, Big Guido) all interfere at some point in the match, but it's actually done in a way that's integrated perfectly into the match. Big Guido goes to powerbomb Tajiri, gets low blowed by Minister, Tajiri sprays mist at Little Guido, Smothers runs in with karate and gets leveled with a superkick, Mikey hits the big top rope Whipper Snapper on the misted Guido, all the while Mamaluke and Smith keep Crazy busy by sweeping his legs on a rope run and crotching him around the ring post. Interference doesn't usually add to the match but I can't think of a way to better integrate 9 people in one match within 1 minute. Match as a whole is fairly short, at barely 6 minutes, which had to disappoint most. Tajiri looked somewhat lost at points and was kinda awkward getting into position for his offense, but Crazy and Guido were on point. Guido did some of his big silly bumps, and Crazy's stuff looked good, hitting some big moonsaults with heft (including a wild one off the balcony) and nasty seated dropkicks. Still, too short to mean much. Also, I couldn't tell if it was two unfortunate tongue slips, or if Styles was throwing out hack racial humor, but two different times in the match he distinctly said "soo-prex" after Tajiri threw a suplex. The first one could have been an accident…but twice in the same match?
3. Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis
I remember a lot of people being disappointed in this match at the time, but the match was perfectly fine. If this was on WorldWide it would definitely make a WCW B-Sides comp. Psicosis takes some nutty bumps as you hoped he would, doing an insane guillotine legdrop off the top to Mysterio (who was draped over the guardrail), doing his trademark missed corner attack that ends with him dumped on his head, and taking a nice Cassandro bump, wrapping himself around the post and flying into some ladies in the front row, which Mysterio follows up with an awesome Thesz press from the top into the crowd. Psicosis also draws boos by locking on a headlock. I didn't put on my good hockey jersey to go out and see Mexicans do rest holds!
Then we get JBL and Angle coming out to plenty of boos and chants, JBL stiffing Gertner with a mean shove and kick to the ass, and RVD coming out and cutting the best promo of his life. He had a knee injury and couldn't compete which was tearing him up inside since this show was something he worked years to make happen. I mean, I fast forwarded through some of his promo, but it was about the most life-affirming promo you can get if you were ever an ECW fan. RVD showed actual real passion and it was nice to see. Joey Styles threatens to ruin everything with his awfulness: "Gotta love a shoot promo on live TV!!" Ugh. And then Rhyno came in and absolutely folds RVD in half with a Gore. The lights go out and while everybody hopes for a return of Midnight, Joey dorkily starts going "we blew a generator! We lost power!" Which naturally leads us into...
4. Sabu vs. Rhyno
…which starts out awesomely, with Rhyno hitting a big belly to belly and going to the top rope (for reasons?) so that Sabu can just brain him with a chair. Rhyno takes a massive bump off the top and Sabu hits a sweet chair assisted springboard dive. The whole match was pretty crazy, and both guys complemented each other nicely. Sabu threw a bunch of great right hands, tossed chairs at Rhyno's face and hit all the spots you'd want to see Sabu hit. Rhyno was a monster, not only taking all of Sabu's stupidity, but dishing out a bunch of cool stuff you don't remember Rhyno doing. I remember he had a nice piledriver and he really spikes Sabu with it here, but he also does a cool running yakuza kick on Sabu, and leans way into all of Sabu's stuff (including a bunch of neat Sabu legdrops and springboard stuff). Sabu throws Pee Wee into the way of a Gore and he takes it like a man, almost bouncing his neck off the bottom rope. At this point RVD gets in the ring in real awkward length jorts (not baggy, but not ironically short, just that horrible relaxed fit/above the knee jort style), white socks and cross trainers, limping horribly on his bad knee. I have to assume his knee is absolutely wrecked, or else it's the only time he's ever consistently sold a body part in his career. He comes in and actually works spots with Rhyno, including nuttily skateboarding a chair right into Rhyno's face and setting up a table spot for Sabu. Sabu drops a chair through Rhyno and the table just explodes, and this whole thing was a great spectacle. Awesome stuff that I have to believe is the best possible match that could have happened .
Eric Bischoff and the Raw crew arrive, including future ECW superstar Gene Snitsky. Joey does uncomfortable and sad and just plain poorly delivered play by play as they walk to their seats. "There's Raw superstar Edge. I'm glad I didn't bring my wife tonight [long pause]. Because Edge is a wife stealer."
5. Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero
Well speaking of uncomfortable. Mick Foley immediately completely misreads the room "This is the match that never got to happen in ECW. The dream match that never happened because Bischoff lured both of them away. And now finally the fans get it and want to see nothing more" as the fans proceed to direct all of their attention to Edge in the balcony while chanting things about Lita being a whore for over half of the match. Seriously at any given screen shot about 2/3 of the crowd is turned totally away from the ring. Eddie is pro enough to get at least some of the fans to actually watch the match, and damn does he look great here. His mat exchanges are quick and powerful and he really snaps the fans into it by outstiffing Benoit on chops and grinding his boot over Benoit's face. Benoit bumps maniacally through the ropes to the floor on a missed charge and Eddie really seems pissed at the crowd. Mick and Joey really put over just how suicidal Benoit is after he does the diving headbutt, talking about his neck surgery and really putting over how he has a real death wish. Good grief. Thankfully they didn't point out the hanging vertical suplex he did earlier. Match ends fairly abruptly with Eddie tapping to the Crossface. Match was really weird. Eddie seemed genuinely pissed the whole match (and understandably so, if it was directed at the crowd), and purposely ground the match to a halt on a few occasions with chinlocks until the fans stopped chanting at Edge in the balcony. Things were short and didn't really flow, although Eddie looked really good and to a lesser extent so did Benoit. This is probably the most recent Eddie stuff I've seen since it originally aired (by recent I mean within 6 months of his passing) and his body is just shockingly freakish. He was freaking huge here and just looked like he had no flexibility whatsoever. Watching him take suplexes and bump was painful as it looked like he physically couldn't bend his spine or bend at the waist. I remember at the timing reading how riddled with injuries he was and how he needed time off, but damn 9 years of not rewatching him during that period really opened my eyes to just how bad off he looked.
6. Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka
So this is a pretty famous match - I think - within the WWECW canon. People were pretty split down the middle on this one when it happened. Some thought it was incredible and that both men would be hired immediately by WWE, others thought it was a laughable collection of dangerous spots thrown together with no build-up that ensured neither man would *ever* be hired by WWE since they wouldn't want reckless workers like that on the roster. Both sides make sense. I certainly sided much closer to the latter at the time. The match has major flaws, and neither guy would have made sense in WWE as anything crazy they did in this match they would not be allowed to do in a WWE ring. JBL infamously mocked the match the whole time on commentary, repeatedly stating that Tanaka looked like his doorman, and after Tanaka had kicked out of several finishers started shouting at other people about what a badass doorman he had. But watching the match within the context of the show, within the context of the crowd, and keeping in mind who both men are in regards to their feud (which I'm sure many ECW fans would rank as a favorite from the fed) then I think the match totally and completely works. It's probably very hypocritical of me, as I've seen plenty of matches like this on the indies where guys kill themselves with no rhyme or reason, no selling, no build to anything, and then at some point the match ends because of a move that for whatever reason made a guy keep his shoulders down for one extra second. And I've hated all of them. Even while watching this match and enjoying two men try to cripple each other in the name of fond memories, I pictured some clown like Davey Richards doing a match like this, and I would certainly hate that match. But in the moment it came off more like a violent and entirely stupid (but awesome) IWA-MS match. If this match happened in front of 60 people in the back patio area of a rural bar, between two guys named Dick Nasty and Tony Sack, I'd be yelling at Phil to go out of his way to watch the Tony Sack match.
I've criticized plenty of matches that I thought were garbage, but worked for the crowd they were presenting to. This match could easily fit into that category. "Bad match, awful structure, crowd loved it." But I'm with the crowd on this one. Despite being unreasonable and selfish, I remember the complaints at the time about Rey, Benoit, Eddie, etc. not working "like they were in ECW". Rey was booed for doing his 619, Eddie didn't...I don't know, do any Malenko/Guerrero roll-up sequences? Whatever it was, fans were agitated that some guys looked like they were working the show like any old TV taping and not the GREATEST EVENT OF THEIR LIVES. Again, it's wildly unreasonable, and illogical. They had real wrestling jobs and would go on to those jobs after this show. So within context of this show, Tanaka and Awesome going out there and just completely destroying themselves for the crowd, for ECW, to try and get a job, to stick it to JBL in the balcony, whatever they had to prove I don't know, but they clearly pulled out everything within their abilities and threw it out there. And I thought it worked for that reason. Again, stuff that's context-dependant doesn't always hold up, but I can say I enjoyed this match more now than I did at the time. Granted, there were still moments I laughed out loud during the match, and I fully get why JBL was laughing about it in the balcony (his fake cheerleading and shock when they keep kicking out of stuff is still funny to me), but on this show, at that moment, with this guys, this was the best they could have possibly done, and they did more than they probably should have, more than anybody else on the card, and more than anybody probably needed. Within a minute or two of the bell Tanaka gets powerbombed from the apron through a table, head and shoulders first. Things get more ridiculous from there. Both guys get brained with chairshots, more tables explode in insane fashion, Awesome hits one of the nastiest gores I've seen, and then more tables explode. Awesome's knees had to be pencil shavings at this point, and he's still doing his big splash off the top and dives into the crowd. Tanaka's brains had to be mashed potatoes at this point (still unclear how he's managed to work more than most Japanese workers for the last decade) and he willingly takes every stupid powerbomb and finisher Awesome pulls out of the hat. Match ends spectacularly with another powerbomb from the ring through a table on the floor, and then Awesome ridiculously following up with a straight up nosedive of a plancha, just dive bombing Tanaka and coming in vertical. Ridiculous structure, none of the moves meant anything, both guys needlessly killed themselvs, but it was the perfect match for this show.
We get a long, fairly lame Heyman promo (with SHOOTS!) filled with a bunch of flat disses (yelling "Matt Freaking Hardy" at Edge, which Joey Styles points out is a SHOOT because Matt isn't even employed by WWE!!!!!!!!).
7. Dudley Boyz vs. Tommy Dreamer & Sandman
This was a chance to get more guys a payday, and it was fine for that reason. Sandman takes years to come out, which is certainly an accurate ECW throwback. The bWo comes out and Styles over laughs the whole time, worse than the absolute worst possible Jimmy Fallon bit. While the bWo are just walking to the ring, just normally walking to the ring, Styles literally says "This is the funniest thing I've seen in my life". This guy is terrible. We get Balls & Axl, The Impact Players (with Francine looking better than at any point during the original ECW), Spike Dudley comes out, Kid Kash hits a wild and awesome flip dive on about 10 people, Beulah makes her wrestling return, and people got hit with trash cans. At one point Bubba raked Dreamer's forehead with a cheese grater which is just the grossest. I don't know if it was worked or not, but Dreamer had tons of color and Bubba made it look great. God thinking about a cheese grater on flesh is just disgusting. Beulah and Dreamer have the most revolting hug I've seen, with Dreamer covered in blood and Beulah pulling away when it's over with blood caked in her hair. Yuck. Match ends with a flaming table spot, and then all the Raw and Smackdown crews get called out and there's a big schmozz. This is where JBL infamously roughed up Blue Meanie (even though it wasn't really caught on camera). Tracy Smothers stood out to me during the brawl as really looking like he was having a ball out there, jumping in and punching people at will. The crews get run off and Bischoff ends up alone in the ring with the ECW guys, but it's pretty anticlimactic as he takes a couple finishers but still gets to yell "Fuck ECW!" Really should have had him take more finishers, or not allowed him to look so fearless and never say die.
WWECW MASTER LIST