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ECW Deep Dive

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I thought it would be fun to see how well ECW holds up after coming across DVDVR's Best of the 90's list. I'll watch every ECW match that was voted on for that list (50 matches in total), plus any match that has a good rating on Cagematch. I'll cover a handful of important shows here too (Barely Legal '97, Heatwave '98, Guilty As Charged '01, etc.). I know that the general consensus is that ECW hasn't aged well, but I thought this would be a fun project to find out for myself. I have a nostalgic soft spot for some of the shows that I used to own on VHS, plus I haven't seen many of their most celebrated matches. Let's start this by looking at The Night The Line Was Crossed. 

Sal Bellomo vs Mr. Hughes (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
The VHS of this show opens with a message from Todd Gordan putting over ECW as a violent and extreme promotion. Seconds later, we go to the ring and there's a pudgy guy dressed as a Roman gladiator entering the arena giving out toys to the mostly adult crowd. What a strange contrast! Was Sal Bellomo's persona meant to be a satire on WWF/WCW's many kid-friendly gimmicks or is it just a shit gimmick? Mr. Hughes isn't much better and he doesn't even take a single bump in this. After a few minutes of some woeful basic brawling, Mr. Hughes's manager distracts Sal long enough for Hughes to hit a Bossman Slam and win this dire opening contest. There's zero workrate to be found here and Hughes was wrestling this as if he was in slow-motion. DUD

The Sandman & Tommy Cairo vs The Pitbull & Rockin' Rebel (Double Dog Collar) (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
Sandman is still hanging on to his terrible surfer gimmick and he's not yet become the beer-drinking redneck even if he gets to show off his hardcore side here. This match is quite hard to follow as they fight all over the place and this is only being filmed by the hard cam. Rebel and Sandman brawl into the crowd and Sandman ends up eating two table bumps. Sandman quickly powers up despite being pile-driven through a table seconds earlier. The ever-irritating Joey Styles amuses himself by doing a bad Gordan Solie impression after Cairo gets busted open. This was a meandering brawl for the most part, but the fans seemed to eat this up and I liked the match's chaotic energy. I did like the finish to this though, with Cairo being able to score the win after Sandman hogties Pitbull's legs with his own dog collar. They carry on fighting after the bell until Sandman fights Pitbull and Rebel off. ★★

Bruise Brothers vs Public Enemy (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
This looks like a fucking dire pairing on paper, so they try and work with everyone's limitations by padding this out with a lot of crowd-brawling. The Bruise Brothers' SS tattoos are on full show here and they look to be wearing some sort of White Power t-shirt. Rocco sold strikes in such a goofy manner by flailing his arms back. Even with all the fighting in the bleachers, blood, and gimmicks desperately trying to work together to make something decent out of these four, you can still see through everything. This was another match that was hard to follow because of the one-camera set-up. There isn't much to say about this one. ★

Tommy Dreamer vs Jimmy Snuka (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
I don't think I've ever seen a wrestler not give a shit as much as Snuka was on this night. He moves around like he's underwater and brings the match to a screeching halt after some fans heckle him. He looks shoot pissed off at the group of fans and refuses to carry on with the match. Maybe they shouted something about him murdering his girlfriend? This went 10 minutes but felt like it went 20 due to all the stalling and slow movement. Dreamer kicking out of the Superfly Splash was genuinely shocking and Snuka at least has the decency to sell his disbelief. He ends up hitting two more and winning the match. Dreamer starts bleeding out of the mouth and Snuka carries on his attack until Todd Gordon comes down and unsuccessfully tries to stop Snuka. Dreamer is still wearing that ghastly dick dancer outfit and he's yet to win over the tough ECW fans yet, but the beating he took certainly helped the fans buy him more as a never-say-die babyface, even if the match stunk to high heavens. ½★

Kevin Sullivan & The Tazmaniac vs The Original Sheik & Pat Tanaka (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
Seeing The Sheik in ECW initially intrigued me, but my intrigue is soon turned to disgust when very overweight a 67-year old Sheik came waddling out to the ring. He ends up knocking down the set and he spends the whole of the match fighting through the crowd. There is way too much crowd-brawling on this show, with this being the third match to feature it. Pat Tanaka is wearing street clothes for some reason and stays in the ring fighting Taz. Both Sheik and Sullivan end up getting color and this misery ends when Sheik 'throws' a fireball at Taz from outside the ring. The fireball didn't really go anywhere near Taz as it burns up quickly before it even goes near the ring. This was really rough. DUD

Mike Awesome vs JT Smith (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
If you've ever seen that iconic clip of Mike Awesome face planting the ring after the top rope snaps as he's about to jump off it, this is from this match. Smith tries to jump Awesome at the start, but Awesome cuts him off by turning him inside out with some nasty clotheslines. Awesome throws Smith outside and hits a jaw-dropping no hands plancha that bends Smith's back over the guard rail in a sickening manner. Smith looks to be finished, but he's able to roll Awesome up for the win just as he's about to hit the Awesome Bomb. Awesome freaks out and starts laying out the referee with two Awesome Bombs, before he unsuccessfully attempts his famous dive from the top rope. Truth be told, I've never been that impressed by Mike Awesome, but this match sold me on him as a highlight reel spectacle wrestler. Don't expect sound wrestling psychology from him, but he's deceivingly agile and will bust out some insane shit. Most wrestlers would be damaged goods after botching as spectacularly as he does here, but Awesome fucking up just made him feel more unpredictable. I might be overrating this seeing as it only went two minutes, but I loved every second of this. ★★★½

Terry Funk vs Sabu vs Shane Douglas (ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed - 2/5/1994)
Shane and Sabu start this out as a singles match, with the winner going on to face Funk for the title. If no winner is decided after 15 minutes, then Funk will join this match and it will become a three-way. This has quite a promising start, with Paul E. Dangerously jumping Sherri Martel and kicking off this as a big brawl. Sabu can actually throw a good punch! Things simmer down and we get Sabu doing some arm-work on Douglas. I was surprised to see Sabu working a body part, but I suspect this was just here to soak up the time in this 60-minute draw as it doesn't actually go anywhere. Sabu wipes himself out on a dive to the outside as 15 minutes expires and Terry Funk enters the match. What follows is 45 minutes of aimless brawling, embarrassing botching, and horrendous overbooking. This match was called in-ring and you can tell as it was a complete mess with no cohesive structure. We see a lot of fighting throughout the ECW Arena. Sabu is out for a while, and he sells his leg well enough when he finally returns. Ian and Axl Rotten eventually get involved and everybody gets laid out. The fans seem rather quiet throughout all of this and reward this match with half-hearted golf claps once this is announced as a 60-minute draw. Although the decent bits of brawling and the innovative three-man submission spots stop this from being a complete dud, there's not enough here to make this worth watching. The post-match interviews are great though. I don't think I've disliked a Terry Funk match more than this one. This is by far the worst 60-minute broadway I have ever seen. ½★
 

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The Night The Line Was Crossed didn't exactly start this project with a bang, but there's some good stuff to be found here.  

Sabu vs Cactus Jack (ECW Hostile City Showdown - 6/24/1994)
Don't expect a lot of intricate wrestling psychology here! Sabu being brought to the ring in chains and being restrained by 911 added a lot to his presentation. No one in the US wrestled like Sabu during this era, so I understand why he got over so much. We get a lot of fighting on the outside with plenty of table bumps. Sabu wiping out a seated Cactus with a suicide dive was an awesome spot. Sabu didn't botch much here. There isn't a face/heel dynamic or any meaningful selling to be found here. Paul E. Dangerously ends up costing Cactus the match when he wacks him on the head with his bulky cellphone when Sabu and Cactus are fighting in the corner. All the post-match stuff with Sabu and Cactus continue to fight after the bell put them over as massive headcases. The Paul E. and Cactus Jack promos after the match are well worth sticking around for. I can see how this would have been considered cutting edge in 1994, but there's not a whole worth seeing when viewing this 25+ years later. It was short enough to not be offensive and some of the table spots were cool. ★★

Chris Benoit vs Al Snow (ECW Double Tables - 2/4/1995)
There's not much of a story going into this, and they instead warm the audience up by wowing them with some impressive technical exchanges. Everything Benoit did here looked incredibly stiff and he always has an aura of intensity about him. Every suplex he hit was performed perfectly and the chops he hits here are some of the loudest I have heard in a while. Al isn't the most explosive babyface and his superkick looks like shit. For someone who is mostly known by wrestling fans as a big character worker during the Attitude Era, Show didn't show much in the way of charisma. You know things are rough when Benoit is the most charismatic worker of a match. Snow shows that he can hang on Benoit's level and that's all that's needed for this match to work. He takes a beating by keeps on kicking out. This might be a bit dry for some, but Benoit carried this and did a good job of getting Al Snow over with the ECW faithful. This is well worth a watch if you can still stomach watching Benoit matches and if you can put up with Joey Styles' insufferable commentary. ★★★½

Sabu & The Tazmaniac vs Public Enemy (Double Tables) (ECW Double Tables - 2/4/1995)
The stipulation means that you have to put both members of each team through tables to win the match. Taz looked completely believable throwing around Rocco like he was a bag of flour while Grunge and Sabu brawl on the outside. Sabu hits some cracking dives and we see Grunge go to town on Sabu with a frying pan. After some entertaining mud show brawling, this match is brought completely down by the awful finish. Both Taz and Grunge go through a table at the same time, which creates confusion as Taz was meant to put Grunge through the table. Rocco had already been put through a table, so this should be a victory for Sabu & Taz. They try and cover up for this fuck-up by announcing that Taz put Grunge through said table even though he clearly didn't. It gets worse as they do a horrible distraction finish where a conscious referee somehow doesn't see or hear Sabu crashing Rocco through a table because his back is turned. Grunge chokes out Paul E. Dangerously, and while this is going on Sabu puts Rocco through the table and wins the match despite their original setback. We get some post-match brawling which sees Benoit coming out and hitting an insane Superbomb on Sabu onto a table that had Rocco lying on it. This was a mess, but it was a complete spectacle and I enjoyed it for what is minus the booking of the finish. ★★★

Chirs Benoit & Dean Malenko vs The Tazmaniac & Sabu (ECW Return of the Funker - 2/25/1995)
Before the match begins, Public Enemy cut a promo about Rocco Rock's injury, who is in a wheelchair. Benoit and Malenko come out and eventually start beating Public Enemy down. Malenko pushes Rocco (who is still in his wheelchair) into a stiff Benoit clothesline and then Benoit hits Grunge with a chair. Taz and Sabu have seen enough and they rush to the ring to jumpstart this match. Expect plenty of nasty suplexes from Malenko, Benoit, and Taz and reckless dives from Sabu here! This was a work-rate heavy sprint that was a total blast to watch. The German that Taz gave to Benoit would make even the AJPW lads cringe. Just as Taz has Benoit beat, Malenko chop blocks him and goes to town on his leg. Taz gets removed from the match, so it's up for Sabu to fend for himself. I was worried that Sabu's style would clash with Benoit's and Malenko's, but Sabu looked great at taking punishment and making his comebacks. There are no tags here, even if this was never announced as a Texas Tornado match. This felt chaotic, but never hard to follow. ★★★¾

2 Cold Scorpio vs Eddy Guerrero (ECW Three Way Dance - 4/8/1995)
Eddie is making his ECW debut and Scorpio is coming into this with an injured shoulder. Despite this being positioned as a work-rate match (complete with inpatient assholes in the crowd who chant boring at the first sign of a hold), they don't rush things and let things breathe as they trade holds during the opening minutes. Eddie eventually starts to heel things up to take control and we see glimpses of the future Lie, Cheat, Steal Eddie as the crowd can't help but cheer for Eddie as he's the outmatched underdog. The execution here was flawless, even if they did start to lose me during the finishing stretch as it started to feel like they were just trading big moves and they didn't touch on Scorpio's taped-up arm. Scorpio decides to get cocky and lifts Eddie off the mat after hitting him with a picture-perfect Tumbleweed. This ends up costing him as Eddie is able to score a fantastic flash roll-up to win the match. This should have been better given the talents involved, but this was a great way to debut Eddie to fans who might not be familiar with him at this point. ★★★¼

Eddy Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (ECW Hostile City Showdown - 4/15/1995)
This highly influential match opens with some incredible technical exchanges. I can see how this match influenced the future of indy wrestling already as that opening segment would feel right at home during an early ROH show! A few minutes into this, the fans get distracted by an altercation in the crowd and you can tell that Malenko and Guerrero start to wonder why they are losing the crowd. Malenko cuts off Eddy by hitting some unique strikes to his leg to keep him grounded. Malenko's control segment is focused and technically sound, but it doesn't do a good job of building up heat and I found myself bored during this lengthy part of the match. Eddy's comeback isn't much better, as instead of finding a lucky opening to kickstart his comeback, the match suddenly just becomes more back and forth when Guerrero lands a powerbomb for a nearfall. The final few minutes feature some impressive sequences before the time limit just suddenly expires. There are no announcements made during the finishing stretch so they aren't able to build up any drama with Malenko desperately trying to win the title before the time expires. There's a lot of stuff I liked about this, but this was a long 30 minutes. They could have achieved what they did here in 15 or 20 minutes and not completely burned me out. ★★★

Cactus Jack vs Terry Funk (ECW Hostile City Showdown - 4/15/1995)
Cactus grabs a mic before this starts and bullies Terry into not fighting in the ring. Terry agrees and they brawl all throughout the ECW arena. They fight up into the production area, where Cactus misses a big elbow drop and ends up crashing through a table. We see more brawling around the ringside area, with them using whatever weapons the fans give them on each other. Funk ends up with a toilet seat around his head at one point! Cactus takes a nasty bump to the unprotected concrete after Funk press slams him from the ring apron. Things heat up even more so when a full trashcan and a beer bottle enter the mix. The trash is thrown all over the ring and Cactus gets cut up when Funk breaks the beer bottle. Funk slaps Cactus around and talks trash at him. Mikey Whipwreck and Hack Myers run to Cactus' aide, but Funk is able to dispose of them quickly. In a confusing moment, Sandman rushes the ring and the bell rings. Everyone tries to ignore this as Sandman attempts to attack Cactus with his cane. Sandman misses and Cactus scores an anti-climatic victory over Funk after a DDT. We get an insane post-match brawl that involves a flaming branding iron. If this was a garbage brawl between two nobodies then this wouldn't work as well as it did. Funk and Foley have buckets of charisma to work with and they can both throw a nice punch. The finish was way too messy, but the post-match stuff more than made up for it. ★★★½

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Man, the Malenko/Guerrero series has been a massive disappointment to me. I've wanted to see them since I heard how about ground-breaking they were on the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD. I guess there's a reason why people don't talk about much anymore. 

Eddy Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (ECW Enter The Sandman - 5/13/1995)
After being burnt out by their indulgent last outing, I almost jumped for joy when I saw that this match's chapter on the WWE Network was only a little over 15 minutes, but my joy is short-lived when I discover that this is a heavily edited 30-minute draw. The match is edited in a way where we see all the high spots, but none of all that important stuff leading us up to said spots. We get just under half the match here. The crowd seems a lot more responsive to the match than they were during their Hostile City Showdown match, although they could have just cut out any of the moments where the assholes in the crowd are heckling them. Guerrero gets color after spiking himself on his head after he lands a sweet hurricanrana and they are able to milk some drama out of that injury. Malenko actually shows some personality as he works on Eddy's cut and Eddy shows some fire in his comeback. For whatever reason, no one makes any time limit announcements and the match suddenly ends when a figure four is locked on. The crowd look annoyed at this result. This looks to be a better match than last time, but it's hard to say because of the frustrating editing.

Dean Malenko & 2 Cold Scorpio vs The Tazmaniac & Eddy Guerrero (ECW Heatwave - 7/15/1995)
We have to put up with more clipping here, as we are missing over half the match here. Excluding the messy finish and crappy post-match angle, what we got here looked good. Although Guerrero and Malenko's interactions might lack in flavor and personality, they make up for how smooth they look when they wrestle each other and there's not a botch or miscommunication in sight when they go at it. It's like their bodies are completely in sync with each other. One thing I like about Taz is how it looks completely believable when he overpowers a much bigger opponent, as he does here when he knocks Scorpio on his ass after a shoulder block. Malenko hits a low dropkick on Taz and works over his leg, who sells it well initially. Taz eventually decides to stop selling his leg when puts Scorpio upon his shoulders. The clipping gets more aggressive during this point and it rushes through the go-home stretch just showing the big bombs. We get some cool double-team moves, before 911's music is played as a distraction and Taz pins Scorpio after Paul E. hits him with his cellphone. The match is restarted because of ...reasons after Bill Alfonso comes down and Malenko and Scorpio quickly win the match. 911 and Rob Feinstein comes after the match for a rotten angle and I stopped paying attention because fuck Rob Feinstein. 

Eddy Guerrero, Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner vs Cactus Jack, Dean Malenko & 2 Cold Scorpio (ECW Wrestlepalooza - 8/5/1995)
This had a very Japanese feel, with everybody getting a chance to show off their skills and hit big bombs and not worry about silly things like faces and heels. This changes about halfway into the match when they start building up to a hot tag. I enjoyed Malenko and Guerrero's interactions more here than I did during their singles matches together. Guerrero is worked over as the face in peril and Malenko using his mat wrestling to keep him away from his tag partners looked scrappy and added a lot of urgency to the match. Cactus was brilliant whenever he got a chance to brawl with Rick or Eddy.  Scott Steiner is making a rare ECW appearance and delivers a phoned-in performance. Thankfully a phoned-in from Scott Steiner still means him stiffly clotheslining and suplexing fools on their heads and the crowd eats up every second that he's in the ring. Rick Steiner showed a lot more fire than his brother and he looked fantastic cleaning house when Guerrero is finally able to hit a hot tag. After taking a trifecta of picture-perfect triple-team moves, Malenko is able to steal a win with a flash roll-up. This was a cracking end to an excellent match. Malenko showed the world that he can pin the TV champion and it made me care to see another Malenko/Guerrero match, even if the series has underwhelmed me so far. The responsive crowd and the variety of styles made this match an absolute blast to watch. ★★★★¼

Mikey Whipwreck vs The Sandman (Singapore Cane) (ECW Wrestlepalooza - 8/5/1995)
Sandman is the ECW champion, but the belt is not on the line. The stipulation of this match is that the loser must take ten shots of the cane. Whipwreck wrestles like an indyriffic Ricky Morton and he's endeared himself to the rabid ECW fans. He hits a flurry of big moves before Sandman cuts him off. This is yet another match that has been clipped down and the match is cut down from just under six minutes to two minutes. Sandman is obviously a sloppy worker, but I find this early heel version of his scumbag slob character very compelling. Woman being in his corner adds a lot to his presentation. Whipwreck wins after nailing Sandman with multiple unprotected chair shots and finishing him off with a top rope crossbody. Sandman is hesitant to take his caning, but the referee says he will strip him of his title if he doesn't comply. He takes some shots before he decides to attack Whipwreck with the cane after Woman snatches the cane from Whipwreck. This was more of an angle than a match. The characters are over with the fans and it made me want to see Whipwreck want to get a shot at Sandman's title, so this did its job. I could have done without Whipwreck forcing himself on Woman during the post-match angle though. Sheesh. 

Eddy Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (ECW Hardcore TV - 8/1/1995)
This is taking place in Malenko's hometown of Tampa and this is his last shot at Guerrero's TV title. The opening minutes are quite dull and quite a few fans are turned off by this, but Eddy starts to win them over by countering a monkey flip by landing on his feet. As much I find the fans who pelted this match with boring chants insufferable, Guerrero and Malenko didn't give them any reason to care about the match. This match is full of sequences that would make great GIFs that would get plenty of views on Twitter, but there's not much in the way of story-telling or anything to get emotionally invested into. It's so incredibly dry, that they were lucky that their execution was perfect otherwise I would have hated this. It is frustrating that they had plenty of room to add some story elements or a clear face/heel dynamic, but they instead just do a match that feels like a showcase of their in-ring talents. It's a technical spotfest in that sense. The only bit of story-telling we get during this match is that Malenko is able to roll Eddy up for the victory and Guerrero lays Malenko out with a cheap shot as he goes for a handshake, signifying that this feud isn't over yet. ★★★

Eddy Guerrero vs Dean Malenko (2/3 Falls) (ECW Hardcore TV - 8/26/1995)
WCW had signed both wrestlers and Joey Styles announces this to the crowd and declares that this match will be their farewell match. The fans are more respectful this time, with any hecklers being shut down by the majority of the crowd. This is more of the same from these two, but the falls help break the action apart and stop it from feeling as dull as their other outings. Malenko botches a sunset flip but saves himself by improvising on the fly. Even when these guys botch, they can pull something out of the hat and turn it into a happy accident. Guerrero scores the first fall six minutes into the match after countering into a roll-up. Guerrero has faced Malenko so many times that he's able to see Malenko's low dropkick coming and blocks it in a rare bit of ongoing storytelling from these two. Malenko evens the score minutes into the second fall by locking in the cloverleaf and Eddy spends the rest period walking around the ring in an effort to get some feeling back in his legs. This match ends up as a draw as they do a double-pin finish. After the match, we see them both cut emotional promos about what ECW meant to them. There's not much in the way of escalation during their entire rivalry. Guerrero attacked Malenko after their last match, but they come into this as if nothing happened. There's no hatred to be found here. The only escalation we get here is Eddy getting more and more frustrated when he can't put Malenko away. ★★★
 

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Eddie/Dean series in ECW is dry and boring as hell for sure. They have much better and entertaining work against each other in WCW than they ever did in ECW, where 30 minutes of chain wrestling was sold to the mutants as incredible workrate that only true smart fans appreciate so if you want to be a smart fan, you have to love this. And it worked because Paul E. had that sway to convince those fans of just about anything  being great. 

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I rewatched a lot of the Malenko-Guerrero stuff a couple of years ago. I think it suffers on rewatch from two things:

1) If you watch a bunch of it in a row, it's pretty repetitive. All the matches are good on their own, but they're not terribly different from one another. (This is a huge general issue for ECW in '95 - they keep running the same matches over and over. Cactus and Sandman wrestle each other more times than any sane human would want to see.)

2) They're among the hardest matches to watch with modern eyes because they were so copied. It's like the band that was the template for way more successful acts - when you come to them later, it's really hard to unhear the copies. So in 1995, people are comparing this to what's going in WCW and WWF and going "These matches are the best!" But in the context of the format being adapted and perfected later, it's hard to match the excitement. Even by the time I first saw them in the late '90s, having seen both guys have so many matches in WCW, these matches didn't pop in quite the same way I assume they did when they happened.

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I think you've both hit the nail on the head on why the Malenko/Guerrero series didn't do much for me. 

Seeing as two matches from the show made the DVDVR ECW list, I thought I'd give Gangsta's Paradise a look seeing as it's under two hours long. I wish I hadn't as there's not much here outside of the Misterio/Psicosis and Dog Collar match.

Broad Street Bully vs Bull Pain (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
Bull Pain looks like a shorter version of Vader if he was addicted to crack, and Broad Street Bully has a hockey gimmick, complete with a hockey stick. It's not long until Bully uses it on Bull and this turns into a mediocre hardcore match. I know ECW was always seen as the punk promotion that went against the grain of traditional wrestling norms, but having two underneath guys go out there and fight on the floor and use gimmicks damage the flow of the whole show as it doesn't feel special when over talent do the same thing as the fans had already seen these two nobodies do it. Joey Styles' attempts to put ECW over by saying they have more table bumps than WCW has screwjob finishes was cringeworthy. Both of those things are fine in moderation, Joey. This wasn't very good. Bull Pain gets gassed up quite early into this. His rope-hung gourdbuster finisher was cool, at least. ★

Dances With Dudley & Dudley Dudley vs Chad Austin & Don E. Allen (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
It's weird seeing the Dudley clan without either Bubba or D'von. This is an extended squash where Austin and Allen get no offense in before Dudley Dudley wins with a top rope splash in just under five minutes. Dances heckle the crowd and get a good response from them. Big Dick Dudley is at ringside on crutches, but that doesn't stop him from getting involved. This was what it was. It didn't stink the place out or anything, but there's literally no reason to see this.  ★¼

JT Smith vs Hack Myers (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
This match goes about 10 minutes, but it's heavily edited on the VHS release of this show. The match didn't look terrible from what we got to see. JT Smith is doing a comedy gimmick where he always botches. He looks natural doing it and the half-wits in the crowd buy his first botch as a legitimate and give him the reaction he is after. His clumsiness ends up costing him the match when he slips off the top rope and falls through the ringside table. He gets counted out and argues with the ring announcer. I don't think I would have wanted to see these two go 10 minutes, but Smith's comedy added some variety to the card. 

Taz, Scott Steiner & Rick Steiner vs Jason Knight & The Eliminators (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
It's a shame that this is clipped to hell as this looked to be quite decent from the highlights we got. 2 Cold Scorpio comes down to the ring and attacks Taz as the match starts, but it's not long before he recovers. This match might be one-sided, but seeing the Steiners dominate their opponents is always going to be entertaining. The crowd loves the Steiners and pop huge for their Steinerlines. Poor Jason gets wedgied as Scott suplexes him. Taz soon loses control and pounds on Jason until he starts bleeding. He shoves the ref down during his rage and Scorpio comes back and lays Taz out with the superkick and gives the victory to Jason's team. What was that about screwjob finishes, Joey? 

Raven & Stevie Richards vs The Pitbulls (2/3 Falls Double Dog Collar) (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
Beulah claims that Richards has an injury and begs to make this a 2 out of 3 falls match. I don't sure how that works in Raven's favor, mind you. Pitbull #2 chokes Raven out with his own dog collar while Pitbull #1 rushes to the back and looks for Richards. #1 finds Richards, who is forced back to the ring. Richards is busted wide open and stooges all over the place for the Pitbulls. The first two falls are over in quick succession, with both of them ending with gnarly table bumps. The third fall is where things get really wild, with multiple people interfering. The Dudleys are the first to get involved and they work over both #1 and #2. Despite being limited in-ring, the Pitbulls looked like the biggest badasses on the planet powering up after being hit with stereo superbombs. There's a good example of no-selling enhancing a match. We get a catfight with Beulah and Francine, Tommy Dreamer run-in and so much other stuff. It would make more sense to just watch the match than have me describe everything that happens during the nutty go-home stretch. This was massively overbooked, but not overbooked to the point where things just become silly. This match masterfully took multiple storylines and tied them into this match and it never becomes too hard to follow. Not to sound like a walking cliche, but this captured the spirit of ECW and it shows you why ECW was so loved in one neat little package. It has soap opera storytelling, sex, an invested audience, and a glorious serving of violence. Raven had a massive hand in laying it all out and the result is a match that is one of ECW's best. ★★★★½

Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
Both men are making their ECW debuts and they made sure to leave an impression on the fans in the ECW arena on this night. With the exception of some of the snarky comments, even Joey Styles did a good job on commentary introducing the fans at home to these two. This was a phenomenal showcase, but it never felt like a total spotfest as Psicosis uses his added size to bully Misterio around and give the fans a reason to root for the smaller man. Psicosis also spends a lot of time trash-talking the crowd. Misterio and Psicosis showcase their lucha style for virgin eyes and they certainly won over the notoriously tough ECW crowd. The movement here is lightning quick and the high spots still hold up as impressive over 25 years later. My personal favorite one would have to be Misterio doing a no-hands monkey flip on the apron, with Misterio's fake-out 619 to dive sequence being a close second. Young Misterio was something else, man. ★★★★

Mikey Whipwreck & Public Enemy vs New Jack, The Sandman & 2 Cold Scorpio (Steel Cage) (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
This was a chaotic mess. Sandman botches on his first move when he slips on his arse after jumping from the turnbuckle. I did enjoy seeing him decide to have a smoke as chaos breaks out around him. He ends up getting smashed face-first into the cage while still having the cigarette in his mouth. Grunge and New Jack fight into the crowd and get color. Both men end up taking big dives, but they don't get much reaction from the crowd as most fans were still looking at all the action that was taking place in the cage. The faces beat down the heels with all kinds of gimmicks and set up three tables on top of each other. Scorpio and Rocco crash through the three tables from the top of the cage. It's a scary bump to take, but it's so obviously cooperative that it robs this big spot of its drama. Whipwreck is once again able to score a pin on the ECW champion. This was a mildly entertaining garbage brawl, even if it was hard to follow and pales in comparison to the excellently chaotic Double Dog Collar match from the same show. ★★¼ 

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Joey Styles might be the worst part of ECW tbh. Dude was BRUTAL. I really have no idea how Paul E. was able to convince people that Joey Styles was an amazing announcer and so much better than WWF/WCW guys. I'd 100% rather listen to Bischoff doing commentary than Styles. Damn near everything out of his mouth is cringy smark shit or awful pop culture references. He was basically 1993-1995 Vince but smarky. I love there was always talk even from him about actually knowing and calling the names of moves and he was constantly calling moves the wrong thing and just flat out making up names as he went.

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Yeah, Joey Styles has been the worst part of this project so far. I can tolerate some of the horrible crowds, but Styles is insufferable. I could have sworn he wasn't this irritating when he was doing commentary when he got to WWE. 

Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (2/3 Falls) (ECW Hardcore TV - 10/17/1995)
This is more of the same as their Gangsta's Paradise match, but the fans know what they are in for this time, and these two start bringing the heat to each other as their rivalry gets more intense. Misterio wastes zero time getting this started and we get two dives over the barricade before a minute has even elapsed. Misterio gets Psicosis back into the ring and quickly wins the first fall after a spike hurricanrana. Misterio continues to get his shine in on the second fall, before Psicosis' bully side starts to come out again. One thing that makes this series of matches better than the Malenko/Guererro series is that there's actual escalation here. Psicosis is pissed off that Misterio is looking to beat him again, so he resorts to using weapons and even Misterio shows his frustration by kicking Psicosis when he's down after Psicosis begins to play dirty. Psicosis countering a springboard moonsault into a jumping tombstone was an insane spot and it evens the score. Psicosis brings a chair into the ring during the final fall and picks up the winning by landing a twisting seaton from the top onto Misterio, who's lying underneath the chair. The high spots were even more impressive than their last match. It's also crazy how much they managed to cram into 14 minutes over 3 falls without it ever feeling rushed. ★★★★½

The Sandman vs Mikey Whipwreck (Ladder) (ECW Hardcore TV - 10/28/1995)
This isn't a traditional ladder match as you can only win by pinfall or submission here. Before the match starts, Steve Austin comes down to the ring and cuts a brilliant promo dressing down both men and challenging the winner. Because of Sandman being a limited worker and Whipwreck still being extremely green, don't go into this expect a ladder classic that could rival Razor/HBK. I enjoyed this even if the finish came out of nowhere. Despite his sloppiness, Sandman put in a decent effort here. He wasn't afraid to get hit hard with the ladder and I wasn't expecting him to use that see-saw move with the ladder that the Hardy Boys would use years later. This match was enhanced by the fans desperately rooting for a Whipwreck win and they came alive when Whipwreck hit the splash for the victory. I do wish they built up to it better as there were no nearfalls building up to the finish and this was a missed opportunity to create some compelling drama. Even with all my gripes, it was refreshing to see a ladder match that wasn't a picture-perfect display of high spots and I enjoyed that this was actually rough around the edges. ★★¾

Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (Mexican Death Match) (ECW November To Remember - 11/18/1995)
Misterio once again opens strong and scores a quick pin after a hurricanrana. Psicosis is able to quickly beat the 10 count and they start fighting on the floor. Misterio slips as he attempts to hit a move from the guardrail, but I thought they cover for it well, with Misterio acting as if he pulled something. I found myself questioning if Misterio's slip on the guardrail was intentional or not as it served perfectly as a transition spot for Psicosis to begin his control segment and pick up some pinfalls on Misterio, who beats the 10 count every time. The match finishes up with some decent crowd brawling, which leads them up to the production area. Misterio's hurricanrana from the top of the production area was a clip that I remember being shared around a lot during the early days of file-sharing. The pace is certainly slower than their other two ECW matches together as they let things breathe to put over their hatred towards each other. This is certainly the weakest match of their trilogy, but it's still a great match and I appreciate how every match felt different. ★★★¾

Cactus Jack & Raven vs Tommy Dreamer & Terry Funk (ECW November To Remember - 11/18/1995)
Funk brings a bin full of plunder into the ring and we see humourous spots like Dreamer teeing off on Raven's balls with a golf club and Raven taking a VCR to the head. The comedy is short-lived as this match takes a violent turn once Raven and Cactus take over. All four men bleed and Cactus starts stabbing at Funk's arm and head with a weapon. Dreamer makes a short-lived comeback after diving onto a chain that Raven and Cactus were holding and the heels do the old noggin knocker spot. Cactus is wearing a gloriously 90's Dungeon Of Doom shirt and it gets right under Joey Styles' skin. He eventually removes it and reveals a shirt with Eric Bischoff's face on it. Tommy Dreamer pulls the shirt over Cactus's face and starts wailing on Bischoff. Fantastic stuff. The match starts to lose steam during the final few minutes and I wasn't keen on the interference with Taz and Alfonso acting as crooked referees. Funk and Dreamer eventually fight back against all the heels and are able to score the win once the original referee comes back into the match. With road signs, shopping trolleys, and all sorts being used as weapons, this was a fun and messy brawl that felt like a precursor to WWF's Hardcore division. ★★★¼

Sabu vs Stevie Richards (ECW House Party - 1/5/1996)
The match starts out with Stevie being frightened of Sabu. Stevie throws a chair into the ring but immediately regrets it once Sabu grabs it and uses it to launch himself from the ring to the outside onto Richards and Meanie. Richards is great at being a chickenshit lackey and he's not afraid to make himself look like a fool. We get all of Sabu's big spots here and he pulls them all off without them botching. This match goes fairly long and Sabu isn't that interesting when Sabu isn't doing high spots or brawling. The Blue Meanie keeps getting involved, but Paul E. comes down and stops this from happening again. Stevie takes a huge beating in an attempt to show the fans that he's tougher than he looks. I didn't quite buy into this, as no one was rooting for a Richards victory even if he did take a lot of punishment. That's such a babyface role and Stevie is too good at being an irritating little shit for it to work. I did love Richards cutting off Sabu with a massive superkick though. It's not enough to keep Sabu down, and Sabu wins shortly after. I enjoy this match overall, even if I didn't feel invested in the story they were trying to tell. ★★★
 

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Rey Misterio Jr. vs Juventud Guerrera (ECW Big Apple Blizzard Blast - 2/3/1996)
Despite looking like a ready-made wrestling babyface, Misterio shows off his cocky side by flipping Juvi the bird before the match begins. Perhaps this was Rey trying to endear himself to the edgelord fans of ECW? Juvi takes this personally and spits at Misterio when Rey goes to shake Juvi's hand. These guys bring the hate straight out the box and it leads to an upside-down slap exchange when they are trading holds. You know what you are getting when you watch young Rey: plenty of impressive sequences pulled off at a great speed. Despite not even going 9 minutes, they got all their shit in here. Juvi is in the Psicosis role and bickers with the crowd as he works over Rey. I think I prefer Juvi over Psicosis when it comes to Rey's opponents as Juvi just looked more polished than Psicosis was at this point and Juvi's offense is a lot more interesting. Rey is able to steal a win by countering Juvi's second rope Splash Moutain into a hurricanrana, which is a spot that Rey will use a lot during his early career. ★★★¾

2 Cold Scorpio vs Sabu (ECW Cyberslam - 2/17/1996)
This felt as if Sabu wanted to be seen as more than just a hardcore guy, so he went out there and wrestled a 30-minute match with plenty of workrate. The downside to all this is that Sabu doesn't have it in him to keep things interesting for 30 minutes. He's not that compelling as a seller and although I liked a lot of the sequences, Sabu isn't the smoothest worker in the world and the match suffers as a result. Sabu gets his dives out of the way early and wrestles this like a traditional match for the most part. The dives he hits are some of his most dangerous yet, with his body crashing into the guardrail with reckless abandon. I'm also surprised at how dull I find Scorpio too as I didn't find him all that engaging when he was working on top, which is the majority of the match. It's still entertaining to see a man of his size hit the moves as flawlessly as he does though. This match originally aired on TV and had a break spot in the middle of the match, but the VHS release of this show gives us this match in full and Sabu locks on a half-hearted Camel Clutch as soon as they go to break and keeps it locked on for a good few minutes. I did enjoy seeing Scorpio escape the hold by slipping out and punting Sabu square in the balls though. This is a forced epic and they ran out of ideas about two-thirds into this and they are forced to just trade moves with each other until the time limit expires. I know a lot of people love this, but this was a tiring watch. ★★¼ 

Rey Misterio Jr. vs Juventud Guerrera (2/3 Falls) (ECW Big Ass Extreme Bash - 3/9/1996) 
Given this match's reputation (it's the highest-rated ECW match on this Cagematch), I was a tad let down by this. It's a super fun spotfest with flawless execution, but it's lacking all the stuff that made Rey's other ECW matches compelling. This was Rey and Juvi bringing out all of their greatest hits and not much else. There's not much selling to be found here and Juvi doesn't act like a bully as he did during their last ECW match together. The 'extreme' portion of this match felt tacked on, with them rushing outside to hit a hurricanrana from a car before rushing back into the arena. Joey Styles drones on about the hatred that these two were showing and I couldn't disagree more with him. This was a standard lucha match with a bit of fighting in the crowd and a few chair shots thrown in. We get the exact same finish as their Big Apple Blizzard Blast match too, with Rey countering Juvi's Splash Mountain for the deciding pinfall. There are worse ways to spend 20 minutes, but I can't see how this is the best ECW match. ★★★½

Shane Douglas vs 2 Cold Scorpio (ECW Matter Of Respect - 5/11/1996)
I'm not a fan of either guy and this is a long match, so I wasn't looking forward to watching this. After Shane has some fun with some fans who heckle him about his failed run in WWF, the match starts out with some dry and flavorless exchanges and I started worrying that this was going to suck. Thankfully my fears are put to bed minutes later when Scorpio gets frustrated after Shane out-wrestles him and Scorpio takes a breather on the outside. Douglas came into this match annoyed that he's not in the ECW world title picture, so he's doesn't show Scorpio or his TV title any respect. This is where things start escalating. Douglas takes control after throwing a chair at Scorpio's head and we get a lot of fighting on the outside. Shane hits a unique slingshot front suplex on the outside, which sends Scorpio hurling violently into the guardrail. Scorpio bumped like a madman here, with him falling headfirst from the top rope onto a table that's set up outside the ring. Shane was great here at being a condescending prick and they actually made me root for a Scorpio victory before he randomly starts acting like a heel during the closing minutes. After Scorpio fights back and hits a number of top-rope moves on Shane, he breaks up his own pin and starts dancing around the ring. I had no idea why he started heeling it up when he was doing a great job at being the face in peril, but whatever. The ring announcer alerts everyone that there are only five minutes left on the clock and both guys do an excellent job milking drama out of every nearfall before Douglas is able to pick up the win. This was much better than I thought it would be, even if I did have a few issues with it. ★★★½

Rob Van Dam vs Sabu (ECW Matter Of Respect - 5/11/1996)
This is billed as a 'Respect Match' meaning the loser must shake the winner's hand and admit that the winner is the better man. RVD is still very green and he hasn't been able to tap into his natural charisma yet, but he's starting to get over because of his unique moveset. He hits an early version of Rolling Thunder where he hits a splash instead of a rolling senton. Despite having a history of neck injuries, Sabu isn't afraid to let RVD drop on his head multiple times. Don't expect a lot of selling and psychology here, as this was a spotfest with a lot of dead air in between the big moments. Sabu looks to be really fucked up after taking a 2nd brainbuster from the second rope and struggles to walk afterward. The finish looks to be improvised as it came out of nowhere, with RVD following his brainbuster up with a split-legged moonsault to win. Sabu can't quite get to his feet, so they have to wait a while before they can go through with the stipulation. RVD doesn't shake his hand and blows Sabu off with an awkward promo, signifying that this feud is far from over. Even if I thought this match was poorly laid out and lacking in a lot of the fundamentals, I did find some of the high spots exciting enough for me to keep watching to see what they would pull out next. ★★½

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This project has really exposed me to how bad early RVD was. I knew a lot of Sabu's stuff wouldn't hold up, but I thought RVD was always a good worker. 

Sabu vs Rob Van Dam (ECW Hardcore Heaven - 6/22/1996)
Sabu goes after RVD's leg in an attempt to ground him. That is the only bit of actual logic I've seen applied by these two. It's not long before they forget about selling and instead they focus on getting their shit in. I thought Sabu started selling his hand after he clutches it and looks to be in pain, but this appears to be a legitimate injury. Instead of selling and milking his injury for sympathy, he just looks annoyed that this is stopping him from moving onto the next spot. The ring end up malfunctioning and the ring ropes become loose. This throws a wrench into RVD and Sabu's plans and they looked lost. They try to fill time with some uninspired crowd brawling before returning back into the ring. Despite the ring ropes becoming dangerously loose, they eventually decide to go ahead with all their big springboard and top rope spots. That takes balls, I'll give them that. One thing this match has going for it that their last match was missing is that they waste no time pretending that this is anything but a spotfest. There's no pointless matwork to be found here and they go straight to trading bombs. This isn't a good match by any stretch of the imagination, but yet again I find myself intrigued to see what would happen next. ★¾

2 Cold Scorpio vs Chris Jericho vs Pitbull #2 vs Shane Douglas (Four Way Elimination) (ECW Heatwave - 7/15/1996)
This four-way has tags, so only two men are in the ring at the same time. These rules stop the action from being too hard to follow, but there are moments when things become contrived later on with non-legal men making pin attempts. Douglas attacks Pitbull #2 with a chair before the match officially starts while Scorpio and Jericho open the match with some impressive exchanges. Pitbull #2 wants Douglas, but they do a fantastic job of holding it off and building to it by having Douglas being a chickenshit. Douglas was great in this, only tagging himself in when a legal man was down and tagging out if the heat got too much for him or if Pitbull #2 wants in. The middle portion of the match with Jericho and Scorpio starts to get dull as there's not much in the way of character work and they are just supporting cast to the Douglas/Pitbull #2 storyline. I did love Scorpio dropkicking Jericho while he was in the middle of landing a Lionsault though! The Franchine turn was pulled off to perfection and I didn't see it come. I did think that her turning and getting put through a table by #2 minutes later made for some mind-baffling booking. Surely you want to build up to a turncoat manager getting their comeuppance a bit more than that, right? Clocking in at nearly 40 minutes, this is a mammoth of a match to get through, but they kept me interested by keeping the stuff between #2/Douglas bubbling under the surface during the duller parts of the match. ★★★★

2 Cold Scorpio vs Chris Jericho (ECW The Doctor Is In - 8/3/1996)
Jericho is finishing up in ECW and heading to Atlanta and the mutants in the crowd aren't happy with this development. There's zero character work to be found here and it makes for a long 20 minutes of two neutral guys just trading cool moves. The opening minutes see both men tie each other up like pretzels. Even Joey Styles wasn't sure what to call the unique holds! Jericho starts to show his diva side when he trades some words with the crowd after they heckle him, but he never commits to anything and quickly moves past this so he can get on with the match. That would be a great way to give this match a face/heel dynamic, which is something that this match desperately needed. Scorpio countering a monkey flip by landing on his feet will always be impressive, let alone when it's done by a man of Scorpio's size. The spots we got during this were impressive, but there's not much else to this. If this was a cold 8-10 minute TV match, then I would be okay with this having little in the way of drama and just be impressed by the high spots, but I'm going to need more than what I got here if I want to be consistently entertained for 20 minutes. ★★½

Sabu vs Rob Van Dam (Stretcher) (ECW The Doctor Is In - 8/3/1996)
This had a slow start, with both men feeling each other before Sabu throws RVD to the outside and starts hitting the big bombs. RVD first attempts to get Sabu stretchered out after hitting him with a big leg drop, but Sabu predictably rolls off the stretcher and gets in the ring. What follows next is a lot of lifeless brawling and there's a lot of blown spots to be found. RVD slips when attempting a springboard move and the fans let him know about it. Unlike the other matches these two had, this at least had a coherent structure with RVD being the obvious heel. I felt concerned for Sabu, not because he's an excellent babyface or anything, but because he really doesn't care about the well-being of his own body when he launches himself all over the place. I did enjoy the finish to this though, with RVD going for one too many high-risk moves and landing back-first on the stretcher after missing a somersault from the top rope. The stretcher stipulation held this one back, with way too much time being wasted teasing the end of the match. It took forever for them to get a wrestler on the stretcher and it killed whatever flow they had going. ★★¼

Sabu & Rob Van Dam vs The Eliminators (ECW November To Remember - 11/19/1996)
The winners of this will go on to face The Gangstas for the tag straps later in the night. This had a rotten start with nothing of note being established. There's no obvious face/heel team here and no team gains an early advantage. Watching these early RVD matches has really soured me on the guy. He doesn't show much in the way of charisma yet and he has no idea on how to structure a match and he's not exactly wrestling guys who could help him with that. We have to wait nearly 10 minutes for things to start to heat up. Sabu has enough of watching RVD get worked over, so he grabs a chair and launches it at Saturn. This obviously infuriates Saturn, who leaves the ring to fight with Sabu and it's not long until we have a four-way brawl on the outside that had plenty of intensity. We see plenty of dives of varying levels of success. Sabu ends up over-shooting his dive and he eats the guardrail. Ouch. It's not long for this brawl to turn into a spotfest. We see some interesting spots, as well as plenty of botches. The 20-minute time limit expires, but Todd Gordon comes down and allows for five more minutes. Five minutes pass, but Gordon allows for five more before this one has been ruled a draw. Gordon then declares that neither team are losers and makes the tag title match later in the show a three-way dance. This certainly had some fun moments, but they really didn't have enough stuff for 30 minutes. Sabu always feels exposed in long matches and this was no exception. ★★¾

Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada & Gran Naniwa vs TAKA Michinoku, Terry Boy & Dick Togo (ECW Hardcore TV - 3/14/1997)
The Michinoku-Pro lads come to ECW to show them how to do a spotfest properly. If you've ever wondered where the Young Bucks got their act from, then look no further than Kaientai DX. The way they would troll the audience got them to hate them within minutes of being introduced to them. The Great Sasuke seems to be the guy the crowd is most familiar with and they pop big for all his stuff. Kaientai gets a lot of heat on Sasuke by trying to remove his mask and the fans are calling for their heads. If you've ever seen an M-Pro multiman match before, then this is more of the same. Quick tags and even quicker action with bodies flying around left and right. There's not a weak link in this match and everyone can keep up with one another. Gran Hamada is a few years of being 50 and even he can keep up with the younger talent. I thought that this went on for a little too long, but the fans in the crowd were buying into everything so I can't really fault them on that.  ★★★★

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It wouldn't be a proper ECW retrospective if I didn't go back and watch ECW's first PPV. I'd say it holds up pretty well overall. The show had a great atmosphere to it and the fans stay hot throughout the event. 

The Eliminators vs The Dudley Boyz (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
Despite being charisma vacuums and not having much in the way of psychology, Saturn and Kronus are over with fans as they are big guys who can hit massive high spots. Sign Guy Dudley gets wiped out with the Total Elimination before the match starts. The Dudleys don't get much in and this is just Saturn and Kronus steam-rolling them with impressive moves. This was literally nothing but spots with zero transitional stuff in between. Saturn hits a standing moonsault from inside the ring to the outside and Kronus even flawlessly pulls off a Sasuke Special! Joel Gertner trying to reverse the decision as he frantically tries to claim that the Dudleys actually won by points was a funny bit. The Eliminators obviously aren't happy with this,  so they take him out with yet another Total Elimination. That move was seriously over in the spring of '97! This might have been a glorified squash that featured zero of the things that make tag team wrestling great, but this served as a great showcase for the Eliminators. ★★★

Lance Storm vs Rob Van Dam (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
Chris Candido is meant to be wrestling here, but he's injured, so he cuts a quick promo and announces that Lance Storm is taking his place. Lance looks very young here and is sporting a hideous rat tail. RVD has come leaps and bounds since 1996. He doesn't try to over-complicate his offense and he sticks to what he knows he can pull off with ease. Baring one spot where he slips on the ropes, everything he did here looked smooth as silk. He also looks more comfortable at being a smarmy prick. Although Lance isn't the most colorful babyface, he's able to keep up with Rob and the fans start rooting for him on the basis of him being technically gifted and fast on his feet. Storm leaping to the top rope from the running position was a great show of agility. These guys clearly work well together. The fans eventually turn on Storm after he doesn't fully commit to striking RVD in the head with a steel chair. This wasn't a bit of character building, Storm legitimately held back when going for a headshot and the fans picked up on it and started booing him. RVD Van Daminators the chair violently into Storm's face and the fans start cheering for RVD, something that RVD corrects in the post-match promo by being a total jackass. This was a fun watch, even though it's clear that Storm is much suited to being a heel. ★★★½

Dick Togo, Taka Michinoku & Terry Boy vs Gran Hamada, Masato Yakushiji & The Great Sasuke (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
This is one of those matches where you can just turn off your brain and enjoy the action. There's no need to break this one down too deeply. It's more Michinoku Pro multi-man action presented to a mostly virgin audience. Dick Togo might have the best seaton splashes in all of wrestling and he brought variety to this match by being the sole powerhouse of the match. Gran Hamada might look like an old man, but that makes it even more impressive when he moves around the ring like he's Rey Mysterio. Yakushiji gets heckled with "Power Ranger" chants, but he eventually shuts down his detractors by hitting some awesome cruiserweight moves and taking some nasty head drops. BWO does all their usual heel spots but doesn't get as much reaction as they did during their first ECW match. I'd say this is slightly better than the first M-Pro ECW match as they made better use of the time they are given and the pace of this gradually gets quicker as the match progresses. ★★★★

Shane Douglas vs Pitbull #2 (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
This had a hot angle going into this, with Douglas breaking Pitbull #1's neck. It's such a shame that the match we got here was so bad. I've liked what I've seen from Pitbull #2 so far, but this was a completely exposing performance that saw him gas up and stinks the place out with a 20-minute snoozefest. The longer this went, the worse it got. Pitbull hits a fallaway slam through a table in a failed attempt to wake up the crowd. Douglas attempts to drop Pitbull groin first onto a guardrail, but Pitbull is so exhausted he can't get himself up for it. They attempt to break each other's necks by locking on tight facelocks, but they never actually go anywhere interesting with this idea and it's eventually forgotten about as the match goes on. They attempt to redo the Heatwave '95 finish, with Pitbull kicking out of every gimmick Douglas throws at him and looking like a total badass as a result, but the crowd is so burnt out by this point and Pitbull is too tired to show any energy with his comebacks. At least we get a cool post-match angle with Rick Rude and Brian Lee for suffering this trainwreck. ★

Taz vs Sabu (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
This had a lot of interesting ideas, but they didn't do much with them. Taz's Tazmission finisher is deadly. He's choked out a lot of big names with it and the hold has not been broken yet, so having Sabu break out of it within minutes into the match was certainly a questionable decision. Sabu has to hit his high spots if he wants to hang with Taz, as Taz dominates Sabu on the mat and bust opens his nose by hitting him with some nasty crossface strikes. Unlike a lot of Sabu matches, this has quite a coherent structure. Sabu fires up and hits a bunch of dives, botching a few along the way. Sabu's high-risk moves end up costing him when Taz blocks a Tornado DDT attempt and throws him through a table and Sabu isn't able to recover. Sabu eats a few nasty suplexes from Taz before he chokes Sabu out. One thing I will say about this is that I adore how Taz is presented here. From his intense pre-match promo to his no-fucks-given walk to the ring, the guy looked legit. I just wish he was in there with something that could have done something more interesting with him and not create a match that was a total styles clash. The post-match angle is worth sticking around for, with Taz showing Sabu respect before RVD attacks Taz and Bill Alfonso turning on Taz and joining up with Sabu & RVD. ★★¾

Stevie Richards vs The Sandman vs Terry Funk (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
It's hard to watch this and not get invested in Terry Funk's journey of wanting to be a champion at 53 years old. The winner of this three way dance will go on to face Raven for the ECW title. This was a nutty weapons match which always felt chaotic, but never messy. The Sandman leaves the match early and comes back to the ring with a ladder. He throws it into the ring and it hits poor Terry Funk right on the head. Funk hitting his moonsault off the ladder was impressive, even if the execution was more crooked than a dodgy politician. Some of the spots they come up with using the ladder were quite innovative. The Hardy Boyz definitely saw this when they were planning their No Mercy '99 ladder match and there's stuff there that was directly lifted from this match. The match falls in quality once Stevie is eliminated. The Sandman wraps himself in barbed wire and turns himself into a weapon. This was much better on paper than in execution, as you can't really make out the barbed wire on camera. ★★★★

Raven vs Terry Funk (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
Raven doesn't let Terry Funk get a moment to rest and he hits the ring as soon as Funk has won the previous match. Raven hits Funk with his belt and a steel chair, which cuts Funk open. Funk gets nothing in until the final seconds of the match, but he created a lot of drama by bleeding ALOT and selling the effects of it well by being delirious and convulsing. Tommy Dreamer, who gave up his spot in the three way dance to Terry, is on color commentary and shows a lot of concern for Funk. Raven grabs a mic and tells Dreamer that he's going to end Funk's career right in front of him. It's not explained why, but Big Dick Dudley appears behind Dreamer and attacks him. Dreamer fights him off and puts him through two tables that just happened to be set up on top of each other. Dreamer makes his way to the ring and DDTs Raven. Funk pins him for the 2, but the bell rings regardless. This must have been a botch as Funk then quickly rolls up Raven for the 3. It's hard to rate this as a match and I did find this to be overbooked, but it was a fantastic feel-good ending to the first ECW PPV with Terry Funk getting one last big title win. ★★★

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On 3/12/2022 at 4:41 AM, cactus said:

2 Cold Scorpio vs Chris Jericho vs Pitbull #2 vs Shane Douglas (Four Way Elimination) (ECW Heatwave - 7/15/1996)
This four-way has tags, so only two men are in the ring at the same time. These rules stop the action from being too hard to follow, but there are moments when things become contrived later on with non-legal men making pin attempts. Douglas attacks Pitbull #2 with a chair before the match officially starts while Scorpio and Jericho open the match with some impressive exchanges. Pitbull #2 wants Douglas, but they do a fantastic job of holding it off and building to it by having Douglas being a chickenshit. Douglas was great in this, only tagging himself in when a legal man was down and tagging out if the heat got too much for him or if Pitbull #2 wants in. The middle portion of the match with Jericho and Scorpio starts to get dull as there's not much in the way of character work and they are just supporting cast to the Douglas/Pitbull #2 storyline. I did love Scorpio dropkicking Jericho while he was in the middle of landing a Lionsault though! The Franchine turn was pulled off to perfection and I didn't see it come. I did think that her turning and getting put through a table by #2 minutes later made for some mind-baffling booking. Surely you want to build up to a turncoat manager getting their comeuppance a bit more than that, right? Clocking in at nearly 40 minutes, this is a mammoth of a match to get through, but they kept me interested by keeping the stuff between #2/Douglas bubbling under the surface during the duller parts of the match. ★★★★

This is the first ECW match I ever saw and turned me into a fan of the promotion and a Shane Douglas mark in the span of an hour of TV. The whole thing is sort of insane to describe but really works and hangs together surprisingly well.

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Raven vs Tommy Dreamer (ECW Wrestlepalooza - 6/9/1997)
This is Raven's last night in the company before he heads to WCW and it's also the blow-off match between him and Dreamer after feuding for over two years. Raven's lackey Lupus convinces Raven to leave as there's no point fighting Dreamer. Raven takes this advice and tries to leave through the crowd, but Dreamer stops him and they start brawling all around the ECW Arena. They manage to keep the intensity at a high level, even if some of the crowd start complaining that they can't see anything. We get plenty of table spots that aren't sold for long before they return to the ring and the overbooking really starts to happen. We get run-ins from Raven's lackeys, Louis Spicoli, and an obligatory catfight between Chasity and Beulah. There are way too many nearfalls in this. This was a decent hardcore match that suffers from overbooking. If you're going to watch anything from this match, watch the insane post-match angle which includes Jerry Lawler making a rare ECW appearance and the entire locker room pouring out. ★★★¼

Sabu vs Terry Funk (Barbed Wire) (ECW Born To Be Wired - 8/9/1997)
This might just be the most famous ECW match and it's one of the most harrowing matches ever put on by an American promotion up to this point. This felt like an FMW deathmatch that just happened to be taken place in the ECW Arena. Funk kicks out of a Sabu hurricanrana and the momentum sends Sabu into the wire. Sabu ends up getting his pants shredded after Funk drops him crotch-first onto the barbed wire! This lets the fans know that this barbed wire was the real deal. Sabu takes most of the first few bumps into the wire, but Terry soon tastes the wire as Sabu grinds his face into the wire! Sabu getting his bicep shredded in the barbed wire is a disgusting sight and Sabu taping up his injury to carry on with the match shows his determination. The match starts to fall apart in the second half, with spots becoming way too contrived. Funk and Sabu end up getting tied together with the barbed wire and Funk's harrowing screams will stick with me for a long time. Sabu and Funk clearly know how to make this stipulation work and create a memorable match, but this could have so much better if they were able to end this before it got too silly. ★★★¾

Bam Bam Bigelow vs Spike Dudley (ECW Hardcore Heaven - 8/17/1997)
This might just be one of the most effective squash matches in history. Spike had previously scored a fluke win over Bam Bam and Bam Bam requested this match to teach Spike a lesson. Spike opens this one with strikes, but Bam Bam quickly cuts him off and biel throws to the other side of the ring, with Spike landing right on his head! Spike continues to show a lot of fire and uses his speed to land a few lucky moves before Bam Bam cuts him off once again with a stiff powerbomb. This is the infamous match where Bam Bam throws Spike from the ring into the third row. Bam Bam gets Spike back in the ring and finishes him off with the Bam Bam Sault. Bam Bam gets his win back, but puts Spike over as a fearless madman in the process. ★★★½

Sabu vs The Sandman (Stairway To Hell) (ECW House Party - 1/10/1998)
This is the match where Sabu breaks his jaw by hitting the guardrail and carries on by tapping his jaw in place with tape. Of all of the crazy Sabu trainwreck matches in ECW, this one might be my favorite. It helps matters by not having Sabu attempt to wrestle like a babyface as he isn't a compelling seller. Bill Alfonso keeps getting involved and Sandman isn't afraid to take a lot of punishment, so we at least had someone to root for in this. I'm sick to death of crowd-brawling and this match didn't do anything to change that when they took to the fans. They end up in the production area where Sandman gets put through a table. It's a decent spot, but it didn't get a good reaction as most of the fans couldn't see it. Thankfully they fight back into the ring and trade big spots to an audience that can now actually see the action. Sandman gets all his signature ladder spots in, and Sandman getting pushed from the ladder through the tables set up on the outside must have been quite shocking for the fans in 1998. Sandman bleeds like crazy here and the sight of his bloody head wrapped in the barbed wire made for a disturbing image. ★★★¾

Rob Van Dam vs Bam Bam Bigelow (ECW Hardcore TV - 4/11/1998)
This was RVD's best match so far during his career, with Bam Bam forcing him to sell instead of moving on to the next high spot. Bam Bam reminded me of Vader here and RVD bumped like a maniac for him. The match starts off slow with RVD taking a lifetime by stalling outside the ring and talking trash to the camera, but it's not too long before RVD is risking life and limb by making huge leaps from the ring to all the way into the crowd. Although Bam Bam doesn't dominate this match, this still felt like a David vs. Goliath match with them taking time on the ground to milk drama after every big spot. Bam Bam ends up re-opening his cut after he drops an elbow through a table and RVD attacks the re-opened wound like a shark. The interference during the last few minutes felt warranted, with Sabu working together with RVD to help him win. It gave their on-off rivalry another thread to work with as RVD is cocky that he wanted to win this one on his own. The fans went absolutely mental for the title switch and it's clear at this point that RVD is going to be one of the biggest babyfaces in ECW. ★★★★

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Heat Wave '98 might just be the best ECW show overall. 

Jerry Lynn vs Justin Credible (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)
Lynn is one of those guys who can hit a bunch of cool moves and sequences but doesn't bring much in the way of anything else. Credible falls into a similar camp, so I was worried that this would be an even drier and less athletically impressive version of a Malenko/Guerrero match. Thankfully this told a clear story and had a face/heel divide that gave everyone someone to root for. Lynn gets the better of Credible during all the opening exchanges and this obviously frustrates Credible. Credible turns to the help of his entourage to take control of Lynn. All the interference spots are pulled off well, although they would feel more effective if ECW actually had rules for the heels to break. Credible's cut-off spots look good, with him taking control of Lynn after landing a slick reverse DDT after a cool sequence. Lynn eventually fights off Credible's entourage, including hitting a low blow on Nicole Bass, which causes Joey Styles to make a transphobic comment. There's a great spot where Credible holds Lynn up and allows his valet to go for a nut shot, but Lynn avoids this by jumping up and letting Credible take the blow instead. The fans were hot for everything that they gave them here and it made for a great opener. ★★★½

Lance Storm vs Chris Candido (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)
This was hyped up as a grudge match, but they did little to put over the hate these two supposedly had for each other as this was mostly worked as a standard match between two technically sound workers. Candido brings out Tammy with him, which gets a huge pop. Candido is coming into this match wearing headgear as he had an injury. Storm removes it early, but they don't do anything with Candido's exposed injury. The match itself was decent featuring many impressive spots even if it did lack heat and it felt rather robotic at times. It fails as a brawl, but it's a solid back-and-forth wrestling match. The finish was all kinds of contrived though. Candido tries to use powder to blind Storm, but Storm kicks it into Candido's face. We get a ref bump and Tammy suffers an accidental wardrobe malfunction which distracted the fans from reacting to Candido's awesome finisher. Candido looked like a better worker than Storm. He brought some interesting sequences to the table and he's nowhere near as dry as Storm is. ★★¾

Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)
Despite being an awful commentator, Styles actually does a good job of summarising Tanaka and Awesome's FMW rivalry to the viewers at home as they are making their entrances. Tanaka gets in Awesome's face as soon as he gets into the ring and shows zero fear, which is an ongoing theme during this match. Awesome wastes no time to bust out some high-risk moves. Awesome moves with the grace and technique of a skilled cruiserweight, even if he does weigh over 300lbs. Joey Styles bitches on about how other big guys aren't bothered enough to leave their feet as if that's a bad thing. Tanaka takes some sickening chair shots to the head and the crowd finally wakes up as Tanaka doesn't back down. After taking some more punishment, Tanaka is able to fight back and hit a devastating powerbomb to the outside. Awesome gets folded up like an accordion as he goes through the table! That spot was one of the few big moments that was built up well. I used to dislike this match as I thought it lacked structure and had hardly any psychology. Those things might still be true, but it's hard to not enjoy this balls-out spectacle due to Tanaka's scrappy performance. Just turn your mind off for a while and sit back and enjoy the carnage. ★★★¾

Rob Van Dam & Sabu vs Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)
This was high spots galore! It's a shame that this was let down by the final quarter, as this was a damn fine showcase for all four men before then. RVD and Hayabusa open this up with some decent matwork that turns into some sloppy spots. It's crazy how much more polished RVD was when you compare it to how he was just a year previously. His smugness just shines through and it makes you automatically root for his opponents. Hayabusa was by far the weak link here. His strikes looked like they couldn't have hurt a fly and he was even more, sloppier than Sabu. The match starts falling apart when they try and bring a table into the mix. One of the table legs breaks, which completely kills the flow of the match as no one knows what to do next. They obviously had this match planned out spot for spot and when the table malfunctioned, it put a massive wrench into their plans and everyone looked lost. The finish comes out of nowhere after they pull out a second table. Even with the weak ending, this felt like a better version of the RVD/Sabu vs Eliminators match from 1997. ★★★¼

Taz vs Bam Bam Bigelow (Falls Count Anywhere) (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)     
We are treated to a promo from the Dudley clan before the match which sees them gloat about breaking Beulah's neck. The Dudleys were downright despicable during their ECW run. To my surprise, this actually starts out as a normal tag match with one guy from each team in at a time before this match breaks down into chaos. Bubba and Spike are the two strongest workers here and they get a chance to showcase this when they are both legal men. Spike is a phenomenal bumper and Bubba knows how to get an audience to hate him and to get them behind a babyface in peril. The match starts to come apart once Big Dick and Sandman fall to the outside and everyone else leaves the apron and they fight all over the place. All the carnage allowed the weakest workers in this match to be protected. The entourage of the Dudleys (Sign Guy Dudley, Jeff Jones, and Joel Gertner) get involved and start stooging for the babyfaces, which is a great way for the Dudleys to keep their heat while letting the good guys get their revenge. We also get a great post-match, which sees New Jack come out and clean house after Jack Victory attacks Dreamer. This isn't going to blow anyone away, but it's a good hardcore match that ended the PPV on a high note. ★★★½    

Spike Dudley, The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer vs Big Dick Dudley, Bubba Ray Dudley & D-Von Dudley (Street Fight) (ECW Heat Wave - 8/2/1998)
We are treated to a promo from the Dudley clan before the match which sees them gloat about breaking Beulah's neck. The Dudleys were downright despicable during their ECW run. To my surprise, this actually starts out as a normal tag match with one guy from each team in at a time before this match breaks down into chaos. Bubba and Spike are the two strongest workers here and they get a chance to showcase this when they are both legal men. Spike is a phenomenal bumper and Bubba knows how to get an audience to hate him and to get them behind a babyface in peril. The match starts to come apart once Big Dick and Sandman fall to the outside and everyone else leaves the apron and they fight all over the place. All the carnage allowed the weakest workers in this match to be protected. The entourage of the Dudleys (Sign Guy Dudley, Jeff Jones, and Joel Gertner) get involved and start stooging for the babyfaces, which is a great way for the Dudleys to keep their heat while letting the good guys get their revenge. We also get a great post-match, which sees New Jack come out and clean house after Jack Victory attacks Dreamer. This isn't going to blow anyone away, but it's a good hardcore match that ended the PPV on a high note. ★★★¼

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Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/10/1999)
Much like the first ECW bout between Rey Misterio Jr. and Psicosis and the Michinoku-Pro multi-man matches that happened in the promotion, this was a match where they slowly win over the reserved crowd by wowing them with massive high spots. The majority of the audience doesn't seem to know either man, but they start making noise as soon as Super Crazy lands a beautiful running tornado DDT. Super Crazy is too quick to celebrate and Tajiri pops right up to his feet and starts laying into him with some stiff kicks. There's not much of a story to be told here, but one of the few things they keep coming back to is that Tajiri keeps going back to those low kicks whenever Super Crazy would start to build up momentum. After trading many near-falls at a frantic pace, Tajiri is able to put away Super Crazy clean with the Dragon Suplex. For a cold match with no story going into this, this went a touch too long as I thought I had seen everything I wanted to see by the 8-minute mark. While it's not quite as good as similar matches that ECW had put on over the years, there are certainly worse ways than to spend a quarter of an hour to give this a watch. ★★★¼

Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (ECW House Party - 1/16/1999)
After doing the job a week prior, Super Crazy comes into this match with a chip on his shoulder and is a lot more aggressive here than he was during their Guilty As Charged match. Tajiri opens this by getting a big shine segment until he misses a moonsault and Super Crazy takes over. I appreciated the escalation and it wasn't the exact same match that we got the week previously. Super Crazy leads into his heel side more and he even hits a low blow. We got a lot of new spots that we didn't see during their first match, including Tajiri putting on the Tarantula without botching it. Both men hit a lot of impressive dives here. I thought this ended abruptly, with Super Crazy evening the score by winning with a reverse tornado DDT. Still, this was a lightning-quick sprint that didn't have enough time to stagnate and it left me wanting more out of these two. ★★★

Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (ECW Living Dangerously - 3/21/1999)
This was more of the same from these two. Both men had scored one single win each over each other, so this is billed as both a rubber match and a blow-off match. Super Crazy acts as the heel of the match again, with him repeating the same low-blow spot that he did during their last match, but they never expand on that angle. Tajiri's kicks are stiff here, and it endears him to the ECW audience. Super Crazy hits his trifecta of moonsaults for the first time on an ECW show and it goes over well with the fans. Super Crazy ends up slipping on the ropes as he is attempting a springboard. Tajiri is a smart enough worker to try and incorporate that slip-up into the match like Liger did during his famous match with the Great Sasuke. This was a fun spotfest that did a great job of opening up the PPV with a bang, but they didn't really bring anything new to the table and you would never really pick up that these guys were having a rivalry if you went into this match blind. ★★★¼

Rob Van Dam vs Jerry Lynn (ECW Living Dangerously - 3/21/1999)
Lynn tweaks his knee when they are fighting on the outside, but it's quickly forgotten about when they get back to the ring. RVD seems to be more focused on going on to the next spot instead of building some drama by working over Lynn's visible injury. Lynn keeps cutting off RVD's momentum by finding creative ways to incorporate a steel chair into their sequences. I have to give RVD credit for some of the head drops he takes here, with that tornado DDT to the outside through the table being the craziest spot of the match. They seem to have run out of stuff to do when they still had five minutes left on the clock and the match just ends with both men lying on the mat. The referee trying to award the challenger the title on a time-limit draw was bafflingly stupid. They agree to allow for five more minutes, and RVD is able to quickly retain his title. I would have personally that this ended with a time limit with Lynn looking strong as the time expired. It would have made Lynn look strong and give them a proper reason to do a rematch. There is a lot to nitpick about this. The spots are incredible, even if the transitional stuff in-between is seriously lacking. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy this though. If this was paced better, I could see this being a strong MOTYC. ★★★½

Sabu vs Taz (ECW Living Dangerously - 3/21/1999)
Sabu is coming into this with his jaw all bandaged up after Taz broke it during an event leading up to this. After some solid matwork, Taz trash-talks Sabu and this causes Sabu to start throwing punches. This is a mistake for Sabu as his jaw means that one strike to his face is enough to send him to the ground. It's a shame that the fans aren't reacting and they are clearly just waiting for Sabu to do his Crazy Sabu Shit instead of allowing themselves to get into the story that these two were trying to tell. After Sabu dives into the crowd, we have to sit through more mediocre crowd brawling until they return to the ring. Sabu starts bleeding from the mouth as Taz talks shit and calls out Flair and Hogan for some reason. Sabu takes a nasty belly to belly from the ring through a table on the outside. Sabu later attempts a sunset bomb to the outside but ends up botching it after getting his legs caught on the guardrail as he flipped over. Taz was intense as ever and I dug some of the suplexes that he pulled out. Sabu sold his jaw injury consistently and took a lot of punishment, but this match was seriously lacking in heat and structure. This was just a bunch of spots without much else in between. ★★½

Mosco de la Merced vs Super Crazy (ECW Cyberslam - 4/3/1999)
Merced is making his US debut here, but he's very familiar with Super Crazy as they had fought many times before in Mexico. Merced gets the better of Crazy on all the early exchanges, but Crazy is able to drop Merced throat-first on the guardrail to cut off his shine. Instead of using this moment to build heat for a Merced comeback, Crazy decides to hit a dive to the outside and taunts like a babyface. You can tell that Merced is still green by how he moves around the ring and how he takes moves from the top. He was practically asking for Crazy to break his face when he moved his head just as Crazy was about to land on him. This was a standard undercard lucha match. I did like Crazy countering Merced's moonsault by getting both legs up and kicking him violently in the head as he came down. This certainly wowed the crowd, but this didn't do much for me for the most part. ★★¾

Rob Van Dam vs Jerry Lynn (ECW Hardcore Heaven - 5/16/1999)
1999 RVD is certainly a much better worker than 1996 RVD, but watching this it becomes clear that RVD really needed a more experienced agent to have a talk with him as this was match was a mess. RVD doesn't have the fundamentals to work on top for an extended period and Jerry Lynn is so dull and generic that he doesn't make a compelling babyface, so the result is a match that drags on and on. I did like the opening to this, which featured some lightning-quick exchanges that showed everyone that these two are equals. There are also many spots peppered throughout this that I found cool, such as Fonzie eating a chair shot and RVD's body totally obliterating a table after Lynn sunset bombs him to the outside. It's the dead air between spots is where you really notice the flaws of this match. There's no drama or stakes to found here. The selling is limited to the guys lying around to catch their breath before they move on to the next move. They cram in some quick near-falls during the final minutes of the match in a failed attempt to add some drama, but it's too little too late. ★★½

Rob Van Dam vs Jerry Lynn (ECW Hardcore TV - 9/17/1999)
RVD originally faced Lance Storm, but that match is thrown out quickly after Justin Credible and Johnny Smith get involved. Not one for letting the paying crowd down, RVD offers to defend his TV title against Jerry Lynn, who was attacked earlier by the Impact Players and helped RVD fight them off when they got involved. One thing I like about this series is that Lynn scouts out RVD's moves, which forces RVD to change up his usual arsenal of moves to keep Lynn guessing. Lynn, whose ribs are bandaged up, ends up going through a table and they tease Lynn getting stretchered out before returning to the ring. The fans are rooting for a Lynn victory after this. Jerry Lynn's injury was a great way for them to create drama and the fans actually feel emotionally invested whenever Lynn would get a hope spot. This being 10 minutes shorter than their other two ECW matches stopped this one from dragging and the presence of an actual consistent face/heel dynamic helped this feel compelling, instead of just being a collection of high spots. ★★★¾

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ECW might be dead, but this project is still hanging on! Mike Awesome has pulled me back in! 


Taz vs Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW Anarchy Rulz - 9/19/1999)
This was meant to be a singles match between Taz and Tanaka, but Awesome comes through the crowd and weasels his way into the match, making it a three-way for Taz's ECW title. Taz looked like a world-beater tossing Awesome and Tanaka around. One of the most impressive things that ECW ever pulled off is convincing the world that this 5ft 8 man with no legitimate fighting background is one of the toughest wrestlers around. He is eliminated early, but only after Awesome and Tanaka lay him out with both their finishes. Taz's elimination was shocking and the locker room pouring out with awestruck faces was a small touch that made Taz's elimination feel even more astonishing. Taz, who is on his way out of the company and the fans aren't pleased with him, gets given a standing ovation as he exits the arena. The Tanaka and Awesome segment of this match is what you would expect. They trade big bombs and they even make a callback to their Heat Wave '98 match with them replicating that Awesome Bomb from the ring to the floor spot. Tanaka gets the fans to root for him by taking multiple unprotected chair shots to the head and getting back up. It's incredibly irresponsible, but it worked for this crowd. Awesome wins the title after landing a powerbomb from the top rope, through a table. Taz presents Awesome with the belt. Having one of your top stars make his farewell and while doing a shock title switch in the same segment might be tricky, but they pulled it off without Taz's departure overshadowing Awesome's big win. ★★★¾

Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW November To Remember - 11/7/1999)  
The story going into this match is that Awesome has never pinned Tanaka in a singles match in the US. You could on all day that these two had bad psychology, but it's hard to deny that they were entertaining when they were doing this type of stunt-show match. We get all the usual spots we can come to expect from these two. We see Tanaka hulking up after taking unprotected chairshots to the head, with plenty of table spots and powerbombs to boot. Tanaka and Awesome trade their best hits for 13 minutes before Awesome scores the win after a top rope powerbomb. The short length stopped this from feeling dragged out. This didn't feel masturbatory and they know what they are here for. and that isn't to craft a long match with plenty of psychology, limb work, and rich story-telling. This was well-paced, but my one complaint is that their matches are starting to blend together and there isn't much to differentiate them. I'm hoping that they can still keep me engaged as I follow the rest of their rivalry. ★★★¾
                   
Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW on TNN - 12/24/1999)
This encounter might be Awesome and Tanaka's least celebrated ECW encounter, but this was my favorite match between them so far! Tanaka and Awesome are meant to be having this match a week later, but after getting into a scrap, Cyrus talks Heyman into having the match right now. You know what you are getting when you watch these two go at. They throw a few new table spots into the mix to keep this one fresh and they had me bitting on a lot of the nearfalls. Much like their previous match, this was chaotic, but it never felt messy. It was well-structured, with Tanaka making his comebacks at the right times. Tanaka ends up getting a gnarly cut on his arm after he lands a devastating top rope tornado DDT through a table. He looks to be in agony but comes around to land Awesome out with a flash Roaring Elbow for the victory. After the match, Awesome presents Tanaka with the belt before turning on him and powerbombing him out of the ring. ★★★★

Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW on TNN - 12/31/1999)
Awesome, who had lost his title to Tanaka a week prior after getting into an impromptu match, is pissed off and jump-starts the match by rushing and beating on Tanaka as soon as the bell rings. Awesome looks super intense as he takes his frustrations out on Tanaka. This had more story-telling than their other matches, as they have scouted each other out and they counter moves that they had previously landed. Tanaka kicks out of everything that Awesome throws at him and the crowd pops louder and louder after every big nearfall. I should be bored of seeing Tanaka hulk himself up after getting his head caved in with a chair by now, but his facials and body language are so severe and fierce that it's hard not to root for the man. The post-match angle is well worth sticking around for. It closes the door on the Tanaka/Awesome rivalry and it moves Awesome straight into a program with Spike Dudley, as Awesome violently clotheslines Spike's girlfriend after Spike attempts to wage war on Awesome. ★★★★

Mike Awesome vs Spike Dudley (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/9/2000) 
Something about this didn't click with the audience in the arena, but I loved this. I think the fans were just there to see Mike Awesome do Mike Awesome shit instead of investing themselves into the great storyline that Spike and Awesome had constructed. Awesome had knocked Spike's girlfriend's teeth out after Spike gatecrashed Awesome's celebration after winning the ECW strap and Spike is out for redemption. He storms down to the ring with a purpose and he sets up multiple tables around the ring before Awesome even arrives. Within minutes of the match starting, Spike gets put through three tables in a brutal fashion. Spike put in an awesome underdog performance here and he takes some insane punishment. Awesome would take his head off with some stiff lariats and Spike bumped tremendously for them. Awesome got a chance here to show that he can work as both a bully and a human highlight reel and somehow make those two attributes work at the same time. Spike would get in a few convincing hope spots before Awesome ends his suffering by landing a jaw-dropping Awesome Bomb from the top rope through a table. I think I might just like this match more than all of Awesome's legendary series with Tanaka! ★★★★

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This project has been a great refresher on the greatness of Tajiri! Next up, I'll be covering Guilty As Charged 2001 and finally wrapping this project!

Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (Mexican Death Match) (ECW on TNN - 1/21/2000)
This was nothing like their series from the year previous. Tajiri might as well be a completely different wrestler! Gone are the baby blue trunks and his wholesome demeanor, he's now rocking the shiny trousers that you would usually associate him with and he's now a right nasty bastard who is out to maim Super Crazy! Tajiri using the table to slide a steel chair across in an attempt to decapitate Super Crazy was both creative and downright barbaric! Just when I thought that they were getting too spot-heavy for such a heated brawl, Tajiri leaves the ring and returns with a sinister smile on his face, and part of the turnbuckle in hand. Super Crazy was also fantastic at fighting as a babyface. Even the crowd brawling here was tasteful and didn't detract from the match, which isn't something that you can say about a lot of the other brawls from ECW. Mixing high spots with pure hatred, this was the best match that ECW had put out in years. ★★★★½

Steve Corino vs Yoshihiro Tajiri (ECW Hardcore Heaven - 5/14/2000)  
Steve Corino was excellent here. He showed a lot of ass for Tajiri and bled buckets. Corino is a tremendous bleeder, as his staggering selling made this match an ass-kicking to remember. Corino tries to talk his way out of fighting Tajiri, and he belittles him with racist comments when Tajiri refuses to back down. Tajiri would hurt Corino in a number of creative ways, with him dropkicking the edge of a table into Corino's throat being my personal favorite. Corino gets a great cut-off spot as he superkicks Tajiri after Jack Victory grabs Tajiri's leg. The intensity peters out during the final few minutes, but there are still some great moments here and there, such as Tajiri's never-ending karate rush and Tajiri's misting Victory in the face while he still had an octopus stretch locked on Corino. ★★★¾

Steve Corino vs Jerry Lynn (ECW Heat Wave - 7/16/2000)
This was a brawl that was lacking in heat. There's something that I can't quite put my finger on, but Lynn didn't look very natural as a brawler while Corino excelled in this environment. Corino would trade insults with the crowd and just be an all-around scumbag in general. Corino bled a gusher and I couldn't tell if he was acting when started to look dizzy as he lost a LOT of blood. Lynn using Corino's own blood to paint his own face as war paint and to write 'DIE' on his abdomen was barbaric and it's probably the coolest Jerry Lynn ever looked. This dragged in places and I wasn't a fan of the excessive interference during the closing moments. I can recognize that Corino's performance in this was excellent, even if the match itself left a lot to be desired. This would be made much better if this match had Corino fighting someone other than Jerry Lynn. ★★★

Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Psicosis (ECW Hardcore TV - 8/27/2000)
Psicosis is back in ECW sans mask. He looks cool and cocky and it made you wonder why they even put him under the hood in the first place when his face just radiates smug asshole energy. The opening chain wrestling sequences are good, even if they do feel a touch masturbatory. Both men seem to take their sweet time soaking in the cheers after they would pull off a lightning-quick sequence and I found it took me out of the match a tad. Tensions begin to flare up and they get more aggressive with each other. I found that this match took a downturn in quality after Psicosis nearly breaks his own neck after he got way too much momentum when attempting a dive to the outside. Tajiri's kicks are downright lethal and even some of the more hardened ECW regulars in the crowd seem shocked by how brutal those strikes were. This was a fun match, even if I'm not as high on it as others are. ★★★¼
     
Guido Maritato & Tony Mamaluke vs Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri (ECW Hardcore TV - 9/3/2000)
These four might have only six minutes and change to work with, but they made every second count and crammed in a lot of stuff. Just balls-to-the-wall action which the Hammerstein Ballroom crowd ate up. Guido gets to show off his shooting skills by landing a glorious armbar counter on Tajiri. The double team moves these four pulled off were truly spectacular. They even manage to cram in a quick hot tag segment, which sees Whipwreck make a hot tag after laying Mamaluke out with a Whippersnapper. This served as a very moreish appetizer for their more famous tag title match later in the month. ★★★¾

Guido Maritato & Tony Mamaluke vs Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri (ECW on TNN - 9/8/2000)
This was a rematch from a week earlier and they are given much more time to work with and the stakes are much higher. If Guido and Mamaluke aren't successful at winning the tag titles here, they must break up. These four have great chemistry with each other and the action is non-stop. Mamaluke and Whipwreck start the match with some cool sequences that see Whipwreck escape a short-arm scissors by deadlifting Mamaluke and dropping him throat-first on the ropes. Outside of Tajiri, Guido might be my favorite wrestler in this match. He's great at stooging while keeping up with the action. He's just fantastic at getting his ass beat! I loved Whipwreck and Tajiri chaining together unique double-team moves on poor Mamaluke. Instead of being a back-and-forth workrate sprint like their previous match, this is more of an extended beating of Guido and Mamaluke until they are able to turn the tide of the bout by using underhanded tactics. ★★★★

 

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The final ECW PPV wasn't exactly a pretty show to go out on, but I was blown away by how much I enjoyed a Tommy Dreamer match! I'll be back later in the week to add my closing thoughts and drop my personal top 20 list of ECW matches.

Cyrus & Jerry Lynn vs Christian York & Joey Matthews (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
This was a confusing mess to follow. Joey Styles was still making his way back to the broadcast booth as this match was taking place, so I had zero idea what was going on here. Da Baldies attack York & Matthews as they are making their entrance and they fight on the outside for a while. York gets color and Joey Gertner ends up getting DDT'd on the concreate. Jerry Lynn and Cyprus come down to the ring and pick up the bones of their fallen opponents. Lynn lands a cradle piledriver and tags Cyrus in for the easy pin. Lynn and Cyrus paid Da Baldies off to attack their opponents is what I'm guessing is what happened here. Lynn cuts a bad promo after the bell, trying to talk himself into the main event. Not much to say about this. The brawling was fine for what it was and the crowd seemed into this, at least. ★

Danny Doring & Roadkill vs Hot Commodity (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
Doring seemed over with the fans until he messed up a dive and the crowd turn on him and shower him with heckles. Roadkill was much more agile than I remember. He was mostly here to clean house after Doring made the hot tag and he did a decent enough job in that role. Hot Commodity showed a lot of promise as antagonizing heels. It would be interesting to see what the careers of the wrestlers involved would look like if ECW would have stuck around for a few more years. These guys all needed some more polish, but what we got here was entertaining enough. The action was quick here, but that started to hinder the match during the go-home stretch as things start to get sloppy. During the post-match angle, we see Chris Hamrick attacking the faces before Nova makes the saves and that leads us on to our next match. ★★¼

Nova vs Chris Hamrick (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
Nova gets no pop when he comes out, even though Joey Styles is treating this as a huge moment. Nova eventually wakes up the fans by landing a brilliant dive to the outside that he almost wipes himself out on. For whatever reason, this is now being treated as an official match as there is now a referee in the ring and the bell rings. Styles drones on about how ECW doesn't need a format like other wrestling companies. So edgy, bro. Nova looked fired up here and he has an interesting move-set. The referee goes down in a phony spot. Chris Chetti and Lou E. Dangerously appear seconds later, with Chetti wearing a referee shirt. How did Chetti know that the referee would get knocked down? Spike Dudley comes down to stand up to Chetti and Lou. Spike ends up counting the pin for Nova, despite not being a referee. This was an overbooked mess. ★½

CW Anderson vs Tommy Dreamer (I Quit) (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
I'm not usually a fan of Tommy Dreamer, but he was great in this.  This was sloppy in a good way, in the way nothing looked cooperative here and they actually made you believe that they wanted to rip each other's limps off. Both men bleed a lot and they come up with some creative ways to try and make their opponent surrender. Dreamer ringing the ring bell while it's placed on Anderson's head was a smart way to inject a little bit of humor into this no holds barred fight. Dreamer biting down to stop himself from giving up is one of those small touches that goes a long way in enhancing a match. Anderson gets dropped knee-first onto a steel chair and the following limbwork comes back into play during the go-home stretch, with Dreamer nearly winning the match with a leg submission counter. Towel Boy (a young member of the ECW ring crew) looked a little lost when he got involved. He didn't seem to know if he was in the right place or not, but it didn't detract from the action much. Dreamer hits a Dreamer Driver from the top rope through a table and chokes out Anderson with the metal rung of the table, forcing him to surrender. The result might have been predictable (no way was Dreamer losing this type of stipulation match), but the match we got here was a total blast.  ★★★¾

Kid Kash & Super Crazy vs Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Little Guido & Tony Mamaluke (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
This was a tad underwhelming given how I'm a fan of all six guys featured here. There were just too many bodies in the ring at once and there were a few botches that hurt the flow of the action. Having three men in the ring at the same time just isn't a good idea. I wasn't too big on the obviously cooperative dives where the receivers just wait around for their opponent to jump on them. Sal E. interferes and ends up squashing Kid Kash like a bug, which causes Kash and Crazy to be eliminated. Things get better now that there are only four guys in the match still, but this is still a world away from the great rivalry that the FBI and the Unholy Alliance had the year previous. I really dug the FBI's armbar counter to Whipwreck's top-rope Whippersnapper. At least we got a nice photo finish, with Whipwreck and Tajiri getting the win with stereo suplexes. ★★½

Balls Mahoney & Chilly Willy vs Simon Diamond & Swinger (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
Simon and Swinger cut an awful promo before this match starts about Swinger not being happy that Simon isn't letting Swinger sleep with Dawn Marie. Swinger has enlisted the help of Blue Boy to get him laid, so Blue Boy makes his way to the ring with Jasmin St. Claire. God, this is painful to watch. This match is only a minute long and it is declared a no-contest when Rhino rushes to the ring and takes out everyone. He spares no one, even poor Francine gets wiped out with a Gore. Chilly Willy puts up a fight, but Rhino no-sells his stuff and takes him out with a Gore too. The worst is saved for Jasmin St. Claire, who gets hit with a piledriver from the second rope! That's a ballsy move to take and it made Rhino look like an irredeemable monster, so this segment wasn't complete garbage for that reason alone. 

Steve Corino vs The Sandman vs Justin Credible (Tables, Ladders, Chairs & Canes) (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
I was surprised by how bad this was. I've usually enjoyed Sandman's garbage ladder matches, but this lacked heat and it felt as if no one's heart was in this. The table bumps are so sad and half-hearted. They just went through spots and put no thought into selling or storytelling. Sandman gets put through a table and gets right back up and moves to another position so he can get ready for the next mediocre spot! Maybe they thought the heels working together to keep the sole babyface down was too passe for ECW, but that could be an easy fix for this match's lack of structure. They did work together very briefly during the first few minutes and I did enjoy them using chairs to violently slide the ladder into Sandman's nuts, but their alliance is short-lived and fizzles out without explanation. Sandman's victory came out of nowhere and there was zero drama to him grabbing the belt. When you compare this match to the gimmick matches that the WWF was putting out at the time, it's a sad state of affairs! ★

The Sandman vs Rhino (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
Rhino attacks Sandman after he won his title and manages to get Sandman to put his belt on the line after threatening to murder his family. Jesus Christ. Rhino predictably wins, but this was a trainwreck of a segment. Rhino trips up as he goes for the first Gore and the fans laugh at him. This robbed this moment of its seriousness as the fans should not be laughing at your monster heel. The referee also didn't help this match. He rang the bell before Sandman even agreed to the match. Sandman kicks out a few times before Rhino puts him away for good after a piledriver on the shard of the table that Sandman was sent through crashing through moments ago. Someone definitely fucked up on the second pin attempt. Either Sandman didn't kick out in time or the referee counted too quick. Rhino celebrates with Cyrus and issues an open challenge for Rhino's new title. RVD answers the challenge, but Jerry Lynn attacks him before the match can take place, which leads us to the third and final impromptu match of the evening. DUD

Rob Van Dam vs Jerry Lynn (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
RVD makes his triumphant return to ECW and the fans are just in awe of him. After bettering Lynn during the first exchange, RVD decides to leave the ring and high-five some fans and soak in their approval. I would be fine with this if RVD only stepped out of the ring for a few moments, but he was out there for nearly three minutes! It seemed like such a heel thing to do and Lynn is forced to stand there and kill time while RVD enjoys the lovefest that the ECW faithful are giving him. Despite all this, the fans don't tire of RVD and it's clear that ECW should push him as their top guy if they were able to continue. Lynn gets some pretty nice cut-off spots. Joel Gertner gets his revenge from earlier in the night by taking out Cyrus and assisting RVD in landing a Van Terminator for the win. This went on for too long overall, but there are some decent moments to be found here and there and it felt more coherent in structure than the majority of their other matches together. RVD looked like a star here and it's nice that the final ECW PPV had a feel-good decisive ending. ★★¾

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Predictably enough, ECW didn't exactly hold up, but this project was a lot of fun. Let's break it down.

Top 20 ECW Matches:
Raven & Stevie Richards vs The Pitbulls (2/3 Falls Double Dog Collar) (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (2/3 Falls) (ECW Hardcore TV - 10/17/1995)
Yoshihiro Tajiri vs Super Crazy (Mexican Death Match) (ECW on TNN - 1/21/2000)
Eddy Guerrero, Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner vs Cactus Jack, Dean Malenko & 2 Cold Scorpio (ECW Wrestlepalooza - 8/5/1995)
Dick Togo, Taka Michinoku & Terry Boy vs Gran Hamada, Masato Yakushiji & The Great Sasuke (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
2 Cold Scorpio vs Chris Jericho vs Pitbull #2 vs Shane Douglas (Four Way Elimination) (ECW Heatwave - 7/15/1996)
Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada & Gran Naniwa vs TAKA Michinoku, Terry Boy & Dick Togo (ECW Hardcore TV - 3/14/1997)
Mike Awesome vs Spike Dudley (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/9/2000)  
Rob Van Dam vs Bam Bam Bigelow (ECW Hardcore TV - 4/11/1998)
Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW on TNN - 12/31/1999)
Guido Maritato & Tony Mamaluke vs Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri (ECW on TNN - 9/8/2000)
Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW on TNN - 12/24/1999)
Stevie Richards vs The Sandman vs Terry Funk (ECW Barely Legal - 4/13/1997)
Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (ECW Gangsta's Paradise - 9/16/1995)
Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs The Tazmaniac & Sabu (ECW Return of the Funker - 2/25/1995)
CW Anderson vs Tommy Dreamer (I Quit) (ECW Guilty As Charged - 1/7/2001)
Sabu vs The Sandman (Stairway To Hell) (ECW House Party - 1/10/1998)
Taz vs Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW Anarchy Rulz - 9/19/1999)
Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka (ECW November To Remember - 11/7/1999)     
Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis (Mexican Death Match) (ECW November To Remember - 11/18/1995)

Stocks Rising/Falling

Stocks Up: Yoshihiro Tajiri
A guy that's so cool that you can forgive all that obvious leg-slapping he does. I've always been a fan of him since I saw him in WWE. He would put effort into every undercard match he was a part of, but 2000 Tajiri is a different beast, man. 
Stocks Up: Mike Awesome
The ultimate highlight reel wrestler. Sure his psychology wasn't great, but that's not the point of Mike Awesome. He was a big dude who did cool shit and knew when to wrap it up. His match with Spike showed how great he was at being a bully too. 
Stocks Up: Steve Corino
The guy can throw a great punch, cut a good promo, and is so convincing as a scumbag heel. Looks like a young CM Punk with size. He was only just getting started when ECW went under. I'll have to check out his non-ECW stuff at some point.
Stocks Up: Rey Misterio Jr.
Rey's run in ECW was brief, but his classics with Juvi and Psicosis reminded me how much I have underrated him. Even at his young age, he felt like the complete package. The stuff he pulled out is still impressive and he is a fantastic sympathetic babyface.  
Stocks Up: Spike Dudley
I could watch him get thrown around all day. Even with his goofy presentation, it's hard not to get invested whenever Spike wrestled. An insane bumper with a heart that won't quit. 
Stocks Up: The Pitbulls
They looked the part and they felt like the Road Warriors of the 90s. You could tell that they aren't technically gifted workers by any stretch of the imagination, but it was always fun to watch them when they were booked correctly. 

Stocks Down: Rob Van Dam
I get why he was over. He had a unique moveset and is effortlessly cool, but early RVD had no idea how to structure a match. He would get better as the years rolled by, but he's a guy who got better when he was in WWE and had to stick to strict time restraints. His constant stalling in ECW soured me on him. 
Stocks Down: Eddy Guerrero
This one hurts. Guerrero is one of my all-time favorites, but he felt like he was in a transitional period after Art Barr died. He was a man with unlimited charisma, but he really didn't show any of it when he was in ECW. His rivalry with Malenko showed zero escalation and has been seriously overhyped over the years. 
Stocks Down: Dean Malenko
Malenko had the reputation of a guy who has zero charisma but is one hell of a wrestler. I'm not seeing that at all. He was a technical spot monkey. His stuff looked good, he's quick on his feet and that's about all I can say that's great about Malenko.
Stocks Down: Jerry Lynn
He can't cut a promo and I never found him compelling. He's just your metalhead friend who wrestles on the weekend. He's technically sound and can hit a cool move every once in a while, but he's just quite a dull man.
Stocks Down: Joey Styles
I'd take Vince McMahon as the lead play-by-play guy over Styles any day of the week. Styles is an insufferable twat.
Stocks Down: Sabu
The more I watched Sabu, the more I disliked him. He was sloppy and his selling is non-existent. He's never either a heel or a face and he got over by doing death-defying table spots, many of which he would end up botching! 

 

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